CEDAM Blog

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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.

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Chad Coffman is the project lead of Step Forward Michigan 
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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

The Next Affordable Housing Project Leaders Graduate from Real Estate Development Boot Camp 2017

22 students graduated from Real Estate Development Boot Camp on June 8, 2017.

22 students graduated from Real Estate Development Boot Camp on June 8, 2017.

Twenty-two participants from differing economic development experience levels, five speakers from across the industry, four funding panel experts and a remote northern Michigan setting was the recipe for a successful Real Estate Development Boot Camp 2017.

Every year the goal of Boot Camp is to equip attendees with the knowledge and skills needed to manage or get involved in affordable housing projects. From tax credits to pro formas, site selection to underwriting, students were walked through the nuts and bolts of deals that could do many things: provide barrier-free housing; help low-income residents afford safe, comfortable housing; give residents access to supportive services; bring sustainability measures to neighborhoods; restore historic buildings and much more.  

Funding Panelist Jason Paulateer (left) and lead trainer Kirsten Elliott (right) collaborating on the last day of Boot Camp at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, MI.

Funding Panelist Jason Paulateer (left) and lead trainer Kirsten Elliott (right) collaborating on the last day of Boot Camp at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, MI.

Lead trainer Kirsten Elliott (VP of Development at Community Housing Network & CEDAM board member) ran engaging sessions pulling from a wide breadth of affordable and supportive housing personal experience, helping turn what could have been rather difficult material into inspiring, honest advisement and critical information for students.  

Four additional speakers, all of whom play integral roles in making real estate development deals happen, presented on a range of topics. Michael Stefanko of Loomis Law Firm spoke on legal structures, David Allen of MSHDA on market analysis, Joe Heaphy of Ethos Development Partners on layered financing and Katie Vondra of Cinnaire on property management and marketing.

The outcome? Conference attendees were able to understand the full picture, and had the opportunity to ask questions of the people they could very well be working with in the future.

Dakota Riehl (Inner City Christian Federation) and group member Greg Mangan (Southwest Detroit) work together on their final project.

Dakota Riehl (Inner City Christian Federation) and group member Greg Mangan (Southwest Detroit) work together on their final project.

“CEDAM’s Real Estate [Development] Boot Camp was a great opportunity to learn the foundational knowledge required to begin developing affordable housing in Michigan,” said Dakota Riehl, Real Estate Development Associate at the Inner City Christian Federation. “Not only were the lessons, presentations and guest speakers extremely educational, meeting other developers – both experienced and novice – was one of the best elements of the training.”

After 2 ½ days of diving into the industry, the students were then given the task of working in groups to pull together a potential project proposal. Site plans were laid out, pro formas were calculated and presentations were given. The funding panel, comprised of Jason Paulateer of PNC and CEDAM board member, Tim Strasz of Opportunity Resources Fund, Dawn Everett of MSHDA and Megan Coler of Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis offered the chance for the students to receive feedback from the people who actually review applications and fund projects.

“Although the projects were hypothetical, it was a great experience to pitch our ideas and projects to those individuals who work so closely with the funds necessary to make our future developments a reality,” said Riehl.

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Funding panelists from left to right: Jason Paulateer, Tim Strasz, Megan Coler, Dawn Everett.

While the presentations themselves would require some imagination, all of the sites selected were real projects that a member of each group wants to take on in the future or is already in the works, making the feedback they received that much more valuable.

About a two-hour drive from our home base of Lansing, the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan served as a perfect location to feel just far enough away from the office, and allowed everyone to learn while enjoying what Michigan has to offer — water, the beach and plenty of trails to explore.

If you couldn’t attend this year’s Boot Camp but are interested in attending next year, email Emily at emily@cedam.info to make sure you receive information on it in early 2018.

Did You Know About These Two Michigan Tax Credits?

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 2.47.40 PMMichigan is a unique state in many ways. Some obvious, like its magnificent topography, numerous beaches and picturesque shorelines. Some, not so obvious, like its income tax credits for low- to moderate-income households. This is one of the reasons why across the state there are free tax sites open year-round to help Michigan taxpayers file and claim these credits, even if they are not required to do so under the federal tax code. Two of these credits, unique to Michigan, are the Homestead Property Tax Credit and the Home Heating Credit.

The Homestead Property Tax Credit helps eligible homeowners and renters pay some of their property taxes. It is based on the amount of property taxes that are paid (or a portion of a person’s rent that goes to pay property taxes) and a taxpayer’s overall household resources. A taxpayer just needs to fill out form MI-1040CR (or have a free site complete the form for them) to claim the credit. If the taxpayer is blind or a veteran, they may be eligible for a larger credit and need to complete MI-1040CR-2 as well. While the deadline to file the credit is the same as the regular April filing deadline, taxpayers can go back up to three years. Therefore, if a taxpayer did not file their 2016 taxes in April, they can do so now.

The Home Heating Credit is a Michigan credit for low income taxpayers to offset a taxpayer’s cost of heating their home. This credit has a much lower household resource limit than the Homestead Property Tax Credit, which means more eligible taxpayers also may not have any federal or state tax filing requirement. In order to receive this credit, they must file form MI-1040CR-7 or get help at a free tax site. The deadline for the Home Heating Credit is September 30. A taxpayer cannot go back and file for the credit after that time.

It is not too late for you or one of your clients to file for this credit. For help, dial 2-1-1 or visit MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org to find the nearest free tax site. If there does not appear to be a site near you, please contact me and I will see if I can get you the help you need to file for these important Michigan credits. I can be reached at yednock@cedam.info.

A Look Back at May: National Community Action Month

May was National Community Action month! Throughout May, attention was drawn to the role that Community Action Agencies have in helping low-income families achieve economic stability.

Several governors and mayors around the U.S., including Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, proclaimed May “Community Action Month”. Snyder stated:

“[C]ommunity action has put a human face on poverty for over 52 years by advocating for limited-income citizens, so that they may enter the middle class and reach for the American dream, replacing their despair with opportunity…community action already serves 99 percent of America’s counties in rural, suburban, and urban communities and because it is right, because it is wise, and because, in our hearts and minds we believe it is possible, we will conquer poverty in our lifetime…” The full declaration can be found here.

During the National Community Action Month, success stories were honored and personal achievements were recognized. The Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps (MFOC) currently has four members serving at Community Action Agencies throughout Michigan.  These members are hardworking, driven and embody the spirit of the MFOC and the collective mission of AmeriCorps to “Get Things Done!” Kimberly Yost, who is serving with Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in Westland shared the impact she has at her host site:

“At my site, I plan and organize financial education classes for the clients of the IDA accounts and savings match accounts. These classes benefit the clients because the clients are learning how to better save their money to prepare for their futures.  I also help with planning events such as employee trainings and the Show Me the Money Day Event. In addition to these things, I create and provide content for Wayne Metro’s monthly newsletter. I also am helping to keep my host site’s webpage updated with current information regarding the financial education classes that I teach through them.”

Kim also shared what she liked most about her site, what she would miss most, and what her plans are after her service year is complete. She writes:

“What I like most [at my host site] is the atmosphere… everyone is kind and helpful, I enjoy being here. I also like being a part of the team and working with the organization to make a difference in my community. I will miss the people that I have gotten the privilege to get to know most of all!

Yost’s future plans are to attend graduate school at Wayne State University for Social Work, where she’ll graduate in 2018.

“I am focusing on interpersonal practice, specifically cognitive behavioral theory.I also plan to continue volunteering with my host site.  I believe in their message and would still like to be a part of that even after my service is over.”

In the words of President Lyndon B. Johnson, “There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.” Thank you Kim and all those currently serving, volunteering, working at, or benefitting from the Community Action Agencies in Michigan!

Kim Jael AmeriCorps Week

CEDAM hosts the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and the Rural Opportunity VISTA program, both AmeriCorps programs. We would like to thank the Corps Support Committee for providing content to the Voices of AmeriCorps series.

Honoring Russ Mawby

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Michigan hosts over 800 AmeriCorps members, who serve at 300 sites across the state. Most days, members focus on their specific mission, but one day every year, members gather regionally for a day of service in celebration of Dr. Russell “Russ” Mawby, who now serves as an honorary trustee for The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. His efforts to bring AmeriCorps to Michigan mean more than 42,000 people have served Michigan since 1994, which amounts to over 26 million hours of service in foreclosure, financial education, environmental cleanup, healthcare and much more.

“So it has been a mindset from the very beginning, I think, that we benefit from collaborative efforts and that a community benefits if the various organizations, nonprofits most of them, if they do collaborate to the extent possible.”

-Dr. Russ Mawby

The 2017 Regional Russ Mawby Signature Service Projects brought together the divweedingerse AmeriCorps cohort for a day of intensive service that visibly demonstrates the power of Michigan AmeriCorps in action. Members gathered in six regions, and each region had a variety of projects.

For example, at Ingham County Land Bank‘s vacant lot sites, members cleared brush and planted gardens. They weeded asparagus and planted raspberries to help provide fresh produce for the Greater Lansing Food Bank. Tri-cities members worked on fighting urban blight in Flint by boarding up vacant houses and clearing brush and debris from yards. Huron Pines built and placed bird houses in Hartwick Pines State Park with members from as far as Hart.

The Russ Mawby Signature Service Day gathered 800 AmeriCorps members from different communities and intensified their efforts through collaboration and dedication, and the proof is in the projects completed around the state. What better way to honor Dr. Russ Mawby.

 

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Find out more about CEDAM’s AmeriCorps here.