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Detroit council approves spending plan for federal COVID relief funds

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Detroit — The Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved Mayor Mike Duggan’s spending plan for $826 million in federal recovery funds to address the negative impacts of the pandemic.

The mayor presented an initial proposal, dubbed the Detroit Future Fund, at the end of May to use the American Rescue Plan funds to address intergenerational poverty in the city over eight categories.

That plan was broadened last week as a result of two dozen community input sessions. The fund will cover grants for home repairs, vacant property cleanup, home down payment assistance, police vehicles, laptops and high-speed internet; technical support for seniors and students; and tracking of affordable housing for residents. 

The council, following an hour-long discussion, approved the revised plan in a 6-2 vote with President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield and Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López voting against it saying more time to review the budget was needed. The vote comes one day ahead of a deadline for the panel to sign off on a plan. 

“There’s nothing that financially or legally obligates that we must vote by June 30. That is the mayor’s desire,” Castañeda-López said. “There’s still confusion.”

Deputy CFO Tanya Stoudemire noted Tuesday that the plan had to be approved for the city to use ARP funds toward any expenses in the 2021 fiscal year. That includes, she said, the administration’s decision to return staff that had been laid off or working reduced hours during the pandemic back to full-time. 

Most callers during public comment Tuesday expressed opposition to the plan, arguing for more community engagement. In a statement, Sheffield said while she supports the funding, she couldn’t be rushed to misappropriate it.

“While the administration has attempted to work with Council and hear from the community, many of the recommendations from my office, colleagues and residents fell on deaf ears,” Sheffield said. 

But Council President Brenda Jones countered the plan was not rushed and “everyone had an opportunity to speak” as officials revised the plan over the past six weeks.

The federal government allocated $6.54 billion for the state of Michigan and nearly $826.7 million for Detroit.

In a statement Tuesday, Duggan commended council members and the city’s finance department, noting President Joe Biden and the congressional delegation “gave us this extraordinary opportunity to invest in the city.”

“Since I presented the original framework plan in May, we held 63 community meetings with more than 3,300 residents participating,” he said. “Our citizens’ input and ideas resulted in the much more complete plan approved by council today.”

Detroit received the first installment of $413 million in recent weeks and another $413 million is anticipated in May 2022. The money must be spent by 2024 or be returned to the federal government.

The only proposal unchanged from the mayor’s initial budget was $50 million for public safety. With the funds, Duggan proposed adding 100 police vehicles, a helicopter, an upgraded training facility and four EMS Bays to firehouses for quicker response. Of the funds, $17 million would be spent on ShotSpotter technology, which listens to gunshots, and traffic cameras to recognize vehicles. 

No further details from the mayor’s office were provided beyond the allocations stated in the resolution passed by the council. Duggan spokesman John Roach said the council approved allocations in broad categories and the details aren’t yet finalized.

The 15 allocations in the Detroit Future Fund:

  • $250 million to maintain city services, offset revenue shortfall and invest in IT infrastructure.
  • $95 million for blight remediation, commercial and industrial demolition.
  • $30 million to match project funding, each must be approved by the City Council.
  • $15 million for grants to block clubs and neighborhood associations allocated evenly by districts.
  • $35 million to expand the Community Health Corps and targeted employment/wraparound services.
  • $30 million for new or to expand recreational centers.
  • $41 million for parks, walking paths, Joe Louis Greenway, streetscapes, arts and cultural institutions.
  • $105 million for employment and job creation towards Skills for Life employment, mentoring, senior employment, IT jobs and career access.
  • $30 million for home repairs to seniors, low-income and disabled communities.
  • $7 million to create an online city map to locate affordable housing.
  • $30 million for foreclosure prevention outreach, credit repair initiatives, down payment assistance and veterans’ housing assistance.
  • $23 million for neighborhood beautification, for vacant property and alleyway cleanouts.
  • $50 million for public safety for traffic enforcement, gun violence initiatives, police training, facility improvements, and EMS Bay’s at firehouses.
  • $45 million to provide internet access and devices for low-income residents, seniors and city institutions.
  • $40 million for small business support 

Sheffield had requested that $105 million be set aside for housing in struggling neighborhoods, including $7 million for the right to counsel for residents facing evictions, and $5 million for improvements to senior housing. However, the plan does not address her requests. She also supported a pilot program for $5 million in Universal Basic Income payments to residents below the federal poverty level and increasing the proposed limit on home repair grants from $15,000 to $25,000.

“History ought to inform the future and we need to perform an economic analysis of the proposed appropriations of the ARPA funding to ensure that we use this funding to transform the lives of our residents and chart a path towards sustainable and equitable progress in our community,” she said.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_



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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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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

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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

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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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