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Utah Legislature: Proposed debt resolution plan unveiled

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has some of highest foreclosures and bankruptcy rates in the country but a new program aims to reduce that dubious distinction.

The pilot program, called a Debt Resolution Plan, will be administered by the non-profit debt counseling organization AAA Fair Credit Foundation.

At a press conference Wednesday, state officials, including Speaker of the House Dave Clark and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, lined up to support the plan.

Foreclosures affect everyone and "we're all in this together," Clark said. "This will help the Utah economy."

The program is designed to offer Utahns another option for paying off their debt.

Currently, financial counseling organizations can only help the small fraction of debtors who are able to eventually pay off all their bills through a debt management program, said AAA Fair Credit President Preston Cochrane.

Under the new Debt Resolution Plan, his organization will be able to help at least twice as many people by providing an option for those who can only pay off part of their debt, he said.

"Many don't qualify for a Debt Management Plan," he said. "Currently, there are no other options beyond foreclosure or commercial debt settlement companies … This is just another tool in the toolbox."

The plan is the brainchild of economic researcher and author Robert Manning who said it is the culmination of five years of work.

Manning is seeking a patent for the plan, which would lead to potential royalties for him.

Shurtleff also voiced his support for the idea.

"When people are losing their homes they become desperate and can become victims of fraud," he said.

e-mail: jsmith@desnews.com