Some cash for MARTA, police training and rural hospitals might not make it.
But as usual, the budget is mostly health care and education
This would gets Georgia through June. Longer-term budget to come.
The feds will do much of the new spending in Georgia, not the state.
But will Georgia's budget-writers do anything with the list?
Metro Atlanta commuting won't be much be much worse — or much better.
Georgia's budget, counting state and federal money, is bigger than football, but smaller than Home Depot. Most of the spending is on health care and education.
The nice thing about a fiscal note is that all sides consider it at least a good-faith estimate, free of industry or partisan spin. But Georgia legislators often don’t have a nonpartisan official estimate of ...
Georgia will have about $27.5 billion to spend in the year that begins in July. The new governor is making proposed teacher raises a centerpiece. Democrats are pressing to spend on a Medicaid expansion.
A state that's been reluctant to bankroll buses and the train in its biggest metro has announced a major mass transit spend by Georgia standards — $100 million. That'll be a substantial downpayment on rapid ...
By Khaliff Davis, Director K-12 Lending, Reinvestment Fund Since its inception, the community development financial institution industry has been committed to providing capital to help expand opportunity for historically excluded communities. In recent years, the continued and often growing disparities in outcomes ranging from health to education to economic prosperity have led CDFIs like Reinvestment Fund to dial up its work to explicitly address racial equity in lending, investing, and operational practices. While this work remains urgent, it is also a challenge to determine precisely how to incorporate or operationalize racial equity into our varied work. How do CDFIs incorporate an explicit racial equity agenda into their lending and programs? What should we learn from those most impacted by oppressive systems? What work do we need to do as institutions and individuals to genuinely build a racial equity perspective? And how might we collaborate beyond our industry to improve outcomes? In 2018, Reinvestment Fund and a group of seven other CDFIs formed the CDFI Racial Equity Collaborative on Education (the Collaborative) to try to answer these questions with a focus on lending to K-12 schools. Our focus on education is important because, in many ways, schools are often a microcosm of their communities. They manifest the challenges and strengths of their broader community. More than just institutions of education, schools play a part in the emotional and physical wellbeing of America’s future. Therefore, it is critical that we understand and nurture the policies and practices that foster equitable educational success. As a first step, the Collaborative engaged three educational equity consultants–Village of Wisdom, we are (Working to Extend Anti-Racist Education), and Discriminology–to develop a framework for evaluating schools’ commitments to creating equitable learning environments for all students. Referred to as the Racial Equity Matrix (REM), the consultants defined ten academic focus areas most acutely impacted by racial inequity and provided the CDFI lenders with a host of questions to assess policies and practices related to each of these areas. The ten focus areas include: parent engagement, academic pathways, mindful discipline, culturally relevant curricula, social justice curricula, student recruitment, equitable honors & AP, social-emotional support, and teacher recruitment. As a long-time lender to schools, Reinvestment Fund has delivered flexible financing that supports the real estate development needs of schools providing quality education outcomes. Reinvestment Fund has always gone beyond the financial story that audits and projections tell, seeking to conduct a multifaceted review of a school’s program. We observe classes in session and engage in discussion with school staff to assess the experience of the leadership team, student engagement and demand, and whether the program is outperforming its peers on traditional markers of success such as standardized assessments and graduation rates. Over the last two decades, we’ve provided over $500 million in financing to more than 100 K-12 schools, and most of these schools have served students of color who often reside in communities challenged by poverty. Too often, however, students of color, particularly Black and Latinx students, continue to face inequity inside schools we may even support. One example is the effect of negative labeling in schools. School leader Ebony Payne Brown of Peace Academy in Atlanta, a school with an Afrocentric curriculum that focuses on pushing academic development and strengthening cultural awareness, describes how negative labels often result in inequitable treatment such as harsher punishment and fewer opportunities. “In environments that are not steeped in equity, we see a disproportionate amount of Black and brown students with negative labels placed on them throughout their educational career; often as early as Kindergarten,” says Payne Brown. “These negative labels follow them throughout the school system and are extremely critical in the success or lack thereof of their future. For example, Black boys are far more likely to be placed in special education settings, kicked out of class for minor infractions, given extreme behavioral consequences, and are often looked over for gifted and talented programs.” Payne Brown points out that there are opportunities to incorporate more equitable education practices. She explains “When schools and educators are aware of the messages and practices they have internalized and perpetuate and make the choice to do something different, then we see education systems create a more equitable approach to education. We see more of our Black and brown students thriving. We see communities and generations changing.” The REM approach digs deeper into whether the racial achievement gap within a school is closing, participation of students of color in gifted and advanced programming is increasing, and that suspension and expulsion rates are decreasing. The approach makes clear that reviewing quantitative data is just the beginning. While data around enrollment, academic performance, and discipline can be gathered relatively easily, the qualitative questions around culturally relevant practices, restorative approaches to justice, student and parent voice, and whether staff have a racial equity perspective are more nuanced and harder to measure. “Implementing a more equitable approach to education goes beyond giving more money and resources,” said Brian King, Founder of Liberation Academy, a new public charter school in Southeast Atlanta that serves students in grades 5-8. “It is utilizing those resources to provide an educational experience that is designed specifically for the students and community in which it serves. Catering to the specific needs of students of color, without compromising the quality of education, creates the platform for educational equity.” The REM has proved to be the first step of an iterative process to provide Reinvestment Fund with a framework to think, talk, and inquire about racial equity in schools. The REM has even been incorporated into our evaluation of mission fit, contributing to a fairly robust set of underwriting criteria used to determine investment decisions. We also recognize the unique value we have as a lender that speaks with many schools, consultants, and equity resources, and are excited to have the opportunity to expand our role as a capacity builder to help schools access training on the concepts of the REM through the recently launched Charter School […]
Civic Innovation Challenge Award Provides $1M for Community-Based Mobility Solution The U.S. National Science Foundation has awarded MARTA and the Georgia Tech Research Cooperation a $1 million grant to pilot an On-Demand Multimodal Transit System Solution (ODMTS). The Civic Innovation Challenge Award supports community-based initiatives to address mobility and disaster challenges. ODMTS is a hybrid of traditional public transit and ridesharing that offers real-time routing that meets rider demand, optimizes vehicle use, and fills in service gaps left by a fixed bus route. For example, instead of waiting at a traditional bus stop, a person needing a ride to the grocery store could conveniently and affordably use a smartphone app to summon a vehicle to a nearby location also picking up other passengers nearby. “We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for this grant and proud to partner with Georgia Tech,” said MARTA Deputy General Manager Collie Greenwood. “Exploring first- and last-mile connectivity options is important in providing transit service that meets the needs of everyone in metro Atlanta.” This small-scale pilot project will test the system’s efficiency and provide information on whether a large- scale version would work across MARTA’s service area as the agency is undertaking a comprehensive redesign of its bus network. Professor Pascal Van Hentenryck and Georgia Tech’s Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) team is providing the technology, including routing logic, and rider, operator, and administrator system apps for the project. “MARTA’s leadership is very forward-thinking, and they are working to determine the future of public transportation,” said Van Hentenryck. “They have been extremely collaborative throughout the process and provided us with vast amounts of data and insights to drive the process.” The service will be tested in areas where there is a need for greater transit accessibility in DeKalb, Clayton, and Fulton counties and the City of Atlanta. It will connect to nearby fixed bus route transfer hubs, such as rail stations and Park & Rides, and use MARTA’s current fare of $2.50 with transfers included. A start date for the pilot program and details on how to participate will be shared in the coming months. To learn more about the Civic Innovation Challenge visit Civic Innovation Challenge | Powering Smart and Connected Communities (nsfcivicinnovation.org). This is sponsored content.
At Families First we measure success by helping families achieve access to things that benefit them, helping families establish and maintain healthy relationships and connections, and we are committed to enhancing the ability to view their futures with positive and achievable goals that enrich and enhance lives. By focusing our efforts in these areas we help families build resiliency and move families from surviving to thriving. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Families First has many years of experience responding to suicide prevention efforts. Here is some advice from our experts: An understanding on “what is a crisis situation” will help you and your family make decisions for safety. A concerning matter is when you or a loved one have been feeling frequent sadness, anger, anxiety, or loneliness for more than a week. These situations require attention, and you may want to schedule an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional. An urgent matter is when you or a loved one have been feeling any of the above with the added thoughts of “why am I here, who cares if I die, no one will miss me, I am a burden”. Even though a person may contemplate passive suicidal thoughts without a plan or any expressed intent, these thoughts are serious, and can escalate. This situation calls for an urgent appointment with a mental health provider. An urgent appointment can still take days and up to a week but it’s an important step. An emergent matter is if you or a loved one is feeling the emotions described in #1 and are convinced and/or expressed suicidal thoughts. A person may have had a plan; may have harmed him/herself to test the possibility of suicide, have access to deadly means, loss of emotional control, may have engaged in a failed attempt, other behaviors and gestures of self-harm and active threats of suicide. These situations require immediate attention and should be admitted to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. If you have a loved one that has a history of suicidal ideation and it has affected your mental health, there is support for you too. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an organization with a rich history of helping family members by providing support and access to supportive services: NAMI Georgia Helpline 770-408-0625 or Text “NAMI” to 741741 If you or your family is going through an urgent situation and need assistance from professionals to assess the situation (even if you are not sure if it’s urgent or emergent), Please call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line (GCAL) 24/7: GCAL 1-800-715-4225 For mental health counseling services, you may call Families First and make an appointment. Our counselors and clinical social workers are experienced in assessing and processing crisis situations: Families First 404-853-2844 or email [email protected] Our professionals at Families First are committed to building resiliency for families to thrive. Mental health is something that has ups and downs and we want you to know that you are not alone. We are here to help you and your family achieve your fullest potential and collect more joyful moments in your lives. This is sponsored content.
Last week, the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) announced ATL Action for Racial Equity, a multi-year, multi-step action plan designed to help address the ongoing effects of systemic racism impacting the Black community. In just a few days since launch, 30 additional metro Atlanta-based companies ranging in size and industry joined the initiative – to-date totaling more than 180 participating organizations. These companies and leaders will leverage the size, scale and expertise of the region’s business community to advance racial equity. Invitations to the initiative remain open, and MAC is inviting all businesses across metro Atlanta to sign on. ATL Action for Racial Equity focuses on measurable actions across corporate policies, inclusive economic development, education and workforce development – critical areas in addressing the region’s immobility and inequity challenges. See quotes below from the region’s business leaders on why they chose to participate and why this initiative is important, now more than ever. Reach out to [email protected] to learn more. Ed Bastian, CEO Delta Air Lines and 2021 Board Chair, Metro Atlanta Chamber: “In metro Atlanta, our differences are our strength. We work together to make our community and the world better. We are not perfect, but we are committed to preserving and holding up this region’s legacy, especially now. As we tackle economic recovery, public health and the disproportionate impacts on our Black community, our business community must do its part. This is a moral and economic imperative as we work to grow our region’s competitiveness today and into the future.” Jimmy Etheredge, CEO North America, Accenture: “Accenture is proud to collaborate with the Metro Atlanta Chamber and business leaders across Atlanta to take action on building a more equitable future for our community. Together, we are acting, we are leading, and we are driving change.” Steve Koonin, CEO, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena: “We proudly support ATL Action for Racial Equity and promise that our franchise will continue taking the steps and supporting the causes that lead to equity for all in our city.” Rohit Malhotra, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Civic Innovation: “The Center for Civic Innovation mission and day to day operations are designed to fight for an equity-centered Atlanta. The business community in Atlanta has a long and complicated history with equity in our city— we’re glad to see the Metro Atlanta Chamber call on companies and institutions to take measurable actions that align with their publicly stated values and sentiments. It is in this city’s best interest for this effort to succeed.” Jenna Kelly, President, Truist Northern Georgia Region, Truist Bank: “At Truist, we firmly believe in building more just, inclusive, and equitable communities by standing for social justice, denouncing racism in all forms, and partnering with people and organizations who are as committed to equity we are. As we continue to have intentional dialogue around the role we can play in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’re excited to join the ATL Action for Racial Equity to do our part in making a positive difference throughout Atlanta.” Mary Schmidt Campbell, President, Spelman College: “If metro Atlanta is to close the region’s stark wealth gap, we all have to commit to bold innovative solutions. Spelman College, committed to the educational excellence of the 2000 Black women who attend the College, is also committed to the educational excellence of students in our neighborhood schools. For the past three years, our students have enjoyed major success in improving the reading scores of students in our neighborhood Washington Cluster Schools. We intend to launch a program that will accomplish improvements in math proficiency. This commitment to the improvement of K-12 education is aligned with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s business and community imperative to advance racial inclusion. We are proud to partner with MAC in their strategic approach to advocating for equity.” Kyle Porter, CEO, SalesLoft: “The social justice and equity issues facing our companies, city, and nation are complex and intense. At SalesLoft we are committed to the necessary introspection, self-reflection, and action to be a more inclusive company because we believe it’s the right thing to do for our team, customers, and marketplace. SalesLoft is joining the ATL Action for Racial Equity because our internal efforts will be magnified and our progress accelerated through collaborative community work. Our community will become our ally and accountability partner providing the space to heed best practices, share wisdom, and generate ideas that will positively impact us all. Russ Torres, President, Kimberly-Clark Professional: “At Kimberly-Clark, we believe racial equity and justice are moral issues that must be addressed through comprehensive actions to enact meaningful and sustainable change. We are moving with urgency. Therefore, we are proud to partner with ATL Action for Racial Equity in this mission. Their disciplined, multi-year plan leverages the collective strength of metro Atlanta employers to support focused corporate policies that foster inclusive workforce and community development. With more than 1,500 Kimberly-Clark employees in the metro Atlanta area, this initiative is uniquely personal to us. We believe the success of our company depends on creating workplaces, communities, and experiences where inclusion and diversity are evident and thriving. Together with ATL Action for Racial Equity, we look forward to creating a vibrant and more inclusive region that offers opportunity, growth, and long-term value for all.” Elie Maalouf, CEO, Americas, InterContinental Hotel Group: “We applaud the Metro Atlanta Chamber on this initiative and stand with our peers in the Atlanta business community to advance diversity and inclusion. This commitment and collaboration reflect IHG’s values and inclusive culture, and builds on our own efforts to bring lasting, sustainable progress for the region and our colleagues.” Paul Bowers (Chairman and CEO) and Chris Womack (President), Georgia Power: “At Georgia Power, we deeply value the diversity of our team and the communities we serve. That’s why we are committed to creating an environment where employees and customers feel a sense of belonging and can be their true authentic selves. We’re proud to be a part of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s ATL Action for Racial Equity efforts to do the same here in Atlanta. We believe businesses working together to ensure equality is how we can make a collective impact, and we’re …
Downtown Atlanta is in a continual evolutionary state. The Covid pandemic may have temporarily sucked the energy from downtown, but we are seeing signs of life again! There’s a spark that is rekindling the burning flame within us, returning vibrancy to Downtown Atlanta and carrying the eternal flame of optimism for the future. The pendulum is swinging toward a more vibrant downtown with the return of Georgia State University (GSU) students who are filling the streets and FlatironCity’s Land of a Thousand Hills coffee shop to congregate and collaborate. The coffee shop’s welcoming vibe draws students in and gives them the perfect spot to meet with friends, work and innovate. FlatironCity, which is innovative space with flexible monthly and long-term office leases, community events and cutting-edge amenities, draws inspiration from the history of our beloved Flatiron building. In 1864, General Sherman ordered the destruction of Atlanta’s Downtown Business District and from its ashes in 1897 rose the Flatiron, one of the city’s first cast iron steel skyscrapers. Our building’s history is rooted in the brilliance of American ingenuity which continues today with entrepreneurs who call FlatironCity home. We’re also seeing an uptick in businesspeople getting back to the office with some of our existing tenants even expanding because they know the importance for connection and collaboration. The vibrancy of Broad Street and Flatiron’s Boardwalk is helping to create a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces to collaborate and give employees and owners added flexibility in places to create and ideate. Just look at the Boardwalk’s planned October fresh look with power outlets along the Boardwalk and built-in seating: These past 18 months may have kicked us and knocked us down, but we’re standing right back up. The future is bright in Atlanta’s Downtown and especially here at FlatironCity, where the vibrancy of GSU students intersect with dreams of Atlanta’s central business district. This is sponsored content.
By Khaliff Davis, Director K-12 Lending, Reinvestment Fund Since its inception, the community development financial institution industry has been committed to providing capital to help expand opportunity for historically excluded communities. In recent years, the continued and often growing disparities in outcomes ranging from health to education to economic prosperity have led CDFIs like Reinvestment Fund to dial up its work to explicitly address racial equity in lending, investing, and operational practices. While this work remains urgent, it is also a challenge to determine precisely how to incorporate or operationalize racial equity into our varied work. How do CDFIs incorporate an explicit racial equity agenda into their lending and programs? What should we learn from those most impacted by oppressive systems? What work do we need to do as institutions and individuals to genuinely build a racial equity perspective? And how might we collaborate beyond our industry to improve outcomes? In 2018, Reinvestment Fund and a group of seven other CDFIs formed the CDFI Racial Equity Collaborative on Education (the Collaborative) to try to answer these questions with a focus on lending to K-12 schools. Our focus on education is important because, in many ways, schools are often a microcosm of their communities. They manifest the challenges and strengths of their broader community. More than just institutions of education, schools play a part in the emotional and physical wellbeing of America’s future. Therefore, it is critical that we understand and nurture the policies and practices that foster equitable educational success. As a first step, the Collaborative engaged three educational equity consultants–Village of Wisdom, we are (Working to Extend Anti-Racist Education), and Discriminology–to develop a framework for evaluating schools’ commitments to creating equitable learning environments for all students. Referred to as the Racial Equity Matrix (REM), the consultants defined ten academic focus areas most acutely impacted by racial inequity and provided the CDFI lenders with a host of questions to assess policies and practices related to each of these areas. The ten focus areas include: parent engagement, academic pathways, mindful discipline, culturally relevant curricula, social justice curricula, student recruitment, equitable honors & AP, social-emotional support, and teacher recruitment. As a long-time lender to schools, Reinvestment Fund has delivered flexible financing that supports the real estate development needs of schools providing quality education outcomes. Reinvestment Fund has always gone beyond the financial story that audits and projections tell, seeking to conduct a multifaceted review of a school’s program. We observe classes in session and engage in discussion with school staff to assess the experience of the leadership team, student engagement and demand, and whether the program is outperforming its peers on traditional markers of success such as standardized assessments and graduation rates. Over the last two decades, we’ve provided over $500 million in financing to more than 100 K-12 schools, and most of these schools have served students of color who often reside in communities challenged by poverty. Too often, however, students of color, particularly Black and Latinx students, continue to face inequity inside schools we may even support. One example is the effect of negative labeling in schools. School leader Ebony Payne Brown of Peace Academy in Atlanta, a school with an Afrocentric curriculum that focuses on pushing academic development and strengthening cultural awareness, describes how negative labels often result in inequitable treatment such as harsher punishment and fewer opportunities. “In environments that are not steeped in equity, we see a disproportionate amount of Black and brown students with negative labels placed on them throughout their educational career; often as early as Kindergarten,” says Payne Brown. “These negative labels follow them throughout the school system and are extremely critical in the success or lack thereof of their future. For example, Black boys are far more likely to be placed in special education settings, kicked out of class for minor infractions, given extreme behavioral consequences, and are often looked over for gifted and talented programs.” Payne Brown points out that there are opportunities to incorporate more equitable education practices. She explains “When schools and educators are aware of the messages and practices they have internalized and perpetuate and make the choice to do something different, then we see education systems create a more equitable approach to education. We see more of our Black and brown students thriving. We see communities and generations changing.” The REM approach digs deeper into whether the racial achievement gap within a school is closing, participation of students of color in gifted and advanced programming is increasing, and that suspension and expulsion rates are decreasing. The approach makes clear that reviewing quantitative data is just the beginning. While data around enrollment, academic performance, and discipline can be gathered relatively easily, the qualitative questions around culturally relevant practices, restorative approaches to justice, student and parent voice, and whether staff have a racial equity perspective are more nuanced and harder to measure. “Implementing a more equitable approach to education goes beyond giving more money and resources,” said Brian King, Founder of Liberation Academy, a new public charter school in Southeast Atlanta that serves students in grades 5-8. “It is utilizing those resources to provide an educational experience that is designed specifically for the students and community in which it serves. Catering to the specific needs of students of color, without compromising the quality of education, creates the platform for educational equity.” The REM has proved to be the first step of an iterative process to provide Reinvestment Fund with a framework to think, talk, and inquire about racial equity in schools. The REM has even been incorporated into our evaluation of mission fit, contributing to a fairly robust set of underwriting criteria used to determine investment decisions. We also recognize the unique value we have as a lender that speaks with many schools, consultants, and equity resources, and are excited to have the opportunity to expand our role as a capacity builder to help schools access training on the concepts of the REM through the recently launched Charter School …
Michael O’Reilly, Director of Policy and Climate Strategy, Georgia, The Nature Conservancy Several new reports this summer have painted a sobering view of the challenges we face in combatting climate change. Coupled with the unprecedented weather events wreaking havoc around the world, the situation can feel overwhelming for many of us. Yet, amid challenge, there is also opportunity. Too often, the dialogue around climate change is framed in terms of limitations. Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change is portrayed by some as an extreme sacrifice that will kill jobs, progress and the economy. However, evidence tells us otherwise. Thanks to technological innovations, the costs associated with solar energy generation have dropped by 80% over the past decade. Georgia has seized upon this opportunity, and our state now ranks among the top ten U.S. states for installed solar capacity. Georgia is home to one of the largest solar panel manufacturing facilities in the world. More than 200 companies were active in Georgia’s solar industry last year, supporting well over 4,000 jobs. It’s worth noting that this economic progress was achieved at a time when solar energy still provides only a small share of our state’s electrical power needs. Significantly ramping up clean solar energy generation to meet more of Georgia’s demand would create even more jobs and economic benefits, while also eliminating large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. I was inspired by the solutions-oriented innovation on display at last month’s Georgia Climate Conference that was organized by the state’s Department of Natural Resources and co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy. Representatives from companies, nonprofits, state and federal agencies, and universities discussed proven and emerging solutions for meeting the state’s changing needs. Natural solutions like the restoration of marshlands, oyster beds and reefs can substantially increase the ability of Georgia’s coastal communities to withstand storm surges and sea level rise. The forests that cover two-thirds of our state play a critical role in absorbing and sequestering carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. Managing these forests to optimize this capacity helps our climate and provides forest owners with access to new revenue streams via carbon markets. Given the state of American politics, it’s not often that I find myself being hopeful about the actions of Congress. Yet, I am encouraged by what Congress is poised to achieve on infrastructure and climate action. Just as members of Congress came together last year to pass the Great American Outdoors Act that provided funding for land and water conservation, the House of Representatives is set to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was earlier approved by the Senate with bipartisan support. This infrastructure legislation will provide funds to restore America’s crumbling roads and bridges. It will also support innovation. It will help propel the growing electric vehicle industry that Georgia seeks to attract. It will modernize America’s antiquated electrical grid. It will support the development of solar energy facilities on former industrial sites, providing jobs for communities in dire need of them. It will increase investment in forest restoration and will capitalize on the power of marshlands and other natural infrastructure to make our communities safer and more resilient. Does the bipartisan infrastructure package have everything I might hope for to help us combat climate change? No, but more of that can be found in another package that may advance through the budget reconciliation process. There we find, among other things, incentives to support the expansion of clean energy and a plan to reward utilities for swiftly transitioning their energy sources from fossil fuels to clean sources like solar and wind generation. These investments in infrastructure, energy, and climate solutions are what we need to meet the challenges we face. They are investments long overdue. Their adoption will help position the United States and Georgia to thrive in this time of change. This is sponsored content.
Average U.S. credit scores climb to 695 according to Experian’s State of Credit report and new HOPE Financial Wellness Index As we end the second summer since the arrival of COVID-19, Experian® today announced key findings from its 12th annual State of Credit report. This year’s report also serves as a launch for Operation HOPE’s all-new HOPE Financial Wellness Index, which will help shine a consistent light on the current state of consumer credit. Despite a challenging year and a half, the new data shows consumers are managing credit well with average credit scores climbing seven points since 2020 to 695 – the highest point in more than 13 years. “While consumers on average are managing their credit histories well, we know there are many communities in critical need of more financial education and resources” Tweet this According to Experian’s report, many consumers were managing credit well before the pandemic’s arrival and the accommodations afforded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act may have helped consumers protect their financial health. At the same time, stay-at-home orders and record savings levels1 may have contributed to lower unsecured and total debt levels, lower credit utilization rates and fewer missed payments. This year, Experian is partnering with Operation HOPE – the nation’s largest nonprofit dedicated to improving financial literacy – to launch the HOPE Financial Wellness Index, which highlights the average credit score in every state and city. According to the index, consumers in Minnesota have the highest credit scores with an average of 726, followed by Vermont (719), New Hampshire (718), Washington (717) and Massachusetts (716). States with the lowest credit scores were found in the south, including Mississippi (666), Louisiana (669), Alabama (672), Oklahoma (672) and Texas (673). The HOPE Financial Wellness Index will be updated regularly and will be used to develop programming and identify communities most in need of financial education and resources. “We believe credit education plays an important role in driving financial inclusion and helping consumers reach their fullest potential,” said Alex Lintner, President Experian Consumer Information Services. “While these findings are positive, we recognize they do not tell the full story and many consumers face financial obstacles due to a limited credit history. We are committed to working with consumers, as well as our partners like Operation HOPE, to improve financial equity and access.” Given the unique circumstances of 2020, this year’s report compared credit trends over the last three years. While consumers took on more mortgage and auto debt, score improvements were supported by fewer missed payments, lower credit utilization rates and reduced card balances and total debt levels year-over-year and prior to the pandemic’s arrival. Highlights of Experian’s State of Credit report include: 2021 State of Credit Report 2019 2020 2021 Average VantageScore® 2 682 688 695 Median VantageScore 687 697 707 Average number of credit cards 3.0 3.0 3.0 Average credit card balance $6,494 $5,897 $5,525 Average revolving utilization rate 30% 26% 25% Average number of retail credit cards 2.50 2.42 2.33 Average retail credit card balance $1,930 $2,044 $1,887 Average nonmortgage debt $25,057 $25,483 $25,112 Average mortgage debt $210,263 $215,655 $229,242 Average auto loan or lease debt $19,034 $19,462 $20,505 Average 30–59 days past due delinquency rates 3.8% 2.4% 2.3% Average 60–89 days past due delinquency rates 1.9% 1.3% 1.0% Average 90–180 days past due delinquency rates 6.6% 3.8% 2.5% “While consumers on average are managing their credit histories well, we know there are many communities in critical need of more financial education and resources,” said John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE founder and CEO. “By helping people raise their credit scores, we are empowering them to take advantage of one of our nation’s most democratic tools. From housing and employment to healthcare and education, credit worthiness can be leveraged to improve our overall quality of life. We’re committed to using the HOPE Financial Wellness Index as a force for good in the communities we serve.” Understanding generational differences State of Credit also spotlights how each generation is managing their debts, showing scores have improved for every generation year-over-year. This trend is attributed to declining utilization rates and fewer missed payments. Credit utilization rates have declined for nearly every generation since 2019 except Gen Z who saw a slight uptick year-over-year. Similarly, credit card balances decreased for consumers of all age groups except Gen Z who increased their balances by $115 year-over-year. Across the board, consumers are missing fewer payments, with notable improvements seen among the youngest consumers. Gen Z decreased their 90 – 180 days past due delinquency rate by 29 percent year over year to 1.73 in 2021. This is a 72 percent decrease from the same period in 2019. Millennials also decreased their 90 – 180 days past due delinquency rates to 1.73 percent in 2021, down from 4.4% in 2021 and 10.6 percent in 2019. Additional 2021 generational findings from Experian’s State of Credit report include: 2021 findings by generation Gen Z Gen Y Gen X Boomers Silent Average VantageScore® 660 667 685 724 730 Median VantageScore 674 678 699 755 741 Average number of credit cards 1.7 2.7 3.3 3.4 2.7 Average credit card balance $2,312 $4,569 $7,236 $6,230 $3,821 Average revolving utilization rate 31% 30% 30% 21% 13% Average number of retail credit cards 1.6 2.1 2.5 2.5 2.1 Average retail credit card balance $1,125 $1,819 $2,214 $1,887 $1,329 Average nonmortgage debt $12,524 $28,317 $32,898 $24,136 $11,725 Average mortgage debt $192,276 $255,527 $259,100 $198,203 $163,254 Average 30–59 days past due delinquency rates 2.1% 3.1% 3.0% 1.8% 1.1% Average 60–89 days past due delinquency rates 1.0% 1.3% 1.3% 0.8% 0.5% Average 90–180 days past due delinquency rates 1.7% 3.2% 3.4% 2.0% 1.3% A strong credit history and responsible credit management can help consumers save thousands of dollars over a lifetime. For example, a person with a low credit score may pay close to $3,000 more in interest to purchase a $10,000 used car3 and a person with a subprime credit score may pay $241 more per month or $86,503 more over the life of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan than a person with a score of 760 or above4. …
By Charles Redding, CEO & President This past spring the country of India underwent a massive surge in COVID cases, almost exclusively as a result of the rapid spread of the Delta variant. The numbers spiked to more than 400,000 daily cases this past spring and experts estimated that the true figure could be more than 20 times greater. The crisis was heightened due to a lack of oxygen equipment in local hospitals. The daily demand for supplemental medical oxygen rose to roughly 12 times what was needed pre-COVID-19 times, with a catastrophic impact during March, April, and early May, 2021. Despite being a challenging country in which to deliver aid, MedShare was able to organize several emergency air shipments of oxygen related equipment, including oxygen concentrators, ventilators, nasal cannula and VPAP machines. The most critically needed Item to sustain the lives of many patients stricken with COVID-19 was medical oxygen. In response to this critical need, MedShare coordinated the delivery of two oxygen generator plants in partnerships with Kaiser Permanente, the UPS Foundation, and PATH India. Kaiser Permanente donated two Deployable Oxygen Concentration System (DOCS) 500 oxygen generator systems to MedShare. The UPS Foundation funded the flight and PATH India cleared the systems through customs, delivered them to the hospitals, installed the units and provided training to local healthcare staff. District Hospital Barabanki and District Hospital Hapur, both located in the Province of Uttar Pradesh, and both serving as 100 Bed COVID hospitals during the outbreak, receive the two units. This partnership delivered critical, life-saving oxygen to India at a time when the country was in dire need. PATH India provide the following time-lapse video showing the process of installing the Deployable Oxygen Concentration System (DOCS). Addressing India’s Oxygen Shortage Video Since the meteoric spike in COVID-19 cases to 400,000 a day and over 4,000 deaths a day back in the Spring, India’s average daily COVID-19 cases are now down to 37,000 and 284 deaths, due to Increased vaccinations and hospital capacity to care for patients. The oxygen provided helped sustain Ives during this period and continues to provide a life-line for those requiring critical care. This is sponsored content.
By Aixa Pascual COVID-19 has put the economy on a roller coaster ride. In the early days of the pandemic, unemployment rolls soared as businesses shed jobs. In April 2020, a record 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs, with unemployment reaching a mind-blowing 14.8%. The economy has recovered over the past year, but labor markets are still in flux. Even with a record 10 million jobs open nationwide and unemployment at 5.2%, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there seems to be an imbalance in the supply and demand sides of the labor equation. In the afterglow of Labor Day, and with an estimated 7.5 million workers across the country expected to lose enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits as of Sept. 6, read on for a look at the current state of the labor market in Georgia and metro Atlanta. This is sponsored content.
On July 1, 2021 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in a highly anticipated voting rights case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case arrived at the Court as a result of past litigation filed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and certain affiliates challenging the validity of two provisions in the State of Arizona’s voting framework under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). While VRA Section 2 cases have previously come before the Court for consideration in matters involving redistricting challenges and vote-dilution claims, Brnovich represents the Court’s attempt at answering the important question of how to answer a Section 2 challenge to state laws governing the time, place and manner of an election. As summarized below, the impact of the Court’s ruling will have a profound effect on how courts interpret VRA Section 2 challenges going forward, and the ability of plaintiffs to challenge facially-neutral state election laws based purely upon allegations of disparate impact on certain groups of voters. The first election regulation under review in the Brnovich case requires that Arizona state residents who live in counties using an electoral precinct system vote in their assigned registration precinct if they choose to vote in person on Election Day. The second state regulation under review in the case makes it a felony for anyone other than an election official, postal worker, or designated caregiver, family, or household member to collect another voter’s early ballot prior to or after completion. In the underlying litigation associated with the case, the DNC and its affiliates challenged both regulations as in violation of VRA Section 2 under the theory that they caused a purported “adverse and disparate effect” on Arizona’s American Indian, Hispanic, and African-American voters. The District Court in the case rejected these claims, as did a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit. Those findings were reversed, however, in an en banc decision by the Ninth Circuit, which was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court. Following review and oral argument earlier this spring, a 6-3 majority of the Supreme Court reversed the en banc decision of the Ninth Circuit and upheld the legality of both Arizona regulations. In its decision, the Court held that neither regulation violated the VRA’s requirement that the voting process be “equally open” to all voters based upon a review of the challenged regulations under the totality of circumstances required by Section 2. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, noted that Brnovich was a case of first impression as it relates to the Court analysis of state laws governing the time, place, and manner of voting under VRA Section 2. While the Court refused to announce a formal rubric for analyzing Section 2 challenges to time, place, and manner voting rules going forward, the majority did compile a list of guideposts by which to conduct the mandated totality of circumstances analysis. Factors identified by the Court for this analysis included: the size of the burden imposed by a challenged voting rule; the degree to which a voting rule departs from what was standard practice when Section 2 was last amended by Congress in 1982; the size of any disparities in a rule’s impact on members of different racial or ethnic groups; the opportunities provided by a state’s entire system of voting; and the strength of a state’s interests served by a challenged voting rule. Since Arizona’s system generally makes it easy to vote (through a combination of early voting, permanent no-excuse mail voting, and vote centers), and because Arizona has a “strong and entirely legitimate state interest in preventing election fraud,” the Court found that the challenged regulations did not burden voters in a manner that kept the state’s voting process from being equally open to all. According to the majority, both requiring Election Day voters to cast their ballots at their assigned precincts, and requiring voters to cast their own paper ballots or use statutorily authorized proxies for such activities, were examples of “the usual burdens of voting.” The Court also rejected the DNC’s argument that Arizona’s second regulation was racially-motivated, finding no evidence that the legislature’s restriction on early ballot collection was “imbued with racial motives”. Writing for the dissent, Justice Elena Kagan argued that the majority interpreted Section 2 of the VRA too narrowly, and created a set of extra-textual factors by which to apply the totality of circumstances analysis mandated by the statute. Rejecting this approach, the dissent noted that following a Supreme Court decision in 1980 requiring a showing of discriminatory purpose to support a Section 2 claim, Congress amended the law in 1982 to “make clear that ‘results’ alone” could establish a violation of the VRA. The majority, however, took issue with this analysis, highlighting Justice Kagan’s focus on adopting a disparate-impact standard for legality under Section 2 and placing a least-restrictive means requirement on the facially-neutral regulation of voting by state legislatures. Given the substantial number of states that have enacted new voting legislation in the wake of the 2020 election and the assortment of legal challenges pending across the country regarding these nascent laws, the legal standards announced in the Brnovich decision will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the implementation and interpretation of state election law in many jurisdictions leading up to the 2022 midterm elections. Much remains to be seen in the wake of this consequential decision, but at the very least the Court’s opinion signals that neutral time, place, and manner rules governing voting will likely withstand Section 2 scrutiny provided that a state’s election processes remain equally open to all voters. The Court’s ruling also likely strengthens the viability of efforts around the country to implement and strengthen state laws restricting third-party ballot collection, sometimes referred to as “ballot harvesting” activities. Looking ahead to the important 2022 election cycle, Dentons Political Law team will continue to monitor key election litigation, legislation and policy developments nationwide and provide updates as appropriate. This is sponsored content.
By United Way of Greater Atlanta United Way of Greater Atlanta announced that the CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Dr. Raphael Bostic, has been appointed as the 2021-22 Board Chair. Dr. Bostic has been on United Way of Greater Atlanta Board for two years and he will now be joined by four new Board members, including Dr. Lisa Herring, the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools; Chloe Barzey, Managing Director of Accenture; and Sarah Clamp, a partner at EY, and Jessica Corley, a partner at King & Spalding. United Way of Greater Atlanta engages and brings together people and resources to drive sustainable and equitable improvements in the well-being of children, families, and individuals in the community. “At the Atlanta Fed, we recognize the importance of making the economy work for everyone, and our work in this area aligns with the efforts of the United Way of Greater Atlanta to help reduce inequity and bring about a more inclusive economy,” says Dr. Bostic. “As the new board chair, I am very excited to have four new directors who bring a diverse set of skills, experiences, and perspectives. Their addition to our team will allow us to accelerate progress towards our strategic goal of improving the well-being of children and families across the region.” United Way of Greater Atlanta’s vision for Greater Atlanta is a thriving and inclusive community where every person, regardless of race, identity or circumstances, has equitable opportunities to live a healthy life and to acquire the education and skills they need to earn a sustaining wage so that they may achieve their full potential. The organization’s Child Well-Being Agenda concentrates on the direct correlation between child well-being and thriving communities. While there are many groups doing excellent work, there are gaps in resources in areas of low child well-being, and insufficient alignment among services and resources to drive sustainable change. By providing the necessary attention to resource gaps, and building partnerships in each community, United Way is looking to improve the long-term outlook of the region. “Education is the greatest equalizer and I believe in the inner strength, power, and talent of all children. Success does not rest on where we begin in life but how each of us maximizes our talents and pursues our purpose. The concept is critical in serving, supporting and educating children and future leaders,” says Dr. Lisa Herring, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. “I’m proud to join United Way of Greater Atlanta’s board to provide insights and expertise to move the organization’s mission forward and to create and equitable future for all.” New additions to United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Board of Directors are: Chloe Barzey, Managing Director, Accenture Sarah Clamp, Partner, EY Jessica Corley, Partner, King & Spalding Dr. Lisa Herring, Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools United Way of Greater Atlanta serves 13 counties in the Greater Atlanta area: Butts, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale. Of the more than 1.3 million children living Greater Atlanta’s 13-county region, close to a half a million live in communities with low or very low child well-being. For more information on United Way of Greater Atlanta, visit www.unitedwayatlanta.org. This is sponsored content.
A team of six Emory computer science students are helping to usher in a new era in artificial intelligence. They’ve developed a chatbot capable of making logical inferences that aims to hold deeper, more nuanced conversations with humans than have previously been possible. They’ve christened their chatbot “Emora,” because it sounds like a feminine version of “Emory” and is similar to a Hebrew word for an eloquent sage. The team is now refining their new approach to conversational AI — a logic-based framework for dialogue management that can be scaled to conduct real-life conversations. Their longer-term goal is to use Emora to assist first-year college students, helping them to navigate a new way of life, deal with day-to-day issues and guide them to proper human contacts and other resources when needed. Eventually, they hope to further refine their chatbot — developed during the era of COVID-19 with the philosophy “Emora cares for you” — to assist people dealing with social isolation and other issues, including anxiety and depression. The Emory team is headed by graduate students Sarah Finch and James Finch, along with faculty advisor Jinho Choi, associate professor in the Department of Computer Sciences. The team also includes graduate student Han He and undergraduates Sophy Huang, Daniil Huryn and Mack Hutsell. All the students are members of Choi’s Natural Language Processing Research Laboratory. “We’re taking advantage of established technology while introducing a new approach in how we combine and execute dialogue management so a computer can make logical inferences while conversing with a human,” Sarah Finch says. “We believe that Emora represents a groundbreaking moment for conversational artificial intelligence,” Choi adds. “The experience that users have with our chatbot will be largely different than chatbots based on traditional, state-machine approaches to AI.” Last year, Choi and Sarah and James Finch headed a team of 14 Emory students that took first place in Amazon’s Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge, winning $500,000 for their Emora chatbot. The annual Alexa Prize challenges university students to make breakthroughs in the design of chatbots, also known as socialbots — software apps that simplify interactions between humans and computers by allowing them to talk with one another. This year, they developed a completely new version of Emora with the new team of six students. They made the bold decision to start from scratch, instead of building on the state-machine platform they developed in 2020 for Emora. “We realized there was an upper limit to how far we could push the quality of the system we developed last year,” Sarah Finch says. “We wanted to do something much more advanced, with the potential to transform the field of artificial intelligence.” They based the current Emora on three types of frameworks to advance core natural language processing technology, computational symbolic structures and probabilistic reasoning for dialogue management. They worked around the clock, making it into the Alexa Prize finals in June. They did not complete most of the new system, however, until just a few days before they had to submit Emora to the judges for the final round of the competition. That gave the team no time to make finishing touches to the new system, work out the bugs, and flesh out the range of topics that it could deeply engage in with a human. While they did not win this year’s Alexa Prize, the strategy led them to develop a system that holds more potential to open new doors of possibilities for AI. In the run-up to the finals, users of Amazon’s virtual assistant, known as Alexa, volunteered to test out the competing chatbots, which were not identified by their names or universities. A chatbot’s success was gauged by user ratings. “The competition is extremely valuable because it gave us access to a high volume of people talking to our bot from all over the world,” James Finch says. “When we wanted to try something new, we didn’t have to wait long to see whether it worked. We immediately got this deluge of feedback so that we could make any needed adjustments. One of the biggest things we learned is that what people really want to talk about is their personal experiences. ” Sarah and James Finch, who married in 2019, are the ultimate computer power couple. They met at age 13 in a math class in their hometown of Grand Blanc, Michigan. They were dating by high school, bonding over a shared love of computer programming. As undergraduates at Michigan State University, they worked together on a joint passion for programming computers to speak more naturally with humans. “If we can create more flexible and robust dialogue capability in machines,” Sarah Finch explains, “a more natural, conversational interface could replace pointing, clicking and hours of learning a new software interface. Everyone would be on a more equal footing because using technology would become easier.” She hopes to pursue a career in enhancing computer dialogue capabilities with private industry after receiving her PhD. James Finch is most passionate about the intellectual aspects of solving problems and is leaning towards a career in academia after receiving his PhD. The Alexa Prize deadlines required the couple to work many 60-hour-plus weeks on developing Emora’s framework, but they didn’t consider it a grind. “I’ve enjoyed every day,” James Finch says. “Doing this kind of dialogue research is our dream and we’re living it. We are making something new that will hopefully be useful to the world.” They chose to come to Emory for graduate school because of Choi, an expert in natural language processing, and Eugene Agichtein, professor in the Department of Computer Science and an expert in information retrieval. Emora was designed not just to answer questions, but as a “social companion.” A caring chatbot was an essential requirement for Choi. At the end of every team meeting, he asks one member to say something about how the others have inspired them. “When someone sees a bright side in us, and shares it with others, everyone sees that …
By David Jernigan, President/CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta Every educator knows a Courtney. The shy kid who blossoms into her greatness through the outpouring of love from community. I met my Courtney while serving as founding principal of KIPP WAYS (West Atlanta Young Scholars) Academy, where we truly embraced the “it takes a village” concept. School ran weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and we held Saturday school twice a month. Teachers, administration, staff, parents, and students were family. If a child needed homework help, students could call their teachers for assistance at any hour. If they couldn’t reach their teachers, they could call me. More than a decade has passed since I transitioned from the school, but my number remains the same and continues to be a conduit to that community. So, it wasn’t a total surprise when Courtney’s mom recently left me a voicemail with updates about her late daughter who would be celebrating her 28th birthday this week. With a tenderness to her tone, she thanked me for the positive role our entire community played in her daughter’s life cut way too soon. When I returned her call later that evening, we reminisced on Courtney’s middle school days. I learned that our assistant principal once gifted Courtney The Little Engine That Could, a picture book with a personalized message that helped boost Courtney’s self-esteem and now helps lift her grieving mother’s spirits. She also finds comfort in Courtney’s high school and college graduation pictures—constant reminders of the village that ignited her daughter’s unlimited potential. “It takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb for a reason. This concept of community is not new. Family, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, pastors, and the likes have longed rallied around kids to foster their futures. However, the magnitude of our collective impact on our children often goes unrecognized. As the 2021 mayoral election season gets underway, there seems to be a lot of conversation about rising crime and the safety of our youth. I argue that the best way we (as a community) can address these issues is by truly getting to its root cause. Our solution starts with an investment in our young people. With more than 20 years in youth development, I can assure you that one of the most important investments we can make for our community is in our youth during critical non-school hours. Afterschool Alliance research spanning several states found that every $1 invested in afterschool programs saves at least $3 by “increasing kids’ earning potential, improving kids’ performance at school, and reducing crime and juvenile delinquency.” Yet, youth-centered afterschool programming is so much more than keeping kids & teens off the streets so that they aren’t committing crimes. Our investment is in our young people’s long-term success. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta (BGCMA), for example, what our Club members (ages 6-18) learn through our three pillars–academic success, healthy lifestyles, and character & leadership—stays with them beyond exiting our proverbial blue doors. Our vision is young leaders strengthening their communities and the world. One way we work daily towards realizing this vision is through implementation of signature programs like CareerBound, our workforce readiness initiative that provides kids & teens with hands-on learning, expert visits, internships, job shadowing, college tours, resume building, and interview training. It’s our way of providing solutions to Georgia’s labor shortages in high-demand fields and equipping young people with the tools they need to be successful in the workforce. In 2020, 100% of our seniors participating in the CareerBound program graduated high school with a plan for the future, such as 4-year college, 2-year technical school, or the military. Providing a safe, inclusive, and engaging place where youth can go is the foundation for helping our kids explore the possibilities of their futures. Through our afterschool Clubs, summer camps, and outreach programs, we give kids & teens experiences that help them discover their talents and passions, as well as equip them with the tools they need to realize their full potential. Nearly all of our spaces offer a learning center, game rooms, technology center, arts facility, full court gym, meeting rooms, athletic fields, and a dedicated space for teens. Many Clubs also feature gardens and interactive music studios. Like many youth-centered nonprofits across metro Atlanta, we are part of an ecosystem that includes families who need our support to help our children flourish. We’ve found that positive adult relationships really matter to kids. Thus, every young person in metropolitan Atlanta needs and deserves a caring adult mentor outside of their family support structure. At BGCMA, 85% of our members report that they have that when they come to our Clubs, according to statistics captured by the National Youth Outcomes Initiative, which helps Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation measure our collective impact on youth. In additional to positive adult mentorship, “it takes a village” also includes showing up for our families when they need us most. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, we responded to the emerging needs of our kids and their families with urgency and agility by making more than 7,500 outreach calls to check on family well-being, providing more than 120,000 meals, offering devices and virtual learning hubs, and implementing heightened safety protocols. Despite the economic impact the pandemic has had on our average daily attendance, we continue to offer affordable afterschool programming in underserved communities based on a sliding scale fee structure. For example, a family of three would pay approximately $100 per child for our afterschool programming, and we also offer scholarship opportunities. BGCMA is but one example of the great youth-centered work happening across metro Atlanta. Thus, we often partner with organizations that have a shared mission. Take At-Promise Centers, for example. We have Clubs within the At-Promise-South and At-Promise-West youth community centers, which serve as the cornerstone of an ongoing effort led by the Atlanta Police Foundation and the Atlanta Police Department to …