May 13, 2021

Reps. Lawson, Rutherford, Watson Coleman, Katko Introduce the HELPER Act to Help First Responders and Educators with Homeownership

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Reps. Al Lawson (FL-05), John Rutherford (FL-04), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and John Katko (NY-24) introduced the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator, and Responder (HELPER) Act. This bipartisan legislation creates a new home loan assistance program that makes homeownership more accessible to first responders by eliminating certain costly barriers, such as down payments and monthly mortgage insurance premiums. 

“Millions of Americans have experienced the hardships of COVID-19, and our frontline workers have never wavered during these challenging times,” Rep. Lawson said. “The HELPER Act will provide a more streamlined home loan program that delivers access to affordable housing for our nation’s first responders and educators.”  

Many of our nation’s first responders and educators face financial obstacles when buying a home in today’s competitive housing market, and as a result, are often unable to achieve homeownership in the same communities they serve. The HELPER Act addresses this by establishing a new home loan program under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that creates a process for first responders and educators to affordably purchase a home.  

Specifically, the HELPER Act:

  • Creates a one-time use home loan program for law enforcement officers, firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), paramedics, and pre-K-12 teachers;
  • Eliminates a down payment requirement;
  • Eliminates a monthly mortgage insurance premium (MIP) requirement;
  • Requires a 3.6 percent upfront mortgage insurance (UFMI) premium to ensure the solvency of the program; and
  • Requires the program to be reauthorized after five years.

“America succeeds when we invest in those who serve our communities,” Rep. Rutherford said. “This includes our teachers, paramedics, EMTs, law enforcement officers and firefighters. We’ve already seen the success of the VA home loan program for our servicemembers. The HELPER Act builds on this success to extend a home loan benefit to first responders and educators, offering them loan assistance to purchase a home when it might not otherwise be possible.”

“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis the nation has leaned on the hard work and bravery of our first responders, but they’ve been there for us all along,” Rep. Watson Coleman said. “The HELPER Act recognizes this and will allow many of them the security that comes with owning a home and allowing them the opportunity to live in the same communities in which they serve.” 

“The ongoing pandemic has put a long overdue spotlight on some of America’s most important unsung heroes. From teachers, to police officers, to paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters, we saw these professionals faithfully support our nation during the pandemic, and at times put their own lives at risk to uphold their duties,” Rep. Katko said. “Unfortunately, these heroes, who make great sacrifices for our communities, often are unable to find affordable housing in the communities they serve. That’s why, I’m proud to work with Representatives John Rutherford, Al Lawson, and Bonnie Watson Coleman to introduce the Homes for Every Local Protector, Educator, and Responder Act. This bipartisan bill establishes a federal program modeled after the VA Home Loan Program to provide targeted financial assistance to teachers and first responders and help them become homeowners.”