Catherine Cortez Masto

Confirmation Hearing of Dr. Ben Carson - Jan. 12, 2017

Catherine Cortez Masto
January 12, 2017— Washington, D.C.
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CORTEZ MASTO: Thank you Mr. Chair and ranking members of the committee. I look forward to working with all of you. Thank you very much.

Dr. Carson, welcome and congratulations on your nomination. And welcome to your wonderful family sitting here with you.

There’s been a lot of questions, so with your indulgence, I’m just going to get right to them because it’s getting to be a long day for you. My colleagues have asked a number of questions, and I would like to just reaffirm some of them. In your role as the leader of HUD would you promise to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination?

CARSON: Absolutely.

CORTEZ MASTO: As we know there has been a long and well documented history of patterns and policies of segregation of minorities in our neighborhoods, would you continue to aggressively enforce the FHA which is dedicated to ensuring that access to our country’s housing is free of discrimination including expeditiously and thoroughly investigating race and national origin complaints—ensuring fair mortgage homeowners and carrying out strategies in end homelessness?

CARSON: I think the fair housing amendment in 1968 was one of the best pieces of legislation we’ve had. It was modified in 1988. LBJ said that, “no one could possibly question this.” I agree him.

CORTEZ MASTO: Good. So you would continue to enforce it aggressively?

CARSON: Absolutely.

CORTEZ MASTO: Including the new HUD rule that requires local communities to access their own patterns of racial income segregation and make genuine plans to address them?

CARSON: I will be working with the local HUD officials and the communities to make sure that fairness is carried out.

CORTEZ MASTO: Ok. I appreciate you taking the time to come to my office and sit with me. In that meeting you made a number of statements, like you have this morning, on your vision of HUD and whether or not the department would or would not intervene in individual’s lives.

Specifically, you said that we don’t want year after year people vegetating in public housing. And these comments were a little concerning to me for this reason: in Nevada, the fair market rent for a two bedrooms apartment is around $900 per month. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities a household has to earn $38,000 annually. Nevada, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $7.25 or $8.25 if their insurance isn’t being paid for—which is about $15,000 annually. In order to just cover that two bedroom apartment, that individual making minimum wage would have to work 88 hours per week. Which, as you can see, doesn’t leave much time for not only a funding for education, or much other opportunities to further themselves other than just putting a roof over their head, for them and their families. That doesn’t sound to me like someone who is vegetating in public housing.

You also mentioned to one of my colleagues that you believe that additional housing funding rental assistance is essential, but when we talked you said there were limits. Do you believe that low income Americans should have a limit to public assistance? Can you further define that for me?

CARSON: What I am saying is that we have to be cognizant of our fiscal responsibilities as well as our social responsibilities. Would we love to put every single person in a beautiful unit forever? Absolutely. That would be ideal. But we don’t necessarily have the necessary funding. But the other thing that I emphasized is that safety net programs are important. I would never advocate abolishing them without having an alternative route for people to follow.

CORTEZ MASTO: So how would you help somebody to find that alternative if all they’re doing is coming home and working, and that is all they can afford? How would you help them other than giving them a time limit in public housing and then they have to leave?

CARSON: Well there is a much bigger picture issue here and that is fixing our economy, and working very hard in the right kind of atmosphere. When that happens, people have a lot more options in terms of their jobs, and people have to raise their salaries.

CORTEZ MASTO: Ok. Nevada was the hardest hit. We were ground zero for the foreclosure crisis. As the Attorney General for the state, one of my biggest partners was your agency. Aggressively we worked together to bring relief to homeowners there, including what you talked about—financial relief but also financial literacy and education. Through that I created the Home Again program and it is still in existence in the state of Nevada to provide financial literacy and help to homeowners--for the first time homebuyers, for individuals who want to get back into their homes. Is that a program you can see that you can continue to support and would look to help support in the state of Nevada?

CARSON: I will certainly study that program carefully, work with you to make sure that the goals of that program are carried forward.

CORTEZ MASTO: Thank you. I appreciate your answers to the questions today. Thank you very much.

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