CEDAM Blog

http://cedam.info/news/blog/

Taxes Due Soon!

Written by Ross Yednock, Program Director of MEIC

calculator-428294_1920Are you still waiting to file your 2016 federal and state taxes? There is less than a month before they are due on Tuesday, April 18 (NOT the usual 15th). Make the call today to 2-1-1 or visit MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org to find a location near you where you can have your taxes prepared and filed by an IRS-certified volunteer.

Why use a free site?

First of all, you pay absolutely nothing! They are prepared and e-filed, all at no cost to you. What’s better than that?

Next, free tax sites are one of the best ways to ensure your taxes are prepared by a qualified and trained person. Michigan is one of the many states that has no requirements or regulations for paid tax preparers. That means that paid preparers in Michigan are not required to pass any exam, take any classes or prove their competency in any way at all. However, ALL volunteers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and AARP Tax Aide sites are required to pass an IRS certification test that ensures they are up-to-date in their understanding of the tax law and know how best to ensure you receive every tax credit you deserve.

tax-468440_1920Perhaps most importantly, every return that is prepared and filed at an IRS-sponsored free site is double-checked for accuracy and all of your personal and sensitive information is protected, secured and never used to sell you unnecessary services that eat away at your tax refund.

With free tax sites like those found at MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org, or by dialing 2-1-1, you can be assured that you are being taken care of by some of the best trained, and prepared, volunteer tax preparers that money cannot buy… because it’s free. Get it?

So don’t wait to get help… and DO pass this information along to others who may need help. While it may not always be the case in other walks of life, when it comes to tax preparation, sometimes the best things are free!

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Brian McGrain at mcgrain@cedam.info.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Good Cents from Wayne Metro AmeriCorps Members

Written by the Corps Support Committee

program-logoCEDAM AmeriCorps members Kimberly Yost and Jael Cain of Wayne Metro Community Action Agency scored a major success for the financial health of their community by hosting two well-attended Show Me the Money Day Events this February. Serving as AmeriCorps members in the Michigan Financial Opportunities Corps, the two are tasked with bringing free financial education classes, VITA tax preparation programs and foreclosure prevention services to the Detroit Metro Area. This effort goes on throughout the year, but rose to a fever pitch February 3rd and 10th when Yost and Cain successfully hosted financial open houses serving more than 200 local residents.

Show Me the Money Day – a CEDAM initiative dating back to 2011 – annually leads dozens financial open-houses all across Michigan during the key tax season months of January and February. These events bring together financial educators, assistance programs, and service providers with the communities they serve to educate and empower local residents, promote free tax preparation services and raise awareness of community resources.

As CEDAM AmeriCorps members, Yost and Cain were asked to plan and execute one Show Me the Money Day Event in their area, but chose to go above and beyond by offering two events in February to allow a greater number of local residents the opportunity to attend. The first, held on February 3 at Jefferson Barns in Westland, Michigan, served over 70 participants. The second, held on February 10 at Northwest Activities Center in Detroit served an even more astounding 137 local residents.

Wayne Metro SMTMDBoth events brought together a cross section of community members, business, and non-profits including DTE Energy, Michigan Agency for Energy, Western Wayne Family Health Centers, the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, No Veteran Left Behind, Garden City Community Center, Detroit Area Agency of Aging and a variety of local banks and credit unions. Classes, prizes and information drew participants through the busy events and explored financial skill building in credit usage, savings, banking, budgeting and the path to homeownership. The events served not only as an opportunity to better equip participants with knowledge for their financial futures, but also as a meeting point for local organizations to share programming, exchange ideas and connect with one another.

Thanks to the commitment and efforts of Yost, Cain and their community planning partners, Detroit residents are more knowledgeable, better prepared and more optimistic about their finances this spring.  “I am grateful for the genuine concern and efforts by WMCA staff to assist everyone,” said one participant. “They are so inspiring!” The same sentiment was echoed in the experience of all event participants who overwhelmingly hailed the events a useful experience. 89% of participants reported that they felt more hopeful about their financial future after having attended the events. Having spent months working towards just that outcome, Yost and Cain’s efforts have proven a roaring success. Their commitment to service and exemplary representation of the goals of CEDAM, Wayne Metro and AmeriCorps continue to empower and enact healthy financial lives in the city of Detroit.

Thank you Kimberly and Jael!

CEDAM hosts the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and the Rural Opportunity VISTA program AmeriCorps programs. We would like to thank the Corps Support Committee (Jennifer Tucker, Lily Fossel and Autumn Zywicki) for providing content to the Voices of AmeriCorps series.

Fiscal Year 2018 Proposed Budget

Written by Sarah Torrico, Policy Intern

The Trump administration has rolled out what they’re calling their “skinny budget” proposal for fiscal year 2018. Many are taking note of the budget’s plan to severely cut and even eliminate multiple social equity programs. While Trump and his team are positioning this to be a strike against what they refer to as the “administrative state” and a step towards fiscal conservation, its bottom line does not digress from that of Obama’s $1.1 trillion dollar budget. Rather than decrease spending, it appears only to reconfigure funding, most notably allocating a large portion to the military budget, as well as homeland security including the building of the wall and an increase of ICE staff, at the expense of development and aid programs for the country’s low-income populations.

What’s at risk?

dollar-1362243_1920While this proposal has yet to be responded to by Congress, many are concerned over the implications this proposed budget could have on longstanding agencies and programs geared toward economic mobilization. If approved, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would face a $6.6 billion cut, a 13% drawback from the FY 2016 budget. According to a statement from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), this cut alone would result in 123,786 fewer jobs. Aside from the cuts to HUD, a $4.2 billion slash to the Department of Health and Human Services’ community service programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which subsidizes energy bills for people in extreme poverty during the winter months. In addition, it is set to gut the Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program, which supplies grant funds to low-income individuals to buy and refurbish homes, as well as the Choice Neighborhoods program which works in a similar way to grant organizations funds to organizations who rebuild neighborhoods. In justifying the cuts to programs such as Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), responsible for much of the neighborhood investments, the administration said that the programs are “not well-targeted to the poorest populations and have not demonstrated results.” Also on the chopping block is the Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Capacity Building for Affordable Housing and Community Development (Section 4) program and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP). The Legal Services Corporation would also lose all federal funds to support low-income individuals through legal issues such as eviction. President Trump’s plan also calls for elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps.  A more complete list of federal agency eliminations can be found here.

capitol-32309_1280While concerns are warranted, many leaders have voiced doubt that Congress will approve this draft. NPR’s “It’s All Politics” explains how the federal budget, unlike state budgets, serves as more of a framework to guide rather than an order to follow. While they have yet to put out any figures for the FY18 budget, many elected officials are placing faith in the more traditional members of Congress to put forth a more traditional budget. Still, this budget makes clear the priorities of the Trump administration and seems to contradict promises made to low-income voters during the campaign.

What can I do to help?

For ways to get involved and take a stand against the budget proposal, Enterprise has shared the following actions:

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Brian McGrain at mcgrain@cedam.info.

HUD Budget Slashed in Trump’s Administration Proposal

Written by Jessica AcMoody, Senior Policy Specialist

HUD-logoAs you may be aware, there was an article in the Washington Post this morning summarizing leaked documents from the Trump Administration that call for a 14% cut to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that you can read by clicking here. The article points out that the cuts call for elimination of HOME, CDBG and many similar HUD block grants, as well as steep cuts to housing voucher programs. At this time it is unclear if the proposed cuts will be included in the president’s final budget proposal.

In addition, several other programs, including the Corporation for National and Community Service (the department that funds AmeriCorps and VISTA), are being considered for elimination. We cannot stress how important it is to let your legislators know how these programs impact your communities.

What can we do?

CEDAM will continue to monitor the situation and keep our members informed as things progress. We urge you to have ongoing communication with your Congressional delegation and continue to educate them on how these programs are used in their district, even if you already know where they stand on our priorities. You can find contact information for Representatives here, and Senate contact information here.

CEDAM, in collaboration with the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Michigan Community Action, is hosting an Advocacy Day March 16 in Lansing. We encourage you to register here and learn more about how to advocate on your organization’s behalf.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance to you in any way. Please contact Jessica AcMoody at acmoody@cedam.info if you need any additional assistance in making contact with your Congressional offices, or Jamie Schriner-Hooper at jamie@cedam.info with any other concerns.

Thank you for your attention to these matters.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

4 Reasons You Should Volunteer

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern 

Everyday and in just about every part of the nation, groups and organizations could use a helping hand through volunteers. For some, volunteering is something they’ve never considered doing, while for others it is a regular part of their life. If you’ve been on the fence about donating your time and skills to an organization, it’s a great way to get involved, and you may be surprised at how giving back can help you as well. Here are some reasons that may encourage you to volunteer.

animals-617305_19201.) You can support a cause or community you care about.

Whether it’s helping at a local shelter, working at a soup kitchen or donating your time to a community event, volunteering can help strengthen the causes or community you choose to work with. Think about what or who you care about and would like to assist – doing something you’re already passionate about can create stronger bonds to spending your time there.

2.) Networking can happen anywhere.

While traditionally networking is thought of in work or professional situations, volunteering can lead to a great opportunity to network as well! You may be surprised at others who are also donating their time to similar causes, and can create long-lasting connections to them!

3.) Volunteering can build upon or help you learn new skills.

Some people may think “Well, I’m not sure I have the skill set that would be best for this type of volunteer work.” That’s okay! Most places who are looking for volunteers aren’t expecting experts walking in the door on their first day. When you go in to volunteer, be honest about your knowledge level. Other volunteers or employees can help you figure out what you need to know, and you may be surprised at what you learn!

4.) Volunteering saves more resources.money-652560_1280

One way or another, jobs must be done in nonprofits or groups. If volunteers are not able to be found, or not enough are giving their time, groups are forced to spend their money on extra employees rather than placing funds toward their need. Giving your time without expecting payment allows nonprofits to place money towards other important needs and goals.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Shelby Soberalski

Written by the Corps Support Committee

The Rural Opportunity VISTA Program’s members provide capacity building to organizations by expanding on existing programming or creating a new program from the ground up. The VISTAs in this cohort are hard-working, dedicated, and awesome!

This month, as the great stories submitted by the AmeriCorps State Members and the AmeriCorps VISTA Members were coming in, one person’s story in particular really stood out to us.  The Corps Support Committee is so grateful to all those who allowed us to take a peek behind the curtain of their service year.

February 2017: Shelby Soberalski

ShelbyVISTAThis month we are highlighting: Shelby Soberalski! Shelby is an AmeriCorps VISTA currently serving in her first year.  She is empowered by the knowledge that she can do something to make a change in her hometown and excited about being a VISTA. Here is her Great Story submission:

In my short time of being an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, I’ve been able to do a lot of work that I never thought that I’d be able to do. It has opened many opportunities while also opening my eyes to many struggles in my own hometown. But knowing that I can do something about it is empowering.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” is a quote that I’ve always felt inspired by. Martin Luther King Jr. has always inspired me through different projects that I’ve done throughout my life. At a young age, his stories always compelled me to think of others and give back. When I was 14 years old and visited the National Mall and stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he had stood years before me to deliver his unforgettable “I have a Dream” speech, was incredibly humbling.

I’ve volunteered a lot in my life and when I first thought of the idea of becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, I knew this was something I could do. One of the first things I noticed was the MLK Day of Service and I loved the idea of serving in honor of Dr. King.

After researching a few different and unique ideas of what to do for MLK Day of Service, my fellow VISTA, Sarah McMahon, and I agreed upon the idea of creating Valentines Cards for Veterans and active Military personnel. We decided to encourage local senior citizens, fifth grade students and a Girl Scout troop to help us create over 100 cards.

I’ve learned a lot about Dr. King and I’ve always taken Martin Luther King Jr. day seriously, but it wasn’t until I was in a fifth grade classroom, as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, that I fully understood. I was finally able to understand the impact of a volunteer and how far my service as a VISTA can go. Even though Dr. King is no longer here, I can continue to foster his dream. That it doesn’t take much for me to make a difference. The students were in awe hearing about what the AmeriCorps VISTA program is about and that I am able to help carry on such an important legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. started. Of all the thoughtful cards these students made for our Military, one wrote,

ThankYouCard“We are thankful for you and your work. If the AmeriCorps Volunteers did not give us the advantage to right notes to you and other working veterans’ this day would be wasted because there’s nothing better than thanking our working men and women.” [Note was copied word for word]

Reading through all of these cards, I was in awe of the lessons I was able to share with these students and I hope that they continue to feel compelled to give back to others. Days of service like this make me look forward to the rest of my service. It is moments like this, that I’m so glad I decided to become a part of something much larger than myself and commit to being an AmeriCorps VISTA Member.

CEDAM hosts the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and the Rural Opportunity VISTA program AmeriCorps programs. We would like to thank the Corps Support Committee (Jennifer Tucker, Lily Fossel and Autumn Zywicki) for providing content to the Voices of AmeriCorps series.

Dodd-Frank Rollbacks Expected

Written by Sarah Torrico, Policy Intern

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The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, simply referred to as Dodd-Frank, is an Obama-era response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis. President Trump has indicated he has plans to roll back the Act, despite objection from many including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The methods used by this Act for the purpose of more control over the national economy include the “Volcker Rule” which sets limits on risky investments by banks, the establishment of the Financial Stability Oversight Council which has the Department of the Treasury monitor America’s financial security, as well as establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB keeps a check on financial companies to protect the interest of consumers. The CFPB’s goal is to protect consumers by regulating banks, credit unions, payday lenders, mortgage servicers and other institutions that offer financial products. Many of these institutions, particularly payday lenders, are notorious for preying on consumers. A recent CFPB victory, as you may recall from recent headlines, was the fining of Wells Fargo following the bank’s scheme to open accounts without consumer consent. In its five years of existence, the bureau says it has recovered $11.7 billion for more than 27 million consumers.

The CFPB is a component of Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act, and has long been the subject of Republican disapproval. While many would like to see reform, others want to eliminate Title X entirely. A bill introduced last Tuesday by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas would repeal Title X and end CFPB. “Don’t let the name fool you, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does little to protect consumers. During the Obama administration, the CFPB grew in power and magnitude without any accountability to Congress and the people, and I am encouraged by the actions President Trump has begun to take to roll back the harmful impacts of an out-of-control bureaucracy,” Cruz said. Cruz and Ratcliffe had introduced a similar bill two years ago without luck, but appear encouraged by President Trump’s recent calls to undo Dodd-Frank.

document-428334_1920Trump recently signed two directives to review Dodd-Frank as well as a critical review of the Fiduciary Rule which holds that financial advisers must act in the best interest of the client. “We’re going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank,” the president said in reference to part of his large plane to repeal many Obama-era programs. If repealed, the effects would not be immediate but would eventually return the banking system to pre-2008 practices. The arguments made in favor of dismantlement include the notion that small banks are disproportionately burdened by the paperwork involved that their small staffs cannot reasonable manage. This is supported by the statistic that 25% of local banks have closed or merged as a result of this since the Great Recession. In the realm of large banks, many object to the rules against proprietary trading, which is said to prevent these banks from offering securities to customers who want them. Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, and the newly appointed director of the National Economic Council supported the President’s position saying that “[the] banks are going to be able to price product more efficiently and more effectively to consumers […]”. While both sides watch to see what will happen next, it is clear that there will be major changes from what Obama set in place.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Call for Presenters for People & Places 2017

Written by Suzanne Gunther and Nina Arce, NACEDA

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A lot great things are happening in Michigan and we’re eager to share the tremendous accomplishments of Michigan’s community development sector on the national stage. Join us for the largest gathering of community development professionals in the country at People & Places 2017. Mark your calendars for May 31-June 2 in Arlington, Virginia (minutes from DC and Reagan National Airport), this peer-learning event will bring together approximately 800 community development placemakers, partners and supporters from across the country.

Call for Presenters

DSC_0134Do you have a passion about the work you do? Have you helped orchestrate a successful state or local policy campaign? Do you want to share your strategies and tactics with community development professionals from around the country? If so, the People & Places 2017 steering committee invites you to propose a session to present at the most diverse and inclusive community development event in the nation. Some travel assistance is available for selected presenters. To submit a proposal for a workshops, panel, roundtable discussion, or TED-style talk, respond to the Call for Presenters by Friday, February 24.

At this year’s conference, we want Michigan’s participation level to be prominent. Whether a presenter or participant, don’t miss this opportunity! You can also take advantage of TD Bank’s Non-Profit Training Resource Fund which may be used for registration costs. These funds are limited, so don’t delay in registering. It is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to qualifying non-profits.

People & Places 2017 is hosted by five national networks to inspire each other, strengthen our skills, unite our networks, and raise our voices on behalf of the communities we serve. The hosts are:

  • National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations;
  • National Urban League;
  • National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders;
  • National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development;
  • and Network for Developing Conscious Communities.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Trump’s Executive Order and What It Means for the Affordable Healthcare Act

Written by Tristyn Walton, Policy Intern

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Since the primaries, President Trump has been intent on repealing President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA). If there was any doubt to the contrary, one of his first official actions in office was the signing of an executive order to “minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Affordable Care Act”. Trump’s executive order grants the Secretary of Health and Human Service, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS all authority available under the current law of the ACA to roll back the pieces that make it work.

On the surface level, the executive order seems like nothing more than a symbolic gesture because the secretary cannot do anything beyond the bounds of the law. However, the act itself gives the incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services some broad powers that could have significant effects on the law. The executive order’s broad language gives federal agencies wide latitude to change, delay or waive provisions of the law that they deemed overly costly for insurers, drug makers, doctors, patients or states, suggesting that it could have wide-ranging impacts, and essentially allow the law to be dismantled enough to eventually destabilize health care and require a repeal and replacement of the ACA.

The order also spells out the various ways that Trump and his administration might fight specific parts of the ACA until new legislation comes forth: by writing new regulations and exercising discretion where allowed. On matters of discretion, the administration can move faster, but there are still limited places where current law gives the administration power to quickly change course. Another important area of discretion has to do with exemptions to the law’s individual mandate to obtain insurance. Under the current law, all Americans who can afford it are expected to obtain health insurance, unless they have experienced some hardship that would make it impossible. People who feel there has been such a hardship can apply for an exemption, and employees in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service can decide on their case. Under a Trump administration, it might become easier to claim hardship and get out of the requirement to buy insurance. However, doing away with the individual mandate could have significant consequences for the individual insurance markets. If fewer healthy people buy insurance, the costs of insuring everyone else will rise, causing insurance companies to raise prices or leave the market.

Trump’s executive orddoctor-563428_1920er also gives states more autonomy in directing health policy, allowing administrations more latitude under the law to decide what sort of new programs qualify. For a lot of people, Mr. Trump’s selection for the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, was a sign that his administration would become more open to new Medicaid rules, including possible work requirements to obtain coverage, or premiums even for very poor Americans.

Lastly, the order states what Mr. Trump made clear during his campaign: that it is his administration’s policy to seek the “prompt repeal” of the law; however, Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill have yet to keep their promise to devise a replacement health care plan that will be “far better” than President Obama’s signature healthcare law that would also insure more people and lower their costs.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Collaborative Environment Between Officials and Community – Part 1

Written by Douglas Kelsey and David Gruber of Dispute Resolution Education Resources, Inc. (DRER)

clasped-hands-541849_1920Local officials who wish to preside over a peaceful community might ask themselves how they and their constituents can create a collaborative climate in their town. In a collaborative environment, officials and citizens anticipate difficult issues and together seek solutions before a crisis arises.

A collaborative environment could change the dynamics of the following situations.

  • A homeowner uses his backyard to store junk cars. The neighbors are unhappy and vocal about it, but local officials have little enforcement power.
  • Citizens are certain that water rates are too high, even though their hometown officials, not some far off agency, set the rates. They don’t mind complaining.
  • A proposed state highway would cut through farmland and whisk travelers by your downtown tourist attractions. Local farmers and business owners ask, “Can this be stopped?”

Each situation poses a contest of interests. In the first, the enforcement of community standards versus an individual’s solution to low-cost car storage. In the second, public health and community growth versus ratepayer protection of the pocketbook. In the third, tourism development versus protection of local livelihoods and the local economy.

In a collaborative climate, public officials would:

  • Share information about community goals and standards, especially with newcomers.
  • Understand where the goals of citizens might diverge from public objectives.
  • Engage citizens in early problem solving.

All three are essential to collaborative communities, but the last is especially important. A common type of government decision making involves the government collecting public input then making the decision internally. This seems reasonable, since the community presumably elected them to do just that.

bonding-1985863_1920All to often, though, it still ends in conflict. The reason? Today’s citizens are more sophisticated in their use of mainstream and social media, referenda and the courts to promote their issues. Government may not have the last word. Many citizens today want to be part of the decision-making process. They believe they have a better chance of ensuring that solutions meet their needs.

It ultimately comes down to trust. Transparency in government is a building block, but so is the willingness to tap citizen ingenuity and turn potential conflict into creative solutions. Future blogs will discuss how this can be done.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.