Chris Arnold

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996 and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.

Most recently, Arnold has been reporting on the financial struggle millions of Americans are facing amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As part of that, he's done investigative stories showing how mortgage companies have been misleading homeowners who've lost their jobs, demanding outrageous balloon payments if they skip mortgage payments and scaring them away from help that Congress wanted them to have under the CARES Act.

Arnold's reporting often focuses on consumer protection issues. His series of stories "The Trouble with TEACH Grants," that he reported with NPR's Cory Turner, exposed a debacle at the U.S. Department of Education through which public school teachers had grants unfairly converted into large student loan debts — some upwards of $20,000. As a result of the stories, members of Congress demanded reforms and the Education Department overhauled the program and is now giving thousands of teachers their grant money back and erasing their debts.

Arnold was honored with a 2017 George Foster Peabody Award for his coverage of the Wells Fargo banking scandal. His stories sparked a Senate inquiry into the bank's treatment of employees who tried to blow the whistle on the wrongdoing. Arnold also won the National Association of Consumer Advocates Award for Investigative Journalism for a series of stories he reported with ProPublica that exposed improper debt collection practices by non-profit hospitals who were suing thousands of their low-income patients.

In addition to reporting for NPR's main radio programs, Arnold has been hosting the personal finance episodes of NPR's Life Kit podcasts, which offer listeners actionable tips backed up by behavioral economics research on the best ways to save money, invest for the future and a range of other topics.

Arnold previously served as the lead reporter for the NPR series "Your Money and Your Life", which explored personal finance issues. As part of that, he reported on the problem of Wall Street firms charging excessive fees in retirement accounts — fees that siphon billions of dollars annually from Americans trying to save for the future. For this series, Arnold won the 2016 Gerald Loeb Award, which honors work that informs and protects the private investor and the general public.

Following the 2008 financial crisis and collapse of the housing market, Arnold reported on problems within the nation's largest banks that led to the banks improperly foreclosing on thousands of American homeowners. For this work, Arnold earned a 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for the special series, "The Foreclosure Nightmare." He's also been honored with the Newspaper Guild's 2009 Heywood Broun Award for broadcast journalism. He was also a finalist for the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Award.

Arnold was chosen for a Nieman Journalism Fellowship at Harvard University during the 2012-2013 academic year. He joined a small group of other journalists from the U.S. and abroad and studied economics, leadership, and the future of journalism in the digital age. Arnold also teaches Radio Journalism as a Lecturer at Yale University and was named a Poynter Fellow by Yale in 2016.

Over his career at NPR, Arnold has covered a range of other subjects — from Katrina recovery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, to immigrant workers in the fishing industry, to a new kind of table saw that won't cut your fingers off. He traveled to Turin, Italy, for NPR's coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics. He has also followed the dramatic rise in the numbers of teenagers abusing the powerful and highly addictive painkiller Oxycontin.

In the days and months following the Sept. 11 attacks, Arnold reported from New York and contributed to the NPR coverage that won the Overseas Press Club and the George Foster Peabody Awards. He chronicled the recovery effort at Ground Zero, focusing on members of the Port Authority Police department as they struggled with the deaths of 37 officers — the greatest loss of any police department in U.S. history.

Prior to his move to Boston, Arnold traveled the country for NPR doing feature stories on entrepreneurship. His pieces covered technologists, farmers, and family business owners. He also reported on efforts to kindle entrepreneurship in economically disadvantaged areas ranging from inner-city Los Angeles to the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Arnold has worked in public radio since 1993. Before joining NPR, he was a freelance reporter working out of San Francisco's NPR Member Station, KQED.

Biden's picks for the watchdogs protecting Americans from financial wrongdoing will face the Senate Banking Committee. If confirmed, they will be much tougher on Wall Street than their predecessors.

Sheila Ambert lies awake at night wondering if her family is about to get tossed out on the street.

"As a mother, you feel like you failed your kids," Ambert says. "You don't want them having to go through that or even knowing about it, which they do."

Consumer watchdog groups are applauding President Biden's pick of Gary Gensler to run the Securities and Exchange Commission. They say that there is much to do to protect everyday Americans who invest their retirement or other savings in the market and that Gensler has proved he can get that done.

But progressives were a lot more skeptical about Gensler back in 2009 when he was first chosen to be a top financial regulator. That's because, in some ways, Gensler is the ultimate Wall Street insider.

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Eager to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors, more people than ever are hitting the slopes on skis and snowboards.

"Oh, yeah. I mean, we sold probably a thousand more season passes this year than we ever had," says John DeVivo, the General Manager of Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire. "We were up about 20% in pass sales."

The Trump administration is trying to push through a last-minute rule that could force banks to offer loans to gun-makers and oil exploration companies or to finance high-cost payday lenders.

If you've lost your home, or are afraid of losing it, NPR wants to hear from you.

There are protections for renters and homeowners during the pandemic. But many renters are being evicted anyway, and homeowners have run into problems with mortgage assistance too.

For renters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an order aimed at preventing landlords from evicting people who are struggling financially. Some states have their own protections. Congress also just passed a new rental assistance program.

For months, the warning was clear from economists, housing advocates and public health experts: Without more help from Congress, millions of Americans could be evicted, in the dead of winter, in the middle of a raging pandemic.

"I can't construct a darker scenario," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told NPR in November. "It's absolutely critical that lawmakers step up."

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When Tiffany Robinson heard about an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop evictions, it seemed like the life raft she needed.

"I thought this is going to help," said Robinson, "this is going to protect me."

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Congress has ordered banks to allow most homeowners hurt financially in the pandemic to skip mortgage payments. Some renters are covered by eviction protections.

If you're asking for this kind of help, NPR wants to hear from you.

We want to know how all of this is playing out. Are banks and other lenders following the rules and working to help you? If you're a renter, is your landlord being flexible whether that's required under the law or not? We want to hear your experiences.

The pandemic rages on. More than 180,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. States and cities are closing businesses. Nearly 800,000 people are applying for unemployment every week.

Despite all this, Congress has not passed an economic relief package since late April — and a set of vital relief measures helping millions of Americans avoid financial ruin and eviction are all set to expire this month.

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With their savings running out, many Americans are being forced to use credit cards to pay for bills they can't afford — even their rent. Housing experts and economists say this is a blinking-red warning light that without more relief from Congress, the economy is headed for even more serious trouble.

There are fewer homes for sale in the U.S. today than ever recorded in data going back nearly 40 years. That's a big part of what's driving up home prices much faster than incomes, and making homeownership less affordable for more and more Americans.

"We are simply facing a housing shortage, a major housing shortage," says Lawrence Yun, the chief economist at the National Association of Realtors which tracks home sales. "We need to build more homes. Supply is critical in the current environment."

Updated at 8:48 a.m. ET

The day after Christmas, millions of Americans will lose their jobless benefits, according to a new study. And that could spell financial ruin for many people, like 44-year-old Todd Anderson in the small town of Mackinaw City, Mich.

Anderson's a single dad with four kids — two of them 5-year-old twins. He lost his income after the pandemic hit in the spring. He did landscape design at resorts that host big weddings, and he says all that's been shut down.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created after the last financial crisis to be the tough cop on the beat, making sure people don't get taken advantage of by lenders, debt collectors or other companies. It's returned $12 billion to people harmed by financial firms.

"This agency was designed to be a watchdog," says Deepak Gupta, a former top enforcement lawyer at the bureau. "That mission is more important than ever."

With millions of Americans in desperate financial straits due to the pandemic, he says, more people are vulnerable to predatory practices.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The day after Christmas, 12 million Americans will lose their jobless benefits, and that could spell financial ruin for many of them. That's according to a new study just out this morning. It looks at what will happen if Congress can't reach a compromise to extend those benefits and pass another relief bill. NPR's Chris Arnold is reporting on this and joins us this morning. Hi, Chris.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: Why will so many be in trouble right at the end of the year?

At the start of the year, John Forr saw interest rates falling and figured it was a good time to refinance the mortgage on his house in Punta Gorda, Fla. Forr is a retired Marine Corps colonel. He served for 27 years.

He wanted to get a VA loan — backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — because he knew he was supposed to be able to get a better deal on the interest rate and other terms. Those are perks offered to vets and service members for their service.

It has been more than eight months since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. NPR wants to know how it has affected your employment situation, your ability to pay your rent or mortgage, your other household finances, your business, if you have one, and your ability to juggle work and child care.

Millions of people have had to seek unemployment benefits, business loans and other help to deal with the economic turmoil. Some employers have permanently closed their doors. And many schools are doing distance learning.

As we head into winter, we want to know: How are you coping?

Nellie Riether, a single mom from Ringwood, N.J., faces a stark choice: raid her retirement savings or uproot her kids from home and move in with her sister.

"To be honest, it's mortifying and embarrassing at 46 years old to say I'm going to have to move in with my sister," she says. "Emotionally, it's a bit of a failure."

Riether has been out of work since April, when she was furloughed from her job in office building design. She can't pay the rent much longer, and she's worried about her kids, who are 13 and 15.

The pandemic is driving a major boom in the housing market that's breaking all kinds of records and exposing a very uneven economic recovery between the haves and the have-nots. The most dramatic increases are happening at the top end of the market — sales of homes costing $1 million and up have more than doubled since last year.

Millions of people are working from home while juggling their kids' remote schooling. And many who can afford to are buying bigger houses.

Fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits have been a problem for a long time, and states have set up systems to try to prevent such fraud. But lost in that effort is arguably a bigger problem: Some of those systems have hurt millions of innocent people, keeping the benefits they deserve in limbo.

They're people like Sevy Guasch, who lost his job as a food and beverage manager at a Marriott hotel near San Jose, Calif. In March, he applied for unemployment benefits. He went online, entered his information, and waited. And waited.

A manager at McDonald's likely paid more federal income tax than President Trump did the year he took office.

The president's tax returns show he paid just $750 in federal income taxes each year in 2016 and 2017 and paid nothing at all for many years before that, according to reporting from The New York Times.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Jesus Gonzalez was about a year into starting a Cuban food catering and "pop-up" business in Lexington, Ky. It's like "a food truck, but without a truck," he says.

His steadiest gig was setting up tables with a spread of Cuban food at local breweries so people could eat while quaffing pints. But then all that shut down. And he says things aren't back to normal enough yet for the breweries to bring him back.

Jean lost her job as a school bus driver in Chicago during the pandemic. She was managing OK with unemployment money. But then, about two weeks ago, she got a desperate call from her adult son.

"His job had laid him off, and he wasn't able to pay rent," she says. There was an eviction moratorium in Chicago, but Jean says the landlord wanted her son out anyway.

She says the landlord got someone to threaten her son, and to shoot his dog — a German shepherd mix he'd had for years.

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SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Before a new federal eviction ban went into effect recently, Alice and Jeremy Bumpus were on the verge of getting evicted. They live in a house outside Houston with their three kids, and they both lost their jobs after the pandemic hit. Alice worked at an airport fast food restaurant; Jeremy worked at a warehouse.

"We explained to the judge that due to everything that was going on, we just fell behind on just our one month's rent," Alice says.

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