May 4, 2018

When I am not at Senate hearings and working on legislation, I try to get around Maryland to talk to folks about what really matters to them, so I can take their thoughts and concerns back to the Senate. And whether it’s welcoming Marylanders to my office on Capitol Hill or meeting you in the state, I’m grateful for the input I receive from my constituents. 

One issue that has been both before the Congress and on the minds of Marylanders is the need for robust consumer protections to prevent people from being cheated out of their hard-earned money. In 2008, after the financial meltdown and shenanigans on Wall Street, Congress established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as a watchdog agency to hold big banks accountable. The CFPB is supposed to protect consumers from the dishonest practices of some financial institutions. And it has been successful. Remember, this is the agency that caught and fined Wells Fargo for defrauding consumers by opening and charging them for fake accounts. Unfortunately, GOP members of Congress and President Trump have been trying to dismantle this important agency. When they did not succeed in eliminating it outright, they set out to destroy it from within by appointing former Congressman Mick Mulvaney to become its Acting Director. As a member of Congress, Mulvaney had called the CFPB a "sick joke," and he has tried to make it into one. 

Last week Director Mulvaney made clear that he is not working to protect consumers; he is working to protect big banks. Speaking before a large group of banking lobbyists, he was caught on tape saying, "We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress: If you were a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you."

This merely underscores the importance of keeping an eye on Mulvaney and protecting the mission of the CFPB. I serve on the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the CFPB, and I can assure you that I will continue to hold Mulvaney's feet to the fire. And, as mentioned immediately below, I have teamed up with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to hold a series of discussions around the state to provide Marylanders with advice and tips on how you can best protect yourselves from con artists and others trying to cheat you out of your money. 

Chris Van Hollen

Protecting Consumers

Attorney General Frosh and I have continued our series of Consumer Protection Discussions, with our second event in Williamsport at the Homewood retirement community and our third event at UMUC in Prince George’s County. At both events, we discussed consumers’ rights and how to keep your information safe. But we didn’t just leave it at that – we answered questions on everything from the Republican tax law to protecting Social Security and Medicare. Keep an eye on my website for the details of our next Forum – I hope you can join us!

Supporting Jobs and Training Programs in Maryland

On a visit to Stanley Black & Decker’s tool division headquarters in Towson, I was able to see some of the innovations they’re working on and learn about their plan to create 400 jobs at their new facility in Baltimore County. I'm looking forward to their continued success. I also toured the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 in Lanham, which provides top-notch training and apprenticeship programs in the electrical field. It is a great pathway to good-paying jobs that are much in demand. Another organization I visited, The Training Source in Seat Pleasant, provides employment training and job placement assistance – its services range from teaching students how to create a resume and use Microsoft Office, to lending job applicants professional attire. I met with many of the successful Training Source graduates and heard just how much this program impacted them and their careers. I’m fighting in the Senate to make sure we invest in job training programs, growing our economy, and supporting businesses in our state.

Providing Opportunities to All

I toured Marian House, a Baltimore nonprofit that provides rehabilitative services and housing to homeless women and was inspired by the strength and resilience of the women I met there. Since its founding over 30 years ago, Marian House has become a national leader in helping women and children in need. Nearby, in Baltimore County, I visited Vehicles for Change, another inspiring nonprofit that has two programs to help individuals achieve financial independence. One program provides vehicles to individuals so they can get to and from work and make ends meet. Another program provides technical training in auto repair to enable individuals, including many seeking a second chance after prison, to embark on a successful, in-demand career. These programs are doing outstanding work, and I’m doing everything I can to make sure they have the federal support that they need.

Highlighting the Importance of Education

In Beltsville, I had the opportunity to visit with special education students and staff at James Duckworth Regional School. While I was there, I read a book to the students about the three branches of government on an accessible “smart board,” which underscored how important technology is in the classroom – and I even got quizzed about my own job. I also participated in the guest lecture series at Frostburg State University in Western Maryland. It was great to answer questions from students who are engaged in our political process, well-versed in current issues, and interested in making a difference. During my visit, I spent time with the Frostburg State faculty and learned about their new degree programs for health professionals, which will help provide Western Maryland and other regions with qualified healthcare workers. I will continue fighting for investments in education and rural health services across our state.