Friday, April 21, 2017

Skinny Budget Woes: South Carolina Lowcountry could lose $1 million in federal funding; $61 million in direct investments

By now it is well known that the Trump Administration has released its proposed “skinny” budget. This legislation includes funding cuts for many domestic discretionary programs such as education, economic development, and transportation. One item on the chopping block is the Community Development Block Grant program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development. At first, one might think that this is just another administrative cut that has no direct effect on them. However, if this program is cut, taxpayers and communities across the nation will see a detrimental impact.

Housing and community well-being is a foundation contributor to the overall health of a community. Housing stability is a key factor in a family’s safety, health, educational achievement, and personal success. Simply put, when one is not in a stable housing situation, it is nearly impossible for him or her to flourish in any other area of life. Though the government may continue to invest in programs such as education, health care, and family affairs, all work in these areas is wasted effort without a stable housing situation for the families whom are served.

The Robert J. Wood Foundation recently issued County Health Rankings for every state. This information can be found at www.countyhealthrankings.org. This study proves over and over that where a person lives influences how long he or she will live. The local level data makes it clear that good health is influenced by many factors—not just medical care itself. Housing is one of these factors. The Urban Institute has also released research at http://howhousingmatters.org which also demonstrates the critical linkage between housing stability and better education, communities, local economies, and more.

It is crucial that America invests in the bedrock of what makes our society stronger, smarter, and safer. Housing is much more than just shelter. Housing is the incubator for creating pathways to achieving the American Dream and social prosperity.

Case in point, the NeighborWorks Reinvestment Corporation, or “NeighborWorks America,” helps to support a wide network of 245 community-based nonprofits across the country. All NeighborWorks partner organizations focus on housing stability initiatives for families, veterans, immigrants, and seniors. Without this program, rural and urban communities across the nation would lose the critical investment that brings the private sector to the table to create housing opportunities for social mobility. Here are some statistics demonstrating NeighborWorks’ success in 2016 alone:

In 2016, Origin SC alone was able to:

Assist 557 first time homebuyers on their path to homeownership through education and coaching

Help 120 individuals close on their first home

Serve 1,169 in foreclosure prevention

Invest $51 million back into the community

Prevent 1,800 low-income, disabled individuals from facing homelessness.

According to the How Housing Matters study by the MacArthur Foundation, 63% of adults reported that they believe actions can and should be taken to make housing more affordable for more people. Additionally, a significant majority of voters across the political spectrum believe that it is responded that it is “very” or “fairly” important for elected leaders to take such action.

Each of us needs to reach out to our legislators and let them know why we value housing stability in our communities. They need to know about the impact that Origin SC and NeighborWorks America has had in South Carolina. Please write to your senators and representatives asking them to reject the program cuts proposed by the White House and to support the Community Development Block Grant program and Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation’s (aka NeighborWorks America) “core” appropriation at $135 million. We need to specifically ask them to reach out to the THUD appropriation committee staff with a show of support.

Relevant contacts for South Carolina include:

Senator Tim Scott

Senator Lindsey Graham

Congressman James Clyburn

Congressman Mark Sanford

Congressman Jeff Duncan
Congressman Trey Gowdy

Congressman Tom Rice

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Meet the Staff: Jenna Johnson


When my husband was offered a job at an engineering firm in Charleston, it was hard for me to leave a job that I loved in Atlanta but the prospect of living in Charleston closer to family and near the coast was an easy “YES!” I stayed behind a month continuing to work and looked for jobs in Charleston’s nonprofit sector, but nothing immediately caught my eye. It wasn’t until I moved here that I stumbled upon a summer AmeriCorps VISTA position that I thought would be perfect as I got my feet wet in learning about the nonprofits here. I had another job offer on the table going in, but when Origin (then Family Services) offered me a full-time Marketing Coordinator position in place of the VISTA opportunity, I felt drawn here. I learned about the impact that this century-old organization had in the community, and how they seemed to be more behind-the-scenes. I wanted to change that and give them more exposure! 

Origin has progressed in ways that I could have never dreamed. Our programs have been remolded to fit the needs of the community, just as it has since 1888, and our services have modernized. It has been a unique experience and a privilege to be a part of the journey and the transformation.

What has surprised you the most about working at Origin SC?

Nonprofits generally have a more “charity” and a little less “business” mindset. Obviously, nonprofits should be mission-driven, but without proper planning, many nonprofits fail. One thing that surprised me in working at Origin is the fact that it is run like a business. We look at numbers, not with profit in mind, but with sustainability in mind. How can we be sustainable for years to come so that we can continue to serve thousands of people in our community? Origin is constantly focused on answering that very question. 

What is an experience that has really shaped who you are? 

There’s no way I can pick just one experience. Being a pastor’s daughter and a Christian shaped my desire to help individuals in my community find life and purpose. My experience as a Clemson Tiger shaped my worldview that there’s a much bigger world than what’s in my back yard, and to never give less than 110%. And I’d have to say that being married to my best friend and being a mom has changed me forever – my husband and daughter inspire me every day with their empathy and compassion. Both at different levels, but equally motivational.

How has Origin SC helped you in your career development?

This organization’s dream became my dream when I began working here five years ago. My experience in leading the rebranding project for our organization from start to finish was a very long career-defining moment. I had worked on large projects before, but nothing compares to leading a 128-year-old organization through strategic and creative planning that would impact it for years to come. It was not an easy job, and most of the time, it wasn’t even fun. But it was fulfilling. It means the world to me that this organization came together with all of its creative juices and expertise to whip up a name, image, and brand that reflects all facets of our mission. I learned my strengths, I worked through my weaknesses, and saw a dream become a reality. 

What is the one thing in this world you are most proud of?

I am proud and yet so very humbled at what this organization has accomplished in the five years I have been here! It was a privilege to play a part in the rebranding project for Origin. It’s not every day that someone can say that. I am ready to see the next big thing Origin will take on! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Raising Interest Rates: What does it Mean for You?

Earlier this month, the United States Federal Reserve increased interest rates for the third time since the 2008 housing market crash. With the Federal Reserve being the center point for the entire nation’s monetary system, it is in your best interest to know what exactly the Federal Reserve does and what a raise in interest rates means for you.

So, what do they do?

The Federal Reserve (also known as “the Fed”) performs five general functions: conduct the nation’s monetary policy to promote maximum employment, promote the stability of the financial system, promote the safety and soundness of individual financial institutions, foster payment and settlement system safety and efficiency, and promote consumer protection and community development. To read a more about what the Fed can and cannot do, click here.

Ever since the recession of 2008, the Federal Reserve has been working to initiate economic growth that promotes both employment as well as inflation by lowering interest rates. This makes it easier for smaller, private banks to get money, and, therefore, easier for the public to establish lines of credit and take out important loans.

Upon recovery from the 2008 housing crash, banks were able to offer homebuyers more affordable mortgages that would not require them to pay an astronomical amount of interest over the course of their mortgage term. As the demand to purchase homes increased, so did their prices. Now, home prices are at an all-time high while interest rates remain considerably low.

Because of this, the Federal Reserve has decided to put more focus on increasing interest rates and controlling inflation, rather than homeownership promotion. The Fed’s Chair, Janet L. Yellen, told reporters that the Fed is still planning to move slowly and wait and see what tax and spending decisions are made by the new administration before making any new changes. Other economists are expecting the Federal Open Market Committee to vote to move more quickly with a series of interest rate increases throughout the rest of the year.

Ellen Zetner, Chief U.S. Economist at Morgan Stanley, a global financial services firm, expects the Fed to raise rates yet again in June.

So, what does this mean for you?

Though we cannot say for certain whether or not interest rates will increase further in the coming months, we can tell you whether a higher or lower interest rate leans more in your favor:

  • Higher: for those who wish to save their money; you will also see a higher return on your deposits over time.
  • Lower: for those who would like to take out a loan or make an investment; but be careful, you will be paying more in interest rates over time. Smaller loans, such as car loans, will see greater impact in interest rates than larger loans. Those with credit card debt will also benefit from a lower interest rate because, currently, high interest rates are causing close to a quarter of a percentage point increase in interest payments.
  • Either: longer-term loans, such as mortgages, will be affected either way, but the affects will be subtle.

These are just some of the short and long term outcomes that come with any interest rate increase or decrease. The long-term effects on the housing market, employment, and price of goods and services will depend on multiple factors from both the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve and fiscal policy of the executive administration.

Get to know the Fed and take careful stock of what you have borrowed, invested, spent, and save; and remember, “…through knowledge and discipline, financial peace is possible…”
- Dave Ramsey

Friday, April 7, 2017

April is Financial Literacy Month!

April is National Financial Literacy Month. Did you know that more than 92 million people living in America would give themselves a grade of C, D, or F on their knowledge of personal finance?

How do you stack up when it comes to your knowledge of money? Take this quiz to find out!