H.R. 1259, the Helping Expand Lending Practices (HELP) in Rural Communities Act introduced by Congressman Andy Barr (KY-06) has been included in the final conference report of H.R. 22, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives tomorrow. Congressman Barr’s bill would allow communities to contest their designation as “non-rural” and the restrictions that designation brings on lending by community banks and credit unions.
H.R. 1259 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 401-1 in April. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) introduced the Senate version of the bill.
“With many rural communities still struggling to comply with burdensome regulations intended for urban areas, I’m pleased the HELP in Rural Communities Act has been included in this legislation, which will likely be signed into law,” said Congressman Barr. “My bill has passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the past two Congresses, and I am optimistic it will get past the finish line and make a real difference for families and small businesses in rural America.”
The idea for The HELP in Rural Communities Act stemmed from a letter from a constituent that alerted Congressman Barr that Washington-based bureaucrats at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) incorrectly claimed that Bath County, Kentucky should be considered “non-rural” for purposes of its lending rules.
On January 29, 2015 in response to Congressman Barr’s legislation, the CFPB announced a rule to expand the definition of “rural” areas within its financial regulations to include Bath County, Kentucky. While this was a positive development for this particular county, the expanded definition did not address the underlying problem – that Washington bureaucrats are arbitrarily designating areas as “rural” or “non-rural” with little transparency and no accountability.