The California Assembly could vote Tuesday on S.B. 308, which will protect California consumers facing financial hardship by reducing the likelihood that they’ll lose their cars or homes in bankruptcy. This fair and common-sense bill will help struggling California families and seniors save their homes, stay employed, and get back on their financial feet. That’s why the AARP, legal services organizations, labor groups, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris support S.B. 308.
What about the smear campaign launched by California Bankers in which they falsely claim that S.B. 308 will protect the wealthy? These are the same people who brought our economy to the brink of collapse a few years ago, from which thousands of families are still trying to recover. While they got bailed out and protected their wealth, they are now trying to use their influence to kill a bill to help the families who were the victims of the bankers’ greed. Bankers got us into this financial mess, but rather than help California residents who were harmed in the economic downturn, they want to make things tougher still.
Here are facts about S.B. 308:
- It recognizes that you may need help to save your home and keep your car. Nationwide, more than half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, just one emergency away from being wiped out financially. Here in California, 48 percent of us – nearly 14 million adults! — have no rainy day savings to deal with unanticipated financial expenses. A full third of us can only afford credit card minimums and 14 percent have unpaid medical expenses. That means millions of California residents – including you – could one day need the help S.B. 308 will provide.
- It protects the homes of Californians, particularly seniors and the disabled. The current homestead exemption has fallen dramatically behind the increased cost of housing in California. It has been 40 years since the California homestead exemption actually covered the cost of an average home in this state. Today, it only protects about a quarter of a typical house. S.B. 308 modestly increases homestead exemptions, with the most meaningful increase reserved for seniors and disabled persons. It would bump up California’s state homestead exemption to $300,000 for disabled persons and seniors, $150,000 for a family unit and $100,000 for a single individual.
- It makes sure that people in dire financial straits are not stripped of their home equity. S.B. 308 fixes a serious problem for Californians who have their homes sold in bankruptcy. Until three years ago, California families whose homes were sold during bankruptcy were always able to protect their homestead exemption funds and use them for their future needs. But due to a 2012 court ruling, families stand to lose their entire homestead exemption after six months from the sale date if they are unable to reinvest those proceeds in a new home. Since most debtors who have recently filed for bankruptcy are unable to secure financing to purchase a replacement home within that time period, they end up losing everything. S.B. 308 restores to homeowners the protection the law provided before 2012, and is essential for anyone who owns a home and may need to file for bankruptcy relief.
- It makes it possible for people who need a car to get to work to keep their jobs. Everyone knows that most people in this state need a car in order to work. S.B. 308 ensures that consumers who are current on their car payments don’t have their vehicles repossessed solely because of their bankruptcy filing. Under current law, many bankruptcy debtors have suffered the loss of their vehicles even though they had never missed a car payment. How are you supposed to get back on your feet if you can’t get to work?
- It understands that some people need a fresh start. Most people in this state who file for bankruptcy don’t want to do it … and are of relatively modest means. According to June 2014 data, approximately 115,000 bankruptcy cases (Ch. 7 & Ch. 13) were filed in California in 2013, which represents about 170,000 Californians. Why make it even more difficult for these people to get their often shattered financial lives back together again? The truth is that there is everything to be gained by returning them to good financial health as productive citizens and taxpayers.