Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Launches Three New Grant Programs Totaling $4 Million
Programs will Support Financial Literacy, Jobs for Youth at Risk and Abandoned Property Rehabilitation
"I am pleased that our subprime lending and health care enforcement efforts have yielded funds that will help our Massachusetts communities and citizens who need it most," said Attorney General Coakley "These programs will help make abandoned properties habitable, will support new jobs for young adults, and will help remedy some of the devastating impact of the current economic crisis."
The Attorney General's Office is offering a new grant program to support consumer and community programs in providing direct consumer outreach, education and related services to help homeowners recognize and avoid predatory lending practices and avoid mortgage foreclosure. Funding will also support borrower protection services, including legal representation by qualified legal services organizations, of individuals who are at risk to losing their homes due to fraud, misrepresentation or other unfair, deceptive or predatory lending practices. The Attorney General's Office expects to award a combination of smaller grants up to $5,000 and larger grants amounting up to $100,000. Funds for this grant program stem from the Attorney General's 2009 settlement with Fremont Investment & Loan Corp, from which up to $1 million has been allocated to support financial literacy education.
Project YES-Jobs for Youth at Risk
The Attorney General's Office will also award grants to up to 15 applicants through its Project YES (Youth Employment Solutions) program, which will provide low-income youth with jobs that have specific physical activity components.
Attorney General Martha Coakley launched Project YES as a result of her work as co-chair of the Urban Violence Subcommittee of the Governor's Anti-Crime Council. One of the subcommittee's key findings was that youth employment not only benefits the individual and the local economy, but also helps to reduce crime. However, amid the current budget crisis, teen employment rates have fallen to a new record low at 30 percent. At the same time, research from University of Michigan's Fitness for Youth (FFY) suggests that a major factor in rising obesity levels among children is physical inactivity and that teens from low-income households are more afflicted by obesity. This new grant program serves to battle both of these problems by providing low-income youth with jobs that will increase their personal physical activity as well as that of the populations they serve.
Grants will be awarded to programs that directly benefit youth with low socioeconomic status by providing jobs and that promote increased physical activity. Examples of effective plans will include offering jobs as part-time coaches, assisting with sports and fitness programs, and working as physical fitness teachers or assistants outside of school hours.
Funds for this grant program come from a series of settlements obtained by the Attorney General's Office against pharmaceutical companies Merck Vioxx, Eli Lilly and Pfizer. The Attorney General's Office has allocated up to $1.5 million to fund the Project YES grant program. Grantees will be awarded two-year funding that is expected to range from $80,000 to $100,000 for each award. This is the first of a planned series of AGO health promotion/wellness grants utilizing these settlement funds. Further details on other programs will be announced in the coming months.
Abandoned Property Rehabilitation Program
The Attorney General's Office is also launching an Abandoned Property Rehabilitation Grant Program in response to a growing trend of abandoned properties being used for illegal purposes or being subjected to vandalism. As foreclosed homes are abandoned rather than maintained by property owners, illegal use and vandalism of these properties destabilize neighborhoods, erode property values, pose risks to public safety, and impose additional costs on the municipality.
The grant program will assist community development organizations and non-profit housing groups to rehabilitate abandoned properties and create more safe and affordable housing. Grantees will develop plans to do the following: supplement an existing loan fund that supports the rehabilitation and renovation of abandoned properties, use the grant to leverage additional funding already supporting rehabilitation and renovation, or to provide services to make certain properties habitable.
This grant program is also funded by the Attorney General's settlement against Fremont Investment & Loan Corporation. Grants are anticipated to be awarded to up to ten applicants who will receive up to $150,000 in one time, non-renewable grants.
Additional information about the grants, including the Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and application deadlines, can be found at www.mass.gov/ago/grants.