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Should Feds Determine Your Creditworthiness?

Wisconsin News Connection/Adobe Stock

Wisconsin is among the top states for average credit scores, but it is a different story for people of color, which is why some advocates said reforms are needed, including a public option for consumers seeking an evaluation of their credit background.

A U.S. House committee recently held a hearing where lawmakers heard arguments about what some say is a broken and biased system.

Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, spoke in favor of a public credit registry, which would be led by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

She said it would lead to better oversight, and urged lawmakers to act.

"Only Congress can fix this," Wu asserted. "And Congress must fix this because it hasn't gotten better in 50 years, and it's only going to get worse."

She argued the system currently is led by a trio of private companies focused on profits. Other proposals include a shorter reporting history of late payments, and limiting the inclusion of medical debt.

GOP committee members said the government is not capable of issuing credit scores, and claimed businesses could be hurt by limited information.

Wisconsin residents have an average score of around 730, but in cities such as Milwaukee, it's less than 600 in non-white areas.

Jeremie Greer co-founder of Liberation in a Generation, a grassroots group focused on large-scale changes to eliminate economic inequality, was among those who told the committee that the three main bureaus provide even bigger roadblocks for BIPOC consumers.

"Far too many people of color find themselves on the wrong side of this system because they are credit invisible," Greer explained.

He pointed out they either have thin credit files, or no history at all, which makes it harder to obtain affordable mortgages or car loans. Meanwhile, other opponents of a public credit rating agency said it takes away the prospects of private innovation as the bureaus look to improve their flaws.

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