Chris Arnold | New Hampshire Public Radio

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.

A federal judge has issued a sweeping ruling that would revoke a pandemic eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the Justice Department is appealing on behalf of the CDC.

The case was brought by the Alabama Association of Realtors, which argued that the CDC doesn't have the power to tell landlords they can't evict people during a pandemic. The judge agreed.

Getting evicted can hurt you in a bunch of different ways. You don't have to tell that to 57-year-old Gregory Curry in Dothan, Ala.

"I'll be honest with you, I was petrified by this situation," Curry says. "What I've had to go through over this last year."

Curry fell behind on rent after the furniture store where he was a salesman shut down due to COVID-19. His landlord filed an eviction case against him over the summer.

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Many Americans are ready and eager to buy a home right now. But they're having trouble finding one.

Home sales edged down 6.6% in February compared with the previous month because there just aren't enough houses out there for people to buy.

That lack of supply is also driving up prices as bidding wars break out with multiple offers on many homes.

"The housing market is out of whack," says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. "There's a lot of demand, but the supply is not coming along."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken a key step toward extending an order aimed at preventing evictions during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The CDC order is currently set to expire in less than 2 weeks.

Housing advocates have warned for months that allowing this protection for renters to lapse would spark a tsunami of evictions, putting upward of 1 million people out of their homes.

Nearly 10 million Americans are behind on their rent payments, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And Stephanie Graves is seeing that play out first hand. She's a landlord in the Houston area and says tenants in most of her buildings are struggling.

"I have a small property in town," she says. "It's about 22 units and eight residents have not been able to pay over 6 months on and off." She says she might get a $100 partial payment on a $1,000 rent.

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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."

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President Biden plans to extend a nationwide pause on evictions through the end of March.

The federal eviction moratorium, implemented through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is intended to help tenants who have been battered economically by the pandemic.

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.

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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.

The Trump administration is ordering a halt on evictions nationwide through December for people who have lost work during the pandemic and don't have other good housing options.

The new eviction ban is being enacted through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal is to stem the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, which the agency says in its order "presents a historic threat to public health."

Jane Courcy was living in San Diego doing IT consulting work for colleges and universities when the pandemic hit. Suddenly, her work dried up completely.

With the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment money she was able to get by. But with that gone now, she says the state benefits won't cover her rent and other bills.

"I'm concerned — will I have a place to live," Courcy says. "You know, I come from New England and we're strong people and we take care of ourselves, but we also need government to help us a little bit. When the money runs out, what do I do?"

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