Torrington Business Owner Elected to Lead National Home Builders Organization

The National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) new chairman, Connecticut’s Greg Ugalde, calls home affordability across the United States a growing crisis and the most important issue facing the homebuilding industry. Ugalde is president and chief legal officer of Torrington-based T&M Building Co., Inc., one of the state’s largest home builders. Since its founding in 1962, T&M has built more than 4,000 new homes in over 45 Connecticut communities for trade-up and first-time buyers. Ugalde has more than 25 years of experience in the home building industry and was recently elected to lead the national organization.

“Easing the growing housing affordability crisis is the most important issue facing our industry in 2019,” said Ugalde. “This year we will work with policymakers to reduce burdensome regulations that are needlessly raising the cost of housing, exacerbating affordability concerns and holding back a more robust recovery in the residential construction sector.”

According to the organization’s website, NAHB’s members construct about 80 percent of the new homes built in the United States, both single-family and multifamily.  A federation of more than 700 state and local associations, NAHB represents more than 140,000 members.

From 2003-2005, Ugalde was the president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut (HBRA). He was named the local and state Builder of the Year in 2000 and has received numerous industry awards and recognition.

A leading advocate and spokesperson on a broad range of housing issues, Ugalde has served on the HOMEConnecticut Steering Committee, the National Land Use Attorneys Network, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing and the Town of Burlington’s IWWC and Parks & Recreation Commission. He is also the founder and owner of GFU Investments, LLC, a builder/developer minority-owned business that focuses on urban development and workforce housing.

Ugalde told the Associated Press in a recent interview that Congress needs to reform the nation's housing finance system, because “financing products just has not kept up with today's market place as much as we would like to see.  So we need to revamp the ability to bring more people into the system who really do qualify and can afford a home.”

He also stressed the need recruit more young people to the home building industry, and urged immigration reform. “It's no longer a question of 'Hey, we're going to be taking American jobs.'  That's just not true,” he told the AP.  “We have job openings all over the country that we need to fill, so it's perfectly reasonable to think that we could benefit from an improved immigration system, like many other industries could as well.”

Regulations imposed by government also impact home prices, he pointed out recently: “On average, regulations imposed by government at all levels account for nearly 25% of the price of building a single-family home and over 30% of the cost of a typical multifamily home."

He added: "there's nothing like showing up at a closing table and seeing your new buyers with big smiles and so happy that all their hard work has paid off."

Hartford Foundation’s Record-Breaking Grantmaking Topped $38 Million in 2018

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the community foundation for 29 communities in Greater Hartford, awarded more than $38 million in grants to the region’s nonprofit agencies and educational institutions in 2018. “At a time when our state and many of our communities face significant fiscal challenges, the Hartford Foundation was able to award a record breaking number of grants this past year,” said Hartford Foundation president Jay Williams. “We continue to look for ways to work together with our donors, nonprofits, and community partners to ensure Greater Hartford residents have access to opportunities that enrich their lives and secure a better future for our region.”

According to the latest estimated, unaudited numbers, the Foundation ended 2018 with total assets of $933 million in 1,230 funds. The Foundation received gifts totaling $13.1 million and opened 22 new funds.

“Greater Hartford is fortunate to have so many generous residents who truly want to make a lasting difference in their community,” Williams said. “The historic amount of resources we have been able to provide to hardworking and dedicated nonprofit organizations is a testament to our donors’ level of commitment to the region and the work the Hartford Foundation supports.”

Officials noted that the Foundation’s 2018 grantmaking - with a total of 2,708 individual grants made - was based on the recognition that "a vibrant and strong Greater Hartford region requires that all residents, especially those with the greatest need, have equitable access to opportunities to achieve and flourish." The largest percentage of grants were in education (33%), followed by family & social services (25%), communication and economic development (13%), and arts & culture (11%).

Among the grants, in each program area:

Education

  • Hartford Student Internship Program - The Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant to Capital Workforce Partners to provide 150 Hartford rising high school juniors and seniors with internships and other work-based learning opportunities. The Foundation’s support extends opportunities to students with a variety of backgrounds, including students who have become disconnected from school.
  • Summer Learning Programs - In an effort to enhance summer learning and youth development, the Foundation provided $805,300 to support 34 campership, nine tutorial, nine Counselor-in-Training and five enrichment summer programs. Foundation funding supported free and reduced-cost access to summer programming, as well as targeted support for literacy, parent engagement and other enhancements for nearly 11,000 youth from across the region.
  • Early Development Instrument - The Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to East Hartford Public Schools to support projects based upon the findings of the 2018 Early Development Instrument (EDI), a population-based measurement tool that assessed the school readiness of East Hartford kindergarten students. Foundation funds will pay for the Transition to Kindergarten Campaign; an EDI Olympics for 8 elementary schools; capacity building of community and home day care providers; and project materials.

Family and Social Services

  • Community Safety Coalition - With a $160,000 grant from the Foundation, five local nonprofit agencies have created the Hartford Community Safety Coalition (CSC) as an organic response to the rising incidence of violent crime in Hartford. The coalition’s mission is to create healthy communities by collaborating on strategies to reduce urban violence and trauma in Hartford.
  • Center for Children’s Advocacy -  With the support of a three-year $260,000 grant, the Center for Children’s Advocacy is expanding its services to adolescents and young adults from Greater Hartford transitioning out of justice-system confinement or Department of Children and Families involvement. Foundation funds support a portion of the salaries for two project attorneys and a case manager. A portion of the grant can be used to support the Center’s administrative advocacy work with state agencies including the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Education and the justice system.

Community and Economic Development

  • Get Out the Vote - This past August, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving awarded thirteen grants totaling $116,565 to area nonprofits dedicated to informing and engaging underrepresented voters in Greater Hartford. This nonpartisan effort focused primarily on young adults, Latinos and Black residents and people living in high poverty neighborhoods. Over a three-month period, these organizations reached out to several thousand Greater Hartford residents, registering over 1,000 new voters and receiving 1,500 pledges to participate in the November 6 elections.
  • LISC Hartford - The Building for Health Project is focused on coordinating housing quality improvements (including lead remediation, energy efficiency, asthma triggers and others), providing technical assistance and grants to affordable housing builders/managers to help implement healthy practices in the buildings they manage. The Foundation provided a three-year, $313,000 grant to support Building for Health, which is a collaborative effort that came out of one of the Foundation’s 2017 innovation planning grants. The project involves a partnership between utilities, hospitals, community development corporations and nonprofit lenders to build the connections between health and housing.

Arts and Culture

  • TheaterWorks - TheaterWorks strives to bring in a more diverse audience, one that is more representative of the community at large and more inclusive of Hartford residents. TheaterWorks commissioned a market study in 2017 that found gaps in the arts programming available in the Hartford area, specifically in the areas of music, dance, film and spoken word. To support its ongoing strategic planning process, TheaterWorks was awarded a planning grant to develop, test and evaluate new pilot programs that would help diversify its audience while also filling these gaps.
  • Hartford Stage Company - The Hartford Stage Company’s Breakdancing Shakespeare program provides students between the ages of 14 and 18 with the opportunity to be part of a unique program that combines the text of a classic Shakespearean play with the language of hip-hop, rap and breakdancing. With the support of a $15,000 grant from the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation, students participated in a six-week rehearsal process, taking master classes with guest artists, developing skills related to the program’s first-ever production of Twelfth Night.
  • Connecticut Historical Society - The Cheney Family Fund at the Hartford Foundation provided a $3,000 grant to the Connecticut Historical Society to support “Facing War: Connecticut in World War I.” The exhibit displays hundreds of photographs from 1917-1919, many displayed for the first time and many in life-size, as well as letters, diaries, propaganda posters, clothing, uniforms and equipment. The exhibit focuses on the personal stories of 12 Connecticut individuals, including George W. Cheney, who served on the front lines in France for nine months.

Health

  • Newton C. and Elsie B. Brainard Fund - For more than 50 years, families have been able to avoid financial ruin caused by medical bills with support from the Newton C. and Elsie B. Brainard Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The Brainard Fund benefits residents of Greater Hartford who have assets to preserve, but who face medical and health care costs that would otherwise have devastating financial consequences.  In 2018, 21 families’ medical cases were supported by grants totaling nearly $224,328.
  • Hockanum Valley Community Council - In response to a growing demand for substance abuse treatment, the Foundation awarded a three-year, $127,752 grant to the Hockanum Valley Community Council (HVCC).  HVCC established a Medication Assisted Treatment program (MAT) in 2013 for residents of Vernon and nearby towns with opioid addiction. As one of the few providers offering this service regardless of a patients’ ability to pay, HVCC’s program has reached full capacity, growing from 32 to 52 clients in the past year alone. This grant is being used to support the hiring of an advanced practice clinician, which will allow HVCC to increase the number of clients served while increasing the quality of care and improving patient outcomes.

Nonprofit Capacity Building

  • The Nonprofit Support Program (NSP) - The Foundation’s Nonprofit Support Program helps strengthen nonprofit organizations in our region by providing tools and knowledge for agencies to build strong boards, plan for their futures, evaluate programs, improve finances and update technology. In 2018, 49 staff and board teams participated in the Social Enterprise Accelerator, 15 agency teams took part in the Fundraising Training Program, 13 teams completed the Financial Management Training Program, 23 nonprofit teams received strategic technology training, 17 agency teams completed the Building Evaluation Capacity Program, and 39 executive directors and staff leaders participated in leadership development programs. In addition, 73 grants totaling $2 million were awarded to support technical assistance (such as strategic planning and board development), strategic technology, financial management, and evaluation within our local nonprofits.  Eight nonprofits successfully transitioned to new leaders with support from the Executive Transition Program.  In total, NSP provided services to over 1,000 individuals representing over 450 nonprofits during the year.
  • Small Agency Grant Program - In 2018, the Foundation expanded grants to small and minority-led organizations through its Small Agency Grant Program. Eleven organizations successfully completed the Building on Success program that helps smaller nonprofit organizations grow to their next strategic level. Through the Small Agency Community Partners component, the Foundation has worked with 14 other nonprofit support organizations to increase the number and access to resources available to help strengthen small organizations.  Highlights include a new “Board Member Bootcamp” with Leadership Greater Hartford and Hartford Public Library, and a “QuickBooks Basics for Nonprofits” with the Small Business Administration and Hartford Public Library. 

Since its founding in 1925, the Foundation has awarded more than $758 million in grants.

Connecticut Innovations Among Nation's Top Venture Capital Firms in Healthcare in 2018

Connecticut Innovations (CI) has landed on Forbes magazine’s list of the ten top venture capital firms making the most investments in healthcare start-ups during 2018.  With 20 deals done during the year, CI ranked at number seven. CI is Connecticut’s strategic venture capital arm and the state’s leading source of financing and ongoing support for innovative, growing companies. The two largest CI deals were with locally headquartered Arvinas, a $56 million investment, and Rallybio, a $37 million investment. 

Leading the way among venture capital firms in the U.S. were California-headquartered Alexandria Venture Investments (38 deals), Maryland-based New Enterprise Associates (28), Keiretsu Forum of California (27), OrbiMed, headquartered in New York (24), and ARCH Venture Partners (22) of Illinois.  Just ahead of CI was SV Health Investors, with 21 deals.  The venture capital firm is based in Massachusetts.

Nationally, startups in the sector have raised more money in 2018 than any previous year in the past decade.

Rallybio, based in Farmington at the University of Connecticut’s Technology Incubation Program, was co-founded in January 2018 by Martin Mackay, PhD, Stephen Uden MD, and Jeffrey Fryer, CPA, recognized leaders from the biopharma industry.  The company’s focus: identifying and accelerating the development of transformative breakthrough therapies for patients with severe and rare disorders.  They aim to develop innovative drug candidates against mechanisms that have strong biological rationales.  Rallybio’s focus is on antibodies, small molecules and engineered proteins.

Last month, the company was named by FierceBiotech as one of 2018’s Fierce 15 biotechnology companies, designating it as one of the most promising private biotechnology companies in the industry.

Arvinas, headquartered in New Haven, is a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the lives of patients suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases through the discovery, development, and commercialization of therapies to degrade disease-causing proteins.

Building on groundbreaking research at Yale University by Craig Crews, Ph.D., Arvinas’ Founder and Chief Scientific Advisor, Arvinas has developed a broad technology platform “focused on high-value targets, with the potential to deliver safer, more potent treatment than small molecule inhibitors, and to address up to 80% of proteins that evade inhibition and are currently undruggable.”  Among the company’s Board members is Ted Kennedy, Jr., a health care policy and disability activist, regulatory attorney, and former Connecticut state senator.

Connecticut Innovations is located in Rocky Hill.

Credit Union Branch Inside High School Encourages Financial Literacy

Getting banking business done – or being introduced to an array of personal financial services for the first time – has become easier than ever for students attending Rocky Hill High School.  That’s because they don’t even need to leave the confines of high school to visit a Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union branch – it’s just steps away from their school cafeteria. Credit union branches located inside high schools are not common.  In fact, this might be the first of its kind in Connecticut. The branch is a new step for the credit union and focuses on preparing students for their financial future. It features tablets, an ATM, and (coming soon) a self-service kiosk to be used by students and faculty for transactions such as account transfers, loan payments, and check and cash deposits or withdrawals.

Nutmeg State FCU President and CEO John Holt says his enthusiasm and the support from Rocky Hill High Schools administrators and teachers is matched by the student response.

“We want to give students first-hand knowledge and experience,” Holt explains, “to help them better understand banking and prepare them for smart decision-making in the future.”

The staff includes three Rocky Hill High School students who are specially trained not only in technology but in terminology, so they can pass along that combination of know-how and understanding to their peers. For many, understanding the differences between a credit union and a bank is an unexpected first lesson. And students are often intrigued by the credit union structure, including that it is a non-profit institution which allows them to become members (and therefore part owners of the credit union).

If the initial weeks are any indication, there is a receptive audience of students, very supportive teachers and administrators, and parents looking on approvingly from the sidelines. More than 100 accounts have been opened at the branch in the first few months of operation, and there have been many more conversations providing insight for high school students into the products and services a financial institution offers – plus some tips on how to manage money effectively.

“The need for financial literacy education has never been greater,” said Jeremy Race, President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, an organization with a strong classroom presence focused on financial education and entrepreneurship. “According to a recent Forbes article, 44% of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency and 33% of adults have $0 saved for retirement.  This is staggering evidence that clearly demonstrates the critical need for young people to learn financial responsibility and financial ‘smarts’ at a young age.”

Because the technology is intuitive for most students, their transaction time can be used to talk about subjects they may be less familiar with – such as balancing a checkbook, how debit cards and account balances relate to each other, loans and interest rates, and what a credit score is all about.  Not the typical teen conversation, but Holt indicates that students have been quite interested in learning more.

“The younger generation has a passion for community,” Holt has observed, “and they see the practical value. This has really opened their eyes.”

Some of the lessons are already being integrated into the school’s business classes – which seem “real” with a financial institution’s branch office just down the hall.  The branch is open during lunch periods, study halls, and other times convenient to students, teachers and staff, without being a distraction from more traditional school curricula.

Outgoing Connecticut State Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, a longstanding proponent of financial literacy, has stressed that “Financial education is important during all stages of life, because economic opportunity can be a catalyst for change and enduring success,” adding that “information and training can help them build a better future.”

With the program off to a solid start, Holt said that Nutmeg State FCU would be interested in a similar initiative in another high school near one of their 11 credit union branches in Connecticut. They are headquartered in Rocky Hill, having been chartered in 1936. In addition to Rocky Hill, they’re located in Manchester, New Britain, Hartford, Glastonbury, West Hartford, Cromwell, Orange, Stratford, Milford and North Haven.

The Connecticut-based credit union also reaches out to local communities in other distinctive ways. In Milford and North Haven, they have added “DMV Express” services in conjunction with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, and three locations are within retail stores – the Walmart in Cromwell, and the ShopRite supermarkets in Stratford and Orange. To learn more about Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union, visit www.nutmegstatefcu.org.

Photos:  (Top right) - Rocky Hill High School Student Alisha Chhabra conveniently accesses the new Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union branch at her school.  (Midde left) - Rocky Hill High School recently celebrated the opening of its first on-site Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union branch. From left: Chuck Zettergren Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Mark Zito Superintendent, Mike Petti Vice Chairman, John Holt President & CEO, Ben Lukens Student, Alisha Chhabra Student, Michael Patano Student, Muhammed Bilal Student, Cynthia Latina Business Education Teacher, Timothy Bifolck Business Education Teacher, Mario Almeida Principal. (Bottom right) Nutmeg State FCU President and CEO John Holt.

States, Including CT, Reach $575M Settlement with Wells Fargo

In a settlement described as  "the most significant engagement to date by state attorneys general involving a national bank without a federal law enforcement partner, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced that Wells Fargo Bank N.A. will pay $575 million to resolve claims that the bank violated state consumer protection laws by (1) opening millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolling customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent, (2) improperly referring customers for enrollment in third-party renters and life insurance policies, (3) improperly charging auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance, (4) failing to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products, and (5) incorrectly charging customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees. Connecticut served on a multistate investigation leadership and negotiating team, along with the attorneys general of Arizona, Iowa and Pennsylvania. Connecticut's share of the settlement is $5,242,279, which will be deposited into the state's General Fund.

Through this settlement with all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the company will also create a consumer redress review program through which consumers who have not been made whole through other remediation programs already in place can seek to have their inquiry or complaint reviewed by an escalation team for possible relief, officials said.

"Wells Fargo engaged in conduct that violated the public's trust and ran afoul of state laws," said Attorney General Jepsen. "This settlement resolves Connecticut's consumer protection claims against the bank and creates an important avenue for Connecticut consumers seeking redress for the bank's  improper conduct. I'm proud of the strong, bipartisan work of the states in this investigation that has helped bring this matter to a close."

As part of its settlement with the states, Wells Fargo has agreed to implement within 60 days a program through which consumers who believe they were affected by the bank's conduct, but fell outside the prior restitution programs, can contact Wells Fargo to be reviewed for potential redress. Wells Fargo will create and maintain a website for consumers to use to access the program and will provide periodic reports to the states about ongoing restitution efforts.

According to the Attorney General's office, Wells Fargo has identified more than 3.5 million accounts where customer accounts were opened, funds were transferred, credit card applications were filed, and debit cards were issued without the customers’ knowledge or consent. The bank has also identified 528,000 online bill pay enrollments nationwide that may have resulted from improper sales practices at the bank.  In addition, Wells Fargo improperly submitted more than 6,500 renters insurance and/or simplified term life insurance policy applications and payments from customer accounts without the customers’ knowledge or consent.

The states alleged that Wells Fargo imposed aggressive and unrealistic sales goals on bank employees and implemented an incentive compensation program where employees could qualify for credit by selling certain products to customers. The states further alleged that the bank's sales goals and the incentive compensation program created an impetus for employees to engage in improper sales practices in order to satisfy such sales goals and earn financial rewards. Those sales goals became increasingly harder to achieve over time, the states alleged, and employees who failed to meet them faced potential termination and career-hindering criticism from their supervisors.

The states also alleged that Wells Fargo improperly charged premiums, interest, and fees for force-placed collateral protection insurance to more than two million auto financing customers, despite evidence that the customers’ regular auto insurance policy was in effect, and despite numerous customer complaints about such unnecessary placements.  Wells Fargo has agreed to provide remediation of more than $385 million to approximately 850,000 auto finance customers.  The remediation will include payments to over 51,000 customers whose cars were repossessed.

Additionally, the states alleged that Wells Fargo failed to ensure that customers received proper refunds of unearned portions of optional Guaranteed Asset/Auto Protection (GAP) products sold as part of motor vehicle financing agreements.  As a result, the bank has agreed to provide refunds totaling more than $37 million to certain auto finance customers.

Finally, the states alleged that Wells Fargo improperly charged residential mortgage loan consumers for rate lock extension fees even when the delay was caused by Wells Fargo, a practice contrary to the bank’s policy.  Wells Fargo has identified and contacted affected consumers and has refunded or agreed to refund over $100 million of such fees.

It is the latest major settlement involving government action against Wells Fargo practices.

Wells Fargo has previously entered consent orders with federal authorities – including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – related to its alleged conduct. Wells Fargo has committed to or already provided restitution to consumers in excess of $600 million through its agreements with the OCC and CFPB as well as through settlement of a related consumer class-action lawsuit and will pay over $1 billion in civil penalties to the federal government. Additionally, under an order from the Federal Reserve, the bank is required to strengthen its corporate governance and controls, and is currently restricted from exceeding its total asset size.

More information on the redress review program, including Wells Fargo escalation phone numbers and the Wells Fargo dedicated website address for the program will be available on or before February 26, 2019.  Consumers with questions about the redress program can contact the Office of the Attorney General's Finance Department at 860-808-5270.

Ratepayers, Businesses, and Environmental Advocates Seek to Reverse Decision on Ratepayer Fund Raids

Attorneys for ratepayers, efficiency businesses and environmental organizations have filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York , asking the appellate court to reverse an October 25 U.S. District Court decision that denied plaintiffs a remedy in their lawsuit to force the State of Connecticut to restore $145 million in ratepayer dollars intended to save families money on energy bills and reduce climate pollution. The original lawsuit, filed in May, was filed to stop the state legislature’s 2017 sweep of Connecticut’s energy efficiency and clean energy funds, and to prevent future diversions of ratepayer funds. The original complaint argued that diverting ratepayer funding to plug a budget deficit instead of using the dedicated funds for its intended purpose violates the Contract Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and functions as an illegal tax on tax-exempt organizations like churches and nonprofits.

“We are pursuing the case to fix the damage the raids have done to Connecticut families and businesses,” said Roger Reynolds, chief legal director at Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “Residents trusted that their ratepayer dollars would go where their electric bills said they would—towards energy efficiency and clean energy programs that save money and cut climate pollution. Instead those hard-earned dollars were used to plug a hole in the state budget. We believe the appellate court will see that the state’s action violated federal contract and tax law, and ask them to correct that mistake to put Connecticut back on the path to a healthier energy future and a stronger economy.”

Judge Janet C. Hall at the U.S. District Court in New Haven ruled in October that the state’s 2017 budget that swept ratepayer funds did not impair contracts between ratepayers and their electric distribution companies because neither utility tariffs nor state law ever promised ratepayers that their dollars would not be transferred to the General Fund for unrelated purposes.

The organizations filing the suit pointed out that when the General Assembly found itself facing a deficit in fall 2017, they passed a budget instructing the state to “sweep” and divert the energy efficiency and clean energy funds to the general fund. However, these funds are not government property, they stressed,  and were not raised through state taxes but were paid by ratepayers to utilities for specific services. Therefore, "seizing these funds amounts to taking ratepayer funds that were paid for another purpose."

As a result of the "raids", the filers of the lawsuit pointed out that "12,900 homes will not receive energy assessments, weatherization upgrades, reduced pricing on insulation, or associated energy bill savings. Furthermore, 5,600 of these are low income households that often require additional financial assistance to close the energy affordability gap.  The award-winning Connecticut Green Bank leverages $6 in private investment for every $1 of renewable energy funding. Yet these sweeps resulted in a 53% reduction in this program’s budget, requiring layoffs and project cancellations."

This case raises an important legal issue relevant beyond Connecticut, according to environment groups,  because it is the first time ratepayers argued in court that when they pay their utility bills with surcharges dedicated for specific programs or services—such as energy efficiency and renewable energy—enforceable contracts arise that cannot be invaded by any state.

"Connecticut’s leaders broke the trust of their constituents when they turned electric ratepayer dollars into an illegal tax,” said lead plaintiff Leticia Colon de Mejias, chair of Efficiency For All (EFA) and founder. “Even in these difficult times, it is obvious that stealing ratepayer funds intended to help Connecticut residents and businesses reduce energy waste, save money on energy bills, and access clean resources is a bad choice."

“Sierra Club Connecticut supports this legal appeal by Connecticut Fund for the Environment and allies, and the advocacy of groups including Efficiency for All, to restore the misappropriated energy efficiency monies that our General Assembly voted to take away and use as a stop gap for our budget woes" said Martha Klein, chair, Sierra Club Connecticut. "It was a myopic mistake, as these funds have been proven to create jobs, make revenue for the state, and reduce climate-destroying greenhouse gas emissions. This type of fund raiding hurts all of us in the long run. That money was taken from ratepayers specifically to improve the efficiency of our whole state, which would save all of us money on energy costs, and improve our health and climate.”

When the initial suit was filed against the state back in May, Governor Malloy  issued a statement that, rather than defending the state action, seemed to take the opposite view:

"This should come as a surprise to no one. I have long maintained that these shortsighted sweeps would increase energy costs for consumers and businesses and cause untold harm to our green energy economy. [W]e should be cementing our role as a national leader in our efforts to combat climate change and protect our communities. The energy sweeps . . . represented a massive step backwards, and I continue to strongly oppose them," Malloy said.

Millennials Make the Most Money in Massachusetts; Connecticut Ranks 16th

If you were born between 1982 and 2000, and you live in Massachusetts, you’re making more money, on average, then people of your generation living elsewhere in the United States.  If you live in Connecticut, there are 15 states where the average salary for millennials is higher. Based on U.S. Census data analyzed by the website howmuch.com, the average salary for millennials in Connecticut is $69,600, compared with $80,307 in Massachusetts.  The states in between, reaching the top 10, are Minnesota ($77,090), North Dakota ($76,836), Washington, DC ($75,220), Maryland ($74,737), New Hampshire ($73,941), Wyoming ($73,345), Alaska ($72,374), New Jersey ($72,150), and Virginia ($71,397).

Also ahead of Connecticut are Utah ($71,284), South Dakota ($70,989), Nebraska ($70,870), Washington ($70,441), and Iowa ($69,739).

The analysis points out that millennials “are the most diverse generation in American history, more of them went to college than previous generations, and they are now the largest contingent in the workforce. Many of them also graduated in the middle of the Great Recession, which economists believe might have a lifelong impact on their wages.”

Geography also plays a role, according to the data.  The South, for example, “clearly stands out as a lackluster region for millennials in the labor market.”  In the Upper Midwest, salaries tend to be higher, and the same is true for much of the Northeast.

With the exception of Washington State, much of the west coast does not stand out.  “This highlights the fact that big tech companies are creating great jobs for a select group of skilled workers,” the analysis points out.

Millennials are making the least amount of money in Florida ($54,889), Mississippi ($53,269) and New Mexico ($51,893).

The data used is 2016 median household income for 25 to 44 year olds, taken from Census data and adjusted by Bureau of Economic Analysis regional price parity data, the most recent and comprehensive available.

 

Credit Card Balance? CT Residents Have Nation's Second Highest, on Average

With the holiday gift-giving season on the horizon, the sound of credit cards are being pulled from wallets and numbers being typed into online sites is also upon us. Before those bills even come due, Connecticut residents have a head start in building credit card balances. Connecticut residents have the highest average credit card balance, at $7,258, in the continental United States.  Alaska, at $8,515, is the only state where residents have a higher average balance in the U.S.

Rounding out the top ten are Virginia ($7,161), New Jersey ($7,151), Maryland ($7,043), Hawaii ($6,981), D.C. ($6,963), Texas ($6,902), Colorado ($6,718), and Georgia (6,675).  New York is next at $6,671.

The states with the lowest credit card balances overall are Iowa and Wisconsin, with an average of $5,155 and $5,363, respectively.

Connecticut average credit card balance - $7,258, - is not only second highest in the nation, but the average number of credit cards owned by Connecticut residents is 3.23, which ranks fifth among the states.  The states where people opened the most credit cards were New Jersey and New York, with an average number of 3.49 and 3.34 cards per person, respectively.

On the state’s average income of $70,121, which is second highest in the U.S., the average credit card balance is 10.35 percent of income.  Because of Connecticut’s high average income, the percent of income average is fourth lowest among the states.

The analysis, by the financial website Upgraded Points, used data of average credit card balances from Experian’s State of Credit: 2017, and data of average annual income by state in 2017 from research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The analysis notes that “for the 58.8 percent of American households that pay off their balances in full, credit card debt is not a problem. But the other 41.2 percent carry some amount of debt every month and must pay interest fees.” In 2017, overall American credit card debt, according to Upgraded Points, broke through the $1 trillion mark and set an all-time high. The last time credit card debt was over $1 trillion was right before the Great Recession in 2008. In 2017, a survey by Pew Research found that only 46 percent of Americans made more than they spent.

The data indicates that states near the coasts tend to have the highest absolute credit card balances. “The only two states in the top 10 that aren’t by the ocean are Texas and Colorado.  States in the Midwest tend to have the lowest average credit card balances. Only three states in the bottom 10 were not in the Midwest: West Virginia, Arkansas, and Mississippi.”