AdvocacyReach Out to Congress from Home During Washington Policy SummitCommunity bankers who can’t make it to next week’s ICBA Washington Policy Summit can still participate with ICBA’s Virtual Policy Summit and grassroots Twitter map. The Virtual Policy Summit makes it easy for community bankers to contact their members of Congress on the very same issues that their fellow community bankers are lobbying while in Washington. The key issues include regulatory relief, housing-finance reform and tax subsidies for credit unions and the Farm Credit System. Meanwhile, the grassroots Twitter map allows community bankers to tweet their members of Congress on the industry’s top issues. To participate, find your state on the map, click the names of your members of Congress, and customize and tweet your message from the pop-up window. With hundreds of community bankers scheduled to visit Washington next week for meetings with their members of Congress, community bankers not in attendance can still make a difference with these grassroots tools. Access Virtual Policy Summit. View the Twitter Map. RegulationCFPB Report Cites Pain, Complexity in Mortgage-Closing ProcessThe Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report that finds that many consumers are frustrated by the short amount of time they have to review large stacks of complex closing documents when finalizing a mortgage. The CFPB also released guidelines for an upcoming electronic-closing pilot project to assess how electronic closings can benefit consumers as they navigate the mortgage-closing process. The bureau said eClosings can lead to more knowledgeable consumers and a more efficient closing process, though it said eClosings risk reducing the amount of time consumers spend reading their closing documents. The report and guidelines are the latest components of the CFPB’s “Know Before You Owe” initiative. In November 2013, the bureau issued a rule requiring two new mortgage disclosure forms that are designed to more clearly lay out mortgage terms for homebuyers. Yesterday the CFPB said more needs to be done to improve the closing experience for consumers. In a February comment letter, ICBA detailed community bank challenges with the closing process and stressed that community bankers work with their customers to thoroughly explain loan terms and answer borrowers’ questions. ICBA noted that often delays are due to items outside the control of community bankers, and it urged the CFPB to field test new TILA-RESPA disclosure forms on live transactions to identify any possible problems that could cause closing delays. Additionally, ICBA recommended that the CFPB work with the banking industry and other agencies to address the fundamental causes of the numerous extraneous documents that consumers are forced to sign during the closing process before seeking to automate a broken process. Farm Credit SystemUSDA Partners with Farm Credit System to Fund Rural Business InvestmentsAs part of the Obama administration's new "Made in Rural America" export and investment initiative, the USDA created a new investment fund to promote small business investments. The new Rural Business Investment Company is being managed by Advantage Capital Partners, which has a commitment of $150 million from eight Farm Credit System institutions. The USDA said the fund will allow it to go beyond traditional loans and loan guarantees and facilitate private investment and equity infusions in various types of rural businesses, such as bio-manufacturing, advanced energy production, local and regional food systems, improved farming technologies, health care and “other cutting-edge fields.” ICBA will raise a number of questions with USDA regarding this announcement. ICBA NewsWatch Today is sponsored by NACHA:With nearly 1,200 members listening to what’s being said about them on social media, ICBA announced the expansion of its premier social media monitoring tool—the ICBA Social Media Monitor, sponsored by NACHA. Participating community bankers can now search up to five keywords, allowing ICBA member banks to find even more mentions of their banks from consumers, media and policymakers! Current participants interested in adding or changing keywords can email email@example.com. Please include your bank name, email contact info, and list of new keywords and phrases to monitor. New participants can set up their preferences at www.icba.org/webmonitor or read frequently asked questions about the program.CommunicationICBA Urges FCC Policies Promoting Rural Wireless CompetitionICBA and a coalition of rural-oriented groups urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt rules and policies that promote wireless competition in rural markets. More must be done to encourage new and better service, increase consumer choice and spur innovation, the coalition wrote in a letter to the FCC. The coalition noted that while wireless service increases productivity and enhances public safety, service in rural areas is unreliable and incomplete. Policies that promote access should be a primary goal as the commission sets its spectrum priorities and adopts rules for an upcoming incentive auction, the coalition wrote. Read Coalition Letter. LendingICBA Independent Banker Seeking Outstanding Lender NominationsDo you know a co-worker who is an outstanding lender at your community bank? ICBA Independent Banker magazine is looking to recognize exemplary lenders—including business, consumer, mortgage or agricultural loan officers—who are industry role models. Recommend a colleague by filling out a short online nomination form, including a brief description of why the person deserves nationwide recognition. Please submit nominations by May 2. For more information, email the editors of ICBA Independent Banker. Read IB’s outstanding lender stories published last year. Social MediaICBA Hosting Community Banking Month Twitter ChatICBA is hosting a Community Banking Month Twitter chat next week on what’s next in community banking. The chat will feature a variety of guest tweeters on topics such as emerging leaders and technologies, marketing across generations, and more. ICBA encourages community bankers to join the chat and tweet their insights and questions. To participate, get on Twitter at 2 p.m. (Eastern time) Monday, April 28, and follow the #BankLocally hashtag. More information is on ICBA’s Twitter Chat webpage and in the association’s Twitter Chats 101 and Tweeting for Community Bankers resources. EconomyNew-Home Sales Decline 14.5 Percent in MarchNew-home sales dropped 14.5 percent in March and were down 13.3 percent from a year ago, the Commerce Department and HUD reported. The median sales price of new houses sold in March was $290,000, and the average sales price was $334,200. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of March was 193,000, a six-month supply at the current sales rate.PollTake This Week’s Quick PollTake this week’s Quick Poll on Community Banking Month activities, and view results from the previous poll on community bank congressional open houses. View the Archive.EducationICBA Offers Check Your AdICBA’s Check Your Ad program helps community bankers take the guesswork out of compliance checking their advertisements. Check Your Ad will guide participants through the process of compliance-checking advertisements. Learn More.