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Biden vows ‘breathing room’ for families going into midterms

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden, highlighting his administration’s war on rising costs less than two weeks ahead of the midterm elections, announced new initiatives Wednesday he said will provide “a little breathing room” for American families.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said the initiatives on what he called “junk fees” aim to “lower the cost of everyday living for American families, to put more money in the pockets of middle-income and working- class Americans and to hold big corporations accountable.”

“These steps will immediately start saving Americans collectively billions of dollars in unfair fees,” he said.

The administration’s actions to provide financial relief come amid steep inflation. Republicans have seized on high prices ahead of the midterms, arguing Democrats’ policies are to blame for surging costs.

Polling shows the GOP has an edge on the issue. A new ABC News/Ipsos survey found 36% of Americans trust Republicans to handle inflation while 21% trust Democrats.

On the state of the economy overall, 36% of Americans trust Republicans to do a better job while 24% trust Democrats on the issue.

Biden announced Wednesday that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued guidance effectively banning two popular “junk fee” practices: surprise overdraft fees or depositor fees. Those actions will save consumers more than $1 billion per year, according to the White House.

“This is real money back in the pockets of American families,” said Rohit Chopra, the director of the CFPB. “It’s good for them, and it’s good for businesses that follow the law.”

The CFPB will also develop guidance on other bank and credit card fees that currently cost consumers more than $24 billion per year, the White House said.

Biden said his administration’s looking to take action on other charges, including processing fees for concert tickets or resort fees. The Federal Trade Commission announced last week it would be launching a rule-making process to reduce such fee practices across the economy.

Such fees, Biden said, “hit marginalized Americans the hardest, especially low-income folks and people of color.”

Biden, speaking just 13 days before Election Day, also took the opportunity to tout other moves his administration made to lower costs, including making hearing aids available over-the-counter and a program to lower Americans’ monthly broadband bills.

He again blamed high prices, particularly energy prices, on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing war in Ukraine. Biden also repeated his call on gas companies to pass savings down to consumers, and predicted gas prices will continue to fall.

“I’m optimistic,” Biden said. “It’s gonna take some time, and I appreciate the frustration and American people.”

 

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