Massachusetts Reverse Mortgage Board Closes in on 2022 Extension

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The expired extension of reverse mortgage telephone and video advice for Massachusetts residents moved one step closer to resolution this week as the state Senate passed a bill that would allow assistance to be extended. remotely until the middle of this summer. That’s according to original reports from the Massachusetts-based State House News Service, the language of the bill as it was debated and reverse mortgage professionals who reside in the state.

While the first step toward expanding reverse mortgage counseling relief was made last week after a bill passed the state House of Representatives, the Senate version of the bill differs enough to warrant a reconciliation process between the two chambers so that the measure can pass through the office of Gov. Charlie Baker (R) to be codified into law.

While this is certainly a welcome development for reverse mortgage companies operating in the state, the measures currently being debated by the legislature still fall short of definitively addressing the underlying problem of the face-to-face counseling requirement. of State. This provision of state law is currently under additional pressure due to the shortage of counselors approved by both the Massachusetts Executive Office of Seniors Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). .

The new bill, differences with the House version

As for its reverse mortgage advice app, the language of the House and Senate versions of the bill are identical. Both bills direct the legislature to simply replace the December 15, 2021 expiration date for the reverse mortgage advice waiver with a new date of July 15, 2022.

Passing this extension is more complex due to other measures in the legislation aimed at providing additional relief to state residents resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and key differences in the scope of the draft versions of the law of the House and Senate according to the original. reports by the Massachusetts-based State House News Service, which reports extensively on state policy issues.

Broadly speaking, the Senate version is largely similar to the $55 million version passed by the House a week ago and includes $30 million to establish and expand COVID-19 testing, including $5 million dollars to increase youth immunization rates. An additional $25 million would also be earmarked to purchase N95 and KN95 masks for school districts and other organizations.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Michael J. Rodrigues (D), however, explained that the Senate version “significantly expands the scope of the bill,” according to the report. Part of that comes from new additions, including the distribution of masks to early childhood education organizations, as well as aged care facilities.

The debate also saw additional appropriations for more testing, with the total additions to the House version bringing the total cost of the new bill to $75 million, $20 million more than the version passed in the House. .

“The bill would also extend some of the policies originally enacted in 2020 to reflect pandemic-era realities, such as allowing remote public meetings, remote notarization and remote mortgage advice. reversed,” the Service reported.

HUD Awareness, Reverse Mortgage Industry Response

Last Wednesday, a reverse mortgage lender sent an alert to its brokerage partners incorrectly stating that in-state phone and video support had already been restored, according to a review of the alert and verification of the current status. of the state bill by RMD.

Earlier this week, David Berenbaum, deputy assistant secretary of HUD’s Office of Housing Counseling, told RMD that while his office is aware of the situation in Massachusetts, the office has no position on the structure of council laws in the state. He added, however, that remote counseling options need to be explored further given the current situation.

“We have supported our counseling groups locally in Massachusetts and elsewhere, to try to provide reliable information about how housing counseling is provided and how it is regulated,” Berenbaum said. “We strongly believe that advice provided on a basis that may involve virtual advice or telephone advice has become rather the norm across the country and frankly there are many associates online [and] educational tools that benefit consumers [from] in this process.

Interestingly, a Pennsylvania state legislator recently announced that she would seek other sponsors for a bill that would create a face-to-face counseling requirement similar to that of Massachusetts, although her proposal also includes alternatives. if a face-to-face meeting cannot take place.

Next Steps, Recent History of Reverse Mortgage Consulting in Mass.

Massachusetts reverse mortgage professionals and advisors are hoping for a resolution soon. Last month, previous remote advice relief expired and caught the reverse mortgage industry off guard as longer-term solutions designed to allow advice to continue over the phone or video were deliberated for months. , before the last extension of the deadline which was made in June 2021.

At this point, Governor Baker extended the pre-existing time limit allowing telephone and video counseling for an additional six months. While a bill to permanently address the in-person counseling requirement was tabled as early as March 2021, the proposed legislation appears to be stalled without further deliberation based on information publicly filed and made available by the Massachusetts State Legislature.

The Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association (MMBA) and reverse mortgage professionals across the state have described a continuing lack of available advisors approved by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs and HUD. This shortage of available advisors remains the most immediate concern for the reverse mortgage industry related to the expiration of state assistance, and is only compounded by seniors’ anxiety related to COVID-19. .

During the COVID-19-induced state of emergency, more than 400 counseling sessions were conducted by video or telephone means according to MMBA, a measure taken to reduce the likelihood that older Massachusetts residents will be exposed to the COVID-19 or its more aggressive variants. Massachusetts remains the only state in the country that requires reverse mortgage counseling sessions to be completed in person, and like much of the rest of the country is grappling with a new wave of COVID-19 infections brought on by the more virulent “Omicron” variant.

In March 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, reverse mortgage operations in Massachusetts were effectively shut down due to the imposition of virus mitigation measures and physical distancing requirements imposed by state and federal health authorities, in concert with a state of emergency declared by Governor Baker. This led to the first initial council support measure.

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