CLEVELAND — More help is now available to union members caught in the mounting home mortgage crisis, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said at a press conference here Oct. 15.

Sweeney unveiled a free, confidential 24-hour Save My Home Hotline run by the labor organization’s Union Privilege program to counsel and assist members falling behind on mortgage payments or facing foreclosure.

By calling the hotline at 1-866-490-5361, union members and their families can not only receive professional advice, but may also be eligible for interest-free mortgage loan and grant programs run by the AFL-CIO, he said.

Sweeney said he was unveiling the hotline in Cleveland since it is “in the eye of the financial storm involving huge numbers of people who were sold mortgages they don’t understand.”

He also released results of a survey conducted in September by Peter D. Hart Research Associates showing nearly half of homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) do not know how their mortgage rates adjust or reset and nearly three-quarters do not know how much their payments will increase when they do.

Mark Seifert, director of the East Side Organizing Project, which helps about 1,600 Clevelanders a year trapped by bad loans, said the situation is worse.

“Based on our numbers, 95 percent of folks didn’t know their rates would adjust up.”

The Hart poll also found majorities favoring government assistance to people with ARMs facing foreclosure and demanding greater regulation of the mortgage industry.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) outlined measures in Congress to fund local counseling programs, protect borrowers from unscrupulous mortgage brokers, strengthen regulation through the Federal Reserve, provide tax relief for borrowers and change in bankruptcy laws.

Unfortunately, he said, President Bush has threatened to veto some of this legislation.

“The people want the government to help out,” Sweeney said, “but the Bush administration has catered to mortgage lenders and brokers.

“Sen. Brown is leading the charge in Washington, but we can’t afford to wait.”