Giving Up Guardianship to Get Aid
How Illinois Bet on Video Gambling and Lost
How Tickets Burden the Poor
How Bankruptcy Fails Those Who Need It Most
Lending and Collecting in America
How Banks and Government Fail Homeowners
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Americans got protection from evictions, foreclosures and student debt. But debt collectors have continued to siphon off their share of paychecks from those who still have jobs.
At least 13 hospitals in Oklahoma have closed or experienced added financial distress under the management of private companies. Some companies charged hefty management fees, promising to infuse millions of dollars that never materialized.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich has an increasingly prominent role. He still has ties to his family’s investment firm, which is a major beneficiary of the Treasury’s bailout actions.
On Wednesday, another company owned by Gov. Jim Justice was ordered to pay nearly $2.8 million in a judgment over unpaid bills. The ruling comes just weeks before West Virginia’s primary election, where Justice is campaigning for a second term.
A Closer Look at Federal COVID Contractors Reveals Inexperience, Fraud Accusations and a Weapons Dealer Operating Out of Someone’s House
The Trump administration has promised at least $1.8 billion to 335 first-time contractors, often without competitive bidding or thorough vetting of their backgrounds.
Gov. Jim Justice is West Virginia’s richest man. Over the last three decades, lawsuits over unpaid bills have cost his constellation of companies more than $128 million in judgments and settlements.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a billionaire and the state’s richest man, has a long list of debt-collection cases. In the most complete analysis of his legal record to date, ProPublica found dozens totaling more than $128 million.
The federal government has abandoned America’s small towns as the coronavirus depletes their budgets. It’s flood season and local leaders have no idea how to help residents through natural disasters. “We do not see how we will survive,” one told us.
The two private jet companies are among the first 96 airline companies disclosed as recipients of taxpayer funds under the CARES Act.
Securities that contain loans for properties like hotels and office buildings have inflated profits, the whistleblower claims. As the pandemic hammers the economy, that could increase the chances of another mortgage collapse.
The Trump Administration Says a New Bailout Program Will Help 35 Million Americans. It Probably Won’t.
Experts from across the political spectrum fear that the Federal Reserve’s new Main Street Lending program won’t reach enough businesses or save enough jobs.
The economy is in free fall but Wall Street is thriving, and stocks of big private equity firms are soaring dramatically higher. That tells you who investors think is the real beneficiary of the federal government’s massive rescue efforts.
U.S. hospitals are in the spotlight for being on the frontline of fighting the pandemic. But in the shadows, debt collection operations continue, often by the same institutions treating coronavirus patients, all while unemployment and uncertainty soar.
Kim Boatswain’s tax refund could have helped her get through the coronavirus slowdown. But debt collectors seized it. There are few options for Texans like Boatswain whose money was taken just before the state temporarily banned such garnishments.
Politicians have touted debt relief, but the various proposals are patchwork. Many homeowners and renters won’t get much help; those struggling with credit card, car and other loan payments will get none.
Will banks, landlords and other debt collectors work with people who’ve lost income because of the coronavirus crisis? Help us find out.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the move to waive late penalties on city debts and stop the booting of vehicles was aimed at helping low-income residents.
Funded in part by his wealthy family and aided by a personal connection at the Illinois Gaming Board, Andrew Rubenstein’s Accel Entertainment now owns a third of the state’s video gambling machines, making it the biggest video gambling operator in the nation.
A State Senator Had Thousands of Dollars in Ticket Debt. Now She’s Fighting to Make Sure Others Won’t.
Our Q+A with Illinois state Sen. Celina Villanueva, who introduced a bill to end driver’s license suspensions for unpaid red-light tickets.
Debtors prisons were banned by Congress in 1833, but a ProPublica article that revealed the sweeping powers of high-interest lenders in Utah caught the attention of one legislator. Now, he’s trying to do something about it.
Tens of Thousands of People Lost Driver’s Licenses Over Unpaid Parking Tickets. Now, They’re Getting Them Back.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation Friday to end license suspensions for unpaid parking tickets, affecting nearly 55,000 Illinois motorists. Lawmakers cited ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago reporting for leading to the new law.
TurboTax and other tax prep services advertised themselves as “free,” but we found several ways that they tricked people into paying. Here's our guide to preparing and filing your taxes without falling into a trap.
We researched why people were reluctant to talk about medical debt, and designed an outreach strategy based on what we learned.
A Half-Million Chicago Drivers Have Unpaid Sticker Tickets, but Only 11,400 Applied for the City’s Relief Program
Advocates for ticket reform say they’re disappointed the city didn’t do more to encourage Chicago motorists to sign up for its debt relief program. The city says more reforms are coming.
Close to 1,300 people have downloaded data from our app, The Ticket Trap. We talked with some of them.
Welcome to Coffeyville, Kansas, where the judge has no law degree, debt collectors get a cut of the bail and Americans are watching their lives — and liberty — disappear in the pursuit of medical debt collection.
ProPublica and MLK50 have been investigating Memphis institutions that profit from the poor. Now, we want to hear from people across the country who have been sued or arrested after unpaid medical bills.
Stories about aggressive debt collection are leading to real change, and we want to see more of them. Let us give you our leads from across the country.
ProPublica is still tracking where every dollar of taxpayer money from the 2008 bailout of the financial system has gone. See for yourself.
Hundreds of Thousands of Chicago Motorists Could Receive Debt Relief From Vehicle Sticker Tickets as the City Expands Reform
Attention, Chicago motorists: You have until Oct. 31 to buy a city sticker and then qualify for a new debt forgiveness program.
Chicago became the largest U.S. city to enact major reforms to its system of parking fines and fees. City officials say more changes are coming.
Chicago City Council Approves Ticket and Debt Collection Reforms to Help Low-Income and Minority Motorists
The measures, which were prompted by a ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago investigation, are scheduled to take effect by mid-November.
Parents Gave Up Custody of Their Children to Help Them Get Financial Aid. Now, Some Are Abandoning That Idea.
Some families are frustrated about a public backlash, saying what they did was legal. They say the real problem is the cost of higher education.
And updates on the creation of new casinos around the state.
Lawmakers described the practice as disturbing, disheartening and shocking.
Illinois politicians considered denying admission to students whose families exploited the guardianship law to qualify for aid they wouldn’t otherwise receive, saying it was an “injustice.”
Owners of one of Illinois’ largest video gambling companies are behind efforts to influence city politics, expand gambling and build a casino near land they control.
El Departamento de Educación Federal Quiere Frenar la “Trama Fraudulenta de Ayuda Estudiantil” en que Padres Ceden La Custodia a Través de Tutelas Dudosas
Un día después de nuestro reportaje, el inspector general del departamento dice que quiere cerrar los agujeros legales de ayuda financiera.
How We Got the Story About Parents Transferring Guardianship of Their Kids to Win Financial Aid They Wouldn’t Otherwise Qualify For
A tip, and then lots of work — including looking through nearly 2,000 files — over a very short period of time.
Illinois Lawmakers Call Hearing to “Demand Answers” and Find Ways to Close a Loophole in College Financial Aid Scandal
Legislators said parents who turn over guardianship of their children to get financial aid engaged in a “manipulative practice.” They’re exploring whether they can subpoena parents to testify.
Padres Ceden La Custodia de Sus Hijos para Conseguir Becas Universitarias Basadas en Necesidad Económica
Primero, los padres transfieren la tutela de sus hijos adolescentes a un amigo o pariente. Después, el estudiante declara independencia financiera para calificar para ayudas monetarias y becas.
U.S. Department of Education Wants to Stop “Student Aid Fraud Scheme” Where Parents Give Up Custody Through Dubious Guardianships
One day after our reporting, the department’s inspector general said it wants to close financial aid loopholes.
Illinois Parents Are Helping Their Children Get College Financial Aid They Wouldn’t Otherwise Qualify For. Help Us Figure Out How They Do It.
Are you a parent, student, school administrator or someone else who has seen this in action? We'd love to hear from you.
First, parents turn over guardianship of their teenagers to a friend or relative. Then the student declares financial independence to qualify for tuition aid and scholarships.
She’s Risked Arrest by Driving With a Suspended License for Seven Years. This Week She Got Some Big News.
Some 55,000 Illinoisans could regain their driver’s licenses very soon.
Chicago Mayor Proposes Reforms That Would Make Life Easier for Thousands of Black and Low-Income Drivers
After more than a year of reporting from ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced ticketing changes and said she would support legislation to change state law — beginning to make good on a campaign promise.
Hate Getting Parking Tickets in Chicago? Here’s How You Can Start Change-Making Conversations About the City’s Ticketing System.
We’ve created an event toolkit to help communities start or continue conversations about how Chicago’s parking and vehicle ticketing system drives motorists into debt and jeopardizes livelihoods.
Nonprofit Christian Hospital Suspends Debt Collection Lawsuits Amid Furor Over Suing Its Own Employees
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is reevaluating its policy after an MLK50-ProPublica investigation found that it had filed 8,300 lawsuits in the past five years, including against many of its own employees.
A federal appeals court said the city’s aggressive legal strategy, aimed at discouraging motorists with unpaid ticket debt from filing under Chapter 13, violated the basic protections of bankruptcy, and the city was doing so mostly to generate revenue.
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare promised a policy review after an investigation by MLK50 and ProPublica found it had sued 8,300 patients — including its own employees — over medical debt. Its CEO has not responded to our questions.
ProPublica and MLK50 are spending the year investigating the institutions that profit from people who are poor in Memphis. Share your story with us.
Low-Wage Workers Are Being Sued for Unpaid Medical Bills by a Nonprofit Christian Hospital That Employs Them
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has sued many of its own employees over unpaid medical bills and garnishes their wages; its health care plan prevents them from going to competitors with better financial assistance.
Nonprofit hospitals pay virtually no local, state or federal income tax. In return, they provide community benefits, including charity care to low-income patients. In Memphis, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has brought 8,300 lawsuits for unpaid medical bills in just five years.
Nonprofit hospitals must post financial assistance policies for the public to see, including in emergency rooms. But Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s five Shelby County emergency rooms had no signs or displays when a reporter checked.
We found that Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare filed more lawsuits and won more wage garnishment orders than any other hospital system in Shelby County. Here’s how we did it.
Illinois will finally conduct a thorough study of the gambling problem in the state — the first such survey in nearly 30 years. It said it will spend more money to treat addiction, too.
Illinois is going to dramatically expand gambling. Here’s the bill and what it means.
And like the state’s last gambling expansion, in 2009, the massive new bill could bring trouble.
Lawmakers are making money from video gambling operators. A vote on gambling expansion may happen Friday.
For many people, filing for bankruptcy is a luxury that’s out of reach. A new report by the primary bankruptcy professional organization is full of recommendations that, if implemented, could help change that.
The project gave us an opportunity to try a bunch of technical approaches that could help a small organization like ours develop sustainable news apps.
Since video gambling went live in 2012, more than 30,000 video slot and poker machines have been installed in the state and gamblers have lost more than $5 billion. Yet Illinois has failed to address the issue of gambling addiction in any meaningful way.
Proposals from the 14 candidates range from studying ticketing enforcement disparities to overhauling payment plans.
Lawmakers said legalizing video gambling would generate billions of dollars for the state. Instead, it’s proved to be little more than a money grab.
Do You Know Someone Struggling With Video Gambling? Help Us Understand Video Slot and Poker Addiction in Illinois.
More than 30,000 video gambling machines are scattered across Illinois, and gambling addiction appears to be on the rise.
Here’s how we conducted an in-depth look at the rapid expansion of video gambling in the state and its financial and social costs.
We’re hosting a community forum on March 4 and would love to see you.
How to Use the Ticket Trap, Our New Database That Lets You Explore How Chicago Tickets Motorists and Collects Debt
We hope you’ll play around with it and let us know how we can make it better.
We’ve collected data on 54 million tickets issued over the past two decades in the city. Search for your address and compare your ward with others, and see how Chicago’s reliance on ticketing affects motorists across the city.
We’ll share our latest stories there and give you a preview of an upcoming project.
The group is part of an effort to make vehicle ticketing less unfair.
Chicago Throws Out 23,000 Duplicate Tickets Issued Since 1992 to Motorists Who Didn’t Have Vehicle Stickers
The move is the city’s latest effort to reform its troubled ticketing and debt collection practices.
The changes signal a growing acknowledgement that the city’s reliance on fines and fees to generate revenue has come at a significant cost for some residents.
The proposal, the latest in a series of reforms aiming to respond to growing public pressure, would make it easier for motorists to avoid having their driver’s licenses suspended.
The proposal is intended to discourage drivers from filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but it does nothing to change onerous payment plans for motorists who don’t file at all.
Chicago Alderman Proposes Reining in Ticket Penalties That Drove Thousands of Black Motorists Into Debt
The proposal would cap late penalties and create community service alternatives to some fines.
Anna Valencia proposed creating city sticker options so low-income drivers can afford to be in compliance and avoid costly tickets.
For the first time, the city’s database, which tracks more than 28 million parking and vehicle compliance tickets, is easily available to the public.
Seven weeks after the city pledged to address the issue, drivers are still on the hook — and now Chicago’s ticketing practices are becoming an issue in the mayor’s race.
The city tried to raise revenues by hiking the cost of sticker tickets, but instead hurt motorists in low-income, black neighborhoods.
Chicago Hiked the Cost of Vehicle City Sticker Violations to Boost Revenue. But It’s Driven More Low-Income, Black Motorists Into Debt.
Now, a former official regrets the move and wants the city to revisit it. Some policies, she said, are “terrible.”
We heard from you about how ticket debt, especially from $200 city sticker citations, has affected you. And we would like your help as we continue our reporting.
Judges are demanding that lawyers tell their clients that their other debts might not get paid, but their lawyers will.
Our analysis shows suspensions tied to ticket debt disproportionately affect motorists in largely black sections of Chicago and its suburbs.
Still, we want to tell you a little bit about her, and about some of the other people we interviewed, because they helped inform our ticket debt investigation.
A cash-strapped city employs punitive measures to collect from cash-strapped black residents — and lawyers benefit.
Here are some stories of Chicagoans driven into ticket debt.
For years, an Equifax policy has treated some Chapter 13 filers differently than the other two major credit rating agencies. After ProPublica asked about it, the company said it would change the policy.
ProPublica’s analysis of racial disparities in bankruptcy revealed a skyrocketing number of filings in Chicago’s black neighborhoods. But most of the cases will fall apart before the debts are wiped away.
Key differences between the chapters make choosing the right one critical for success. Using our analysis, we explain how they work and how people fare under each.
An in-depth discussion of racial patterns in bankruptcy filings and outcomes
Only in the South is Chapter 13 the predominant form of bankruptcy. We mapped Chapter 13’s usage to show that it breaks not only along regional, but also racial lines.
If you’ve really thought about filing for bankruptcy, ProPublica wants to hear from you — even if you ultimately decided against it.
Black people struggling with debts are far less likely than their white peers to gain lasting relief from bankruptcy, according to a ProPublica analysis. Primarily to blame is a style of bankruptcy practiced by lawyers in the South.
America’s out-of-date, unfair laws for collecting debts could be dramatically improved by these simple steps.
An explanation of how we analyzed whether debt collection lawsuits disproportionately impact black communities.
In a first-of-its-kind analysis, ProPublica reveals that the suits are far more common in black communities than white ones.