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News From Georgia Watch

April 16, 2016
In This Issue
Welcome Kristian
Consumer Victory
Tax Prep Concerns
Keep Payday Lending Out of Georgia
Hospital Engagement
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Georgia Watch welcomes Kristian Weatherspoon!
Georgia Watch is delighted to announce Kristian Weatherspoon is joining our team this month as Outreach and Education Manager. Most recently with the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, Kristian has extensive experience in hands-on coalition building to advance policy initiatives and consumer education. She is also an AP award-winning digital journalist whose experience includes two years with WABE, Atlanta's NPR station.
A victory for Georgia consumers
Georgia Watch is proud to be the recipient of over $135,000 in Cy Pres funds -- those funds remaining unclaimed in the settlement of the McBribe v. Credit Advisors -- as ordered by the Honorable Daniel Coursey, Jr, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge.
The Cy Pres award results from a class action lawsuit against Credit Advisors Foundation for charging fees in excess of amounts allowed under the Debt Adjustment Act. The case was successfully prosecuted by our board member Jimmy Hurt of Hurt, Stolz & Cromwell, LLC. Jimmy presented the award to Georgia Watch Executive Director Liz Coyle on April 14. We are proud that the judge and Mr. Hurt chose to support our consumer financial protection work through the award!    
Unregulated tax preparers put consumers at risk
Secret Shopper Study Raises Concerns

Last week, Georgia Watch released preliminary results from a mystery shopper study that examined the paid tax preparation market in Southwest Atlanta. "The study results cause us great concern around the lack of regulation of paid tax preparers and the absence of protections for consumers," observed Elise Blasingame, Georgia Watch's Director of Community Education and Financial Protection, primary investigator for the study.

Today, anyone in Georgia, regardless of education or training level, is allowed to charge consumers for the preparation of income taxes. The study assessed the transparency and variance of fees, error rates on returns and the prevalence of outright fraudulent activity affecting consumers in the region.

See coverage of the study's results below.
Community leaders call on CFPB to keep payday lending out of Georgia
A coalition of two dozen consumer, civil rights, faith, labor and community groups from states that ban payday lending hand-delivered strongly worded letters to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray last week, calling on the federal agency to use its full authority to crack down on predatory payday lending.

Georgia Watch submitted a letter on behalf of fourteen organizations and the Georgians whose financial security would be threatened if future CFPB rules unintentionally weakened our state's strong protections against payday lending. See the full text of the letter from Georgia Watch and 13 other Georgia organizations.
Engaging with local hospitals on community health
Is your local hospital a nonprofit? If so, they have an obligation to engage with your community to assess health needs and find solutions. Empower yourself with the knowledge you need to be part of the conversation! Check out recent blog post "Engaging with Local Hospitals on Community Health"