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$82.6M in ‘monumental’ COVID-19 funding coming to Muskegon area communities



MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – Providing universal childcare, saving one of Muskegon’s iconic landmarks, adding police officers, repairing roads and upgrading parks – they’re all ideas local leaders have to spend “monumental” amounts of COVID-19 relief funding coming to communities in Muskegon County.

The federal stimulus package includes $4.4 billion for cities, towns, townships and counties in Michigan. In many cases the amounts are nearly equal to entire year’s budget.

For Muskegon County, that means an additional $82.6 million to be spent over the next three years.

“This a monumental opportunity,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson said of the estimated $24.8 million coming to his city.

That’s 85 percent of the city’s $28.9 million general fund budget for this year.

Muskegon Heights will receive an estimated $11 million, which is even more than the city’s $8 million general fund.

And Muskegon County is expected to receive $33.6 million, about 65 percent of its $51.4 million general fund.

To see how much cities and townships are expected to receive, click here. Amounts each county is expected to receive can be viewed by clicking here.

Related: See how much stimulus money your town gets; Michigan splits $10.3B in funding

Local officials said they’re waiting for guidance in interpreting rules on how the money must be spent. But that hasn’t stopped them from dreaming big.

“I think, not to use a cliché, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we need to think strategically about, and we need to deploy wisdom and forethought in how we go about taking advantage of this opportunity,” said Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bell.

Muskegon County Administrator Mark Eisenbarth echoed Bell’s “once-in-a-lifetime” description of the influx of funds, and said the county will conduct a “thorough review” of needs to spend it on, including infrastructure.

“We want to make sure we’re good stewards of these dollars,” Eisenbarth said.

The first half of the money will come this year, and the rest in 2022. It must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.

Bell said he has reached out to other local municipal managers about pooling at least some of their funds to get the most use out of them. For example, he said cities could collaborate on a request for proposals for road resurfacing projects that could obtain better pricing than if they issued them individually.

Peterson agreed that pooling resources might be appropriate on projects that benefit the county as a whole. He mentioned the iconic Hackley Administration Building in downtown Muskegon owned by Muskegon Public Schools.

The building built in 1889 had been considered as a new home for the Muskegon County Museum, which passed after determining it needed $10 million to $20 million in repairs. The school district later signed a letter of intent with Muskegon County, which proposed buying the building, a former school, for $1 plus five Land Bank houses for students to rebuild.

Eisenbarth said ways to pay for the building’s needed repairs, including roof issues, handicap accessibility, possible need for an additional elevator and parking needs, continue to be explored. The school district moved it central administrative offices out of the building in summer 2020.

“Anything’s on the table right now,” Eisenbarth said regarding possible use of the COVID relief money. “It’s an iconic building …. It should be saved.”

Peterson said he’d also like to see the money spent to upgrade parks in the city, which have been determined to need $14 million in improvements.

He also said the money likely could cover $2 million in cost overruns for the new convention center, which ran into higher expenses partially due to COVID-related delays. A naming rights agreement was to cover those costs, but that money can be used in other ways, Peterson said.

The city’s general fund also transferred money to cover more than $1 million in losses at the arena due to the COVID-related cancellation of Muskegon Risers soccer and Ironmen football seasons, and a portion of the Lumberjacks hockey season, Peterson said. The COVID-19 money could probably cover those losses as well, he said.

First and foremost, the city would use the COVID-19 relief funds to offset losses of revenue due to the pandemic, Peterson said.

Beyond that, there could be a long list of potential spending uses, including helping with the Museum of Art’s planned expansion, repairs at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts and renovating the Boys and Girls Club’s new building on Muskegon Lake, Peterson said.

Ultimately, he said staff will recommend to the city commission items “we can do that will have a monumental, long-term impact on our community, period.”

Bell also said he would like to invest the relief funds in initiatives that would have a lasting impact on the community.

Among those is universal free childcare for Muskegon Heights residents, he said. Providing free high-quality care would have a lasting impact on children’s lives while allowing parents to enter the workforce and contribute to the economy and the community’s tax base, Bell said.

“That’s a systemic impact on quality of life,” Bell said.

Another “big hairy audacious goal” is using the money to transition people out of public housing apartments into scattered-site homes where the quality of life could be better and the impact of crime and poverty lessened, he said.

That transition could include using COVID-19 relief funds for down payment assistance, credit repair, home buying counseling and lease-to-purchase opportunities, Bell said.

He also could see spending the funds on more community police officers, providing community-wide Wi-Fi, and better parks and recreation programming and infrastructure.

“Our kids deserve to have extracurricular programming in parks,” Bell said.

Also on MLive:

Private manager will run Muskegon airport with aim to increase fliers, avoid FAA issues

Sections of Muskegon thoroughfare will close for construction through summer

Restaurants included in Muskegon COVID help after ‘grant fatigue’ leaves funds unspent

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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