Category Archives: Financial education

Education policymakers on MSU Extension resources: The FHE team goes to the Capitol

On Friday, May 20, representatives from 15 state legislative offices attended a coffee and donuts informational session at the state Capitol. The session was held by the Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) team to educate the group about the post-foreclosure toolkits that Michigan State University (MSU) Extension provides. Toolkits were also distributed to all offices to advertise the effective and impactful resources that MSU Extension produces for families and individuals starting over after home foreclosure.

In a brainstorming and planning meeting between a few members of the FHE team and Eric Walcott, MSU Extension public policy specialist, the team discussed reaching out to legislators to market the “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit. Eric, having previous experience working in the Legislature, suggested hosting an event to draw attention to the new resource. He shared that often state departments hold educational sessions to provide legislators and their staff members with timely resources and information.

The FHE team wanted to not only share the MSU Extension resource with the legislators and their staff members, but also educate them that they could use it to support constituents who call their offices with questions about personal financial recovery. Team members received the approval of Mike Kovacic, director of stakeholder relations for the college of agriculture and natural resources; Dave Ivan, their institute director; and MSU. They also secured the support of Sen. Darwin Booher, who co-sponsored the event. Then the planning began. Jean Lakin, Sarah Carter, Erica Tobe, Eric Walcott, Bill Hendrian, Scott Matteson and Mike Kovacic contributed to the planning of the event.

The event consisted of a short, half-hour presentation to legislators and their staff members, followed by a brief question-and-answer period. Each legislative office, whether or not an office representative attended the event, received a packet. The packet included MSU Extension FHE team information (including infographics of the results of their programs, a team roster and current program offerings), district foreclosure data (for offices that RSVP’d to the event), a free “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit and marketing kicker cards to promote the resource in their communities. Bill Hendrian, Scott Matteson, Eric Walcott, LaShawn Brown, Beth Martinéz, Brenda Long, Erica Tobe, Mike Kovacic and Jinnifer Ortquist attended to host and answer questions.

The “Starting Over After Foreclosure” toolkit is a research-based, resource guide for residents who have experienced foreclosure, housing instability or both. It was designed to provide an educational support after traditional foreclosure counseling services end as a way to rebuild financial standing. Eight stand-alone units address core financial concepts (budgeting, credit and debt management, exploring housing options and more). One unit addresses emotional recovery after foreclosure and stress-management skill building. Visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/mimoneyhealth/startingover to access the resource. The material will be available soon in Spanish, and a series of noncredit online courses will be available to participants statewide.

“Staff members that I spoke with were very receptive of the material, interested in the information, and appreciated that it was free for the general public to use.” Erica said. “I think promoting this toolkit to legislators in the manner that we did was a good way to be accountable for the funds that we have received to support our work in this programming area, and provide them with useful information that they can use with the residents in their districts. In addition, it was a great way to market MSU Extension, and the work of our FHE team. We had several staff members attend the event, and they were able to connect with their respective legislative offices, and create connections for future programming opportunities! The legislative staff members that we spoke with were very excited to see the information presented and seemed to appreciate the short, succinct manner that we presented the material. I think most participants left the presentation understanding how they can use the information in the future and appreciated the applicability of the resource.”

If you have any questions about this event or the materials, please feel free to contact Erica Tobe, MSU Extension specialist, at tobee@msu.edu or Eric Walcott, MSU Extension public policy specialist, at walcott3@msu.edu.

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Filed under Financial education

Nutrition and financial education partnership: Money Smart Week

To promote personal financial management for everyday consumers, the Federal Reserve Bank created Money Smart Week. During this week, organizations collaborate together to offer free educational programming for people no matter their incomes or demographics. This year, between April 20 and April 28, the MSU Extension Kalamazoo County team of Leatta Byrd, Krystal Avila, Stonia Hunter and Cathy Drew partnered with various organizations such as the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program (KPEP), Ministry with Community, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, the Salvation Army and Borgess Medical Center.

Last month, financial educators partnered with the nutrition instructors in Kalamazoo to provide education on how to make a healthy lifestyle affordable for everyone. Along with the pros of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, participants were taught the tools of budgeting and price tracking. They were given recommendations to lower food costs. Some events were offered in both English and Spanish.

Stonia Hunter taught nine participants nutrition and food budgeting at the KPEP on April 28. Krystal Avila reached eight participants with Eat Healthy, Be Active at Ministry with Community on April 20. Later that evening, Krystal presented Healthy Foods, Healthy Families in English and Spanish to nine participants at the Salvation Army. Leatta Byrd taught four participants through Eat Smart‒Spend Less April 26 at the Borgess Medical Center.

MSU Extension nutrition education programs aim to improve the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavior of how individuals view nutrition. Through promotion, planning and delivery, staff members work with diverse audiences at a local, county and state level to help implement everyday changes to individuals and family diets for an increased nutritional well-being.

Making improvements in your financial situation can be time consuming and difficult. If you have questions or you would like to ask an expert, Michigan State University Extension has access to many resources. Visit the MiMoneyHealth page for more information and answers to your questions.

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Filed under Financial education, Uncategorized

Thoughts on my second month as director

The focus on Flint in recent weeks and the need to address important nutrition, child development, public health and community infrastructure issues has given us the opportunity to remind folks that MSU Extension has been in Flint for 100 years. We will be there for the next 100 years, and can be an important part of developing and implementing solutions that change lives. Your colleagues are making a difference. Deanna East is helping to coordinate the Michigan State University response in Flint. Eric Scorsone and the recently announced MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy are engaging local officials and testifying before the State Legislature. Erin Powell, Cathy Newkirk and many others are addressing nutrition issues on the ground. Terry McLean and the Edible Flint crew are working closely with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and state officials to ensure that food is distributed in areas of greatest need. This is important work that underscores the breadth of our collective experience, the ability to respond quickly and the importance of partnerships that you have built over decades.

The critical role that MSU Extension is playing in Flint is replicated in every community throughout Michigan. But, seven weeks into my new job as part of your team, it is already clear that not enough people know who we are. Moreover, those who do know us well are not always familiar with the breadth and depth of MSU Extension programming. I met recently with an agricultural commodity CEO, for example, who indicated that labor force issues were among his biggest industry concerns. As we talked, it became clear that, although his interactions over many years had been primarily with our Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (for obvious reasons), many programs in the Greening Michigan, Children and Youth, and Health and Nutrition Institutes would be potentially valuable resources to him in recruiting and retaining valued employees.

We often use a slide when describing “Who is MSU Extension?” that includes the following bullets:

  • Faculty and Academic Staff on Campus
  • Extension Educators and Senior Extension Educators
  • 4-H Program Coordinators
  • Program Instructors, Program Associates, Program Assistants
  • Support Staff Members, on and off campus; MSU or county employees
  • Funded by County, State and Federal Resources

While these statements are accurate and descriptive, what if, instead, we said things like:

  • Unparalleled statewide health education delivery system.
  • Business start-up, tech transfer and product development expertise.
  • Serve schools statewide; capable of gathering more than 2,000 kids and their families for a single event.
  • Rapid response for agriculture, human health and other emergencies, such as the current Flint water crisis.
  • Future funding growth to come from building partnerships!

You can help me in at least two important ways.

  1. Don’t hesitate to tell people about the great work you do, and add in a bit about what your colleagues do in many areas across the entire state. If you aren’t aware of all MSU Extension programs, the website is a good place to start.
  2. Help us to find even more creative ways to describe what we do and outlets for sharing that information with the world. What descriptive statements would you add to this list to describe “Who is MSU Extension?”

Consider browsing through our public value statements occasionally to refresh your memory about how all of your colleagues’ work makes a difference in Michigan. We work for an amazing organization. By working together we can ensure that more people understand how we can help positively change their lives, communities and businesses.

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Financial education, Flint Water, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Resources, Youth development

Moving our cities fiscally forward: Launch of the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy

Through my lifetime, I have seen the unfortunate decline of some of our great Michigan cities, and I feel very passionately that Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is a vehicle that can help them get back on track. MSU Extension has worked with local officials for decades through programs such as training new county commissioners and developing the first formal budgeting system for county governments.

This month, MSU launches a new resource for our state to improve the fiscal health of municipalities. The MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy will advise communities and distribute important research and fiscal-health indicators for all Michigan municipalities. The center will offer fiscal sustainability workshops, customized consultancy services, applied research on municipal governance and fiscal issues, and an annual fiscal health report on each of Michigan’s cities, counties and townships.

Dr. Eric Scorsone, an MSU economist who assisted Detroit and other struggling cities, will direct the center and will advise communities and distribute important research and fiscal-health indicators for all Michigan municipalities. In the past few years, Eric and colleagues have advised governments in Detroit, Flint, Lansing and elsewhere on short- and long-term fiscal issues. The team also worked with state officials and local municipalities to help the communities navigate and move beyond emergency management.

The center had two kickoff events – Jan. 12 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing and Jan. 14 at the Miller Canfield law firm in Detroit. While I was attending Issue Identification listening sessions across the Upper Peninsula, Patrick Cudney, our associate director, represented MSU Extension in my absence. He told me that the launch events for the MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy were incredible.

Patrick said, “The level of interest and involvement from government partners at both events was fairly astounding. We had local and state elected officials, attorneys, law firms, planning agencies and organizations attending with a deep level of respect for the work that MSU Extension has been doing for many years in that arena. It felt really gratifying and was one of those proud moments in my career to see Extension and the profile of Extension’s work raised in such a way.

“To have Eric Scorsone provide leadership for that initiative is perfect. Eric is such a well-respected researcher and yet he understands the application of the research to each individual situation that Michigan communities face. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each municipality has its own challenges. By having Eric in that role, it ensures that we will have our on-campus researchers and faculty, and off-campus academic staff embedded in Michigan’s communities. They can really assess what those needs are and identify the most appropriate resources to help work with those communities to really affect change.”

Here’s a link to an MSU press release about the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy if you’d like to learn more!

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Filed under Economic development, Financial education

Financial & Homeownership Education work group has all the answers at Money Smart Week event

Money Smart Week, April 5 to 12, is a national public awareness campaign coordinated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to help individuals and families better manage their personal finances. More than 400 free Money Smart Week events took place throughout Michigan on topics ranging from kids and money to managing student loan debt, household budgeting and retirement.

Our Michigan State University Extension Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) work group participated in 12 Money Smart Week events throughout the eight days. One of the largest events was the Fox 2 News “Ask the Expert” program held the morning of April 7. This program consisted of both a live call-in program in the Fox 2 News studios and a live webchat on the MyFoxDetroit.com website. TV viewers either called in to the studio or went on the Web to ask questions on debt, credit, budgeting, homeownership and mortgages, retirement and investing, and fraud and scams.

The FHE team members who participated in the studio taking calls were LaShawn Brown, Terry Clark-Jones, Mike Krauch, Angela Miles, Wanda Roberts, Pam Sarlitto and Rob Weber. This group answered more than 250 calls and also talked with Fox 2 News financial reporter Murray Feldman on-air on a variety of money issues.

Answering questions in the online webchat were FHE team members Jim Buxton, Bill Hendrian, Khurram Imam, Brenda Long, Julie Moberg, Jinnifer Ortquist, Beth Waitrovich and Vivian Washington. This team provided replies to more than 100 questions that came into the chat room.

Money Smart Week provided a great opportunity for the FHE work group to enhance their mission of providing financial education throughout Michigan. And I think the Ask the Expert call-in/live-chat model they’ve developed with Fox 2 News is something that might be appropriate for other program areas and work groups to consider in the future. We’ll hear more about that on the May 5 MSUE Update Webinar.

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Filed under Financial education

Extension staff members help residents through property tax assistance

In a July 26, 2012, Spotlight, I told you about the Step Forward Michigan Program. The U.S. Department of the Treasury established the Hardest Hit Fund in 2010 to aid families in states hit hardest by the economic and housing market downturn. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) oversees distribution of the fund in Michigan where it’s known as the Step Forward Michigan Program.

In January 2013 through the Step Forward Michigan Program, the MSHDA added property tax assistance to their Loan Rescue Program. Homeowners that have endured a qualifying involuntary hardship that has caused them to fall behind may be eligible. Without this assistance, these homeowners, which in many cases have paid off their home mortgage, would have lost their homes due to tax foreclosure.

Our Michigan State University Extension counseling and support staff provide ongoing help to homeowners in getting questions answered, helping with the application process and correcting applications so that Macomb County residents have the best chance for assistance. Greening Michigan Extension, Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) educator Jean Lakin leads the team of Natalie Ciampichini, Helena Fleming, AmeriCorps member Alicia McMiller and Rob Weber.

Extension educator and District 11 coordinator Marie Ruemenapp said, “Macomb Executive’s Office staff and the treasurer are just ecstatic with what MSUE (Jean and her staff) have been able to do.”

“The very productive partnership between MSU Extension and the Macomb County Treasurer’s Office is really what has driven the success of this program in Macomb,” said Ted Wahby, the Macomb County treasurer. “As we reach out to delinquent taxpayers, we know we can count on Jean Lakin and her team of housing counselors at MSUE to guide people through the application process. Our team effort has resulted in more than $1.1 million dollars in back taxes paid, and more than 175 families no longer at risk of losing their home.”

Read more in this Macomb Daily article: http://www.macombdaily.com/government-and-politics/20131003/treasurers-program-collects-900000-saves-hundreds-of-homes

Macomb is not the only county taking advantage of the Step Forward Michigan program and of the help given by MSU Extension staff.

Denine Kamprath, deputy Monroe County treasurer said, “We feel that this program is a wonderful opportunity to help people that have hardship situations be able to get ‘caught up’ on the back taxes that they owe, and to keep them out of the foreclosure situation. Hopefully, by getting this assistance, they will be able to stay on track and avoid falling back into this pattern for the future. . . . Thanks for all your continuous help with our residents.”

In Monroe County, according to Deputy Treasurer Kamprath, with support from MSU Extension staff members Terry Clark-Jones and Pam Sarlitto, 18 residents have been assisted and a total amount of $113,533.94 in back taxes has been collected as of October 2013.

MSU Extension is an MSHDA-certified housing counseling agency. We have been assisting Michigan residents in applying for the tax foreclosure Step Forward Michigan funds since Jan. 15.

Other Financial and Homeownership Education work group members across the state involved in helping Michigan residents through the Step Forward Michigan program besides those mentioned above include Jim Buxton, Scott Day, Sharon Jeffery, Mike Krauch, Brenda Long, Julie Moberg, AmeriCorps member Vicki Newcomb, Christine Venema, Beth Waitrovich and Vivian Washington.

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Filed under Financial education

Extension specialist and financial expert achieves rock star status

The recent news that Detroit would be filing for bankruptcy made headlines not only in Michigan but around the country. Gov. Rick Snyder approved a request from emergency manager Kevyn Orr to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The city filed on July 18.

Kudos go out to Dr. Eric Scorsone, Michigan State University Extension specialist, for his diligence in working with the media to explain the Detroit bankruptcy issue. Within 24 hours of the bankruptcy being announced, Dr. Scorsone spoke to about 20 media outlets on four continents.

In the “It’s Just Politics” segment on Michigan Radio July 19, producer and co-host Zoe Clark called Dr. Scorsone the Mick Jagger of “muni” (municipal) finance. You can listen here.

Many national news agencies such as NBC sought Dr. Scorsone’s reaction to the bankruptcy. We’re grateful to Dr. Scorsone for his expertise and his willingness to step out and communicate to the public about these complicated financial issues. And he’s probably going to be doing this for a while, given the complexity of such a large municipal bankruptcy filing.

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Filed under Financial education