Freddie Mac has the program – "Don't Borrow Trouble," and it has the message for consumers – "call a 1-800 number for local government and non-profit agencies to help them understand and resolve specific lending problems." Now it needs a messenger. That's where credit unions and leagues come in. The government sponsored enterprise for home mortgages is looking to credit unions to collaborate in its "Don't Borrow Trouble" campaign and help steer consumers away from predatory lenders by offering them a cost affordable alternative. "It's one thing to tell people not to go to predatory lenders, but we need to be able to offer an alternative. Credit unions can provide that alternative," said Colleen Kelly, vice president, state governmental affairs for CUNA. The "Don't Borrow Trouble" program was created by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Kelly said Freddie Mac was so impressed with the program, it stepped in to help expand it to other major cities. At press time, "Don't Borrow Trouble" had been introduced in 12 cities – Decatur, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Chicago, Ill.; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Los Angeles, Calif.; New Orleans, La.; Oakland, Calif.; Durham, N.C.; and Syracuse, N.Y. Since meeting with Freddie Mac representatives twice – May 22 and June 7 – Kelly has become the liaison between Freddie Mac and credit union leagues, imparting the message about the "Don't Borrow Trouble" program. Kelly isn't surprised that "Don't Borrow Trouble" had its roots in Massachusetts. She noted that the state has been very proactive when it comes to addressing predatory lending. The next phase though is to promote the program at the state and local levels and "continue to push the dialogue," said Kelly. "This has to be done on the state and local levels," said Kelly. "Credit unions need to be a source of information and be able to offer consumers guidance on where they can go if they find themselves in a financially strapped so they don't wind up going to predatory lenders." In addition to Kelly's involvement with the "Don't Borrow Trouble" program, CUNA's Equitable Subprime Lending Taskforce plans to publish a book in July – "Subprime Doesn't Have to be Predatory: The Credit Union Option." The purpose of the book, said Kelly, is to "help subprime become prime. We've got to change credit unions' opinion of subprime. Subprime lending is not necessarily synonymous with predatory lending," said Kelly. CUNA and serveral leagues plan to have a booth in the exhibition hall at the National Conference of State Legislators meeting, Aug. 13-15 in San Antonio, Texas. The theme for the booth will be "Financial Services, It's a Jungle Out There." -

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