Milan’s Third Thursday Events: A Farmers’ Market and more

Milan, pronounced MY-lan (not like Italy’s Mi-LAN) is a small town in Southeast Michigan with a lot of charm, and as it was quickly found, a lot of spirit.

In 2015 the Michigan Rural Council (MRC), a CEDAM program, went to Milan and conducted a community assessment. These assessments allow rural communities to affordably identify both their challenges and their assets, and then implement long-term planning based on their goals for the community. The key to these assessments is that they are community led, and all residents have the opportunity to have their voice heard.

It was identified in Milan that they should become a Main Street program, which is a nation-wide movement “helping communities revitalize their downtowns and commercial districts.” They also established that they should start a farmers’ market.

Over the next year, programs formulated and people came on board to help Milan meet their new goals. In February 2016 Milan officially became a Main Street program. They then applied to CEDAM to host an AmeriCorps VISTA member. By summer they were holding weekly farmers’ markets. In August their AmeriCorps VISTA member, Tori Dillinger, started her year of service.

Photo taken by Maxine Tewsley

Photo taken by Maxine Tewsley

Dillinger studied international political economy at Carthage College and developed an interest in economic development, with a specific interest in small, midwestern towns. She’s from a small town in Indiana herself, and when she found Milan’s AmeriCorps VISTA post she said it seemed like a perfect fit.

As winter approached, an idea formulated to showcase one of Milan’s recently renovated vacant buildings. They started a pop-up marketplace where local artisans could sell their wares and take home most of the profits, a small portion going toward the program.

“There was a lot of interest generated,” Dillinger said. “There aren’t a lot of retail options currently downtown, so people noticed it.”

Fast forward to summer 2017 and it was time for the outdoor farmers’ market to start back up. However, it was realized that their weekly market had struggled to compete with the ones in surrounding areas, so they decided to do something different. They implemented their “Third Thursday” events which — you guessed it — are less frequent, themed events that happen every third Thursday of the month. Their first event with the theme “Celebrate Michigan” took place on June 20.

Photo taken by Maxine Tewsley

Photo taken by Maxine Tewsley

“It still has the basic artisan and farmers’ market component in the city square, but there was an addition of food trucks; businesses were encouraged to participate, and a good number of them offered deals or specials; we had games out for the kids; one of the churches got involved and we had music,” Dillinger said.

The idea of having events less frequently was intended to create a bigger, more exciting experience.

“Having these larger events once a month definitely brings out more people. It’s more of an ‘event’ to go to. During the first Third Thursday people were out and about, just everywhere, and I know some of the businesses got increased foot traffic,” Dillinger said. “After the events closed down the town was way more lively than it would usually be on a Thursday night — people stuck around after the event to hang out or go to local restaurants.”

July’s event “Summer BBQ” added on to June’s components to include a beer garden and a local Milan food truck specializing in BBQ. Future themes include “Maker’s Market” (August), “Swing September (September) and “Harvest Festival” (October).

Photo taken by Tori Dillinger

Photo taken by Tori Dillinger

“One thing that impressed me when I came to Milan was the energy in the community and the momentum it had to move forward,” Dillinger said. “Being able to be a part of that and kind of keep the ball rolling and help the community grow and come together has been a really cool part of the experience.”

To learn more about the Milan’s Third Thursday events and the Main Street program head to their Facebook page.


Finance Can Be Fun — Host a 2018 Show Me the Money Day Event

If you’re an organization helping residents in Michigan further their financial capability, you know that combining finances and fun can be tricky. However, it doesn’t have to be! Let CEDAM help you host an engaging Show Me the Money Day event in your community.

Flint Show Me the Money Day 2017

Flint Show Me the Money Day 2017

What is Show Me the Money Day?

Show Me The Money Day is a statewide, annual and FREE financial resource fair that kicks off tax season. Banks, credit unions, educators, community based organizations and others gather to ensure free or low-cost education and access to mainstream financial services for participants. The events also feature various games, prizes, food and children’s activities centered around financial capability. Show Me the Money Day participants leave with a better understanding of the financial resources in their communities and feel more hopeful about their financial futures. In 2017, thirty-two events took place throughout January and February across the state, helping over 2,300 individuals and families improve their financial capability. 

Should my organization host an event?

There is no set criteria for an organization to host a Show Me the Money Day event. If you’re an organization that serves low- and moderate-income people, then hosting an event would be a great way to continue and expand your outreach. If your organization provides financial capability services, hosting an event is a great way to ensure residents in your community know about your programs. If you don’t offer financial capability services, hosting a Show Me the Money Day event is a great stepping stone to do so, or to make other services in your area more accessible. 

What type of support will we receive from CEDAM if we host an event?

CEDAM trains, organizes, provides mini-grants and supports all Show Me the Money Day events from the beginning of the planning process through post-event follow-up. Host site applications, including the grant application portion, will be approved on a rolling basis and are due by by 5pm on Friday, October 6. 

Host Site Training guides organizations on how to customize the perfect event for their community. The training focuses on explaining the basics of Show Me the Money Day events, the numerous CEDAM technical assistance supports, event planning and community outreach. Training is also valuable because it gives host sites the opportunity to connect and share best practices with each other.

Grand Rapids Show Me the Money Day 2017

Grand Rapids Show Me the Money Day 2017

Show Me the Money Day Host Site Training will take place on Friday September 22 from 9:30am-4pm at the Allen Neighborhood Center. At least one representative from each prospective host site must attend and register prior to the training. Training is FREE for CEDAM members and nonmembers. It includes breakfast, lunch and one mileage reimbursement per organization (up to $150.)

How do we get started?

Download the host site application and register for host site training. You may attend training prior to completion of a host site application.

Questions? Contact Allyson Brooks or head to ShowMeTheMoneyDay.org

Meet CEDAM’s New Manager of Financial Empowerment Initiatives

We are excited to welcome Brian Rakovitis, our new manager of financial empowerment initiatives, to the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) team!

Rakovitis has made his way back to CEDAM after starting as an AmeriCorps member through us. He served at United Way of Washtenaw County on the previously active Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps. 

Brian Rakovitis, Manager of Financial Empowerment Initiatives

Brian Rakovitis, Manager of Financial Empowerment Initiatives

After his service with AmeriCorps, Rakovitis stayed on at United Way as the financial empowerment specialist. In this role he focused on economic mobility, managed their VITA tax program and was a part of the mobile financial resource team which provided education, coaching and technical assistance and training to nonprofits who were interested in taking on financial stability work.

“I really enjoy financial empowerment and economic mobility work,” Rakovitis said. “I was looking for a position that would move me from direct service to the capacity building and policy side of things. I was very excited when the opportunity to do just that came along at CEDAM.”

In his new role here, Rakovitis will be developing children’s savings account programs throughout the state, aiming to get more low- and moderate-income youth to strive toward post-secondary education, whether it be college, vocational training or other options. He’ll also be helping develop financial stability throughout the state of Michigan and the midwest, and aligning policies and best practices around financial stability work.  

“Financial stability and economic mobility is more than simply balancing a budget,” Rakovitis said. “It’s helping families become more sustainable so that they have the ability to progress. Helping families make ends meet is essential, but we also want to look at the next step — asking what dreams and goals families have, and help makes those become a reality.”

Contact and Connect

Email: rakovitis@cedam.info

Phone: 517.485.3043 X 1942

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-rakovitis-9641b062/

Legislation Introduced to Expand Payday Lending Products in MI

Identification, an open bank account and a steady source of income are the only three items you need to take out a payday loan. Regardless of your credit score, payday lenders give out these loans (meant to be paid by the borrower’s next paycheck) that are small, but are accompanied with mountainous interest rates.

Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 3.28.36 PMIn Michigan, payday lending is largely unregulated. On a $300, two-week loan, payday lenders typically charge 369 percent APR. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, more than 560 storefronts in the state drain more than $103 million in fees annually, a significant loss to both borrowers and to the overall state economy.

The Michigan Coalition for Financial Empowerment (MCFE), a CEDAM organized program working with its members to help Michigan residents find financial stability, has found that these loans are keeping many Michigan residents in debt traps. Take Perry Green, for example.

“Perry Green, 30, said he ended up spending $1,000 in fees and interest after taking out a $300 payday loan at a storefront in Detroit,” reported Susan Tompor of the Detroit Free Press. “. . . [Green] said his first loan turned into a three-year debt trap after he kept taking one loan out after another to cover bills and fees. He took out the loan to cover his rent because he thought it was his only option.”

And now, legislation was recently introduced in the Michigan Senate to expand these payday lending products in Michigan.

The bills (SB 430-432) would create a new small dollar loan product that would allow loans of up to $2,500 for up to 48 months, with fees equaling approximately 150-180 percent APR. As an example, someone who takes out a $1,500, 12 month loan under this new act would end up paying back a total of $3,208.

This is not the first time companies have tried to expand predatory lending in Michigan. In 2014 legislation was introduced during lame duck which would have allowed auto title lending in Michigan. That legislation was discharged from committee without a hearing, but was never voted on by the full Senate.

The most recent attempt to expand predatory lending was during the 2016 legislative session when bills were introduced to allow payday lenders to operate as Credit Service Organizations. That legislation would have allowed longer term loans with fees equivalent to triple-digit interest rates, with no limits on the amount of the loan or the fees charged. The bills had one committee hearing but were not taken up again and died at the end of the session.

These predatory loans are marketed as a quick financial fix, but are instead a long-term debt trap for borrowers. At its core, loans authorized under SB 430-432 are loans with excessive rates that will last months, or even years. Lenders will still get access to the borrower’s bank account and have no regard as to whether the loan is affordable or not. In addition to charging triple-digit interest rates, a typical payday loan requires no credit check, and lenders do not generally ask about monthly expenses or debts. paydaylender

These loans are associated with increased likelihood of delinquency on other bills, such as medical bills and utilities, increased overdraft fees, involuntary bank account closures and even bankruptcy. Both payday and car title loans put current assets at risk, and erect barriers to building assets for the future.

While these loans are said to provide access to credit for those who can’t use a credit card or have no access to traditional loans, the reality is that borrowers consistently report a range of options in dealing with a financial shortfall if these high-interest loans aren’t available. While working with financial counselors to get out of their debt traps, clients have reported cutting back on expenses, borrowing from friends or family, waiting for tax refunds, or waiting until their payday as options they have used to cover expenses.

CEDAM has witnessed a strong shift in the community economic development field toward a greater focus on household financial security. If families are not successful in managing their monthly income and expenses, saving for emergencies and eventually securing assets like homeownership or small business ownership, then our efforts to improve our physical infrastructure and build local economies have far less impact. The longer-term, high interest loans proposed in SB 430-432 present harm to our communities and prey on our state’s hard working families.

Step Forward Michigan Program Helps Struggling Homeowners

Written by Chad Coffman

Financial troubles can strike suddenly. An unexpected expense, sudden job loss or medical emergency can mstepforwardMIake it hard for a family to pay its mortgage, property taxes or condominium fees.

Fortunately, the statewide Step Forward Michigan program can help homeowners stay in their homes by giving them the money they need to get caught up on their property tax, mortgage or condominium fee payments. This not only helps homeowners but neighborhoods and communities that stay stronger with fewer foreclosed homes.

The U.S. Department of Treasury created the Hardest Hit Fund in 2010 to provide aid to states that were particularly affected by the financial downturn and housing market crash. As part of this program, Michigan received over $761 million in federal funds to implement Step Forward Michigan, which helps prevent foreclosures and stabilize communities by providing assistance to homeowners struggling to make their mortgage, property tax or condominium fee payments. To date, more than 34,000 homeowners statewide have received assistance from the program, and more than $40 million in funds remains to be tapped into for Michigan residents.

The Step Forward Michigan program provides interest free loans of up to $30,000 to help homeowners catch up on delinquent property taxes, mortgage payments and condominium association fees. The loans are forgivable at 20 percent each year, as long as the property remains the homeowner’s primary residence. If the homeowner is still in the home after five years, the loan is completely forgiven.

To qualify for assistance, residents must have experienced an involuntary hardship that caused the delinquency and have enough income to cover their future mortgage and property tax payments once they’re caught up.

Getting into financial difficulty isn’t hard — all it takes is an unexpected expense or a few months of unemployment. Step Forward Michigan has been instrumental in helping Michigan residents get caught up, get back on their feet and keep their homes. Help is just a mouse click or a phone call away.

For additional information on the Step Forward Michigan program or to see if you qualify, please visit the Step Forward Michigan website at StepForwardMichigan.org or call toll-free (866) 946-7432 for assistance.


Chad Coffman is the project lead of Step Forward Michigan 

23 AmeriCorps Positions Available — Here’s Why You Should Join

AmeriCorps members get things done. Each year more than 80,000 people serve their communities across the country. Acting as catalysts for community progress, they’re identifying problems and working toward solutions. Now is your chance to lead: CEDAM is recruiting for 23 available AmeriCorps positions in Michigan that begin in late summer 2017.

AmeriCorps, founded in 1994, was billed as a program dedicated to “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.” CEDAM’s AmeriCorps members do this by supporting anti-poverty programming; from facilitating financial education classes to creating mentorship programs, CEDAM’s AmeriCorps members give back in a variety of ways.

“My AmeriCorps experience was extremely rewarding," said Gerhardt Schuette, AmeriCorps Member, United Way of Saginaw County. "It’s a great way to give your all to improve your community while developing professional skills simultaneously.”

“My AmeriCorps experience was extremely rewarding,” said Gerhardt Schuette, AmeriCorps Member, United Way of Saginaw County. “It’s a great way to give your all to improve your community while developing professional skills simultaneously.”

In addition to the focus on service, CEDAM invests in professional development for the participants as well. We seek to hire individuals from the community in which members serve and prepare them for “Life After AmeriCorps”. Our members come from a range of backgrounds and are at differing stages in their lives. From a young person just out of college to a retiree looking for the next challenge in life, CEDAM provides support and mentors AmeriCorps members to be successful in whatever chapter follows their service.

AmeriCorps member Rene Halberg served at H.O.M.E. of Mackinac County in St. Ignace. Halberg came to the program as a mid-career professional looking to learn more about the nonprofit field. The unique to AmeriCorps aspects of her service year— service projects, professional development opportunities and networking— inspired her to serve two years with the program.

“The trainings have given me the tools I need to succeed with any path I chose in life,” Halberg said. “Tools that gave me the self-confidence I needed so I can continue to give dignity and empathy daily to anyone I encounter no matter where life’s path takes me.”

Halberg left AmeriCorps with many new tools in her toolbox — and is now a business owner in her community.

Leondra Fair came to CEDAM’s AmeriCorps program shortly after receiving her bachelor’s degree. While serving at Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) in Grand Rapids, Fair spent her year helping Michigan residents avoid foreclosure.

“Of course there’s the cliché statement of ‘I have grown so much’ or ‘AmeriCorps has prepared me for so and so,’ but really, the most valuable part of serving with people is that it has enhanced who I am,” said Fair. “I realized what type of person I want to be not only moving forward into the professional world, but as a whole.”

Members receive a modest living allowance, $5,885 toward paying back student loans or continuing education, federal loan forbearance, health benefits and child care benefits. To find out more about the opportunity with CEDAM visit americorps.cedam.info/now-hiring.

Senate Health Care Bill and Michigan’s Trigger Clause

On June 22, Senate Republican leaders released their version of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Below are the main provisions of the bill

  • Phases out Medicaid expansion beginning in 2021 and restores it to pre-Affordable Care Act levels by 2024 (limits government spending on Medicaid, giving states a set amount to spend per person rather than the ACA’s current open-ended funding.) 
  • Keeps the provision that people under 26 can get insurance through a parent’s plan or buy it independently 
  • Allows older people to be charged up to five times more than younger people on the health exchanges
  • Insurance companies would be required to accept all applicants regardless of health status. However, it would allow states to ask permission to reduce required coverage which would give insurers some discretion over what they offer in their plans. If a benefit is no longer classified as essential, insurers could impose annual and/or lifetime limits on what they spend on patients for that benefit
  • Cuts to Obamacare tax credits, but keeps age, geography and income as factors
  • Defunds Planned Parenthood for one year
  • Eliminates employer mandate for providing insurance
  • Does not allow tax credits for plans that cover abortion
  • Repeals the ACA’s taxes on corporations and the wealthy that pay for insurance subsidies
  • Repeals the individual mandate and instead adds a six-month waiting period for those who want individual coverage but have had more than a two-month break in coverage in the last year

Overall, the plan benefits people who are healthy and high-income and disadvantages those who are sicker and low-income, with people between the ages of 50-64 disproportionately impacted. While federal funding for Medicaid expansion phases out between 2021-2024, Michigan has a trigger clause which makes the expansion end immediately if federal funding goes below the ACA promised rates, which would trigger an end to Michigan Medicaid expansion sooner.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the health care bill would increase the ranks of uninsured by 22 million over a decade. The report projected only a slight difference in impact between the measure that GOP Senate leaders wrote and the plan the House passed last month. They also found that while average premium rates would drop, out-of-pocket costs would rise because plans would cover fewer services and have higher deductibles.

Senate Republican leaders announced on Tuesday they are delaying a vote on the bill until after the July 4 recess after it appeared they lacked the votes to begin debating the legislation. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas are pushing to move the bill further to the right, while other Republican senators appear to be reluctant to vote for a plan that results in steep coverage losses and cuts to Medicaid.

You can find a chart comparing the Affordable Care Act, the House plan and the Senate plan here.

Sources: The AtlanticCongressional Budget OfficeNPR, The Washington Post 

MEIC Learning Exchange 2017 Recap

On Friday, June 16, practitioners throughout Michigan gathered in Lansing to discuss the state of their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Programs at the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition’s (MEIC) annual Learning Exchange. The 2017 filing season came with both new and recurring challenges: new filing software (TaxSlayer), volunteer recruitment/retention and building programs with low capacity.

The morning started with a brief introduction and overview of MEIC activities from Ross Yednock, MEIC’s program director. Amanda Grover of Goodwill Industries of West Michigan and Darcy Brown of United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties took over from there, leading the TaxSlayer software discussion. It was quickly discovered that most attendees were all facing a similar hurdle: training returning volunteers on the new software was difficult, and continuous updates were confusing. Looking ahead, however, MEIC members remain hopeful that TaxSlayer’s executives are committed to listening to feedback and improving the software for the next tax season.

The Learning Exchange was fortunate to have Whitney Skeans from the Consumer’s Energy Foundation speak about the Home Heating Credit. The deadline to apply for this credit is September 30, 2017; if you weren’t at the Learning Exchange, make sure to check out our recent blog on this tax credit!

Also speaking at the event was Michigan Department of Treasury’s Jennifer Pruden, who spoke to individual income tax updates, provided updated contact information and answered attendee questions.

During lunch, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency presented “Promotions of Savings at Tax Time,” an initiative supported by CEDAM’s Financial Opportunity Corps Americorps members Jael Cain and Kim Yost. This program incentivizes savings through matches, financial education and client engagement.

Wayne Metro Staff at Learning Exchange 2017

Wayne Metro Staff at Learning Exchange 2017

An interactive rapid-fire sharing show and tell followed, where all members presented successes, challenges and innovations. A key recommendation from sites in Detroit, metro Detroit and Benton Harbor: contact local colleges to recruit student volunteers to join your programs.

Breakout discussions wrapped up the Learning Exchange; attendees discussed volunteer training, marketing, communications and community outreach and Virtual VITA. MEIC members agreed that striking the perfect balance between training volunteers in-person and online is difficult, marketing and outreach are critical to client inclusion and Virtual VITA can help sites build capacity.

If you would like any more information regarding the Learning Exchange or VITA programming, please contact Ross Yednock.

Ensure Legislators Know the Impact of Your Work

The last several months have seen a whirlwind of political activity with the talk of tax reform, proposed elimination of pretty much every program that supports the work of community economic development practitioners across our great state and the discussion of elimination of nearly every safety net that we have in place to help low- to moderate-income families and individuals. If ever there was a time that the sky was falling, it is now. However, despite this, we must continue to not only do the work that we do every single day to help support those who most need our help while continuing to improve our communities for everyone who lives there, we have the additional responsibility of making sure that not only our Michigan legislators know the impact of our work, but our Congressional delegation in DC know the true impact of their decisions. 

Recently, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released their annual Out of Reach report, demonstrating the high cost of living in the United States. In Michigan, in order to rent a one-bedroom apartment, a person must earn on average $16.24 per hour, which is Michigan’s housing wage, or work 57 hours per week at minimum wage. If you require a two-bedroom, this bumps up to 73 hours per week that you would need to work at minimum wage. Pair this with the recent report by the Homebuilders Association of Michigan, which states that bank lending for developments is limited while building costs are rising – in part due to a lack of construction workers – creating an even larger need for affordable rental housing. While this is going on, the latest budget draft calls to eliminate or drastically cut HOME, CDBG, NeighborWorks, Section 8, Section 4, Community Service, Rural Development and many other programs that directly impact the ability to develop affordable housing. 

View the full report at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/OOR_2017.pdf

View the full report at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/OOR_2017.pdf

While many of you do not work in affordable housing, your programs are also potentially in danger. CSBG, CDBG, Community Service (AmeriCorps and VISTA) and many others are also being weighed for their value. When I ran a neighborhood-based nonprofit, we could not have functioned and grown but for the assistance of AmeriCorps and VISTA members. I know that this is the case for many of you as well. Sadly, at that point, I did not know how important it was to talk to my legislators about the impact of these programs and how they helped to create a number of new jobs, fill empty storefronts with small businesses and alleviate poverty in my community. While we are asking you to do more by doing additional outreach and advocacy, we are here to help.

If you have an event that is celebrating the positive work that you are doing in your community, please don’t assume that your legislators know about it or that they know about the impactful work that you are doing. With term limits, legislators are given less time to truly get to know the many partners in their community. It’s up to us to help them along. We are happy to help to make connections wherever we can. We are happy to make introductions, make invitations and facilitate whatever you would like to see happen. For those of you in key districts, you will likely be hearing from us and asking if you have already made connections. If you have clients and neighbors who have benefitted from your programs, please ask them to share their stories as well. Please don’t hesitate to contact Emily Reyst to share your stories, Jessica AcMoody for connections to legislators, Susan Andrews for assistance with events or Jamie Schriner for anything in general. I can’t stress enough how thankful we all are for your work and that everyone here at CEDAM is here to help.

Hi, I’m CEDAM’s New Communications & Training Associate!

Hello, I’m Emily! I’d like to take a bit of time to introduce myself — and hopefully make a convincing case for you to reach out to me and use me as a resource! I am exceptionally excited for this new role knowing I get to share and collaborate with you: our incredible members and partners.  

Emily Reyst, Communications & Training Associate, emily@cedam.info

Emily Reyst, Communications & Training Associate, emily@cedam.info

I spent my first full-time week at CEDAM assisting with Real Estate Development Boot Camp at the Kettunen Center in Tustin. There is no better first week at a new job — I immediately had the opportunity to get to know 22 of our members and hear about the incredible projects you are already working on to make Michigan a more affordable, vibrant place to live for everyone.

My goal is to be an integral part of your relationship with CEDAM. I’ll be sending you a lot of information and updates, but I’d love hear from you too. I want to know:

  • What you need from us! Whether it be through email or phone, coffee or lunch, I would love to know what you’d like to see from us regarding our communication, trainings and anything else you may want assistance with.
  • What awesome things you’re working on! Brag to me. Shoot me a note about an awesome project you or your organization has started or completed, or a news feature that can be boosted. We want to make sure your important work is recognized.

I have been at CEDAM all but two months, and already I am inspired by the dedication you have in making Michigan an amazing place for ALL of its citizens. Thank you for all that you do. I look forward to working with you!

Contact & Connect With Me:

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/emilyreyst

Email: emily@cedam.info

Phone: 517-485-3588 ext. 1941