June 27 (Reuters) – A growing number of large U.S. companies have said they will cover travel costs for employees who must leave their home states to get abortions, but these new policies could expose businesses to lawsuits and even potential criminal liability, legal experts said.
Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Lyft Inc (LYFT.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) were among companies that announced plans to provide those benefits through their health insurance plans in anticipation of Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized abortion nationwide. read more
Within an hour of the decision being released, Conde Nast Chief Executive Roger Lynch sent a memo to staff announcing a travel reimbursement policy and calling the court’s ruling “a crushing blow to reproductive rights.” Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) unveiled a similar policy on Friday, telling employees that it recognizes the impact of the abortion ruling but remains committed to providing comprehensive access to quality healthcare, according to a spokesman. read more
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Health insurer Cigna Corp (CI.N), Paypal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O), Alaska Airlines Inc (DKS.N) also announced reimbursement policies on Friday.
Abortion restrictions that were already on the books in 13 states went into effect as a result of Friday’s ruling and at least a dozen other Republican-led states are expected to ban abortion.
The court’s decision, driven by its conservative majority, upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. Meanwhile, some Democratic-led states are moving to bolster access to abortion.
Companies will have to navigate that patchwork of state laws and are likely to draw the ire of anti-abortion groups and Republican-led states if they adopt policies supportive of employees having abortions.
State lawmakers in Texas have already threatened Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Lyft, which had earlier announced travel reimbursement policies, with legal repercussions. A group of Republican lawmakers in a letter last month to Lyft Chief Executive Logan Green said Texas “will take swift and decisive action” if the ride-hailing company implements the policy.
The legislators also outlined a series of abortion-related proposals, including a bill that would bar companies from doing business in Texas if they pay for residents of the state to receive abortions elsewhere.
It is likely only a matter of time before companies face lawsuits from states or anti-abortion campaigners claiming that abortion-related payments violate state bans on facilitating or aiding and abetting abortions, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois and expert on healthcare law.
“If you can sue me as a person for carrying your daughter across state lines, you can sue Amazon for paying for it,” Wilson said.
Amazon, Citigroup and other companies that have announced reimbursement policies did not respond to requests for comment. A Lyft spokesperson said: “We believe access to healthcare is essential and transportation should never be a barrier to that access.”
For many large companies that fund their own health plans, the federal law regulating employee benefits will provide crucial cover in civil lawsuits over their reimbursement policies, several lawyers and other legal experts said.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) prohibits states from adopting requirements that “relate to” employer-sponsored health plans. Courts have for decades interpreted that language to bar state laws that dictate what health plans can and cannot cover.
ERISA regulates benefit plans that are funded directly by employers, known as self-insured plans. In 2021, 64% of U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health insurance were covered by self-insured plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Any company sued over an abortion travel reimbursement requirement will likely cite ERISA as a defense, according to Katy Johnson, senior counsel for health policy at the American Benefits Council trade group. And that will be a strong argument, she said, particularly for businesses with general reimbursement policies for necessary medical-related travel rather than those that single out abortion.
Johnson said reimbursements for other kinds of medical-related travel, such as visits to hospitals designated “centers of excellence,” are already common even though policies related to abortion are still relatively rare.
“While this may seem new, it’s not in the general sense and the law already tells us how to handle it,” Johnson said.
The argument has its limits. Fully-insured health plans, in which employers purchase coverage through a commercial insurer, cover about one-third of workers with insurance and are regulated by state law and not ERISA.
Most small and medium-sized U.S. businesses have fully-insured plans and could not argue that ERISA prevents states from limiting abortion coverage.
And, ERISA cannot prevent states from enforcing criminal laws, such as those in several states that make it a crime to aid and abet abortion. So employers who adopt reimbursement policies are vulnerable to criminal charges from state and local prosecutors.
But since most criminal abortion laws have not been enforced in decades, since Roe was decided, it is unclear whether officials would attempt to prosecute companies, according to Danita Merlau, a Chicago-based lawyer who advises companies on benefits issues.
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Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot
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June 26 (Reuters) – The largest U.S. law firms did not take a public stance following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade on Friday, diverging from the approach of some major companies that have made statements on the closely watched abortion case.
The high court’s 6-3 Dobbs decision upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Many states are expected to further restrict or ban abortions following the ruling.
Reuters on Friday asked more than 30 U.S. law firms, including the 20 largest by total number of lawyers, for comments on the Dobbs ruling and whether they would cover travel costs for employees seeking an abortion.
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The vast majority did not respond by Saturday afternoon, and only two, Ropes & Gray and Morrison & Foerster, said they would implement such a travel policy.
Morrison & Foerster, with nearly 1,000 attorneys, was the only large firm to issue a public statement by Saturday afternoon.
The firm’s chair, Larren Nashelsky, said Morrison & Foerster would “redouble our efforts to protect abortion and other reproductive rights.”
The Dobbs decision has been expected since a draft opinion was leaked in May.
Several major U.S. corporations, including The Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and Meta Platforms (META.O) said on Friday they will cover travel costs for employees seeking abortions. read more
Industry experts say law firms could speak out on Dobbs in the future if employees and clients push them to take a public stance. For now, firm leaders appear to be carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages of commenting, including the possibility of alienating clients, experts said.
“This is a tightrope to walk for firms,” said Kent Zimmermann, a law firm consultant with the Zeughauser Group. “They have a diversity of views among their talent and clients.”
Some firms have issued internal communications to employees about the decision. Ropes & Gray Chair Julie Jones said in an internal memo viewed by Reuters that the firm will hold several community gatherings to discuss the ruling and offer “comfort.”
“As a leader of Ropes & Gray, I am concerned about the effect of this decision on our community,” Jones wrote, while acknowledging that her memo may cause “offense to portions of our community.”
A Ropes & Gray spokesperson told Reuters Friday that employees enrolled in its medical plan are eligible for financial assistance to travel out of state for an abortion.
Another large U.S. law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, offered its U.S. workforce the day off on Friday, a spokesperson confirmed. The spokesperson did not immediately respond to further requests for comment.
Despite a dearth of public statements, a number of law firms publicly signaled ahead of the ruling that they planned to provide free legal support to women seeking abortions if Roe was overturned.
Both the New York Attorney General Leticia James and the San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, with the Bar Association of San Francisco, have convened pro bono initiatives that rely on law firm volunteers. Paul Weiss, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers are among the participants.
Paul Weiss Chair Brad Karp called the Dobbs decision a “crushing loss” in an internal message to the firm on Friday provided to Reuters. Paul Weiss and O’Melveny, which both represented Jackson Women’s Health Organization, respondents in the Dobbs case, deferred comment on the ruling to their co-counsel, the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The center said in a statement that the court had “hit a new low by taking away – for the first time ever – a constitutionally guaranteed personal liberty.”
Gibson Dunn did not respond to request for comment.
Robert Kamins, a consultant with Vertex Advisors who works with law firms, said firms will be “very cautious” about taking early positions on the ruling.
“They have to make sure that they are being thoughtful about it,” he said. “What is the business impact? What is the client impact? What is the recruiting impact? There are lots of things to think about.”
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Reporting by Karen Sloan in Sacramento, California, and Jacqueline Thomsen in Swampscott, Massachusetts; Additional reporting by Mike Scarcella in Silver Spring, Maryland; Editing by Rebekah Mintzer, Noeleen Walder and Leslie Adler
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Most weekend mornings, Jaz Brisack gets up around 5, wills her semiconscious body into a Toyota Prius and winds her way through Buffalo, to the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue. After a supervisor unlocks the door, she clocks in, checks herself for Covid symptoms and helps get the store ready for customers.
“I’m almost always on bar if I open,” said Ms. Brisack, who has a thrift-store aesthetic and long reddish-brown hair that she parts down the middle. “I like steaming milk, pouring lattes.”
The Starbucks door is not the only one that has been opened for her. As a University of Mississippi senior in 2018, Ms. Brisack was one of 32 Americans who won Rhodes scholarships, which fund study in Oxford, England.
in public support for unions, which last year reached its highest point since the mid-1960s, and a growing consensus among center-left experts that rising union membership could move millions of workers into the middle class.
white-collar workers has coincided with a broader enthusiasm for the labor movement.
In talking with Ms. Brisack and her fellow Rhodes scholars, it became clear that the change had even reached that rarefied group. The American Rhodes scholars I encountered from a generation earlier typically said that, while at Oxford, they had been middle-of-the-road types who believed in a modest role for government. They did not spend much time thinking about unions as students, and what they did think was likely to be skeptical.
“I was a child of the 1980s and 1990s, steeped in the centrist politics of the era,” wrote Jake Sullivan, a 1998 Rhodes scholar who is President Biden’s national security adviser and was a top aide to Hillary Clinton.
By contrast, many of Ms. Brisack’s Rhodes classmates express reservations about the market-oriented policies of the ’80s and ’90s and strong support for unions. Several told me that they were enthusiastic about Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who made reviving the labor movement a priority of their 2020 presidential campaigns.
Read More on Organized Labor in the U.S.
Even more so than other indicators, such a shift could foretell a comeback for unions, whose membership in the United States stands at its lowest percentage in roughly a century. That’s because the kinds of people who win prestigious scholarships are the kinds who later hold positions of power — who make decisions about whether to fight unions or negotiate with them, about whether the law should make it easier or harder for workers to organize.
As the recent union campaigns at companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple show, the terms of the fight are still largely set by corporate leaders. If these people are increasingly sympathetic to labor, then some of the key obstacles to unions may be dissolving.
suggested in April. The company has identified Ms. Brisack as one of these interlopers, noting that she draws a salary from Workers United. (Mr. Bonadonna said she was the only Starbucks employee on the union’s payroll.)
point out flaws — understaffing, insufficient training, low seniority pay, all of which they want to improve — they embrace Starbucks and its distinctive culture.
They talk up their sense of camaraderie and community — many count regular customers among their friends — and delight in their coffee expertise. On mornings when Ms. Brisack’s store isn’t busy, employees often hold tastings.
A Starbucks spokesman said that Mr. Schultz believes employees don’t need a union if they have faith in him and his motives, and the company has said that seniority-based pay increases will take effect this summer.
onetime auto plant. The National Labor Relations Board was counting ballots for an election at a Starbucks in Mesa, Ariz. — the first real test of whether the campaign was taking root nationally, and not just in a union stronghold like New York. The room was tense as the first results trickled in.
“Can you feel my heart beating?” Ms. Moore asked her colleagues.
win in a rout — the final count was 25 to 3. Everyone turned slightly punchy, as if they had all suddenly entered a dream world where unions were far more popular than they had ever imagined. One of the lawyers let out an expletive before musing, “Whoever organized down there …”
union campaign he was involved with at a nearby Nissan plant. It did not go well. The union accused the company of running a racially divisive campaign, and Ms. Brisack was disillusioned by the loss.
“Nissan never paid a consequence for what it did,” she said.(In response to charges of “scare tactics,” the company said at the time that it had sought to provide information to workers and clear up misperceptions.)
Mr. Dolan noticed that she was becoming jaded about mainstream politics. “There were times between her sophomore and junior year when I’d steer her toward something and she’d say, ‘Oh, they’re way too conservative.’ I’d send her a New York Times article and she’d say, ‘Neoliberalism is dead.’”
In England, where she arrived during the fall of 2019 at age 22, Ms. Brisack was a regular at a “solidarity” film club that screened movies about labor struggles worldwide, and wore a sweatshirt that featured a head shot of Karl Marx. She liberally reinterpreted the term “black tie” at an annual Rhodes dinner, wearing a black dress-coat over a black antifa T-shirt.
climate technology start-up, lamented that workers had too little leverage. “Labor unions may be the most effective way of implementing change going forward for a lot of people, including myself,” he told me. “I might find myself in labor organizing work.”
This is not what talking to Rhodes scholars used to sound like. At least not in my experience.
I was a Rhodes scholar in 1998, when centrist politicians like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were ascendant, and before “neoliberalism” became such a dirty word. Though we were dimly aware of a time, decades earlier, when radicalism and pro-labor views were more common among American elites — and when, not coincidentally, the U.S. labor movement was much more powerful — those views were far less in evidence by the time I got to Oxford.
Some of my classmates were interested in issues like race and poverty, as they reminded me in interviews for this article. A few had nuanced views of labor — they had worked a blue-collar job, or had parents who belonged to a union, or had studied their Marx. Still, most of my classmates would have regarded people who talked at length about unions and class the way they would have regarded religious fundamentalists: probably earnest but slightly preachy, and clearly stuck in the past.
Kris Abrams, one of the few U.S. Rhodes Scholars in our cohort who thought a lot about the working class and labor organizing, told me recently that she felt isolated at Oxford, at least among other Americans. “Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much room for discussion,” Ms. Abrams said.
typically minor and long in coming.
has issued complaints finding merit in such accusations. Yet the union continues to win elections — over 80 percent of the more than 175 votes in which the board has declared a winner. (Starbucks denies that it has broken the law, and a federal judge recently rejected a request to reinstate pro-union workers whom the labor board said Starbucks had forced out illegally.)
Twitter was: “We appreciate TIME magazine’s coverage of our union campaign. TIME should make sure they’re giving the same union rights and protections that we’re fighting for to the amazing journalists, photographers, and staff who make this coverage possible!”
The tweet reminded me of a story that Mr. Dolan, her scholarship adviser, had told about a reception that the University of Mississippi held in her honor in 2018. Ms. Brisack had just won a Truman scholarship, another prestigious award. She took the opportunity to urge the university’s chancellor to remove a Confederate monument from campus. The chancellor looked pained, according to several attendees.
“My boss was like, ‘Wow, you couldn’t have talked her out of doing that?’” Mr. Dolan said. “I was like, ‘That’s what made her win. If she wasn’t that person, you all wouldn’t have a Truman now.’”
(Mr. Dolan’s boss at the time did not recall this conversation, and the former chancellor did not recall any drama at the event.)
The challenge for Ms. Brisack and her colleagues is that while younger people, even younger elites, are increasingly pro-union, the shift has not yet reached many of the country’s most powerful leaders. Or, more to the point, the shift has not yet reached Mr. Schultz, the 68-year-old now in his third tour as Starbucks’s chief executive.
She recently spoke at an Aspen Institute panel on workers’ rights. She has even mused about using her Rhodes connections to make a personal appeal to Mr. Schultz, something that Mr. Bensinger has pooh-poohed but that other organizers believe she just may pull off.
“Richard has been making fun of me for thinking of asking one of the Rhodes people to broker a meeting with Howard Schultz,” Ms. Brisack said in February.
“I’m sure if you met Howard Schultz, he’d be like, ‘She’s so nice,’” responded Ms. Moore, her co-worker. “He’d be like, ‘I get it. I would want to be in a union with you, too.’”
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–U.S. military veteran Angelia Shaw dedicated 39 years of her life to the National Guard. Her time in the service included spending more than four years at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, organizing the safe homecoming of injured soldiers.
Ms. Shaw, 63, of North Little Rock, retired from the National Guard in 2018 and is now a financial secretary at Camp Robinson. While she found her service fulfilling, her training over the years in the National Guard took a heavy toll on her knees.
Ms. Shaw was able to make repairs to her home because of a $10,000 Housing Assistance for Veterans (HAVEN) grant from Arvest Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas). The funds were used to replace her heating and air-conditioning unit, upgrade a bathroom and do other minor home repairs.
HAVEN funds assist with necessary modifications to homes of U.S. veterans and active-duty, reserve or National Guard service members, who became disabled as a result of their military service since September 11, 2001. Alternatively, the funds can be awarded to Gold Star Families that were impacted during this time frame for home repairs/rehabilitation.
“I was really surprised and happy to learn that I qualified and wouldn’t have to pay the funds back,” Ms. Shaw said. “I’ve told some other people about it, and I’m really grateful and appreciative that this program is out there.”
Virgil Miller, group CRA director at Arvest Bank, said the grant is an opportunity to give back to Ms. Shaw and other veterans.
“Arvest Bank has been involved with the HAVEN grant for many years,” said Mr. Miller. “It’s an incredible honor to serve our veterans and Gold Star Families this way.”
Greg Hettrick, first vice president and director of Community Investment at FHLB Dallas, said HAVEN is an extraordinary program because it allows FHLB Dallas and its members to express gratitude to veterans and their families.
“We commend Arvest Bank and its devotion to supporting veterans like Ms. Shaw,” he said. “We deeply value its commitment to the HAVEN grant.”
To learn more about HAVEN, see fhlb.com/haven.
About Arvest Bank
With more than $26 billion in assets, Arvest Bank is a community-based financial institution serving more than 110 communities in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Established in 1961, Arvest Bank is committed to meeting the needs of its more than 830,000 retail and business customer households by continually investing in the digital tools and services customers expect. Its extensive network of more than 200 banking locations provides loans, deposits, treasury management, credit cards, mortgage loans and mortgage servicing as a part of its growing list of digital services. Arvest is known for its commitment to the communities it serves and to attracting, hiring and retaining a diverse group of talented people. Arvest is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC. To learn more please visit www.arvest.com.
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 11 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $62.6 billion as of March 31, 2022 is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 800 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. For more information, visit our website at fhlb.com.
DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–American Realty Investors, Inc. (NYSE:ARL) is reporting its results of operations for the quarter ended December 31, 2021. For the three months ended December 31, 2021, we reported net loss attributable to common shares of $6.8 million or $0.42 per diluted share, compared to net income attributable to common shares of $0.4 million or $0.03 per diluted share for the same period in 2020.
We collected approximately 97% of our rents for the three months ended December 31, 2021, comprised of approximately 96% from multifamily tenants and approximately 99% from office tenants.
Total occupancy was 91% at December 31, 2021, which includes 95% at our multifamily properties and 70% at our commercial properties.
On November 17, 2021, we entered into a Major Decision with Macquarie to engage a broker and initiate a sale of all the properties held by the VAA joint venture. In connection with the sale, VAA will distribute seven of its existing properties to us, and we in turn, will contribute one of our properties into the VAA Portfolio. The remaining forty-five properties will be sold to third party. The Major Decision agreement will expire on August 1, 2022, if the VAA Portfolio has not been sold.
On January 14, 2022, we sold Toulon, a 240 unit multifamily property in Gautier, Mississippi, for $26.8 million. The proceeds were used to pay off the mortgage note payable on the property and for general corporate purposes.
On March 3, 2022, we extended our $39.0 million loan on Stanford Center to February 26, 2023.
Rental revenues decreased $9.8 million from $17.4 million for the three months ended December 31, 2020 to $7.6 million for the three months ended December 31, 2021. The decrease in rental revenue is primarily due to the receipt of a $5.9 million lease termination payment at Browning Place in 2020 and a decline in occupancy in our commercial properties.
Net operating loss increased $7.6 million from net operating income of $3.9 million for three months ended December 31, 2020 to net operating loss of $3.7 million for the three months ended December 31, 2021. The increase in net operating loss is primarily due to the lease termination payment at Browning Place in 2020 and an increase in legal fees in 2021.
Net loss attributable to common shares increased $7.2 million from net income of $0.4 million for the three months ended December 31, 2020 to net loss of $6.8 million for the three months ended December 31, 2021. The increase in net loss is primarily attributed to the lease termination payment at Browning Place in 2020, an increase in legal fees in 2021 and a decrease in gain on sale of assets, offset in part by a decrease in loss on foreign currency transactions in 2021.
About American Realty Investors, Inc.
American Realty Investors, Inc., a Dallas-based real estate investment company, holds a diverse portfolio of equity real estate located across the U.S., including office buildings, apartments, shopping centers, and developed and undeveloped land. The Company invests in real estate through direct ownership, leases and partnerships and invests in mortgage loans on real estate. The Company also holds mortgage receivables. The Company’s primary asset and source of its operating results is its investment in Transcontinental Realty Investors, Inc. (NYSE:TCI). For more information, visit the Company’s website at www.americanrealtyinvest.com.
AMERICAN REALTY INVESTORS, INC.
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SANTA FE, N.M.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Artist Anita L. West lives in Santa Fe, a dream city for many artists, but also an expensive place to live.
Ms. West, 77, hadn’t owned her own home since she became a renter after the Great Recession, but she never stopped hoping that she would once again have that opportunity.
As rents continued to rise, she began to explore options for buying and connected with a housing assistance agency known as Homewise after hearing about it from a friend.
Homewise, in turn, suggested that Ms. West apply for the Homebuyer Equity Leverage Partnership (HELP), a program of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) in which down payment and closing cost assistance is provided through FHLB Dallas member financial institutions.
Ms. West was able to move into a one-bedroom condo that she purchased with the aid of a $5,500 HELP subsidy provided by New Mexico Bank & Trust (NMB-T) and FHLB Dallas.
“The HELP funds meant I didn’t have to deplete my savings for the down payment, so I still had some reserves and some funds for upgrades,” she said. “I also no longer have the uncertainty that comes with rising rents.”
NMB-T awarded $115,500 in HELP subsidies in 2021 to 21 people.
“With the way home prices have skyrocketed, programs like HELP are more important than ever for renters wanting to transition into homeownership,” said Trevor Lewis, senior vice president and commercial team lead at NMB-T. “We are thankful to have this partnership with FHLB Dallas that is making homeownership a reality.”
Greg Hettrick, first vice president and director of Community Investment at FHLB Dallas, said members and housing agencies have done a great job in spreading the word about HELP.
“We are thankful for our partnership with NMB-T; they were a significant user of HELP last year, and continue to utilize the HELP subsidy this year to make homeownership a reality for the people of New Mexico,” he said.
For 2022, FHLB Dallas set aside $4 million available through its members on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit fhlb.com/help to view the current availability of HELP funds.
About New Mexico Bank & Trust
New Mexico Bank & Trust, a subsidiary of Heartland Financial USA, Inc., operating under the brand name HTLF, is a community bank with more than $2.6 billion in assets and operates 24 offices located in Central, Northern and Eastern New Mexico as well as Northwest Texas. The bank specializes in business lending and deposit services and provides a wide variety of personal credit and deposit services along with complete electronic banking programs. New Mexico Bank & Trust is a Member of the FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender.
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 11 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $63.5 billion as of December 31, 2021, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community investment by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 815 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. For more information, visit fhlb.com.
STARKVILLE, Miss.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The First Bank (The First) and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) are pleased to announce the awarding of a $6,000 Homebuyer Equity Leverage Partnership (HELP) subsidy to assist first-time homebuyer, 28-year-old Keva Robertson, with the purchase of her Starkville, Mississippi, home.
Representatives from the banks will join Ms. Robertson and Starkville Habitat for Humanity (Starkville Habitat) for a ceremonial check presentation tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. CT at Ms. Robertson’s home. The media is encouraged to attend.
HELP provides funds to income-qualified first-time homebuyers to provide down payment and closing cost assistance. Ms. Robertson worked with Starkville Habitat to learn about homeownership through counseling and educational courses and build her home.
For more information about HELP, visit fhlb.com/help.
10:00 a.m. CT Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Gregory Thames, North Mississippi Division President, The First Bank
Mike Cayson, Market President, The First Bank
Steven Coleman, Market President, The First Bank
Keva Robertson, HELP Recipient
Joel Downey, Executive Director, Starkville Habitat
MCCOMB, Miss.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A $100,000 Small Business Boost (SBB) loan from Renaissance Community Loan Fund (RCLF) and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) helped close the gap in funding for McComb, Mississippi, mom Carmen Walsh to buy a daycare.
SBB is offered by FHLB Dallas through member financial institutions such as RCLF to provide financing for qualified small business transactions by filling the gap between the loan amount that an FHLB Dallas member institution can fund and the loan request made by an eligible small business. SBB loans are unsecured and subordinate to the primary loan made by the member financial institution.
In Ms. Walsh’s case, her $381,300 RCLF loan was supplemented with $100,000 in SBB funds from FHLB Dallas, along with a Small Business Administration micro loan, to make the purchase of McComb Learning Center in McComb, Mississippi, possible.
After years in a corporate setting that required extensive travel, Ms. Walsh saw owning the daycare her children attended not only as a career change to a field she’d always loved, but an opportunity to be home for her children.
“The SBB helped get me to the signing table to make my dream come true,” Ms. Walsh said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity to make a positive impact on the children in McComb.”
RCLF closed 10 SBB loans in 2021 with FHLB Dallas.
“This is a successful learning center that has been operating in McComb for years, and Ms. Walsh is from the area,” said Kimberly LaRosa, RCLF president and CEO. “The SBB provided the gap funding we needed to close the deal.”
Ms. Walsh said the previous daycare owner grew into a mentor and dear friend over the years, and she approached the owner about a sale – twice – before convincing her to sell.
Another advantage of SBB is that the borrower does not begin to repay the loan until after the first year. This feature is designed to help a small business build critical cash flow during the first year of the loan.
Greg Hettrick, first vice president and director of Community Investment for FHLB Dallas, said access to capital can be challenging for small businesses.
“RCLF is experienced in pairing the SBB with their own lending products to obtain the capital needed to start and expand businesses, creating jobs and opportunities,” he said.
See fhlb.com/sbb to learn more.
About Renaissance Community Loan Fund
The Gulf Coast Business Council created Gulf Coast Renaissance Corp. (now Renaissance Community Loan Fund) in 2006, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to help rebuild the Mississippi Gulf Coast by bridging the gap in the need for safe and affordable workforce housing. Since then, Renaissance has helped make distinct improvements to the communities by promoting community and economic development through various programs implemented to deliver effective and meaningful results.
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 11 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $63.5 billion as of December 31, 2021, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 800 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. For more information, visit our website at fhlb.com.
BEAUMONT, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Woodforest National Bank® (Woodforest) and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas) worked together to disburse more than $49,000 in Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP) funding to nine homeowners in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area of Texas and a 10th in Ellis County south of Dallas, Texas, to make home repairs.
Through FHLB Dallas member institutions such as Woodforest, SNAP provides subsidies for the repair and rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing of eligible, special-needs individuals, who often are older homeowners or disabled persons living on fixed incomes.
In 2021, the maximum SNAP award per household was $6,000 unless the member or another lender contributed $350 toward the rehabilitation costs and/or inspection fees. In this case, the maximum award per household would be $7,000. Visit fhlb.com/snap for 2022 information.
“We are proud to join FHLB Dallas to provide these critical grants to residents with special needs across Texas,” said Krystian Reyes, community development relationship manager at Woodforest. “The fact that the program’s annual funding is typically fully allocated within days of it being made available to FHLB Dallas members is a testament to its immense need. We’ve seen first-hand how it has made a positive difference in the lives of these 10 homeowners.”
Karelyn Young, 81, of Beaumont, Texas, and a client of Helbig CDC who referred her to Woodforest, was one of the recipients. A $5,945 subsidy was used to install drywall and flooring in several rooms, add a new storm door and update a bathroom. Ms. Young said her home was damaged during Hurricane Harvey from water that got into the home.
“I have no idea what I would have done without this help,” Ms. Young said. “I thank God for this program because I didn’t have any money to do repairs.”
FHLB Dallas set aside $2.5 million of its 2021 Affordable Housing Program funds for SNAP, and the funds were allocated in January for the highly sought-after program. Last year, FHLB Dallas awarded $2.5 million in SNAP subsidies that assisted 421 families. Since the program’s 2009 inception, nearly $20.5 million in funding has been awarded across FHLB Dallas’ five-state District.
“Our members are best equipped to see the needs in the communities they serve,” said Greg Hettrick, first vice president and director of Community Investment at FHLB Dallas. “Woodforest made a big impact in its first year to award SNAP funding, and we are thrilled to have them using this program.”
To learn more about SNAP, visit fhlb.com/snap.
About Woodforest National Bank
Celebrating 40 years of community banking service, Woodforest National Bank has successfully stood among the strongest community banks in the nation, proudly offering outstanding customer service since 1980. Woodforest currently operates over 760 branches in 17 states across the United States and is an Outstanding CRA rated institution. For more information about Woodforest National Bank, please visit woodforest.com.
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 11 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $60.2 billion as of September 30, 2021, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 800 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. For more information, visit our website at fhlb.com.
WEE WAA, Australia — Two years ago, the fields outside Christina Southwell’s family home near the cotton capital of Australia looked like a dusty, brown desert as drought-fueled wildfires burned to the north and south.
Last week, after record-breaking rains, muddy floodwaters surrounded her, along with the stench of rotting crops. She had been trapped for days with just her cat, and still didn’t know when the sludge would recede.
“It seems to take for bloody ever to go away,” she said, watching a boat carry food into the town of Wee Waa. “All it leaves behind is this stink, and it’s just going to get worse.”
Life on the land has always been hard in Australia, but the past few years have delivered one extreme after another, demanding new levels of resilience and pointing to the rising costs of a warming planet. For many Australians, moderate weather — a pleasant summer, a year without a state of emergency — increasingly feels like a luxury.
Black Summer bush fires of 2019 and 2020 were the worst in Australia’s recorded history. This year, many of the same areas that suffered through those epic blazes endured the wettest, coldest November since at least 1900. Hundreds of people, across several states, have been forced to evacuate. Many more, like Ms. Southwell, are stranded on floodplain islands with no way to leave except by boat or helicopter, possibly until after Christmas.
La Niña in full swing, meteorologists are predicting even more flooding for Australia’s east coast, adding to the stress from the pandemic, not to mention from a recent rural mouse plague of biblical proportions.
pregnancies on pause, shows that the El Niño-La Niña cycle has been around long enough for flora and fauna to adapt.
more than doubled since the 1970s.
Ron Campbell, the mayor of Narrabri Shire, which includes Wee Waa, said his area was still waiting for government payments to offset damage from past catastrophes. He wondered when governments would stop paying for infrastructure repairs after every emergency.
“The costs are just enormous, not just here but at all the other places in similar circumstances,” he said.
60 percent of the trees in some places. Cattle farmers culled so much of their herds during the drought that beef prices have risen more than 50 percent as they rush to restock paddocks nourished (nearly to death) by heavy rain.
Bryce Guest, a helicopter pilot in Narrabri, once watched the dust bowls grow from above. Then came “just a monstrous amount of rain,” he said, and new kind of job: flights to mechanical pumps pushing water from fields to irrigation dams in a last-ditch effort to preserve crops that had been heading for a record harvest.
On one recent flight, he pointed to mountains of stored grain — worth six figures, at least — that were ruined by the rains, with heavy equipment trapped and rusting next to it. Further inland, a home surrounded by levees had become a small island accessible only by boat or copter.
“Australia is all about water — everything revolves around it,” he said. “Where you put your home, your stock. Everything.”
The flood plains in what is known as the Murray-Darling basin stretch out for hundreds of miles, not unlike the land at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The territory is so flat that towns can be cut off with roads flooded by less than an inch of additional rain.
That happened a few weeks ago in Bedgerabong, a few hundred miles south of Narrabri. On a recent afternoon, a couple of teachers were being driven out of town in a hulking fire truck — equipment for one disaster often serves another. Across a flooded road behind them, three other teachers had decided to camp out so they could provide some consistency for children who had already been kept out of school for months by pandemic lockdowns.
Paul Faulkner, 55, the principal of the school (total enrollment: 42), said that many parents craved social connection for their children. The Red Cross has sent in booklets for those struggling with stress and anxiety.
“Covid has kept everyone from their families,” he said. “This just isolates them even more.”
He admitted that there were a few things they did not discuss; Santa, for one. The town is expected to be cut off until after the holidays as the waters that rose with surging rains over a few days take weeks to drain and fade.
In Wee Waa, where the water has started to recede, supplies and people flowed in and out last week by helicopter and in a small boat piloted by volunteers.
Still, there were shortages everywhere — mostly of people. In a community of around 2,000 people, half of the teachers at the local public school couldn’t make it to work.
At the town’s only pharmacy, Tien On, the owner, struggled with a short-handed staff to keep up with requests. He was especially concerned about delayed drug deliveries by helicopter for patients with mental health medications.
Ms. Southwell, 69, was better prepared than most. She spent 25 years volunteering with emergency services and has been teaching first aid for decades. After a quick trip into Wee Waa by boat, she returned to her home with groceries and patience, checking a shed for the stray cats she feeds and discovering that only one of her chickens appeared to have drowned.
She said she wasn’t sure how much climate change could be blamed for the floods; her father had put their house on higher stilts because they knew the waters would rise on occasion.
All she knew was that more extreme weather and severe challenges to the community would be coming their way.
“The worst part of it is the waiting,” she said. “And the cleanup.”