BY SEAN WHALEY, THE NEVADA NEWS BUREAU
CARSON CITY — Several lawmakers raised questions today about a proposal put forth by Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to spend $33 million over three years on outreach, counseling and legal assistance to homeowners who are facing foreclosure.
The program outlined for the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee (IFC) by Masto is proposed to be the first phase of a plan to use $57 million Nevada received from the country’s five largest banks as part of a national settlement over the mortgage crisis. Nevada received another $30 million in a separate settlement with Bank of America.
Despite the concerns expressed during a lengthy discussion, the vote to approve the program was unanimous.
The program is expected to provide a one-stop shop for homeowners to get free access to certified counselors and legal assistance if needed so they can access the many programs available to those who qualify.
Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, expressed concerns that the IFC, made up of the members of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, was being asked to approve a program before it could be evaluated by the full Legislature in 2013.
He also questioned whether the $33 million in expenditures for the services outlined by Masto was the best use for the money rather than getting it directly into the hands of homeowners in need.
Concerns were also expressed by a number of other Republican members of the IFC about aspects of the proposal.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, questioned if the IFC even had the legal authority to implement such a major policy decision.