WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced $29 million in grants to help approximately 1,200 extremely low-income persons and families living with HIV/AIDS annually. These grants provide a combination of housing assistance and supportive services for this vulnerable population.

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WASHINGTON - The US Department of Agriculture announced the launch of two new private funds, known as Rural Business Investment Companies (RBICs), which make equity investments in rural businesses, helping them grow and create jobs. This announcement is part of USDA's ongoing efforts to help attract private sector capital to investment opportunities in rural America to help drive more economic growth in rural communities.

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WASHINGTON – The Obama Administration announced eight additional Promise Zones across the country, including six cities, one rural area, and one tribal community. Promise Zones are high poverty communities where the federal government partners with local leaders to increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, leverage private investment, reduce violent crime, enhance public health and address other priorities identified by the community.  Through the Promise Zone designation, these communities will work directly with federal, state and local agencies to give local leaders proven tools to improve the quality of life in some of the country’s most vulnerable areas.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new Promise Zone designations in the following communities:

  1. Camden, New Jersey
  2. Hartford, Connecticut
  3. Indianapolis, Indiana
  4. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  5. Sacramento, California
  6. St. Louis/St. Louis County, Missouri
  7. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota
  8. South Carolina Low Country

“From my time as Mayor to my tenure as Secretary, I’ve seen first-hand how a Promise Zone designation can spark progress and possibilities in underserved neighborhoods,” said HUD Secretary Castro.  “A zip code should never limit the hopes that folks have for themselves or for their children.  We’re proud to be working with a wide-variety of local leaders to strengthen neighborhoods and to unlock doors of opportunity that have been closed for far too long.”

“The Promise Zone effort is proof positive that partnerships are the key to community economic development,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “Families and children in rural and tribal communities are full of potential to compete and succeed in the 21st Century.  When we invest our resources and establish long-lasting public-private alliances to strengthen educational opportunities, deliver health care, build infrastructure and create jobs, we are investing in our country’s future.”

To celebrate the newly designated zones, events were held across the country in each of the new urban zones.  Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development visited St. Louis, Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education visited Minneapolis, CEO, Wendy Spencer, Corporation for National and Community Service visited Indianapolis, Deputy Secretary, Nani Coloretti, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, visited Hartford and HUD Regional Administrators held events in Camden, NJ and Sacramento, CA.  To highlight the rural zone designations of South Carolina's Low Country and South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted media calls for South Carolina and South Dakota.

Background on Promise Zones:

Today’s newly designated Promise Zones join five others that President Obama designated in January, 2014 – San Antonio; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Southeastern Kentucky Highlands and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The work underway in these communities is already showing results. For example:

  • In San Antonio, the George Gervin Youth Center was awarded a $1.1 million YouthBuild grant from the Department of Labor to establish an education and training program for at-risk young people.  The program is enrolling 64 people and preparing them for jobs in good, middle-class careers including jobs in the nursing and the building trades. The Gervin Center also received a $2 million Training-to-Work grant from the Department of Labor to help young men and women participating in work-release programs gain the job skills necessary to launch them on a path to high-demand jobs.
  • In Los Angeles, the Unified School District is supporting college and career readiness programs for 6,500 students in 16 schools, while Advocates for Youth is developing a teen pregnancy prevention plan with community partners.  Access to healthy foods is also a high priority in the L.A. Promise Zone.  Business leaders and the East Hollywood Farmers Market are involved in various initiatives including establishing six community-supported agricultural sites to expand access to nutritious food options.  The City is also conducting outreach to low-income tenants to reduce lead hazards in homes and will be placing AmeriCorps volunteers in schools and job training sites to counsel students on post-secondary education options and career choices.
  • In Philadelphia, the Juvenile Justice Center is providing career training for youth who have been involved with the justice system.  Promise Zone partners are creating access to healthy food and improving the business infrastructure for sustainable food production.  Drexel University is leading a collaborative effort to increase the number of neighborhood children who have access to high quality child care and improve school performance.  Security cameras were installed at a high-crime hot spot and businesses are being encouraged to take advantage of subsidized cameras along key Promise Zone commercial corridors.  Specific plans are being developed to preserve affordable housing to avoid displacement of long-time residents as the neighborhood improves.
  • In Barbourville, Kentucky, the Knox County Hospital is utilizing funding from the USDA’s Community Facilities Program to expand medical care services for a rural population of approximately 31,883 people and to secure more than 200 jobs.
  • In the Choctaw Nation, nineteen Head Start classrooms in thirteen centers received direct support from the Department of Health and Human Services to provide early education, nutrition, and health services to 310 children and their families.

Today’s Promise Zone communities were selected from 123 applications from 36 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. Each urban, rural, and tribal Promise Zone applicant was asked to put together a clear description of how the Promise Zone designation would accelerate and strengthen the community’s own efforts at comprehensive community revitalization. Each Promise Zone will be coordinated by a lead community based organization in partnership with the Obama Administration.  HUD will be the federal lead for the six urban designees, while USDA will serve as the lead federal partner to the tribal and rural Promise Zones.

All Promise Zones will receive priority access to federal investments that further their strategic plans, federal staff on the ground to help them implement their goals, and five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to recruit and manage volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the Promise Zone initiatives.

Third Round Promise Zone Competition

A competition to select a third round of Promise Zones will commence later this year. In the Summer of 2015, HUD will publish a Notice in the Federal Register requesting public comment on the proposed selection process, criteria, and submissions for the final round of the Promise Zones initiative.   This notice will provide urban, rural, and tribal communities the opportunity to help shape the third round application guide and efforts to support other communities more effectively in future years.

By:  Ari Page

I never advocate that anyone borrow just to borrow. But if you need capital to make payroll or invest in something that you know will reap a short-term profit, then you need access to capital. In the past few years, even though money has been tight, there have always been options. Banks always need to lend to stay in business. You just need to know where to look.

Act I: Grandmother Isn’t Always Right

One of Steve Martin’s earliest routines went something like this. “I’ll never forget what my grandmother taught me. She said ‘Always…,’ no wait, ‘Never…,’ no it was, ‘Always…take a litter bag in your car. It doesn’t take up much room and when it gets full you can just toss it out the window.’”

That comes to mind when I hear people say things like, “Never…amass credit card debt.” If you can get better terms on a credit card than on a bank loan or a mortgage, than heck yeah you should amass credit card debt.  If you borrow on a credit card at X% interest and make Y% with that money, where Y is greater than X, then let’s do that all day long!

And guess what.  Ever since the current economic outlook improved and the market eased up, banks have been looking various ways to increase their earnings. Banks and federal associations are not quite as anal in their approach to risk, and want to find ways to generate some more business. The result is that some avenues of acquiring financing are now easier than ever.

One of the easiest, and, if done correctly, least expensive ways to get financing is via credit cards. I know this flies in the face of everything we’ve ever been told. Sure, many credit card companies still charge near-usurious interest rates, and most of us would be hard-pressed to make good use of capital at 20% and higher interest. But guess what. There are thousands of credit card offers at favorable rates for small businesses.

In fact, when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released their 19th annual “Survey of Credit Underwriting Practices” during the period ending June 30, 2013, they reported that among all loan products, credit cards had the greatest easing of underwriting standards.

Act II: Sometimes Things Too Good to Be True Are, in Fact, True

You’ve gotten another no interest credit card offer in the mail.  “Sure,” you sardonically think. “Add in those hidden fees and crazy post-promotional-period interest rates and I’ll be giving them my house, car and boat in 12 months.”

But many of these offers are bonafide, great deals!  And if you can benefit from access to financing, you should jump on these.

“But how does that even make sense for the bank?” you might say.  Excellent question. The thing is, if banks don’t lend money, they don’t make money. Banks themselves can borrow at historic lows (they borrow at near zero percent from the Federal Reserve!), so they have access to lots of capital. Add this to the notion that banks have a lot of ways to make money, and you can start to see how this makes sense.

Banks want to have a relationship with you - and if they already have a relationship with you, they want to surround you with services that will keep you from going to the competition.  So, providing you with great credit card offers costs them very little, and allows them to start shoving other promotions into your mailbox.

Moreover, although many zero percent interest terms appear to be capped, I am here to tell you unequivocally that if you know what you’re doing, that’s just not the case. Banks hope you’re not savvy enough to realize that if you know who to talk to and what to say, you can keep rolling over zero interest introductory offers for the foreseeable future. Business owners are the “crème de la crème” in the banking community and can take advantage of special promotional codes and techniques that aren’t available to the regular borrower.

Act III: Get Some

Here are some things you can do to take advantage of low- and zero-interest credit cards.

1. If you don’t have a business entity, get one. It’s easy to acquire and anyone can do it. You want to be smart about it, as some entities are far more lendable than others. For example, having Marketing/Advertising or Business Management in your business name, indicates you are (on average) a better risk than someone with Real Estate in their title.  There are also important nuances in terms of what type of entity you set up.

2. Know how to elucidate what your business does. If you’re stuttering, stammering or seem unsure of your business, don’t expect the bank to lend to you.

3. If you have personal credit issues, get them cleaned up. There are many agencies, such as Kaydem Credit Help, that can assist you.

4. Search the web for credit card offers for businesses.

5. Do your homework to sort through various offers, identifying any hidden fees.

6. Explore existing relationships and see what they’re willing to do. I once went to my bank to open up a checking account and was offered a $17,000 credit card for being a loyal customer.

7. Consider requesting line increases or exploring promotional rates for those cards that you already have. Many banks won’t hesitate to reward good customers with increased credit lines.

Ari Page is CEO of Credit Card Builders, a company that helps small businesses raise unsecured, zero percent business financing. A voracious reader, Ari constantly scours the market for new techniques and strategies to identify creative and profitable borrowing strategies. Because of his unique insight and approach, Credit Card Builders has raised millions in funding for small businesses nationwide, with the average amount ranging from between $50,000 and $250,000.

On Wednesday, I’m hosting a free webinar with Ari about how you can get business funding.

Register For Free Webinar:
“How to Get $25,000 - $250,000
To Start or Grow Your Business”

Make sure to Register and reserve your spot on the webinar training before it fills up (space is limited).

Join me Wednesday 3/4, for a free webinar:

12pm ET by CLICKING HERE
3pm ET by CLICKING HERE
8pm ET by CLICKING HERE