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Legislature Passes Entenman Bill To Help Struggling Students

THE SEATTLE MEDIUM —  Community and technical college students struggling with food insecurity or unforeseen financial emergencies may soon have help, thanks to newly-passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman (D – 47th Dist.).

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State Rep. Debra Entenman (D-47) on the floor of the House, speaking on bill HB 1893. Photo courtesy of the Wa State Legislator.

By The Seattle Medium

OLYMPIA – Community and technical college students struggling with food insecurity or unforeseen financial emergencies may soon have help, thanks to newly-passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman (D – 47th Dist.).

Under HB 1893, recently passed by both the House and Senate, a grant program is established for community and technical colleges (CTCs) to provide monetary assistance to students experiencing unforeseen emergencies. While many four-year institutions already have similar programs for short-term loans or grants, this law gives CTCs the same flexibility to assist students.

Also included in the law is a focus on food insecurity for CTC students. Many students struggle due to lack of access to food. HB 1893 allows students in work-study programs to qualify for the Washington basic food program, as allowed under federal law, and requires CTCs to notify students qualifying for State Need Grant or work-study about their potential eligibility for SNAP benefits.

“I am thrilled that the Legislature has made this a reality for our struggling community and technical college students,” said Entenman. “Lawmakers must ensure that students remain in school and finish their degree or program and this bill helps us do that. This is good for students, for employers, and for Washington. Thank you to the Senate and my colleagues for making this a reality.”

HB 1893 returns to the House for concurrence of the Senate Ways and Means amendment.

This article originally appeared in The Seattle Medium

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“Save Energy, Save Dollars” plan asks City Council to pay for energy upgrades for poor

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Your home isn’t as energy efficient as you think it is. And if the City of Memphis and MLGW seriously want to ease the energy burden on low-income families, they should start with fixing leaky faucets, sealing drafty windows and other optimizations outlined in a bold new plan recently unveiled by Friends of The Earth (FOE).

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At a Friends of The Earth event at the Bickford Senior Center, activists paused to explain the “Memphis Save Energy Save Dollars” proposal. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Proposal estimates $247 million to optimize homes while creating 330 jobs over five years.

By Lee Eric Smith, lesmith@tsdmemphis.com

“If Memphis Light Gas & Water’s utility rates are among the lowest in the country, why is my bill so darn high?”

Whether you’ve asked yourself that question after opening your latest MLGW bill or gone a step further to complain to MLGW and/or city officials, it’s a question that seemingly defies logic. Either somebody is lying or . . .

Your home isn’t as energy efficient as you think it is. And if the City of Memphis and MLGW seriously want to ease the energy burden on low-income families, they should start with fixing leaky faucets, sealing drafty windows and other optimizations outlined in a bold new plan recently unveiled by Friends of The Earth (FOE).

“When you talk about the energy burden, you’re talking about poor people who are making decisions between groceries, medicine and for some, even being able to get to work,” said Herman Morris, a former MLGW executive now championing the effort. “And that’s a burden not because of (the utility rate) necessarily, but because their home is energy inefficient.

“They’ve got cracks and leaks that really result in them (cooling outdoors in the summer and heating outdoors in the winter),” Morris added. “All of the energy they buy goes out the door through those cracks.”

The plan, called “Save Energy, Save Dollars,” calls upon the Memphis City Council to fund a program that would provide energy optimizations and upgrades to up to more than 70,000 lower income homes over five years. The plan estimates that the average participant could save as much as $44 per month – all while enjoying a more comfortable home to boot.

‘Recipes’ for success

The full 36-page plan, available as a downloadable PDF, provides two main “recipes” for achieving those savings.

During the “direct install” phase, trained experts would evaluate and install upgrades like low-flow showerheads, LED lights, duct sealing and insulation for pipes and water heaters. Smart thermostats are also included because they can communicate with MLGW’s smart meters to restrict usage at MLGW’s most expensive times.

Some direct install homes will also be eligible for weatherization – more costly measures like replacing inefficient refrigerators and air conditioners, upgrading insulation and even replacing windows and doors.

All other low-income households would receive a seven percent reduction in their utility bills, according to the plan.

To maximize impact, the plan takes a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach, focusing on areas of Memphis like Frayser, Orange Mound, Whitehaven, Berclair and North Memphis. A countywide campaign would allow low-income households anywhere in the county to participate by appointment. The plan also has incentives for landlords to make the upgrades in their rental properties.

“The kilowatt hour you save is the cheapest and cleanest kilowatt hour on Earth,” said David Freeman, former chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority. “We can help ourselves in this city by just initiating a major efficiency program.”

At what cost?

Adopted as is, the SESD plan would cost $247 million over five years. They even recommend the city use municipal bonds to fund the effort.

But while Friends of the Earth acknowledge the plan isn’t cheap, they also say that if easing financial stress on the poorest Memphians is a priority, there’s no better way to invest the money.

“There’s been enough talk. People know they’re poor. And they know that their homes are leaking. It’s time that somebody did something about it,” Freeman said. “They borrow money to build a power plant, they can borrow money to invest in the homes of poor people. That will create more energy per dollar than what they’re paying TVA.”

Earlier this year, the Memphis City Council declined an MLGW request to raise rates to pay for needed infrastructure repairs – upgrades that could help prevent power outages during storms.

Morris said that those infrastructure upgrades are absolutely needed, but they don’t have to come at the expense of the proposed SESD plan.

“You’ve got to have an infrastructure that’s capable of delivering the energy to the people,” Morris said. “I also believe that you don’t necessarily need to stop at the door. We’re saying that you take that infrastructure argument into the homes where the energy is going to be consumed, and improve that infrastructure, so that you’re getting a more efficient delivery. You can’t really separate the two.

“(Say) you are a poor person whose lights are off because you couldn’t afford to pay for all the energy that you’re using inefficiently,” Morris continued. “If you’re a poor person in that situation and your lights off, you don’t need to fix the infrastructure. Because it doesn’t matter if the infrastructure works if your lights are off because you couldn’t pay the bill.

“All we’re saying is, let’s be smart. Let’s be responsible,” he added. “Let’s just stop wasting by not having an energy-efficient envelope where that energy is consumed.”

Grassroots approach

Friends of the Earth announced the plan at a community event at Bickford Senior Center, just north of the Pinch District. There were two bounce houses, a deejay and food. The idea is to increase public awareness – not just about the SESD plan, but to promote energy efficiency as a way of life among low-income residents.

“Some of the responsibility is on the customer,” Morris said. “That will require some changing of habits, of personal conduct. But changing habits isn’t going to help until you fix the environment.

“At MLGW, we used to call it ‘conscientious consumption’ – being a better consumer,” he added. “But to get to responsible consumption, you’ve got to make it possible for that to take place. And it cannot take place when half of every kilowatt hour you use goes out the window.”

Several dozen people attended the FOE event. Informational flyers were passed out, and guests were polled on questions like, “Which city has the highest energy burden?” The music stopped to allow event coordinator Sydney Kessler to spread information about the plan.

“We’re trying to build a strong coalition of folks that we believe can really advocate for this,” said Sydney Kessler, who organized the June 29 event. “We’re going to be talking about how it impacts those communities to make sure those communities are represented when we’re advocating for this plan.”

After multiple emails and phone calls, The New Tri-State Defenderwas unable to confirm if MLGW officials or the Mayor’s Office had seen the proposal or reviewed it in detail.  But 10 local civic and religious organizations have already signed onto the effort urging MLGW and the City Council to adopt the plan.

And Sijuwola Crawford, the #UPTheVote901 leader who co-organized the recent “People’s Convention,” was among those at the event supporting the effort.

“We’ve heard that people are spending as much as 25 percent of their money on utilities,” Crawford said. “If we can lower that, then I think we’re doing what we can to protect the people who are the most vulnerable.”

If it sounds like Friends of the Earth wants to make this an issue in the upcoming municipal elections and beyond, it’s because they do.

“This is an (awareness) campaign that’s going to take it straight to these people that are running for election in October and ask them: Are you going to just keep talking about helping the poor people? Or are you going to do something about it? And here’s something that can be done by just the vote of the city council, instructing the utility to implement this program.

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3rd Annual Imerge Innovation Event to be Held August 28 at Iron City

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) is hosting its third annual imerge event Aug. 28, with a theme of “Alabama’s Next First.” This year’s imerge will explore how the state’s leaders are building its future, and how we’re honoring those who led the way decades ago. Imerge2019 will be held at Iron City in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Image by: edpa.org
Image by: edpa.org

By The Birmingham Times

The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) is hosting its third annual imerge event Aug. 28, with a theme of “Alabama’s Next First.” This year’s imerge will explore how the state’s leaders are building its future, and how we’re honoring those who led the way decades ago. Imerge2019 will be held at Iron City in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Alabama was a key piece of the moonshot in 1969, and the state has potential to contribute to the “Next First” innovation, whether it’s in space, medicine, agriculture, automotive, or one of a dozen other sectors. imerge will celebrate the state’s potential and its past achievements,” said Steve Spencer, President of the EDPA.

To kick off the event, six companies will vie for a total of $150,000 in early stage investment during Alabama Launchpad. One concept stage company will win $50,000, while one seed company will receive $100,000. Finalists for this competition will be announced in August.

The program will include a live concert by Black Jacket Symphony, performing Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon; in its entirety—note for note, sound for sound—plus a limited set of greatest hits from Pink Floyd.

Each year, EDPA rewards Alabama’s greatest innovators, and this year is no different. This year, however, the group will honor Alabama’s contributors to one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments: landing on the moon. Fifty years ago, Alabama made the moonshot possible. Saturn V’s chief architect, Dr. Wernher von Braun, touched down in Huntsville in 1950 and throughout his storied career there, NASA employed engineers, scientists, and others from 65 of the state’s 67 counties.

Less well known are the accomplishments of women that worked on the mission, such as Dr. Joyce Neighbors, the first woman to join von Braun’s team in a technical role, or those now known as “Hidden Figures”: Dorothy Vaughan, Dr. Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson. For their transformational work, we will honor these women, along with von Braun, with awards for Lifetime Achievement in Innovation.

The audience will also get an opportunity to see, hear and feel the mission to the moon with the Director’s Cut of Apollo 11 Documentary, on 4K screens in surround sound.

Today, Alabama’s innovation economy is again making leaps – in bioscience, defense technology, precision medicine, and more. A panel of STEAM educators and innovators will explore how the state i0s building the next leaders in science, technology and the arts. And keynote speaker, Lt. General Steven Kwast, will explain how Alabama can again be at the forefront of the next space race.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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Another 100M Consumers at Risk from Capital One Data Breach

WASHINGTON INFORMER — A second major disclosure of major consumer data breach was announced on July 29 by Capital One Bank. That same day, the FBI arrested a suspect was charged with stealing the personal information on March 22 and 23. The apparent focus of the financial theft was credit card applications filed with the bank between 2005-2019.

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Photo by: Tdorante10 | Wikimedia Common

Charlene Crowell, Special to The Informer

A second major disclosure of major consumer data breach was announced on July 29 by Capital One Bank. That same day, the FBI arrested a suspect was charged with stealing the personal information on March 22 and 23. The apparent focus of the financial theft was credit card applications filed with the bank between 2005-2019.

Those most vulnerable are two types of consumers: small businesses whose company credit card applications included personal Social Security numbers, and other customers who linked ‘secured’ credit cards to other accounts

For these two developments to occur on the same day, suggests a tacit agreement between one of the nation’s 10 largest banks and the country’s top law enforcement agency.

But why did it take four months for consumers to learn their personal data has been at risk?

Ranked number 145 on the Fortune 500 company list, Capital One has 45 million customers in the states of Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and the District of Columbia. In the second quarter of this year, the bank reported net income of $1.6 billion.

According to the bank, the data breach affects approximately 100 million consumers in this country and additionally 6 million Canadians. An estimated 140,000 Social Security numbers used for credit card applications and another 80,000 bank account numbers all place affected consumers in financial jeopardy.

“I sincerely apologize for the understandable worry this incident must be causing those affected and I am committed to making it right,” said Richard Fairbank, Capital One’s CEO. The bank has also pledged to provide affected customers with free credit monitoring and identity.

For consumer advocates, however, Capital One’s mea culpa was too little, and much too late.

“I wouldn’t say that consumers can or should “breathe a sigh of relief,” cautioned Aracely Panameño, the Center for Responsible Lending’s Director of Latino Affairs. “The latest data breach speaks to the lax cybersecurity systems currently in place at major financial institutions and national credit reporting agencies (NCRAs).”

Equifax, one of three NCRAs, waited two months to disclose its cybersecurity breach that occurred in July but was kept from the public until September that year. During that delay, 147 million unsuspecting consumers – the equivalent of 58% of the US adult population — did not know that their personal data – including federal income tax records, as well as employee records for government employees and those of Fortune 500 firms – was at risk. Nor did recipients of major government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security learn that they too were affected.

In response to Equifax’s massive cybercrime, a surge of 50 federal class action lawsuits were filed in at least 14 states and the District of Columbia in September 2017, following the public disclosure.

“This settlement is a slap on the wrist of Equifax,” Panameño said. “The restitution fund is up to $425M, which is equivalent to $2.89 per impacted consumer (147M); the initial restitution fund is only $300M. The average monthly cost for credit monitoring is $20. These 147 American consumers will have to worry about identity theft and financial fraud in perpetuity. Yet under the settlement agreement, consumers must request benefits by January 22, 2020.”

Similar reactions came from other consumer advocates.

“It’s disappointing but not unexpected that consumers face yet another breach of our sensitive financial information,” said Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC). “People should take the most effective measure to prevent identity theft involving new credit accounts by freezing their credit reports. It’s free as a result of a new law last year.”

According to NCLC, credit card customers are not liable for any unauthorized use of over $50. By contrast, consumers with bank accounts in most cases are not liable for unauthorized debit card or other electronic transactions so long as the fraudulent transaction are reported within 60 days of receiving their bank statement. Further, lost or stolen debit cards must be reported within two business day of learning of the loss or theft.

For Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG’s Federal Consumer Program senior director, answers to consumer questions were also a key concern.

“How did this happen?” Mierzwinski asked. “And how is Capital One going to prevent future breaches? We need answers to ensure that increasingly frequent, large breaches such as this, Equifax and others don’t become the new norm.”

Neither America, Canada the United Kingdom, or any other nation needs or wants yet another financial breach. Only time and additional investigations will reveal just how many more consumers may be affected by these or other delayed announcements.

“The hackers made out with all the data needed to wreak havoc in the lives of 147 million American consumers for the rest of their lives,” Panameño said. “They need remedies that are commensurate with that risk.”

Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications deputy director. She can be reached at charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org..

This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

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Economy

Federal Reserve Makes First Interest Rate Cut Since 2008

WASHINGTON INFORMER — The Federal Reserve has cut the interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point, marking the first such cut in 11 years. The announcement made Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, provides an extra boost to the domestic economy as it faces threat of a global economic slowdown.

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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell (Courtesy of federalreserve.gov)

By WI Web Staff

The Federal Reserve has cut the interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point, marking the first such cut in 11 years.

The announcement made Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, provides an extra boost to the domestic economy as it faces threat of a global economic slowdown.

While Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has acknowledged the strength of the nation’s economy — the 10-year economic expansion is the longest on record, unemployment stands at a near-historic low of 3.7 percent, and the stock market continues to chalk up record highs — the move is an attempt to guard the country against increasing geopolitical tensions as well as fallout from President Donald Trump’s protracted trade war with China.

This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

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Economy

D.C. Scholarship Program Needs Budget Increase

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Faced with its biennial reauthorization, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program stands in need of a budget increase to serve the needs of a growing list of students seeking escape from poorly performing D.C. public schools.

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By WI Web Staff

Faced with its biennial reauthorization, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program stands in need of a budget increase to serve the needs of a growing list of students seeking escape from poorly performing D.C. public schools.

As of spring 2019, the program which serves as D.C.’s only school choice program and targets students from low-income households, boasted 1,645 participating students from 46 schools.

However, in order to accommodate a waiting list of thousands more students, the program’s current budget needs to increase by $7 million, according to education researcher Jude Schwalbach of The Heritage Foundation.

Meanwhile, as D.C. public schools reportedly face a $23 million deficit with an annual budget of $900 million, a 2018 survey showed that ranked 49th behind Louisiana and New Mexico, D.C. has the worst dropout rate in the country.

This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

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Daytona Times

Volusia sets Irma infrastructure funding meeting

DAYTONA TIMES — Volusia County’s Community Assistance Division will meet with municipalities and the public at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, in the second-floor Dennis R. McGee Room at Daytona Beach International Airport, 700 Catalina Drive, Daytona Beach. 

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Photo by: Markus Spiske | pexels.com

By The Daytona Times

Volusia County’s Community Assistance Division will meet with municipalities and the public at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 5, in the second-floor Dennis R. McGee Room at Daytona Beach International Airport, 700 Catalina Drive, Daytona Beach.

Staff will discuss the availability of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds through a competitive cycle for those affected by Hurricane Irma. They will review the funding requirements and proposed projects and seek input from municipalities and the public.

For more information, call Special Projects Coordinator Corry Brown at 386-736-5955, ext. 12970.

This article originally appeared in the Daytona Times.

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