11-26-2022  3:47 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

The Science of Lullabies: Portland Music Educator Gathers Songs of Soothing from Around the World

Licia Claire Seaman’s new book shares stories, neurobiology and music. 

The KKK in Oregon: Same Wine, Different Bottle

Oregon and the Klan: Guest Column: The tactics and rhetoric deployed by today’s Trump-centric conservative movement read like the playbook of the Ku Klux Klan a century ago.

Sheriff, Group Sue to Block Strict Oregon Gun Control Law

An Oregon gun rights group and a county sheriff have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a voter-approved ballot measure, saying it violates the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

Environmental Groups Oppose Pipeline Expansion in Pacific NW

The U.S. government has taken a step toward approving the expansion of a natural gas pipeline in the Pacific Northwest, but environmentalists and the attorneys general of Oregon, California and Washington states warn that allowing fracking will increases emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas implicated in climate change

NEWS BRIEFS

Oregon Faces Snow-Plow Driver Shortage Heading Into Winter

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Air Pollution Monitoring to Increase for Oregon Communities

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Georgia High Court Reinstates Ban on Abortions After 6 Weeks

The high court put a lower court ruling overturning the ban on hold while it considers an appeal. Abortion providers who had resumed...

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Pose Ongoing Concern to Health of Youth in Los Angeles County, Report from Public Health Shows

Excess consumption of added sugars contributes to the high prevalence of childhood and adolescent obesity, and increases the risk for...

Local police say 2 other stabbings, Idaho killings unrelated

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Almost two weeks after four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death in their rooms, local police and federal agents continue to follow leads, but said they have ruled out any connection to two other stabbings in the Pacific Northwest. “There have...

Winter storm to bring heavy snow to mountains

SEATTLE (AP) — The National Weather Service urged holiday travelers to heed their warnings about a winter storm that was expected to bring snow to the mountain passes starting Saturday night and could drop snow on the metro areas by Sunday into next week. “Heavy mountain snow is...

Missouri holds off Arkansas 29-27 to reach bowl eligibility

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri and Arkansas will be headed to similar bowl games after the Tigers held off the Razorbacks 29-27 on Saturday night, leaving each of the bitter border rivals 6-6 on the season. Only one walked out of Faurot Field with victory cigars. Brady...

Rivalry week should bring SEC bowl forecast into clear focus

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — It’s rivalry week for most of the Southeastern Conference. The Egg Bowl. The Iron Bowl. The Palmetto Bowl. The Sunshine Showdown. Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. The Battle Line Rivalry. It’s a chance for everyone to either avoid or add to the powerhouse...

OPINION

‘I Unreservedly Apologize’

The Oregonian commissioned a study of its history of racism, and published the report on Oct. 24, 2022. The Skanner is pleased to republish the apology written by the editor, Therese Bottomly. We hope other institutions will follow this example of looking...

City Officials Should Take Listening Lessons

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When Student Loan Repayments Resume, Will Problems Return Too?

HBCU borrowers question little loan forgiveness, delays to financial security ...

Tell the Supreme Court: We Still Need Affirmative Action

Opponents of affirmative action have been trying to destroy it for years. And now it looks like they just might get their chance. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Trump faulted for dinner with white nationalist, rapper Ye

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Judge denies 19-year-old's ask to attend father's execution

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request from a 19-year-old woman to allow her to watch her father’s death by injection, upholding a Missouri law that bars anyone under 21 from witnessing an execution. Kevin Johnson is set to be executed Tuesday for killing Kirkwood,...

Midterms free of feared chaos as voting experts look to 2024

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ENTERTAINMENT

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Review: A crowdpleasing whodunnit in Netflix's ‘Glass Onion'

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'Everything Everywhere All At Once' leads Spirit Award noms

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U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Energy-rich Qatar faces fast-rising climate risks at home

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'Fame' and 'Flashdance' singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

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Shootings at Brazil schools leave 3 dead, 13 wounded

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Wildlife conference boosts protection for sharks, turtles

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Paul Kiel and Cora Currier, Propublica

May 24, 2012: This post has been updated to clarify Virginia's use of its settlement funds.

States have diverted $974 million from this year's landmark mortgage settlement to pay down budget deficits or fund programs unrelated to the foreclosure crisis, according to a ProPublica analysis. That's nearly 40 percent of the $2.5 billion in penalties paid to the states under the agreement.

The settlement, between five of the country's biggest banks and an alliance of almost all states and the federal government, resolved allegations that the banks deceived homeowners and broke laws when pursuing foreclosure. One part of the settlement is the cash coming to states; the deal urged states to use that money on programs related to the crisis, but it didn't require them to.

ProPublica contacted every state that participated in the agreement (and the District of Columbia) to obtain the most comprehensive breakdown yet of how they'll be spending the funds. You can see the detailed state-by-state results here, along with an interactive map. Many states told us they'll be finalizing their plans in the coming weeks. We'll be updating our breakdown as the results come in.

What stands out is that even states slammed by the foreclosure crisis are diverting much or all of their money to the general fund. In California, among the hardest hit states, the governor has proposed using all the money to plug his state's huge budget gap. And Arizona, also among the worst hit, has diverted about half of its funds to general use. Four other states where a high rate of homeowners faced foreclosure during the crisis are spending little if any of their settlement funds on homeowner services: Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maine.

Overall, only about $527 million has been earmarked for new homeowner-focused programs, but that number will go up. A number of large states — in particular New York, Nevada, Illinois, and Florida — have indicated they'll be dedicating substantial amounts of the funds to consumer programs, but haven't yet produced a final breakdown.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who led the coalition of attorneys general who negotiated the deal, argued that only a very small portion of the settlement was being diverted and it will "overwhelmingly" benefit homeowners. The centerpiece of the settlement is a requirement that the banks earn $20 billion in "credits" by helping homeowners in various ways — from reducing principal on underwater homes to bulldozing empty ones. Because the system awards only partial credit for certain actions, Miller said the settlement would bring more than $20 billion in benefits to consumers — he estimated $35 billion. Critics contend those sorts of numbers far overstate the benefits to consumers, because the banks can claim credit for some activities that were already routine.

The banks will only pay $5 billion in actual cash penalties under the agreement. The largest chunk, $2.5 billion, goes to the states' attorneys general, while about $1 billion goes to the federal government. $1.5 billion will be sent to borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure during the crisis in the form of $2,000 payments.

Compared with the billions going to consumers, Miller contended, $1 billion going to states' general funds was minimal. It was always expected that the states would divert some of the money to their general expenditures, he said.

But when announcing the deal, state and federal officials said the states' $2.5 billion would mainly fund housing counselors and legal aid organizations. Studies have shown homeowners stand a better chance of avoiding foreclosure if they get the help of a counselor, and homeowners lack legal representation in the overwhelming majority of foreclosure cases. The money was divvied up among the states according to a formula that took into account how large the states were and how hard they were hit by the crisis.

As you can see from our breakdown, 15 states have so far allocated over half their amounts to consumer-focused efforts. But the uses range widely. In Ohio, $75 million has been set aside to destroy some 100,000 abandoned homes. In Minnesota, the state is setting up a fund to compensate victims of the banks' foreclosure abuses.

In two of the states most affected by the foreclosure crisis, California and Arizona, the attorneys general had intended to use most of their funds on homeowner-related efforts before the governors intervened.

After California Attorney General Kamala Harris prepared a proposal to spend the money on counselors, lawyers, and other consumer-related efforts, Gov. Jerry Brown released a proposed revised budget last week that used the state's $411 million for existing housing programs. In other words, the money would just be used to help fill the state's $16 billion budget deficit. Harris opposes the move, which still must make its way through the state legislature for it to become law.

The $25 billion settlement: Breaking it down

$20 billion in credits:

·  $10 billion for cutting debt for struggling, underwater homeowners

·  $7 billion for various other forms of homeowner relief

·  $3 billion for refinancings for underwater homeowners

$5 billion in cash payments:

·  $2.5 billion to the states' attorneys general

·  $1.5 billion to borrowers who lost homes to foreclosure

·  $912 million to the federal government

·  $90 million to various state organizations

In Arizona, the attorney general had similar plans. Then state lawmakers and the governor took $50 million of the $98 million coming the state's way. Although the budget legislation stated that the money should be used to fund departments related to housing and law enforcement, there will be no new spending. Housing advocates are readying a lawsuit to stop the transfer and expect to file in the coming month, said Valerie Iverson, Executive Director of Arizona Housing Alliance.

Several other large states have diverted most or all of the money:

• Georgia directed all of its $99 million to programs designed to attract new businesses. A spokesman for the governor said, "He believes that the best way to prevent foreclosures amongst honest homeowners who have experienced hard times is to create jobs here in our state."

• In Missouri, the state legislature used almost all of its $39 million to fund higher education, which had been slated for cuts. The attorney general's office kept $1 million for hotlines and outreach related to the settlement.

• Virginia put the entirety of its $66.5 million into the state's general fund without restrictions. In March, Democrats proposed a budget amendment that would funnel all of the money to foreclosure prevention and homeownership programs, but it was voted down. $7 million wasultimately allocated to a state fund for housing programs. While the appropriation was not explicitly tied to the settlement in the final budget, lawmakers involved in the negotiation said that the funding was as a result of the settlement.

• Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced soon after the settlement was finalized that the bulk of it—roughly $26 million—would go into the state general fund. Two million went to an economic development fund, including funds for demolition in blighted neighborhoods. Many state Democrats and housing advocates opposed the plan, but failed to block it.

• Texas directed its $135 million to the state's general fund, of which $10 million has been allocated for basic services to low-income Texans. The legislature won't formally decide what to do with the rest until next January because it meets only once every two years. John Henneberger, co-director of Texas Housers, an affordable housing group, said that in speaking to legislators, advocates had "received no assurances that this money will be used according to the purposes of the settlement."

ProPublica will continue to track how the funds are being used in the coming months. Check out our breakdown and interactive map for updates.

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