A program that provides free assistance with state and federal tax forms is preparing for a new tax season. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program of the Milwaukee Asset Building Coalition will begin filling out and filing taxes on Tuesday, January 22. This free service will be offered at locations across Milwaukee County including offices for the Social Development Commission and MATC’s Downtown Campus. For a complete list of sites, dates they are open and their hours, visit the SDC website at http://www.cr-sdc.org/Programs/VITA.htm.
The Social Development Commission (SDC) began administering the Emergency Assistance contract for W-2 in April of 2010. When SDC took over the program, it continued a subcontract with Community Advocates for the portion of program services that assists the homeless and families left homeless by fire or natural disaster. This was the part of the program that Community Advocates had provided for other W-2 agencies for several years prior to SDC’s involvement. Eventually, SDC decided it would be most efficient to operate the entire Emergency Assistance Program and ended the subcontract with Community Advocates.
Prior to and after SDC took over the entire program, Community Advocates did not communicate with SDC that they had further subcontracted a significant portion of their work with the American Red Cross in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Once the transition to SDC was completed, SDC became aware that Red Cross had been and was continuing to provide Emergency Assistance services to a number of Milwaukee County residents. This discovery was made despite the Red Cross not having submitted any bills for payment to SDC because they had not been informed by Community Advocates that their subcontract was now transferred to SDC.
SDC had several options upon learning this, including negating the contract. The agency chose to continue working with Red Cross while at the same time conducting an audit by W-2 Quality Assurance staff to ensure SDC would learn the breadth and scope of Red Cross’ involvement with the program. This close examination of the program was completed on the initiative of SDC.
The audit raised concerns on SDC’s part because Red Cross indicated their processes had been accepted by Community Advocates and the State of Wisconsin prior to April of 2010. Those processes did not meet the written procedural and paperwork standards SDC had established. SDC’s close scrutiny also provided signals that some individuals receiving the Emergency Assistance through the sub-contractor may have used some of the funds inappropriately.
Following its established procedures, SDC sends checks for rent payments or deposits directly to landlords rather than the client, something that was not being done in some cases prior to SDC taking on the administration of the program. A separate audit was conducted as part of the agency’s internal controls by SDC’s Quality Assurance Division to examine thousands of processed payments which confirmed our process was valid.
SDC and the Red Cross discussed this situation and mutually decided the most beneficial course of action was to end the contract at the close of 2011. During the time of the subcontract with SDC, Red Cross disbursed approximately $60,000 to residents. Since that time, SDC has processed all Emergency Assistance payments internally. SDC contacted the State to report their findings. The State recommendation was to conclude the audit, negotiate a payment with Red Cross, and move forward, precisely the action SDC has taken.
Since ending the Emergency Assistance contract on Dec 31, 2011, the Red Cross and SDC have continued to work together by referring clients to each other’s respective services. SDC has also maintained a productive working relationship with Community Advocates including a partnering relationship in the Energy Assistance Program.
• SDC began to administer the Emergency Assistance contract in April of 2010 and initially continued the pre-existing subcontract with Community Advocates
• Upon taking on the administration of the entire program and ending the subcontract with Community Advocates, SDC learned on its own that Community Advocates subcontracted some of their work to Red Cross
• Red Cross continued to do the Emergency Assistance work after the contract changed hands, not having been notified of the change
• Through an audit conducted by SDC W-2 Quality Assurance personnel, it was discovered that Red Cross continued the same documentation process they had used in the past despite not seeming to meet State standards
• When given the request and opportunity to change those procedures, Red Cross chose not to and, by mutual decision, the two agencies ended the contract effective at the end of 2011
• SDC informed the State of the situation, received their input, and implemented the agreed-upon approach
•SDC’s Quality Assurance Division conducted a separate audit that reviewed thousands of payments to validate the payments SDC was issuing on behalf of clients
• SDC followed its procedures to send checks directly to the landlords and not the clients to assist with rent payments or deposits
In conclusion, SDC found itself in charge of a program with a subcontractor who had not been informed of the process and documentation requirements or that SDC had assumed the administration of the program. SDC’s plan to address the situation followed State recommendations and was approved as the proper approach. The plan included SDC and Red Cross mutually agreeing to terminate the subcontract and the agency directly taking on administration of the Emergency Assistance work.
It was the diligence of SDC staff that revealed the lack of communication and the potential problems it had caused. Since becoming aware of that problem, SDC has taken steps, in concert with the State, to correct the problems and keep the W-2 program operating in an efficient and effective manner that is fully compliant with all requirements.
Up to $1 billion in SBA guaranteed leverage over a five year period for startups
by C. Daniel Baker, BlackEnterprise.com
The SBA is inviting experienced early stage investment fund managers to apply for licensing as Early Stage Innovation Funds as part of SBA’s Small Business Investment Company Capital Investment Program.
In the programs first year, it attracted 33 applications and gave “Green-Lights” to six qualified funds to continue the licensing process after raising private capital.
The SBA has committed up to $1 billion in SBA guaranteed leverage over a five year period to those selected for the Early Stage Innovation Funds. Licensed Funds can receive up to a maximum of $50 million in SBA-guaranteed funding to match any capital they’ve private raised. At least 50 percent of their investment dollars must be in early stage small businesses.
“This initiative promotes innovation and creates jobs by encouraging private sector investment in early stage small businesses,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “Early stage small businesses face difficult challenges accessing capital in this financial climate, while venture capital funds are finding it difficult to raise money from institutional investors. By licensing and providing SBA financial backing to Early Stage Innovation Funds, we hope to expand entrepreneurs’ access to capital and encourage innovation as part of President Obama’s ongoing Start-Up America Initiative launched in 2011.”
Early stage companies that are high-growth potential usually experience problems raising funding between the $1 million and the $4 million level. This gap is often referred to in the venture capital industry as the “Valley of Death.” Since January 2006, less than 10 percent of all U.S. venture capital dollars went to seed fund investing at those levels. By licensing and guaranteeing leverage to funds focused on early/seed stage investments, the SBA hopes to target this gap.
More information on the Early Stage Innovation Fund initiative and the regulations governing these SBICs may be found at www.sba.gov/inv/earlystage
Sixty men and women are on their way to a brighter future. They graduated from the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) GED/HSED program.
The graduates were formally recognized for completing 16 weeks of coursework and testing. A standing room crowd of family and friends filled the Richards Street National Guard Armory to cheer on the graduates for their achievements.
One person among those who earned their diplomas was Dequana Bostick. The 27-year old Milwaukee woman discovered earlier this year as she enrolled in another SDC program that the GED she had earned from another institution was not valid.
She was disappointed but gritted her teeth and enrolled in the SDC GED/HSED program where she passed her tests.
She also earned a Certified Nursing Assistant’s certificate and has enrolled in MATC for the Nursing Program and will begin classes in January.
Dequana is typical of adults who, for one reason or another, did not complete their high school education the first time around and came back to enroll in the GED/HSED program.
At the graduation ceremonies, Dr. James Campbell of MATC congratulated the graduates but urged them not to stand still but to keep moving forward in their educational and job goals. Ariel Williams was the class representative who echoed that thought in addressing her fellow graduates.
The GED/HSED Program is a part of SDC’s Education and Training Program. To learn more about it or to find out how to register for classes, go to http://www.cr-sdc.org/Programs/GEDHSEDTesting.htm on the SDC website.
Violence Survivor Empowerment Program
The Avon Foundation for Women for the second year in a row has awarded a $65,000 one-year grant to Sojourner Family Peace Center in support of its Avon Domestic Violence Survivor Empowerment Program, which provides annual funding for 20 full-time coordinator positions in domestic violence agencies across the United States.
The 2013 Avon Domestic Violence Survivor Empowerment Program is part of the Avon Speak Out Against Domestic Violence initiative, which launched in 2004 to help end the cycle of domestic violence. The Avon Foundation for Women has donated $33 million for domestic and gender violence programs in the United States, including support for awareness, education, direct service and prevention.
The Avon Domestic Violence Survivor Empowerment Program’s coordinator position at Sojourner Family Peace Center will support victims in the Milwaukee area by providing domestic violence survivors with the critical resources and economic empowerment tools necessary to develop self-sufficiency and guide them toward breaking the cycle of abuse.
Maggie Anderson (second from left), the founder of “The Empowerment Experiment” and the author of “Our Black Year,” which chronicles the year she and her family purchased exclusively from Black businesses, was the keynote speaker of the Milwaukee Urban League’s 53rd Equal Opportunity Day Luncheon held recently at the Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave. Anderson is pictured above with (left to right) MUL Board Chairman Jerry Fulmer, Dr. Eve Hall, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce and MUL President/CEO Ralph Hollman. The luncheon is an event that helps reinforce the importance of diversity and equal opportunity. It also generates funds which help support all the organization’s programs. You can read about Anderson’s visit and her experiences as a consumer of all things Black in next week’s MCJ. (Photo by Yvonne Kemp)
The Make Your Money Talk program, a financial education course offered by the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC), continued its outreach into the Milwaukee community by recognizing 96 graduates of the program at a ceremony held December 11, 2012.
An additional 129 graduates were recognized in June, leading to a record number of graduates for the year. “In 2012, 225 Milwaukee residents successfully completed the Make Your Money Talk Program, a new record for us,” said HACM Secretary-Executive Director Tony Pérez. “With financial education and a sound savings plan as the foundation, this program has moved hundreds of individuals toward self sufficiency and helped strengthen our community.”
Early in 2012, the program received a financial boost through a $15,000 competitive innovation grant to Mayor Tom Barrett from the US Conference of Mayors, allowing for the expansion of the program to more than 5,700 households in HACM’s Section 8 Rent Assistance Program. Prior to 2012, the program had been promoted to approximately 4,500 low-income households served by HACM.
“The investment by the US Conference of Mayors has resulted in more people gaining the skills they need to become self-sufficient and achieve their financial goals,” says Mayor Barrett. “Their efforts help Milwaukee grow.”
Mayor Barrett served as keynote speaker for the event, which was held at the Housing Authority’s Hillside Family Resource Center, 1452 N. 7th Street.
“Financial literacy provides a solid foundation for residents to achieve their goals,” says Wendy Baumann, WWBIC president. “We are pleased to see record participation in the Make Your Money Work program this year.”
Participants attend an intensive four-week course that guides them through basic personal financial management strategies as well as introductions to home ownership, investing and starting a business.
Participants can open an Individual Development Account (IDA), which provides a two-to-one match for every dollar the participant saves. Graduates can use the funds to invest in a home, to pay for education or start a business.
“Make Your Money Talk is a hallmark partnership between the Housing Authority and WWBIC,” said Common Council President and HACM Board Chair Willie Hines, Jr. “The program has inspired low-income individuals citywide to achieve greater financial stability.” Since 2004, more than 800 low-income individuals have graduated, and more than 630 have opened IDAs and collectively saved over $240,000.
Graduates can combine their funds with the matching dollars to invest in a home, to pay for education or start a business. Sixty-two HACM participants have become homeowners and property taxpayers; 45 have invested in their education and 34 have started businesses.
Safe ride program returns to help Milwaukee ring in the New Year safely
New Year’s Eve marks the start of the 25th year of Miller Lite Free Rides® in Milwaukee. Teaming with Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS), Waukesha Metro Transit and Beer Capitol Distributing, Miller Lite will offer the popular safe ride program in Milwaukee and Waukesha to provide area residents and visitors an alternative transportation option to travel safely from their New Year’s Eve celebrations December 31.
“Miller Lite Free Rides is a Milwaukee tradition that has provided nearly 1.2 million rides locally since its inception 25 years ago,” said Diane Wagner, responsibility commerce manager for MillerCoors. “With great beer comes great responsibility and we encourage those ringing in the New Year in Milwaukee to again make Miller Lite Free Rides a part of their celebration and plan ahead for a safe ride home.”
Over the years, the Miller Lite Free Rides program has gained the support of state and local law enforcement, including Milwaukee County Office of the Sheriff, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Miller Lite Free Rides has provided more than 3 million total safe rides in 10 communities since 1987.
For detailed route and schedule information, call 1-800-FREE-RIDES (1- 800-373-3743), text “FREERIDES” to 90464 or visit www.MillerLite- FreeRides.com.
Many firearm owners who took part in the violence prevention initiative expressed horror at Friday’s tragedy. The event, which was sponsored by Klein’s ShopRite and operated by a nonprofit called UpLift Solutions, rewarded a $100 grocery store gift card in exchange for each gun that was handed over to law enforcement officials.
One elderly woman, Sonia White, told the The Sun that the service revolver she was turning in belonged to her husband who was a corrections officer. “After the Connecticut incident, it was time to get it out of the house,” said the 65-year-old woman, who admits she broke down when picking up her grandchildren from school on Friday.
Gary Barksdale, 30, handed over two rifles into the waiting hands of officers at the event. The young man, who was accompanied by his dad, also claimed that the Newtown shooting was his motivation to surrender his firearms. “That really motivated me to come out,” he told The Sun.
People who stood in line waiting to dispose of their guns had them wrapped in everything from towels, to shopping bags, to large trash bags. After 12:00 p.m., the line stretched down the block as many waited patiently to enter St. Paul Baptist Church in the city’s Coldstream Homestead Montebello area.
The Baltimore Police Department recovered some 2,000 guns during arrests this year alone. A city sponsored buyback program back in 2005 resulted in about 1,700 weapons surrendered during a week’s time.
Monday, December 31 2012, 11:00am – 12:30pm
Don’t let the holidays pass you by without enjoying a New Year’s toast with your McGovern friends. Enjoy snacks and music while being with your friends.
If you plan to partake in the senior meal program, you must register at the dining site by noon on Friday, December 28.
Please note: Other Senior Centers are closed Monday, December 31. McGovern is open.
RSVP by calling 414.527.0990
Location: 4500 W Custer Ave, Milwaukee