Category: Business Written by Charlene Crowell
(NNPA)—As Black America continues to struggle with high unemployment rates, a new research report by Demos, a public policy organization titled, Discredited: How employment credit checks keep qualified workers out of a job, unveils how the use of credit history in employment decisions is often leaving people of color in the unemployment lines.
Among employers with fiduciary responsibilities, it is a long-standing practice to include credit reviews in hiring decisions. Banks, credit unions and similar employers should be careful in handling others’ money and deposits. But the Demos report found that employment credit checks now are becoming standard operating procedures for many employees without such responsibilities. In these instances, disproportionately screening people of color out of jobs can lead to discriminatory hiring.
With higher rates of unemployment and the additional burden of wealth disparities, many African-American and Latino households have a greater need to borrow for emergencies and are also at a greater risk for foreclosure or loan default.
Surveying nearly 1,000 low- and middle-income households with credit card debt, Demos found that people of color are disproportionately likely to report worse credit than Whites. Even for employed persons seeking a promotion at work, credit scores can be a factor in deciding which employee will get the better job.
Consumers surveyed shared that much of the debt going to collections agencies was for unexpected medical costs rather than for retail credit card usage. Households without health coverage were more than twice as likely to report that their credit score had declined in the past three years.
“It makes little sense to say that someone is not a good candidate for a job because they are still coping with the expense of a costly family medical emergency several years ago,” the report said. “Yet this may be exactly the type of situation that a blemished credit history indicates: having unpaid medical bills or medical debt is cited as one of the leading causes of bad credit among survey respondents.”
Amy Traub, the report’s author and a senior policy analyst at Demos, was even more frank. “This practice continues because it financially benefits the companies that market and sell this information to employers with little concern for the negative impact to the economic security of those with most at stake—low- and middle-income Americans struggling to find work in a tough job market.”
This specific finding on medical debt mirrors another by the Federal Reserve Board. According to the Fed, 52 percent of all accounts reported by collection agencies consisted of medical debt.
These consistent findings on medical debt are also reflected in America’s disproportionate unemployment data. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to show that Black unemployment doubles that of Whites. From December 2012 through February 2013, White unemployment averaged 7 percent. By contrast, Black unemployment stood at 14 percent.
So what is a debt-burdened, unemployed consumer to do?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows employers to request credit reports on job applicants and existing employees. The statute also lays out specific steps under which these credit checks must occur. By law, employers must:
First obtain written permission from the affected consumer before a credit review;
Notify individuals before any adverse action is taken as a result of the credit review;
Offer the employee or applicant a copy of the credit report, along with a written summary of his/her consumer’ rights; and
Provide job applicants with a brief period of time to dispute any errors in their report.
Additionally, eight states have laws against employment discrimination involving applicants’ credit history: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.
Currently three other states are now considering similar legislation: Colorado, Massachusetts and New York.
If your state lacks laws against this type of discrimination, contact your local legislator about passing such legislation.
(Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.email@example.com)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 12:34
Category: Business Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
L.C. GREENWOOD becomes second Black on board.
When Consol Energy won the right to pay Allegheny County $500 million to extract natural gas from the International Airport property, the Marcellus Shale boom moved a little closer to Pittsburgh.
On March 14 it took another step closer when Steelers Hall-of-Famer L.C. Greenwood was named to the board of Southpointe Marcellus Shale Chamber of Commerce. The announcement was made during the chamber’s March luncheon at Southpointe.
Greenwood, whose Carnegie-based Greenwood Enterprises also includes packaging and manufacturing businesses, is working to expand his Greenwood-McDonald electrical supply throughout the Marcellus extraction and supply stream.
In his typically stoic fashion, beyond waving and saying “thank you,” Greenwood declined an offer from Chamber founder Don Hoder to speak during the luncheon presentations, preferring to remain at his table with Monaloh Basin Engineers founder Jim McDonald, Randall Industries founder Greg Spencer and chamber ambassador Scotti Mulert.
Spencer said he has been making inroads with various shale gas producers, but even with his past history as a vice president with EQT, it has been slow.
“There are a lot of new players, and the guys who know me know me mostly from (Department of Defense) contracting years ago,” he said. “So it’s fine tuning to get them to know what I’m doing now.”
Spencer has several products he developed for cleaning and de-scaling well pipes, which he sells to industry supplier Mays Energy, which like his firm is based in Indianola, Pa.
“I’m trying to see how the big players interact with the chamber and the mid-stream companies,” he said.
McDonald, whose engineering company is based in Finley Township, Pa., has been the lone African-American chamber member for years, and always an advocate to increased minority participation. While he said it is great to see Spencer, and to have Greenwood join him on the board, he’s not waiting for anything.
“I’m here at the meetings. I’m going to the companies. I’m going after it,” he said.
McDonald said he is currently bidding to do the site surveying work at the airport site that Consol will need before it even does any environmental or geotechnical evaluation.
“We already did a survey of the property for the (Transportation Safety Administration), so I’m pushing that experience,” he said.
His efforts may be paying off in one respect, he said. Consol recently hired a general manager for supplier diversity.
Hoder, who has known and worked with McDonald for 30 years, said there are opportunities throughout the shale supply chain.
“Trucking, pipe, surveyors, lawyers, accountants—demand is greater than the folks these companies have dealt with historically can provide,” he said. “Years ago I got a tiny contract to do the security system at Clark University—I was the only White guy there. But the prime was impressed with the work. I’m still getting work from that one contract. There is a lot of opportunity in this room, you just have to be ready for it.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 09:23
Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
Let’s Get it Started
MARCH 22—The Greater Pittsburgh National Association of Women Business Owners will host “Think GINORMOUS-Let’s Get it Started” from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Greentree, 500 Mansfield Ave., Greentree. This seminar will feature national and local speakers to inspire attendees and show them the best branding ideas. The featured speaker will be Susan Newman, founder of Broadcast-Louder. The daylong event will consist of workshops, panel discussions, a trade show, networking and more. Registration is required. For more information, call Mary Pam Kilgore at 412-854-4827.
MARCH 23—The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University will host a Business Skills Development Workshop from 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. at Chatham University, Woodland Road, Oakland. The topic is “Elements of a Formal Plan.” Interested individuals who want to write a business plan will leave with a thorough understanding of the components, development process and the uses of a formal plan. Reservations are required and the cost is $35. For more information, visit www.chatham.edu/cwe.
ABC’s of Selling Online
2013 HR Energy Summit
MARCH 27—The Marcellus Resource Group and the Pittsburgh Human Resources Association will host the 2013 HR Energy Summit from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh/Southpointe, 1000 Corporate Dr., Canonsburg. The theme is “Serving the Marcellus and Utica Shales.” This summit is to build new skills and know-how or to brush-up on key energy-specific HR issues and ideas that will increase the impact one will have on their organization’s success in this demanding industry. Bill Flanagan will be the keynote speaker, along with other featured presenters. For more information, visit www.pittsburghhra.org
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 10:09
Category: Business Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
NEW DEVELOPMENTS—Robert Rubenstein of the URA and Deputy Secretary Carolyn Newhouse from the state Dept. of Community and Economic Development, right, pose with President and CEO Doris Carson Williams and Board Chair Sam Stephenson after speaking about new small business opportunities and resources at the African American Chamber’s March PowerBreakfast.
Robert Rubenstein, acting director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh said he would have spoken longer at the African American Chamber of Commerce’s March PowerBreakfast, but ceded half his time to allow state Department of Community and Economic Development Deputy Secretary Carolyn Newhouse to talk about small business benefits in Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed state budget.
Still, Rubenstein covered a lot of territory, from the authority’s mission and history to its investment strategy and, most importantly, the three different methods chamber members and entrepreneurs can do business with it.
“Most commonly, we provide opportunities when we directly contract for services through requests for proposals and requests for quotes,” he said. “We post these on our website, and we also have a monthly newsletter that anyone can have emailed to them.”
The other two methods for working with the authority are through its developers, and through direct employment.
“When we provide the land or loans for a project, they’ll do the hiring. But we refer firms and stipulate minority hiring requirements that typically outperform city goals by 50-60 percent,” he said. “Lastly, people can come to work for us directly. A change in administration usually means there are openings and we’re always looking for people with expertise in public policy, sustainability, grant management, compliance, and accounting and finance.”
Rubenstein added that while they like to keep as much in-house as possible, there are times when the URA will contract out accounting and legal work, and real estate appraising.
He also noted the authority has a number of major projects either just underway or starting shortly that will provide many of those opportunities. Just some of these are the Connelley/Energy Innovation Center, the Homewood Station Senior Apartments, Bakery Square II, and the East Liberty Transportation Center, which includes 330 apartments, 50,000 square feet of retail space, and construction of a new street between Centre and Penn Avenues.
Rubenstein also announced the authority’s Center for Entrepreneurship would partner with the chamber’s Business Institute on a number of small business improvement programs.
Chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams said Newhouse did not appear on the PowerBreakfast program because it went out before the governor released his budget proposal.
“She was happy to come by and give us an overview of what’s in there for small businesses,” said Williams. “As deputy secretary for innovation and investment, 75 percent of the development funding comes through her area.”
Newhouse also addressed streamlining in the department, and the addition of staff that will replace automated phone operators with human beings who will walk applicants through the process step by step.
Another benefit for businesses of all sizes is the proposed reduction in state business tax rate from 9 percent to 6 percent, she said.
(Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 08:02
Category: Business Written by Cheryl Pearson-McNeil
As I write, Chaka Khan's empowering "I'm Every Woman" loops in my head – like a soundtrack. (By the way, have you seen her lately? All slim, trim and more fabulous than ever). It's Women's History Month and the lyrics to that iconic anthem should be resonating with all women, and those who love us, as we celebrate ourselves and the countless contributions we make everyday – both large and small – that keep the world turning.
No matter how small or far-reaching the radius of your world is every choice you make is important. Nielsen shines the light on women's choices and our dynamic impact as consumers with two new global reports: Does Gender Matter and 10 Things to Know About Today's Female Consumer.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again – "Vive la différence." Yes, we know that girls are just as smart as boys and women can do pretty much everything a man can – but, like it or not – our brains are wired differently. And, that's ok. Women are master multitaskers and there's a scientific reason for that. Who knew, right?
Nielsen's NeuroFocus research shows that "ability" is driven by what happens to developing brains in the womb. Traits like big-picture thinking and multitasking are hard-wired in women's brains, along with "gut" reasoning, social and verbal skills and the worry/empathy tendency. We balance work (either outside or in the home), take care of our families – nurture, budget, shop, schedule, run hither and yon – and keep it tight with ourselves as best we can.
Men's brains, on the other hand, are pre-conditioned for concrete thinking, goal-oriented tasks, logical solutions and competition/defense. (Cheryl's translation: give them one thing to do at a time if you really want something to get done).
How we think and respond influences the way companies and advertisers design their messages to us to achieve their economic bottom line. See how much power we have? These types of insights tell them that women respond to concepts that are authentic. Touch our hearts and you might earn our dollars. Even those of us who may be tomboys at heart, messages that focus on conflict simply aren't going to resonate.
And, you know how we love a bargain and will hunt high and low to find the best price? That's something American women have in common with our sisters around the world. A Nielsen survey of more than 29,000 people with Internet access in 58 countries shows that we women are browsers, no matter where we live – going for the best deal (in the store or online) while men are more likely to pay a higher price. That's because men are typically on a mission to just win (uh, get the item no matter what).
Here and across the globe, women are responsible for $12 trillion of the $18 trillion of global buying power. So, if marketers want our business, they need to offer products and services that reflect our needs. Consider these facts:
• Women worldwide are optimistic about their roles, with 90 percent reporting they believe their role is changing for the better.
• Worldwide, 70 percent of women surveyed have cut household spending over the past year in clothes, gas, electricity and entertainment outside the home.
• Women in the U.S. spend significantly more time on social media sites than men. We're online users of social media 44 percent more than men; and visit social media sites on our mobile devices 39 percent more than men.
• African-American women between 18-35 are 72 percent more likely to publish a blog or express our preferences online via links or "likes" than the average adult in this country.
• In the United States, African-American households are 127 percent more likely to include a single parent – usually a woman. (These are my people as I am one of them and I live by the mantra, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.")
• Women in the U.S. talk 28 percent more and text 14 percent more than men every month.
• Globally, women are 25 percent more likely than men to rely on friends or family for personal finance advice.
There's so much more wonderful information on www.nielsenwire.com that affirms women's power and influence as consumers. Take time to visit the site during March, and feel free to belt out a couple of lines along with Chaka: "I'm every woman. It's all in me . . ."
(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com.)
Last Updated on Monday, 18 March 2013 16:49
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