Jacksonville, FL (September 7, 2021) It’s been a long road toward the finish line for the HELPER Act, and Samuel Royer, national director for Heroes First Home Loans at Churchill Mortgage is working hard to see it through.
On Tuesday the Flagler County resident received full throated support for the legislation that will help first responders and teachers realize the dream of home ownership from some of Washington D.C.’s heavy hitters. Jacksonville has long been a stronghold of political power, and it’s where the HELPER Act gained it’s very first supporter by way of U.S. Congressman John Rutherford.
After spending four decades in law enforcement, the congressman needed little prodding to support legislation that would enable some of the nation’s most humble civil servants to afford to live in the communities in which they work. Taking to the podium at Jacksonville Fire Rescue Station #50, and after working for several months alongside Royer to craft the bill, introduced it on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on May 13, 2021.
“I have to tell you, as Sam pitched his idea for the HELPERS Act, I got excited,” said Rutherford. “When Sam approached me with this idea, I thought, this is something we need to get behind.”
Tuesday’s event precedes Senator Rubio’s introduction of the bill in the U.S. Senate, slated for Monday, September 13, 2021.
“This is not a measure of charity, it’s not a nice thing to do, it’s a necessity,” said Rubio, noting one of the biggest challenges in the state is the cost of housing.
“We’ve got a real challenge on our hands attracting and keeping people, good people, these professionals, when they are not professions that allow you to live in the community in which you work and serve,” he said, seeing this an opportunity to help locally, at the federal level. “I look forward to being a part of getting this done.”
Support for the bicameral legislation has gained national support with members of both parties signing on to co-sponsor the effort, and Royer has been 5,500 miles around the country beating the drum to create awareness and garner support, while childhood friend and government affairs representative George McElwee with Commonwealth Strategic Partners works the Hill.
“It’s great because we’ve been friends for so long, and (Sam) came up with this idea five or so years ago, and we’ve always kind of worked through how to get it done,” said McElwee. “His efforts and what he’s been able to do has been phenomenal. For me, taking everything he’s been able to do and harness that, we’ve really been able to put it to use on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.”
On hand Tuesday to stand shoulder to shoulder with Rutherford and Rubio, Dr. Manuel Fonseca, President of the National Association of Hispanic Firefighters flew in from Tennessee, while Daytona Beach Shores Police Chief Stephan Dembinsky, President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, expressed his appreciation.
“Firefighters are a funny breed of people. They don’t want accolades, they don’t want anything. They just want to take care of their families and their communities. This Act will help them take care of their families, help them provide the necessary things that they need, because housing provides a stable ground for them to grow,” Fonseca said, calling on the community to plant the seeds and water them by helping to get the word out about supporting the HELPER Act.
“This is how we let everybody know we have to take care of first responders in the community,” he said.
Jacksonville Fire Chief Keith Powers hopes the HELPER Act, in addition to their youth programs will, help shore up the fire service, which is currently understaffed across the nation.
“Today is a big day, obviously with the legislation being pushed forward to help first responders get home loans. These men and women obviously put a lot on the line, and this program is a little bit of a payback for all of their hard work and sacrifice,” he said.
Emceeing the event on behalf of Heroes First Home Loans, Churchill Mortgage, Royer is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel after years of perseverance.
“Four years. It’s pretty awesome but pretty nerve racking,” shared Royer a U.S. Marine veteran, before taking the stage.
“Senator Rubio is going to introduce it on the Senate side and he’s working to find a Democrat to join on with him and hopefully once that happens we’ll see some real across the line muscle. Congressman Rutherford on the House side has been amazing. 25 co-sponsors right now, 15 Democrats, 10 Republicans, now it’s just a matter of getting the word out, and it’s definitely spreading.”