Rep. Gottheimer Visits 1st Bergen FCU to Announce Legislation to Help Jersey Families Check and Boost Credit

Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Tuesday announced two bipartisan bills to fix two significant pillars of our credit system that are in dire need of an upgrade: how credit scores are calculated and how our credit is reported. Gottheimer’s Accurate Access to Credit Information Act will create a single, easy-to-use portal providing free access to a credit score and all three major credit bureau reports, with the ability to identify errors and initiate disputes, lift security freezes, and information on who has accessed your report over the prior two years.

The measure will grant consumers the power to opt-in to include their rent and telecom payments as data sources when creating a credit score.

Gottheimer said the Federal Trade Commission reports that 21% of all consumers had verified errors in their credit report noting these factors directly impact a family’s ability to get a loan to start a small business, lease a car, be approved for a mortgage, and help determine the intertest rate they are charged on loans. He added that both credit reports and scores, and their accuracy, play a huge role in determining a consumer’s financial health and that a lack of credit history can disproportionately affect minority and lower income communities. African-American and Hispanic families are denied credit more often than white families with the same income.

“Not only do both your credit report and credit score decide your ability to obtain credit at a fair price, but they’re also used by countless sectors, from insurance companies to landlords and even employers to decide if you’re welcome or not,” said Congressman Gottheimer “Without a sufficient credit history, or file, as it’s called, consumers face incredibly difficult barriers to accessing credit or they face exorbitantly high costs. On top of that, this issue, unfortunately, disproportionately impacts consumers who are African-American or Hispanic, and people who live in lower-income neighborhoods.”

According to a 2015 study, approximately 26 million people are credit invisible, meaning they have no credit history at any one of the three national credit bureaus.

Gottheimer continued, “Traditionally, you build your credit through a credit card, a car loan, and a mortgage. But times are changing, especially for millennials and the newly banked. We are seeing more Americans rent instead of own, Uber and Lyft instead of lease a car, and use debit cards or Venmo instead of a credit card. In this new era, there needs to be a better way to create a comprehensive picture of a consumer’s creditworthiness – to add to their credit file – even if they don’t use the traditional sources of the past.”

Gottheimer made yesterday’s announcement at the headquarters of Greater Bergen Community Action (GBCA), an organization committed to helping people understand and improve their credit.

Gottheimer was joined by GBCA President and CEO Robert F. Halsch, Jr., GBCA Chief Operating Officer Dr. Allan DeGiulio, GBCA Vice President for Finance Robert Moore, NJ Citizen Action Executive Director Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Bergen County Freeholder Chairwoman Germaine M. Ortiz, Bergen County Freeholder Vice Chairwoman Mary J. Amoroso, Hackensack Deputy Mayor Dave Sims, NAACP Bergen County Chapter Vice President Nathaniel Briggs and Economic Development Chair Randy Glover, and former Governor Jim McGreevey.

Greater Bergen Community Action is the sponsor organization of 1st Bergen FCU, where GBCA Vice President for Finance Robert Moore also serves as the credit union’s CEO.

“These two bills will be transformative for the 24 million Americans who are underbanked, and an additional 8 million who are not even connected to the banking system. These bills will open up access to opportunity for so many low-income Americans who work hard every day, but because current consumer credit reporting agencies are not looking at their solid earning and payment histories, their credit scores do not reflect their true, responsible, earning and payment capacity. This legislation holds the promise of bringing millions into the mainstream banking system,” said GBCA President and CEO Robert F. Halsch, Jr. “This is good for families, good for communities, and good for the economy.” 

The Accurate Access to Credit Information Act:

  • Creates a single, easy-to-use portal that gives consumers unlimited free access to all three of their major bureau consumer reports.
  • Provides the ability to easily identify errors and initiate disputes, tools to lift and remove security freezes, information on who has accessed their report over the prior two years, and provide a credit score.
  • Places all these tools in one simple place, with one secure log-in, with unlimited access, for free, forever.

The Credit Access and Inclusion Act:

  • Provides consumers with the power to opt-in to include their rent and telecom payments as data sources when creating a credit score.
  • Helps consumers with little or no credit history – those without traditional credit lines like mortgages, car loans, and credit cards – to create a more accurate and comprehensive picture of their credit.

 Video of yesterday’s announcement is available here.