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Middle class struggles to find affordable housing in Tampa Bay



ST PETERSBURG, Fla. — Rent in the Tampa Bay area is reaching its highest rates to date, increasing more than 20% in the last year.

Laurie Bailey is a St. Petersburg resident, who is now sleeping in her car with her dog, Daisy.

Daisy just goes wherever, she, she’s confused,” Bailey said. “She doesn’t know where we’re going from one night to the next.”

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Stassy Olmos

Bailey works in accounts payable for a company in Pinellas Park.

I stayed in my car sitting up to like four in the morning, waiting for somebody to get up and let me go take a shower,” she said with an embarrassed smile.

Unlike many others in similar situations, Bailey’s worked every day throughout the pandemic. Unfortunately, in December, her landlord passed away and she lost her housing. She’s been looking for a place she can afford within 30 minutes of her job every day since.

I’d see the one-bedroom, I see the prices, and they started going up like $100 dollars every week they would go up, I can see them going up and up and up,” she exclaimed. “The one place I saw was like $800 dollars, now it’s up to $1200. So they just keep jacking it up.”

Bailey was one of the thousands of phone calls to the Tampa Bay 2-1-1 hotline.

For the year 2020, we answered, 87,053 phone calls from people in Pinellas County alone who were having difficulty paying their rent, paying their mortgage, paying their utilities and they weren’t sure when they were going to get approved for unemployment,” explained Kimberly Curnan, the contact center workforce manager for 211 Tampa Bay Cares.

Tampa Bay 2-1-1 was given $24.3 million dollars in the first round of federal aid to help people in Pinellas County from March to November 2020. The organization said they were able to help 8,600 families stay in their homes.

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2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares

But, after that round of funding, county organizations decided 2-1-1 would be best helping those slipping through the cracks, like Bailey, who aren’t facing eviction or unemployment but still can’t afford a one-bedroom apartment.

I called 211, they gave me a list of places, almost every single one of them had closed waiting lists,” Bailey said.

She’s right. ABC Action News has been following the waitlists for affordable housing in Tampa Bay, with some up to five years long with thousands of people in line.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Pinellas County’s growth causing rents to rise and increasing the lack of affordable housing

Rental amounts are going up astronomically in the community and we have a big population who is on a fixed income,” Curnan explained. “It’s not easy for them to come up with first month’s rent, last month’s rent, a security deposit, and then finding that affordable housing when maybe you’ve got an eviction on your record or there’s something else that’s popping up on your credit makes things even harder.”

While the county assures us they’re working on plans for more affordable housing, 2-1-1 is calling on landlords to partner with them to get more people in homes.

Especially those landlords that have multiple properties or units of apartments that they can rent out are you willing to work with these agencies? Are you willing to agree to certain stipulations, maybe there’s an inspection that needs to be done or maybe you have to come down a little bit on the rent,” Curnan said. “But if you know that we’re willing to help with the move-in costs, are you willing to work with us?”

It’s not nice out there. It’s not nice,” Bailey sighed. “I just don’t understand why they don’t make at least, places for the middle people… the middle class is who, who struggles.”

In addition, the amount of people needing an affordable place to live is only going to increase. The Biden Administration’s extension of the eviction moratorium on August 3 only lasted a few weeks. The supreme court overturned it and now thousands of people in Tampa Bay are facing eviction.

While landlords also need their rent money to sustain their properties, federal financial assistance is still slowly trickling out.

2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares adds that rental applications are going to look a lot different right now with possible evictions or bad credit reports and they’re asking apartment complexes to make exceptions.

If you need assistance, or just don’t know where to turn for advice, you can dial 2-1-1 from anywhere in the country. It works like 9-1-1, from wherever you call, it will link you to the closest county’s call center.

If you are experiencing homelessness, you can also find resources on their website here.

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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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