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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced enhancements to programs under Making Home Affordable (MHA) to better assist struggling homeowners and communities still recovering from the effects of the financial crisis. The enhancements are designed to motivate homeowners in MHA to continue making their mortgage payments on-time, strengthen the safety net for those facing continuing financial hardships, and help homeowners in MHA programs build equity in their homes, an important factor in stabilizing neighborhoods.

"Today's announcement signals our commitment to helping more hardworking families continue the American dream of homeownership," said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro. "These enhancements will expand the opportunity for more folks to stay in their home, stabilizing local communities and continuing our nation's positive economic momentum."

"While the housing sector has strengthened in recent years, there are still many homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments," said Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew. "The changes we are announcing today offer meaningful incentives for borrowers to stay current in their modifications, increase their opportunity to build equity in their homes, and provide vital safety nets for those facing greater financial strains."

Treasury and HUD established HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program®) in 2009 to provide relief to homeowners facing financial hardship. Through a combination of lowered interest rates and modified loan terms, monthly payments are reduced to affordable levels. In addition, many homeowners who remain current following their modification are eligible to earn up to $5,000 over the first five years of their modification, which is applied in repayment of their outstanding principal balance.

Under the revised guidelines announced today, all homeowners in HAMP will now be eligible to earn $5,000 in the sixth year of their modification, which will reduce their outstanding principal balance by as much as $10,000. Homeowners will also be offered an opportunity to re-amortize the reduced mortgage balance, which will have the effect of lowering their monthly payment. As of today, approximately one million homeowners with HAMP modifications are eligible to earn the increased HAMP incentive.

In addition, in an effort to bolster the safety net for homeowners who face difficulty making their payments in HAMP Tier 1 or similar non-HAMP modifications, Treasury and HUD have introduced enhancements to HAMP Tier 2 and the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives® (HAFA) Program.

HAMP Tier 2 is an alternative modification that provides a low fixed rate for the life of the loan to homeowners who do not qualify for or cannot sustain a HAMP Tier 1 modification. The enhancements announced today include reducing the interest rate for HAMP Tier 2 by 50 basis points, which will enable more homeowners to qualify for a modification, and extending the $5,000 pay-for-performance incentive to HAMP Tier 2 borrowers in good standing at the end of the sixth year of their modification.

HAFA assists homeowners who need to transition to a more affordable living situation through a short sale or deed-in-lieu. Treasury and HUD announced today that they have increased the amount of relocation assistance provided to homeowners to $10,000 to better reflect increased rents and the cost of moving in many parts of the country.

If you are a homeowner in need of mortgage assistance, please visit MakingHomeAffordable.gov to explore all options available to help you avoid foreclosure.

You can also contact Government Deal Funding to see if we can help.

Special Personal Cost Savings Report From Government Deal Funding!

People around the world, and around the country, are becoming less complacent about the choices they make. They are beginning to understand that some of the decisions they've made in the past were wrong and need to be changed. They are beginning to understand the renewable energy advantages.

Things like solar power and wind power are clean, renewable, and very cost effective for household use. As technology advances the advantages to these types of energy sources will only increase.

As we find even more advanced methods for converting energy from the wind and sun into power and learn more effective ways to store that power, we will dramatically increase the usefulness of these methods.

Many people are installing their own solar panels and wind turbines today, and both can effectively cut your energy bill as well as the negative impact of using fossil fuels for electricity.

Here is a list some some of the advantages to implementing renewable resources into your household:

1. By providing even a portion of your electricity needs using solar power and/or installing a wind turbine you can cut your utility bill by up to 80%. When you calculate what that would be over the course of years you will see that the savings is significant.

2. The more you can contribute to your own energy needs with renewable energy sources, the less of the pollutant rich fossil fuels you will have to use.

3. Neither wind nor solar power pollutes the environment with their use.

I know some of these things may seem obvious but it's important enough to be reiterated. If you want to help the planet and save money at the same time you owe it to yourself to do a little more research into renewable energy advantages. Saving money while saving the planet: there just isn't a downside.

Special Personal Cost Savings Report From Government Deal Funding!

Heading into this winter season many families are understandably nervous.  It's a tough economy and many people are worried about their jobs and keeping up with rising costs.  But there are many cheap, or free, things you can do to cut energy bills.  Here is a list of some of the easy, yet effective, changes you can start making today.

1. Make sure your furnace is ready for the winter.

Have a qualified HVAC professional check and clean your unit. Once the heating season starts make sure to change your filters monthly. If the filter is dirty it will restrict airflow which will use more energy since it has to work harder.

2. Add a programmable thermostat.

You can set it to automatically adjust the temperature at certain times of the day and certain days of the week.  That way the temperature in your home will automatically go down during the day when no one is home, or overnight.  It can also raise the temperature shortly before you get up in the morning.

3. Take care of your fireplace.

Make sure the chimney is cleaned and in good repair.  If you use your fireplace more than once a week you should have it professionally cleaned yearly.  Also install a cap or screen at the top of your chimney to prevent birds from building nests.

4. Caulk around your windows and doors.

The more heat loss you can prevent the less your furnace will have to run, and that will save you money all season long. Using window kits is another way to prevent heat loss from older windows.

5. Using wind power

(Think home windmill!) Along with the above winterizeing tips and this will more than put you ahead of the game; on cutting your long term electric bills.

Now is a good time to make some simple changes that can help you cut energy bills this winter. Take a few minutes now to save hundreds not only this winter but throughout the year and for years to come.

AUSTIN, TX - U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced funding available to help local communities across the country to redevelop severely distressed public and HUD-assisted housing and transform surrounding neighborhoods.  This funding would increase if there is an FY2015 appropriation from Congress.

Part of the Obama Administration's effort to build Ladders of Opportunity to the middle class, HUD is offering grants of up to $30 million through its Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Program to support locally driven solutions for transforming neighborhoods struggling to address poor quality housing, inadequate schools, poor health, high crime, and lack of capital.

Speaking at the annual convention of the National League of Cities (NLC) in Austin, Texas, Castro said the grants will help create jobs, increase economic activity, improve affordable housing, reduce violence and expand educational opportunities. Grantees and their partners use the funds as a catalyst - stimulating approximately $7.50 in public and private investment for every $1 in the Choice Neighborhoods funding.

"These Choice Neighborhood grants will empower local communities to leverage public and private investment and achieve greater collective impact," Castro said. "We look forward to working with community leaders to breathe new life into struggling neighborhoods-and to transform them into places where residents can flourish and dreams can thrive."

Choice Neighborhoods is HUD's signature place-based initiative and its vision builds on the work that has been done by the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, an interagency partnership between HUD, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and Treasury, since 2009. Through a variety of interventions, the Ladders of Opportunity plan will help community partners rebuild neighborhoods, expand early learning opportunities, create pathways to jobs, and strengthen families. Choice Neighborhoods is focused on three core goals:

  • Housing: Replace distressed public and assisted housing with high-quality mixed-income housing that is well-managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood.
  • People: Improve educational outcomes and intergenerational mobility for youth with services and supports delivered directly to youth and their families.
  • Neighborhood: Create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods to offer the kinds of amenities and assets, including safety, good schools, and commercial activity, that are important to families' choices about their community.

HUD's commitment to teamwork means local residents and leaders are leading the way in revitalizing their communities. To accomplish these core goals, communities must have in place a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy, or Transformation Plan. This Transformation Plan is the guiding document for the revitalization of the public and/or assisted housing units, while simultaneously directing the transformation of the surrounding neighborhood and positive outcomes for families.

Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants are available for public housing authorities, local governments, nonprofit organizations, tribal entities, and for profit developers that apply jointly with a public entity to extend neighborhood transformation efforts beyond public and/or assisted housing. The program helps communities transform neighborhoods by revitalizing severely distressed public and/or HUD-assisted multifamily housing and investing and leveraging investments in well-functioning services, high quality public schools and education programs, high quality early learning programs and services, public assets, public transportation, and improved access to jobs.

Today, Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grantees can be found in cities such as Boston, Columbus, and San Antonio. In Boston, a local community economic development corporation successfully converted a vacant, blighted 36,000 square-foot factory into a food production hub that is expected to bring 50 businesses and 150 jobs to the local neighborhood in its first five years of operation. In Columbus, the City, Housing Authority, and The Ohio State University are now implementing a community driven Transformation Plan with the support of Choice Neighborhoods funds in over $180 million in public and private sources. Finally, cities like San Antonio have leveraged Choice Neighborhoods efforts with federal funding to improve schools and public safety - an effort that has led to a Promise Zones designation.

 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced recently that USDA is investing $29 million to provide affordable housing for farm laborers and their families.

"Housing is often the first step on the road to more economic prosperity for farmworker families," Vilsack said. "These loans and grants will significantly improve the lives of farmworkers, who are vital to America's agriculture sector. This program is one of many tools that USDA has to strengthen the rural economy, which will help bring a brighter future for children from farmworker families."

USDA is providing assistance through the Farm Labor Housing Loan and Grant program. Financing is available to qualified organizations to develop housing for domestic farm laborers. USDA also provides rental assistance to help very-low-income families afford the monthly rent.

Through today's announcement, USDA is awarding $20.7 million in loans and $8.3 million in grants for 10 projects in six states. When completed, the properties will provide 320 farmworker families with new homes. Rental assistance will be offered for 315 of the new housing units.

"I have witnessed firsthand the way these loans and grants help farmworkers and their communities," said Tony Hernandez, Administrator of USDA's Rural Housing Service, which runs the Farm Labor Housing program. Earlier this month, Hernandez toured the Sugarloaf Apartments farm labor housing complex in Hendersonville, N.C. Since the complex opened in 1995, it is usually fully occupied. Sugarloaf has two day care facilities onsite, one of which is year-round, making it a convenient place for residents to work and raise their families.

Below is a complete list of loan and grant recipients announced today. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their agreements.

California

  • Coachella Valley Villa Hermosa Phase II – $3 million loan. Funds will be used to add 68 units to the complex.
  • Peoples Self Help – $3 million loan. Funds will be used to develop 33 units.
  • 9355 Avenida Maria – $3 million loan. Funds will be used to develop 60 units.
  • 1006 Golden Valley – $3 million loan. Funds will be used to develop 41 units.

Colorado

  • San Luis Valley – $1.5 million loan and $1.5 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 30 units.
  • Straton Area Foundation – $750,000 loan and $1.6 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 12 units.

Florida

  • Homestead Housing Authority – $2 million loan and $1 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 20 units.

Mississippi

  • BDT Housing – $1.5 million loan and $1.1 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 20 units.

Oregon

  • Farmworker Housing Development Corporation – $1 million loan and $2 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 20 units.

Washington

  • Grant County Housing Authority – $2 million loan and $1 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 16 units.

USDA Rural Development provided a $3.3 million low-interest Farm Labor Housing loan to build Villa Hermosa – apartment-style housing for migrant workers in Indio, Calif. Construction began in 2012. The complex is adjacent to the Fred Young Labor Camp, which began in the late 1930s as one-room, dirt-floor wooden shacks. It was converted in the 1960s to small, cinder-block apartments without heat or air conditioning.

The $3 million loan USDA announced today will finance a second phase of construction at Villa Hermosa. It will finance 68 more apartments for the remaining occupants at the nearby Fred Young facility. Phase Two will have spacious units with heat and air conditioning, private patios, washer/dryers, dishwashers, a community center, a garden, playgrounds and a computer lab. For some residents, this will be their first home with carpets.

 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) Loan Program reached a lending record in 2014, as announced today by SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.  By the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), SBA had approved 52,044 7(a) loans for $19.19 billion, an increase of 12 percent in number loans and 7.4 percent in dollar amount over fiscal year 2013.

The 7(a) program is designed to provide small businesses with the most comprehensive type of financial assistance to cover the vast majority of business expenses, such as short and long-term working capital, exports, and refinancing existing debt under certain conditions.

“As our economy continues to grow and recover, small businesses are the essential fuel to that continued growth,” said Contreras-Sweet. “Thanks to the hard work and outreach by our lending partners, SBA staff, and our resource partners, as well as the small business owners themselves, we have been able to put more capital into the hands of our nation’s entrepreneurs. We know that America’s small businesses pack the biggest punch, creating two out of every three net new private sector jobs in the U.S. These small businesses are the cornerstone of our communities, so their success and expansion is vital to the nation’s economic growth.”

SBA had been authorized $17.5 billion in the FY 2014 lending program.  It became clear that lending would exceed that amount; therefore the agency secured an increase for the 7(a) program in the Continuing Resolution that was approved in mid-September.

Other SBA loans that did well in fiscal 2014 were those $150,000 and under. Spurred by the fee relief implemented at the beginning of the fiscal year (fees were set to zero), these loans saw an increase of 23 percent in number of loans (30,675) and 29 percent in approved dollars ($1.86 billion) over fiscal year 2013 (24,923 and $1.44 billion respectively).

Fee relief was also instrumental in helping veteran small business owners through the Veteran Advantage initiative (zero fees on loans $150,000 to $350,000 to veterans.) Fee relief for veterans began January 1, 2014, and by the end of the fiscal year amounted to $610,000. Fee relief for both loans $150,000 and under, and for Veterans Advantage, was extended through fiscal year 2015.

Small businesses reflect the dynamic demographics of the United States. In FY 2014, the number of SBA loans to African Americans grew by roughly 36 percent over the previous year. For Hispanics and women, there was an increase of 14 percent for each group.

In our efforts to reach out and help small businesses across the nation, lenders play an important role as partners, as it is through them that SBA financial assistance is channeled and managed. In FY 2014, SBA added 308 new lenders that, collectively, made 684 loans for nearly $317 million.

As exports continue to play a pivotal role in strengthening the nation’s economy, SBA loans to exporters grew by 3.7 percent in number of loans and 12 percent in dollar amount over last year.

One of the ways in which SBA helps small businesses is through providing essential bid and performance bonds to small contractors, which allows these small businesses to be more competitive when bidding on contracts, be they with the government or the private sector. In fiscal year 2014, SBA Office of Surety Bond Program saw an increase of four percent in total contract value, from $6.168 billion in FY 2013 to $6.413 billion in FY 2014. Total bond contract amount also grew from $1.262 billion in FY 2013 to $1.358 in FY 2014, an increase of eight percent.

Washington, DC-The accomplishments of Veteran small business owners around the country were celebrated during National Veterans Small Business Week.

U.S. Small Business Administration district offices and resource partners nationwide hosted more than 100 local events, including entrepreneurship training such as Boots to Business: Reboot classes, veteran access to capital workshops, and government contracting roundtables.

Veteran entrepreneurship workshops were also held at U.S. military installations in Germany and Korea.  On Friday, the ABC television network hosted a special “Shark Tank(link is external)” episode featuring veteran entrepreneurs who pitched their business ideas.

“In a significant way, veteran small business owners continue to serve America in a big way by employing more than six million workers, running one of every 10 small companies and generating more than $1.2 trillion in receipts every year,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.  “National Veterans Small Business Week is a great opportunity to expand the ranks of veteran entrepreneurship.  We are proud of the men and women who continue to play such a critical role in the economic growth of our nation.”

In addition to the SBA’s district offices and resource partners, the White House, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are involved in supporting NVSBW events.

Each year the SBA helps more than 200,000 veterans, service-disabled veterans and reservists start and grow their small businesses.  To learn more about additional opportunities for veterans available through the SBA, visit the SBA website.

The Rhode Island Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2015 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship, an annual program to stimulate solutions to the state’s challenges.

Made possible through the vision and generosity of philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, the program will award two applicants up to $300,000 over three years to develop, test and implement innovative ideas that have the potential to dramatically improve any area of life in Rhode Island.

“This initiative enhances Rhode Island’s reputation as a place of innovation and ingenuity. Letitia and John Carter are to be applauded for having the vision to invest in encouraging bold thinkers to bring their ideas to life,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

Preference will be given to proposals that promise the greatest good for the greatest number of Rhode Islanders, a small idea that has big potential to be built to scale or new approaches to long-standing, intractable challenges.

“Letitia and I strongly believe in the potential of creative thinking and exceptional originality to power Rhode Island’s growth. We are excited to see the proposals that this platform for change generates,” said John Carter.

Although applicants do not have to be residents of Rhode Island when they apply, they must commit to living in Rhode Island during the term of the Fellowship if selected.

The deadline to apply is Fri., Dec. 12. The one-page, initial application asks applicants to summarize their proposed innovation in no more than 150 words and to describe how it would benefit Rhode Islanders.

In February 2015, the selection panel will ask a group of semi-finalists to submit a more detailed application and a short video. The Foundation expects to announce the winners in April.

Steinberg will chair the selection committee. The other members are Patricia Flanagan, Professor of Pediatrics, Chief of Clinical Affairs, Hasbro Children’s Hospital; Ted Nesi, Political and Economic Reporter, WPRI; Lisa Utman Randall, Executive Director, Jamestown Arts Center; Dan Shedd, President, Taylor Box Company; Rosanne Somerson, Interim President, Rhode Island School of Design; and Don Stanford, Chief Innovation Officer, GTECH.

This will be the fourth round of funding. Previous rounds generated more than 900 applications. Soren Ryherd and Allan Tear received the inaugural Fellowships in 2012.

Ryherd’s “The Retail Project” has created three on-line stores to date, with the goal of opening brick and mortar stores in Rhode Island neighborhoods.

Tear's "RallyRI" initiative is building platforms to help entrepreneurs launch start-ups in sectors such as art and design, food and beverage and advanced manufacturing.

The 2013 Fellows are Adrienne Gagnon and Dr. Lynn Taylor.

Gagnon’s “Innovation by Design” proposal will help foster the next generation of Rhode Island innovators by sending out mobile design labs to school yards throughout Rhode Island in order to engage students in free, hands-on design programs that will improve our communities.

Taylor’s project, “Rhode Island Defeats Hep C,” aims to make Rhode Island the first state to eradicate the Hepatitis C virus infection using a comprehensive approach that includes increasing awareness, rapid testing, linkage to health care, building infrastructure for a sustainable model and evaluation.

The 2014 Fellows are Amy Bernhardt and David Dadekian.

Bernhardt’s project, "Colorfast," will create a state-of-the-art research and manufacturing pilot facility for the design and production of digitally printed textiles.

Dadekian’s project, the "Eat Drink Rhode Island Central Market," would house a number of food and drink related businesses, including a public market, commercial production and processing facilities, and an educational component.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island.  In 2013, the Foundation made grants of more than $31 million to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.

WASHINGTON - The Small Business Administration has announced the launch of Destination: HUB.  For over 17 years, the HUBZone program has served as one of SBA's signature initiatives and has helped small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities.

The program encourages economic development and employment growth in distressed areas by providing opportunities for firms to become active participants in the federal supply chain.  Destination: HUB will promote and highlight HUBZones for opportunities in federal procurement.

"More than any other SBA initiative, the HUBZone Program has been a critical resource, creating jobs, alleviating poverty and reducing unemployment in our nation's most vulnerable communities.  The program has had a transformational effect on small businesses all across the country.  SBA's Destination: HUB will put a spotlight on our underserved small businesses and promote HUBZones as ideal places for government contractors to do business," said Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator.

"In our 2013 scorecard, we reported that HUBZone businesses only received 1.7 percent of federal contracts - well short of our 3 percent goal. This new initiative is an example of how the SBA actively working to achieve that goal." said Contreras-Sweet.

Destination: HUB will promote and support HUBZone firms in federal contract opportunities, while ensuring local economic development boards, government officials, federal buyers, and prime contractors work hand in hand to bring more sole-source and set-aside awards directly for these HUBZones.

Overall, Destination HUB will consist of three major components; first, an in-depth examination of successes and needs in the HUBZone program; second, analysis of ideal situations for successful HUBZone collaboration, harnessing the power of our public-private partnerships and market research to recruit more firms for HUBZone participation; and third, launching a broad grass-roots educational initiative, together with community organizations, faith leaders, local economic development, and key stakeholders, to encourage participation in and inspire collective ownership of, the HUBZone program, at both the regional and national levels. As a result, Destination HUB furthers SBA's effort to improve access to capital and close opportunity gaps in communities of color, by empowering entrepreneurs and small business owners economic and social mobility through employment and business growth.

The HUBZone program, enacted in 1997, helps small businesses located in areas that have been identified and designated as historically underutilized in both rural and urban communities, and on Indian reservations, receive contract help, thus promoting job growth, capital investment and economic development. The SBA regulates and implements the HUBZone Program and determines which businesses are eligible to receive HUBZone contracts. In FY 2013, the federal government awarded $6.2 billion to HUBZone firms.

To have a GDF staff member assist you in your HUBZone process, please contact us!

Preparing to buy a piece of real estate can be an exciting decision...and a nerve-wracking one.  Some folks have made a tremendous amount of money through real estate purchases, but the opportunity for financial ruin is also possible without a thorough understanding of factors involved in real estate.

If you are shopping for real estate, don't immediately give a low offer on a home you are very interested in buying.  An extremely low offer will scare off the current owner and make it appear that you are not willing to negotiate.  A more reasonable offer shows the owner that you are serious about buying it.  In this market time and money are equal players in the negotiating process.

When purchasing a home, you should shop around for financing options.  Try to get the best deal when financing.  Make sure that all of the terms of the loan are delineated on paper.  This will avoid any suspicion that some lenders will try to change the terms and rates during the financing process.  Always look for hidden fees.

The right time to buy a home is always now, provided you are prepared. Interest rates fluctuate and so does the market.  Real estate purchases should always happen when you are ready, not when the stars are aligned.  The time to purchase is when you have done your homework and found the home that makes you happy.

Make sure to keep all aspects of the home you are thinking about purchasing in mind.  While the physical aspects of the house, such as the size of rooms, the kitchen and other things, are important considerations, avoid focusing solely on these few things.  Other amenities like traffic patterns, noise levels and the quality of the neighborhood also hugely impact your experience once a house is moved into after purchase.

Lack of knowledge about the ins and outs of real estate purchases can wind up costing you a tremendous amount of money, time, effort, and frustration.  A thorough understanding of the factors necessary for success in real estate is necessary, and after implementing the suggestions mentioned in this article, you will be well on your way.

When you think about investing in real estate, imagine buying the property for yourself.  Look at all the things you like and place yourself in the role as a buyer.  It helps to move the property later.