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Southern Bancorp News

Vickie Staggs honored for 30 years of service

April 9th, 2013

Staff at Southern Bancorp in Manila surprised branch manager Vickie Skaggs with an early morning reception in recognition for her 30 years of service to the bank.

Dan Robbins, president of Southern Bancorp-Manila, co-workers and several members of the Blytheville staff greeted Skaggs Thursday morning with gifts, refreshments and congratulations.

Mr. Robbins thanked Skaggs for her 30 years of service.

“You have been part of all of the successes of Merchants Planters, First National and now Southern Bancorp,” Robbins said. “We share the belief there is no ‘I’ in team and you have been a successful member of our team. We are fortunate to have you here.”

18 downtown businesses approved for façade grants

March 21st, 2013

Downtown will be getting a facelift.

Tuesday the recipients of 18 façade grants were announced, all of them in downtown Clarksdale. The grants, offered through the Economic Development Authority and the Coahoma County Delta Bridge Project, were open to any downtown business in any incorporated town in the county, but Lois Erwin, Senior Community Development Officer with Southern Bancorp Community Partners, said no business outside of Clarksdale even applied, although there were a few inquiries.

“We were thrilled with the feedback, but disappointed that we didn’t get any from outside the city because we really pushed for this to be county-wide because we think it’s really important for this to be a community project,” Erwin said.  She added that she’s hopeful some of those businesses might apply when the next round of grants is announced.

SBCP Public Policy Director Appointed to Advisory Council

March 15th, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, AR. (March 15, 2013) – Tamika Edwards, director of public policy for Southern Bancorp Community Partners, has been appointed to a three-year  term on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ Community Development Advisory Council.

Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and certified community development financial institution, works in partnership with Southern Bancorp, Inc. to transform rural Southern communities by creating new educational,  economic and employment opportunities for people with limited resources.

The Council is made up of thought leaders, practitioners, and researchers from nonprofit organizations, financial institutions, universities, government and foundations who work in the field of community and economic development.

“I believe this group will be very valuable in providing insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the community development field in the Eighth Federal Reserve District,” said James Bullard, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The district includes SBCP’s targeted areas of Arkansas and northern Mississippi.

“The greatest connection to our work is the St. Louis Fed’s interest and efforts in family economic security and household financial stability,” says Edwards. “This field comprises a large portion of our policy and family economic security direct services work.”

Arkansas Ranks 46th in U.S. for Financial Stability of Residents

February 26th, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Jan. 31, 2013) — Over half of Arkansas residents currently risk financial disaster due to the absence of sufficient savings to fall back on in the event of a job loss, health crisis or other income-depleting emergency, according to a report released Jan. 30 by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).

The 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard defines these residents as “liquid asset poor,” which means they lack adequate savings to cover basic expenses at the federal poverty level for just three months if they suffer a loss of stable income. Included in this group are a majority of Arkansas residents who live below the official income poverty line of $23,050 for a family of four, as well as many who would consider themselves middle class. Forty percent of households earning between $41,341 and $67,008 per year have less than three months of savings ($5,762 for a family of four).

These families have limited hope of building a more prosperous future for themselves or their children through saving for college, buying a home or setting aside money for retirement.

Arkansas receives an F in Financial Assets & Income, due in part to Arkansans’ lack of access to the financial mainstream. The state ranks 49th in unbanked households and in under-banked households that have a checking or savings account but still continue to rely on alternative financial services. Arkansas also has the lowest number of households with a savings account in the nation, at fewer than 50 percent. The state also receives an F in Education, ranking 50th in adults with at least a two-year college degree and 49th in four-year college degrees.

The state ranks ninth on homeowner cost burden and 12th on affordability of homes. While Arkansas has the 13th lowest foreclosure rate in the US, it ranks 42nd on delinquent mortgage loans, indicating that a significant number of homeowners are at risk of losing their homes. Also, with 45 percent of children enrolled in some form of pre-K, Arkansas ranks fifth on early childhood education enrollment.

Published annually, the Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans’ ability to save and build wealth, fend off poverty and create a more prosperous future. It explores how well residents are faring in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and assesses policies that are helping residents build and protect assets across five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education.

“We understand asset accumulation leads to greater economic mobility by increasing current and future levels of income,” says Tamika Edwards, director of public policy for Southern Bancorp Community Partners (SBCP).  “Savings are needed to have household financial stability, and we believe building and securing assets is crucial for the economic security of Arkansas families.”

Southern Bancorp Community Partners serves as the Lead State Organization for the CFED Assets and Opportunity Network.

“SBCP’s direct service work carries out our beliefs,” Edwards says. “We recently celebrated the milestone of reaching our 1,000th asset purchase through our Individual Development Account (IDA) Program.”

Organizations  throughout the state comprise the Arkansas Assets Coalition (AAC), a group of asset-building practitioners and policy advocates that promote the importance of savings and sound financial decisions.

“We understand how important it is for individuals to learn to manage their income properly to ensure they are financially secure in case of emergencies, as well as having the money needed to pursue higher education, buy a home or start a business,” says Sonya Lane, executive director of Change, Inc. “We are looking forward to working with the Arkansas Assets Coalition to help create effective strategies that will allow Arkansans to become financially independent.”

“The mission of the Central Arkansas Development Council (CADC) is to improve the quality of life and build strong communities in Arkansas,” says Linda Spaul of CADC. “Our Individual Development Account and Money Management programs are designed to help eligible low-income families become more financially self-sufficient and reach their goal of educational attainment or home or business ownership.”

The Scorecard includes a dozen policy solutions that can help Arkansas increase opportunity and promote financial well-being for all residents. Among them:

  • To address high rates of income and asset poverty, Arkansas should promote awareness of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to maximize income for low-wage workers and remove the disincentives for very low-income families to save by lifting asset limits in its public benefit programs.
  • To help maintain homeownership as a route to the middle class, Arkansas should provide assistance to first-time homebuyers and funding for its state Housing Trust Fund.
  • To improve job quality, Arkansas should increase the state minimum wage and expand federal leave laws to cover more Arkansas workers.
  • Finally, to boost two- and four-year college degree attainment rates, Arkansas should expand its college savings incentives through the state 529 plan.

“Moving the needle from poverty to prosperity for Arkansas begins with individuals and families,” says Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury, chief executive officer of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “By investing in asset development strategies such as Volunteer Income Assistance sites, Individual Development Accounts, Centers for Working Families, and financial literacy, we can ensure that Arkansans achieve financial security and our communities and state thrive.”

To access the complete Scorecard visit http://assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard

Elimination of Asset Limits is Goal of Policy Brief

February 26th, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Feb. 22, 2013) – A case for why Arkansas should enact legislation to eliminate asset limits on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is being presented by Southern Bancorp Community Partners Policy Team to Arkansas legislators today.

Asset limits are the maximum amount of assets an applicant may have available to be eligible for public benefit assistance. SNAP and TANF require applicants to prove very limited resources for eligibility. These limits, enacted to prevent those with considerable savings from receiving funds from anti-poverty programs, discourage savings and deny benefits to Arkansans who are only marginally better off than those who do qualify.

Based on current policy, Arkansans must spend down whatever savings they have to qualify for SNAP or TANF, forcing them to fall back on public benefit programs if faced with an unforeseen financial hardship.  Arkansas counts resources against applicants while encouraging them to save money to buy a house, start a business, or send their child to college through its sponsored Individual Development Account (IDA) program.

“Household savings are vital for a family to become and remain financially independent,” said Tamika Edwards, director of public policy at Southern Bancorp Community Partners. “If a household is punished for saving by losing public benefits, the opportunity for economic mobility will always be unattainable. Household savings and safety net programs should work in tandem to provide families the opportunity to use the resources and tools to best fit their needs.”

Background on asset limits over the past 20 years, highlights of research findings from the asset building field, and recommendations on how and why Arkansas should abolish asset limits on SNAP and TANF can be found in SBCP’s policy brief, “Making the Case for Eliminating Asset Limits: Why Asset Limits Undermine Financial Security for Arkansans.  To read the full paper please visit http://southernpartners.org/assets/PP_VoL36_FINAL_20130221.pdf

For more information call Edwards at 501-850-8973

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