The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 4, 2008

Fact Sheet: Taking Decisive Action to Keep Our Economy Growing
President Bush And His Administration Working To Help Struggling Homeowners And The Economy

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new jobs figures for March. Although the unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent, it remains below the averages for the past three decades. Nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 80,000 jobs. While these numbers are disappointing, they are not entirely unexpected. We have been anticipating that the early part of 2008 will be the weakest part of the year. Disruptions in the housing and financial markets have had an impact on the broader economy, and it will take time to work through these challenges. The President believes the government can respect the principles of the free market while also taking sensible, focused action to help Americans deal with these challenges.

The Administration Is Taking Targeted Action To Help Struggling Homeowners Get Through This Difficult Time

The President launched FHASecure, which has enabled the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to help more than 140,000 families refinance their homes. FHASecure expands the FHA's ability to offer refinancing by giving it the flexibility to work with homeowners who have good credit histories but cannot afford increased payments resulting from a rate reset. FHA expects this program to have helped more than 300,000 families in total by the end of the year.

The President and his Administration helped facilitate the formation of the private-sector HOPE NOW Alliance, which has developed multiple strategies to help distressed homeowners. HOPE NOW is a cooperative effort among mortgage counselors, servicers, investors, and lenders to maximize outreach efforts and provide professional counseling to struggling homeowners in distress and to help homeowners refinance into a new mortgage or receive a modification. HOPE NOW membership now covers over 90 percent of the subprime mortgage market.

In March, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a new standardized mortgage disclosure form to help homebuyers better understand loans and compare costs by updating and adding transparency to the 30-year-old Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The new form would require all mortgage terms and settlement charges to be displayed in a standard summary, and it is expected to empower homebuyers to save an average of $500 to $700 in closing costs, while reducing the likelihood of consumers taking on loans they cannot afford.

President Bush signed the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, which will help Americans avoid foreclosure by protecting families from higher taxes when they refinance their home mortgages. This Act created a three-year window for homeowners to refinance their mortgage and pay no Federal taxes on any debt forgiveness they receive.

President Bush Calls On Congress To Further Reduce Economic Uncertainty By Passing Responsible Legislation

The President remains deeply concerned about the economy and strongly believes that any government policies must be responsible. Government actions often have far-reaching and unintended consequences. Any time the government intervenes in the market, it must do so with clear purpose and great care. Many recently proposed sweeping solutions involving an expanded role for the government would only serve to make a complicated problem even worse and would end up hurting far more Americans than they would help.

The President Calls On Congress To Help Sustain Economic Growth By Approving Pending Free Trade Agreements

Approving the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea will contribute to U.S. economic growth by increasing exports. Exports now account for a larger share of our GDP than at any other time in history, and jobs supported by goods exports pay wages 13 to 18 percent higher than the national average.

The President has asked Congress to reauthorize and reform trade adjustment assistance, so we can help displaced workers learn new skills and find new jobs.

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