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Vermont Legal Aid Goes to Washington

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Vermont Legal Aid staff attorney Grace Pazdan is heading to Washington, D.C. tomorrow to give the White House a piece of her mind. According to a press release issued this morning, Pazdan was invited to participate in a summit put together by the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families and the Department of Justice's Access to Justice Initiative. Participants will include Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as housing and low-income advocates from across the country.

Their interest in Pazadan: As a Vermont Legal Aid attorney, she's represented scores of working-class Vermonters whose homes have been forced into foreclosure by sketchy or abusive lending practices. Earlier this year, Pazdan also worked closely with the Vermont Attorney General's office to craft a new law, which took effect in July, mandating that banks and other lenders enter into mediation with families at risk of losing their homes before any foreclosure proceedings can commence.

In October, Pazdan was featured in a Seven Days story about the Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program.

HAMP was intended to keep families out of foreclosure but for many families has had the opposite effect. Since the program was launched in 2009, nearly half of the 1.3 million people who've applied to have their monthly mortgage payments reduced have been cut loose from the program, according to a Treasury Department report from earlier this year.

Although Vermont ranks 50th among the states in its rate of bank foreclosures, Vermont Legal Aid reports that the number of such cases has doubled in recent years.

On Wednesday, Pazdan and I were guests on Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition," where we discussed HAMP and its consequences for middle-class Vermont homeowners. Also included in Wednesday's discussion were Gerrit Holmes of Vergennes and Dawna Hammers of Shelburne, who were also featured in the Seven Days story and whose homes were also at risk of loss due to HAMP.

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