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November 26, 2010

Legal Aid Attorney Invited to White House

(Montpelier) – A Vermont attorney is going to the White House. Grace Pazdan, a staff attorney at Vermont Legal Aid assists Vermonters whose homes are at risk of foreclosure. The White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families and the Department of Justice Access to Justice Initiative are hosting a summit to share and discuss strategies to bolster the middle-class, and in particular to help middle-class families weather the recession and secure their legal rights. Advocates from across the country will gather at the White House to hear from Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, and other Administration officials on Friday, November 19, 2010 from 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. The Department of Justice tapped Pazdan to attend because of her work representing families in foreclosure, and because of an innovative new foreclosure mediation law that she advocated for in Vermont.

“Legal Aid is honored to participate in this conference,” said Eric Avildsen, Executive Director of Vermont Legal Aid. “Vermont families are working hard to keep their homes, their jobs, and provide for their kids,” he said. “We are absolutely committed to advocating for common sense solutions to the myriad economic problems confronting the middle class and working Vermonters,” said Avildsen. “This conference is a great opportunity for Grace to share some of what we have accomplished in Vermont, and to hear what other states are doing, and to find out how the Administration can help,” he said.

The Vermont legislature recently passed a new law mandating foreclosure mediation for home loans subject to the federal Home Affordable Modification Program, or “HAMP.” “Vermont has a long history of encouraging and supporting homeownership,” said Pazdan. “The new foreclosure mediation law continues that tradition by ensuring families are not unnecessarily forced out when a better course is to simply modify the loan to an affordable payment and stabilize families and neighborhoods while ensuring continued payment to lenders,” she said. “Foreclosure mediation is designed to be a “win-win” benefitting homeowners and lenders alike,” she added.

“Over the last few years the number of foreclosures in Vermont has almost doubled and  Legal Aid has had to devote more resources to respond to this crisis,” said Avildsen. That work has been supported through a coordinated effort by the Vermont Access to Justice campaign, and the Vermont Bar Association. “Those resources have been critical to our success,” said Avildsen. “As a result, many families have avoided foreclosure altogether,” he said.

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