- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2008

As the credit crunch filters down from Wall Street to Main Street, it’s more than the investment bankers who feel the squeeze. William Darter, a retired real estate developer who now lives in Melbourne, Fla., lost a $3,000 investment in Washington Mutual Inc. While it might not sound like much to most, it’s a considerable sum for someone living on Social Security payments, he said.

“I’m hurting pretty bad as an individual,” said the former manager for Prudential Insurance Co. Mr. Darter also lost money in Wachovia Corp.

He supported the bailout package, and he said most of those who opposed the bill had misconceptions about it.

“All they hear is this is a bill to bail Wall Street out,” Mr. Darter said. “There are lots of little people like me who are going to lose” money if Congress did nothing.

For college students, the economy is a growing concern. Donald Bosse, director of financial aid at Catholic University of America, said students with loans have been insulated from the financial crisis because their loans for the year were set in June.

“The earliest it would hit us would be February,” he said.

However, he noted, the school has seen more complaints than in previous years. Most stem from credit-score requirements for loans, which have gone up. Although students wouldn’t be denied loans, they may have to pay more.

Mr. Bosse said his office will contact students whose loans are through one of the banks in trouble in the spring to make sure they still have their loans.

At Gallaudet University, staff interpreter for the deaf Steve Walker is concerned about the funding the school receives from Congress.

“I wonder how it will affect the university in the long run since so much money will be going to pay off the credit crisis,” he said of the bailout.

Local businesses that rely on loans are, predictably, taking a hit.

Business has plummeted by more than 60 percent at the family-owned Mr. Car Auto Sales in Brentwood, according to President Daniel Burneo.

“People have issues with credit in this area,” Mr. Burneo said, referring to a neighborhood where cars are sold best via fliers or word of mouth. His business asks for a down payment of 40 percent to 50 percent on most sales and prefers financing of no more than 18 to 24 months.

With financing involved in more than 94 percent of all vehicles purchased at a dealership, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, that’s a lot of people looking for loans.

“The only people having trouble getting loans would be considered the subprime, or high-risk, customers,” said Jack Fitzgerald, president of Fitzgerald Auto Malls, based in Kensington.

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