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WASHINGTON – Sen. Marco Rubio said bipartisan legislation he introduced will allow first responders, including police officers and firefighters, to afford homes in communities they serve, while also helping with recruitment.
“It’s a law designed to help people who help us,” Rubio told Fox News.
Rubio and Sen. Jon Ossoff, who introduced the bill alongside the Florida Republican, held a press conference during National Police Week to highlight the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator and Responder (HELPER) Act. The legislation would provide a one-time use home loan to police officers, firefighters, medical first responders and teachers.
“Too often those heroes in our communities can not afford to live in those communities that they serve,” Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat, said during the Tuesday press conference. “So, we’ve come together, Democrats and Republicans” to announce this “bipartisan legislation aimed at making homeownership more affordable for heroes and public servants.”
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Democratic Reps. Al Lawson and Bonnie Watson Coleman, as well as Republican Reps. John Rutherford and John Katko introduced companion legislation in the House when Rubio and Ossoff introduced their bill in October.
“It creates a financing option that might not otherwise be there,” Rubio told Fox News. “They’re struggling in many parts of this country to be able to afford to live in the cities that they’re serving.”
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The HELPER Act would create a new home loan assistance program for police officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, and pre-K-12 teachers who have served for at least four years in their respective roles. The act would eliminate mortgage down payment and monthly mortgage insurance premium requirements.
The chairman of the United States Capitol Police Labor Committee, a union supporting Capitol Police officers, said the bill would also help attract new police officers.
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“These are incredibly difficult times to recruit young men and women to law enforcement,” Gus Papathanasiou, the committee’s chairman, said during the press conference.
“In the next five years, the United States Capitol Police will have to hire 500 new officers just to keep up with retirements,” Papathanasiou said. “In addition, we have to hire over 800 new officers just to meet the new threat environment as we face attrition following the January 6th attack.”
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He called DC “one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.”
Houses in the nation’s capital have a median sale price of $ 705,000 – a 9% increase year-over-year, according to Redfin.
“The HELPER Act gives us an important tool to help officers access the housing market and have their slice of the American dream, which is homeownership,” Papathanasiou said.