Category: Montana Loans


CT+NY ranks among the top ten states for raising a family

January 14, 2022

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When most people decide where they are going to live, raising a family is one of the main factors.

Of course, parents want the best environment when raising their children. Schools, neighborhood, financial difficulties and cost of living all play a part in their decision.

To help people make this important decision, the people of wallethub.com have done the hard work for you. They recently compared all 50 states using 51 key indicators of where the best places to raise a family are. They used ranges of data from a number of different categories to determine the result.

They looked at the states that had the best health and safety, the states that had the most family fun, of course education and child care was a big factor, as well as the affordability of each state and finally socio-economics.

Then they considered some 51 relevant parameters, each rated on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 being the best conditions for family life.

For the first time since wallethub.com have begun to collate their surveys, this one also contains data on how the state is handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once all of these factors were weighed and the metrics for each category noted, Connecticut and New York State entered the top 10.

New York had the second-highest score in the nation, and Connecticut was not far behind as the nation’s seventh-best place to raise a family.

New York had a combined overall score of 61.81 and Connecticut’s combined overall score was 57.67.

Connecticut ranked higher than New York in health and safety, affordability, and socioeconomics, and New York ranked higher in family entertainment, education, and child care.

So I bet you’re wondering which state came in first for the best place to raise a family. Well, that state was Massachusetts, followed by New York, Vermont, Minnesota, and Nebraska. The five lowest ranked states are Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi.

Here’s a preview of the entire map, just vacuum each state to see their individual rankings.

KEEP READING: See the Richest Person in Every State

KEEP READING: Here are the best places to retire in America

Ball State Art Professor Showcases Art in Exhibit and Reflects on His Career

January 12, 2022

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When Audrey Barcio, assistant professor of art at Ball State, was a child, she watched her grandmother paint and sat beside her, working with her own watercolors, bonding over artistic creation, growing closer as they painted and discovered new techniques.

Barcio always knew she was going to be an artist and her grandmother introduced her to the area of ​​art that interested her the most: abstraction.

“She was a self-taught and absolutely amazing painter,” Barcio said. “The reason I fell into abstraction was because as she got older she lost her sight. Instead of traditional figurative paintings…She started working very large and working in abstraction, and his work became very expressive and bold.

Now Barcio has found his own distinctive voice as an artist and commemorates his grandmother through the work of his new exhibition, “no subject (non-attachment),at Echo Arts, a contemporary art gallery in Bozeman, Montana.

Barcio said the underlying theme of the show is communication, thinking about the influences it has on everyday life, while paying homage to the artists who came before it.

Ball State Assistant Professor of Art Audrey Barcio’s art is exhibited at the Echo Arts Gallery in Bozeman, Montana. This is Barcio’s ninth solo exhibition. Audrey Barcio, photo provided

“This body of paintings is the first time I have given my work a lot of personal meaning,” she said. “The canvases are sewn together. In my twenties, I had a car accident that caused me to lose several fingers from my dominant hand. I introduced sewing on these canvases as a material reference to this experience.

Barcio has 24 works on display in the exhibition, which she says is her ninth solo exhibition. The paintings vary in size and were completed within the last year. She said it was interesting to see it all come together, with each painting influenced by a different time of year.

Barcio flew to Montana for the December 10, 2021 opening and gave an artist a talk about her work. She said it’s always difficult for an artist to visualize their work in the studio in the same way it will be exhibited, so it’s important to see it at the gallery.

“Everything living together in one space is really satisfying,” she said. “It tells you so much about your work in a way that you can’t normally see.”

Barcio said he discovered the Echo Arts gallery through Sahra Beaupré, owner of the gallery. The two met in 2015 when Barcio was a graduate student at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Barcio and Beaupré have stayed in touch since they met and began planning the exhibit about a year ago.

“An interesting conversation I had with [Barcio] flashed through my mind and wondered what she was doing,” Beaupré said. “I read everything she had done and fell even more in love with what she was working on.”

Beaupré said she is interested in Barcio’s work because she thinks it is very in-depth and thoughtful, including modernist and abstract references, as well as references to art history.

“These three elements combined are really what initially interested me in Audrey’s paintings for the exhibition,” said Beaupré. “They are really beautiful all together.”

The community’s response to Barcio’s exposure has been positive, Beaupré said, and she believes Barcio is a ‘good guide’ for her students who can give them more advice on college and life afterwards. .

“You can always tell who a teacher is. They are very open, very receptive and very attentive, and [Barcio] achieved all the objectives,” said Beaupré. “I think she shows her students how to think about what college they’ll go to, where they’ll work… I think that’s the best kind of information to pass on to your students, beyond love that you have for the material.”

Beaupre believes Barcio can guide students in a unique way due to his own college experience, as Barcio was the first person in his family to attend a four-year university. Barcio said it was difficult for her to be a first-generation student.

She attended the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), where she earned a degree in Art Education and a minor in Art History. She worked throughout college as a waitress, taking extra time to complete her undergraduate degree so she wouldn’t take out student loans and be able to continue paying for her education.

After graduating from IUPUI, she worked as a substitute teacher and taught classes at Herron as an adjunct teacher, as well as community classes and worked at Big Car Art Collaborative, a nonprofit arts organization in Indianapolis.

In 2008, Barcio and her husband, Phillip Barcio, moved to San Francisco, where she returned to work in a restaurant because art jobs in the area paid very low wages. She became a sommelier – a wine expert – before she and her husband moved to Los Angeles.

While in Los Angeles, a friend of Barcio’s reminded her that she had moved out West because she planned to go to college.

“He was like, ‘You’re an artist – what do you do?'” Barcio said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know,’ and that process of questioning got me back on my path. Graduate school was a really good time because it was my first time remembered that I had really taken the time [to focus on art].”

After completing graduate school, Barcio began working at Kavi Gupta, an art gallery in Chicago, where she met various artists, including Beverly Fishman, former head of painting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Assistant art professor Audrey Barcio poses for a photo Jan. 7 in her studio. Barcio was the first in her family to attend college and earned her master’s degree at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Rylan Capper, DN

“[Barcio] was basically my liaison, who was my go-to person at the gallery when things came up or if I had questions,” Fishman said. “She was 100% professional and absolutely responsible. She’s super smart and I really like her.

Fishman said she always knew Barcio was an ambitious artist, so it was only a matter of time before she left the gallery to teach. She and Barcio don’t usually talk about education when they’re together, but she can imagine it being articulate, engaging and relatable.

“She’s a strong woman, and that’s really important for young artists,” Fishman said. “To see women in positions of power and to be able to emulate that idea that you could be an artist – and you can also be a mentor and an educator – is really important.”

For Barcio, teaching and creating her own art go hand in hand, and she believes her job at Ball State was the first job she had that encouraged her to be an artist.

“A lot of times when you’re an artist, you kind of hide the fact that you’re an artist because your work really wants you to be committed to them and what they do,” Barcio said. “I’m a natural extrovert and so, for me, teaching is perfect because when I’m working in my studio, it’s just me, and it can be really lonely.”

Teaching also gives Barcio the opportunity to share his passion for art history with students, reminding them why it matters to them in their careers. She also likes that teaching gives her the opportunity to examine more of the production process, especially in painting.

Barcio said there are a lot of responsibilities in teaching, which she takes very seriously. She includes various topics in her class, comparing artists of the past to those working now and what their differences are. She also shares her own experiences with students, inspiring them to look to the next chapter in their creative lives.

“That’s why I think it took me a while to get into teaching as a profession,” she says. “I really wanted to experience what it was like to be an artist and live in different cities and have a variety of different jobs. I wanted to have my own personal success and accolades, and I didn’t want to go from undergraduate to graduate in teaching, because that’s not the life that many people have, or that my students will have.

Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at [email protected] or on Twitter @mayawilkinss.


ND at $ 149 million in federal rent assistance

January 10, 2022

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North Dakota is preparing to return $ 149 million in rent assistance to the federal government.

According to Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota “is set to return $ 149 million of the $ 352 million it received from the federal government’s emergency rent assistance program.” Why is North Dakota trying to send all this money back? Well, a representative from the North Dakota Department of Social Services reportedly said it was unrealistic for that amount of money to be spent in the state. But housing advocates believe more needs to be done before funds are returned.

It turns out that many North Dakotas who need help have yet to receive help.

You don’t have to dig very deep to find that the Rental Assistance Program is perfect. When you go to North Dakota Help is here website, the first thing you see on the site is where you can go for help. Scrolling down to the next item on the page reveals that there are so many requests for help that North Dakota Housing Services cannot keep up with the responses.

Will people in North Dakota who are waiting for rent assistance be able to get help?

There would be a deadline for spending the $ 149 million. But if people are clearly having trouble getting the promised aid, why wouldn’t North Dakota try to get an extension to send the money back? Hopefully those who need help can get it before the funds come back.

KEEP READING: Discover The Richest Person In Each State

Stop NM’s debt cycle, cap high interest loans at 36%

January 9, 2022

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Every day in New Mexico, people find themselves trapped in the cycle of high interest consumer loans – in New Mexico, that means an annual interest rate of up to 175% – unable to escape it. These installment loans and auto title loans are sometimes referred to as “payday loans” because the payments are tied to when the borrower is paid. In New Mexico, there have been numerous attempts over the years to reduce the exorbitant interest charged, but these lenders have been allowed to continue operating at rates prohibited in many other states. It is high time to put an end to these predatory lending practices. We encourage Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico legislature to stop these high interest loans.

Here’s the scenario: A family’s income is less than what it needs for basic necessities or the family faces an unexpected expense, such as a car repair, and borrows a few hundred dollars from a lender. expensive, at an annual interest rate of 175%. It’s an option they’ve seen heavily advertised, touting no credit checks and quick cash. When the time comes to repay the loan, the family does not have the extra money to pay or is forced to transfer the money needed to pay for other expenses in order to make a payment on the loan. Over time, the family may be encouraged to refinance the loan to ease the difficulty of repaying, which leads to increased debt and ultimately a debt trap when they cannot repay the loan. .

In New Mexico, we’re letting that cycle go on and on, with an interest rate cap of 175%. There are options to this predation. Credit unions across the state offer small loans at a reasonable interest rate – well below 36% – to borrowers, often without a credit check. Almost a million New Mexicans are already members of a credit union, which makes this option easy and accessible. City and county governments, schools, colleges, and businesses across the state adhere to an alternative program, TrueConnect, which allows employees to take out small loans that are repaid over time in the form of payroll deductions. pays, with an interest rate between 20% and 25%. . Falling interest rates don’t mean people will run out of options, but the options available will allow borrowers to repay the loans they take out.

Make no mistake: High-interest lenders, 89% of which are out-of-state companies, are taking money out of the pockets of hard-working New Mexicans who are just trying to make ends meet. No one wants to be in need of a short term loan, and those who do should not be fresh meat for loan sharks, eager to kill someone else’s misfortune.

Capping interest rates at unacceptable levels has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for decades. President George W. Bush enacted the Military Loans Act in 2006, which capped rates at 36% for active duty military personnel and their spouses. States across the country, from New York to Nebraska, from Maryland to Montana, cap their loan rates at 36% or less. Over 80% of New Mexicans surveyed support a capitalization rate of 36% or less. This is the rate that we have proposed again, and it should be adopted.

We urge the Governor and the Legislative Assembly to pass legislation without excuse or delay to protect low-income New Mexicans.


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Agriculture Secretary Ready for Second Round of Meat Packaging Reforms | 406 Politics

January 7, 2022

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You could say Monday was not Tom Vilsack’s first rodeo.

President Joe Biden was figuratively on the saddle to rescue both cash-strapped ranchers and consumers alike by a meat-packing industry in which four big players control over 85% of the market.

Vilsack, who was also Agriculture Secretary under Barack Obama, had done it before, when the effort was wiped out faster than can be said to be re-election.

But this time, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is optimistic the outcome will be different, if only for another reason as Biden having $ 1 billion to increase the number of independent meat packers competing with the Big Four. industry: Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS and National Beef packaging.

The theory goes like this: if there is another buyer in the auction barn, there will be competition which will naturally increase the price paid to ranchers for the cattle. The plan, announced this week, drew comments from Republican and Democratic politicians in Montana, signaling that they also wanted market reform. Livestock sales were about $ 1.5 billion to the state’s economy in 2020, but that number was $ 100 million lower than sales the year before, as supply issues hit farmers. breeders and consumers directly into their wallets.

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“With the US bailout, we have the resources to actually do something on the funding side, and we are putting the finishing touches on some rules and regulations that will be coming in 2022 to strengthen enforcement,” Vilsack told the Lee Montana Newspapers Wednesday.

“Our belief is that by increasing capacity, we increase competition. When you do this, you will help farmers take better advantage of the market. And you’re going to give consumers choice in the marketplace, which we think will moderate the price increases as well. And secondly, you want to make sure that there are two sides to it, you want to make sure that you have enough information so that farmers can determine whether or not they are getting fair treatment.

“And it touches on the transparency of market reporting that is necessary. I need Congress to continue to expand the mandatory reporting efforts that will allow us to get information. And you need, I think, Congress do what Sen. (Jon) Tester and Senator (Chuck) Grassley are interested in doing, which is to create more market transparency, to have the right level of cash transactions that gives you an idea of ​​what really is the market.

The US Department of Agriculture will invest $ 375 million in gap funding grants for independent processors to meet a need for more processing capacity. One of the lessons of recent years is that a single disruption between the four major meat processors can derail the beef market for ranchers and consumers.

In August 2019, a fire at a Tyson Foods packaging plant in Kansas created a bottleneck at both ends of the United States’ meat supply chain. Pastoralists with livestock to sell have been supported by lower production, resulting in oversupply and lower livestock prices as a result. On the consumer side, less beef was arriving in supermarkets, leading to higher prices as supply failed to meet demand.

A few months later, a ransomware attack on JBS reduced the number of slaughtered cattle by 40,000 carcasses in just a day and a half.

The USDA will invest an additional $ 150 million in the 15 independent processor projects that are nearing completion. An additional $ 225 million will be invested in projects that can be put online by the summer. Federally backed loans totaling $ 275 million will be made available for independent meat processing in underserved communities.

In addition, $ 100 million will be spent to create a skilled workforce, which Montana meat processors said earlier this week is necessary for any independent processing expansion to be successful. There aren’t enough qualified meat cutters currently to staff Montana’s meat packaging industry, said Lyle Happel, of the Montana Meat Processors Association.

Demand for independent meat processing increased in the pandemic’s first year, as disease and death from COVID-19 hit packing plants at the four major slaughterhouses. At least 59,000 meat packaging workers have been sickened by COVID-19 in the first 12 months of the pandemic in the United States. At least 269 workers have died from COVID-19. These numbers were reported to the U.S. Coronavirus Crisis Subcommittee on October 27, 2021.

In Montana, where 31 meat processors are state inspected and 28 federally inspected, there is growth in the industry, although this can be difficult to measure as some activities are disguised as existing processors passing from a state inspection designation to a federal inspection designation. Federal meat inspection is what is required to sell meat across state borders, which attracts processors who are expanding into multi-state markets.

The USDA has $ 32 million available for 167 existing processors to go for federal inspection so they can reach more customers.

The new rules, to which Vilsack refers, to control anti-competitive practices, include ensuring that independent processors gain a foothold in retail markets.

Accessing space in grocery store refrigerators is no easy task, said Walter Schweitzer, president of the Montana Farmer’s Union. Just as big brands buy from shelves in the grain aisle, refrigerated spaces are real property that big meat suppliers can secure and crowd out from their competition.

“A big part of the piece of this puzzle is that if we’re going to have a more competitive market, we’re not only going to have to force these packaging companies to play fairly, but we’re going to have to force retailers to play fairly, too,” said Schweitzer.

The MFU rushed to reform country-of-origin labeling for meat. Currently, “Product of USA” labels on meat packaging in the store are not limited to beef raised in the United States. The largest meat processors process beef from Canada and Mexico at their 50 packing plants in the United States. When meat is mixed during processing, this country of origin label ends up being applied to the meat of all three countries.

The United States, under a law championed by Democratic Senator from Montana Tester, attempted to require a US-only COOL label, but Mexico and Canada opposed, arguing the label violated the label. ‘North American Free Trade Agreement. The World Trade Organization then concluded that Canada and Mexico could impose tariffs on other U.S. exports in retaliation, after which the federal government killed COOL without challenging the WTO.

How the labeling ended is a sore point at Schweitzer.

“You know, this Product of USA label as it is now is fraudulent,” said Schweitzer. “The United States being one of the largest beef importers in the world, and you have processing capacity owned by the Brazilian cartel (JBS). They mix it up. You know they are and they proudly do it. And then they put the label on it.

The MFU wants country of origin labeling to be mandatory and applied only to American beef. They support a tester bill to do it.

Vilsack said the labeling being rolled out under the Biden administration is voluntary, although the U.S.-only labeling requirements are there. The Agriculture Secretary expects that once independent processors become more involved and the US label is affixed to their product, the biggest packers of meat will feel market pressure to do the same.

Could they skip the labeling? “Well, sure, in which case when you go to the grocery store you can know that the product you are buying at one point had no connection with the United States, compared to this local producer who received a grant. or a loan from the USDA to produce its own processing facility that puts a label on it and says “not only is it a product of the United States, but it’s a product of Joe Smith’s farm on the road” , said Vilsack. “I guarantee you. I believe people will buy a package for Joe with the Joe Smith label on it. And that will increase the market share, if you will, to labeled products, as opposed to unlabelled products.”

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Asylum? Canadian mask critic detained by border patrol in Montana

January 5, 2022

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Latest news from the get-go: According to CTV, a Canadian, who has criticized mask warrants and other lockdown measures, has been arrested by the US Border Patrol after crossing the border near Plentywood, MT.

It makes you wonder how many times we have seen this happen in record numbers here in America. Illegal aliens are flocking across our southern border, no COVID test or vaccine passport is required. Then they’re shipped on the taxpayer’s penny across the country and allowed to stay here in the United States. But if you * legally * want to cross the border and come here from Canada to visit family in Montana … no you can’t have it without jumping through a bunch of hoops.

That’s what makes this news from Plentywood, MT even more interesting. Apparently, a Canadian who criticized mask warrants and other lockdown measures, and risked jail time for his protests, has now been arrested by a US border patrol after crossing the border from Montana.

CTV News had the storyy from Calgary, Alberta:

After failing to show up on the last weekend of an intermittent jail sentence, former Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston was arrested Tuesday morning by US Border Patrol agents while ‘he was trying to cross on foot from Saskatchewan to Montana.

Johnston is being held in the town of Plentywood on Monday. as officials work to get him back to Canada.

The Calgary Herald has more information on his charges:

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Adam Germain sentenced Johnston in September to 40 days in jail to serve the weekend for contempt, for violating three court orders directing him to comply with public health measures such as masking during the third wave of COVID-19.

Sounds like he might be a controversial figure in Canadian politics, but does that sound like a real case of political asylum to you? Could Montana officials do something to prevent him from being returned to Canada?

* The history of the note has been updated. The initial report described him as a pastor.

LOOK: What important laws were passed in the year you were born?

The data in this list was acquired from reliable online sources and media. Read on to find out which major law was passed in the year you were born, and learn its name, vote count (if any), impact, and meaning.


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After the great 2021, Wall Street starts the new year on a positive note | national news

January 3, 2022

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Shares rose in morning trading on Wall Street on Monday into a strong start to the year after the 2021 close with big gains for the third year in a row.

The S&P 500 was up 0.3% at 10:21 a.m. EST. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 100 points, or 0.3%, to 36,436 and the Nasdaq rose 0.5%.

Tech companies and a mix of retailers have gained ground. Tesla jumped 8.9% after reporting high delivery figures for 2021.

Bond yields have increased significantly. The 10-year Treasury yield fell from 1.51% on Friday to 1.60%. Banks, which rely on higher yields to charge more lucrative interest on loans, have gained ground. Bank of America rose 3.8%.

Smaller company stocks outperformed the market as a whole, a sign that investors were confident about economic growth. The Russell 2000 rose 1.4%,

Healthcare companies fell widely and controlled gains elsewhere in the market. Pfizer lost 4% despite news that the United States is set to potentially expand its COVID-19 booster shots for children as young as 12 years old.

A mix of household goods makers also fell.

Investors are heading into a new year with the virus pandemic still posing a threat to the economy. Wall Street has been busy since December monitoring the latest wave of cases with the omicron variant.

Businesses and consumers also continue to face supply chain issues and persistently rising inflation that has made a wide range of products more expensive. Rising costs could threaten to cut consumer spending and weaken economic growth.

The long list of concerns predicted a choppy end through 2021, but didn’t stop the broader market from posting another year of solid gains. The S&P 500 finished with a gain of 26.9% in 2021, for a total return of 28.7%, including dividends. This is almost as much as the benchmark gained in 2019.

Investors have several key economic data to look forward to in the first week of the New Year. The Institute for Supply Management will give investors an update on the manufacturing sector on Tuesday and the service sector on Thursday.

The big event on the economic calendar this week is the Labor Department’s employment report on Friday.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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Federal law still treats marijuana as an illegal drug, creating headaches for states

January 1, 2022

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Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of grant-supported news bureaus and a coalition of donors as a 501c (3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Ruth Conniff with any questions: [email protected] Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.



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SEC: Payday loan program robs investors of millions | national news

December 28, 2021

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MIAMI (AP) – The owner of a Miami-based payday loan company defrauded hundreds of investors out of millions of dollars and paid others back with money he acquired through a Ponzi, according to a newspaper article and federal regulators.

Around 500 investors, including many from the Venezuelan community of South Florida, were won over by Efrain Betancourt Jr.’s sales pitch on the high returns on their investments in his short-term loan operation Sky Group USA, the Miami Herald reported.

the Miami Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Betancourt, 33, and his company in September, the report notes. The agency accuses Betancourt of having committed securities violations as part of a scheme that authorities qualify as “affinity fraud”.

In addition to the SEC complaint, a half-dozen other lawsuits and arbitration cases have been filed against Betancourt, according to the newspaper. He has not been criminally charged.

Betancourt spent part of the $ 66 million raised from promissory notes for a lavish lifestyle that included a waterside condo in Miami and a wedding with his fourth wife in Monaco, according to the SEC complaint . He also accuses him of transferring money to his ex-wife and friends and of using at least $ 19 million from a Ponzi scheme to pay interest to certain investors in order to keep at bay.

The SEC complaint says Sky Group and Betancourt falsely told investors the company would use investor money only to make payday loans and cover the costs of those loans. They have been promised annual rates of return as high as 120% on the Notes.

“We continue to caution investors to be wary of any investment that promises returns that are too good to be true,” Eric I. Bustillo, director of the SEC’s Miami regional office, told the Herald.

The SEC is asking for permanent injunctions and financial penalties.

The program lasted from January 2016 to March 2020, just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the complaint, which indicates that when countless borrowers defaulted on their payday loans, Sky Group encountered a serious problem with cash flow and was unable to pay the interest. on investor promissory notes.

Court records and legal documents indicate that Betancourt also falsely claimed to have degrees in law and computer engineering in the United States.

Betancourt has repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a deposition earlier this month with a lawyer representing former clients, the Herald reported. In a deposition with the same lawyer in May, he admitted that he did not have degrees in law and computer engineering in the United States. But he insisted that his payday lending business was legitimate and called investors “lenders” involved in funding short-term, high-interest loans, which he called “business transactions.”

“I made it very clear that they were investing in a payday portfolio,” Betancourt told attorney Rick Diaz.

In a motion to dismiss the complaint, Betancourt defense attorney Mark David Hunter argued that promissory notes are loans and not securities, such as stocks and bonds. Therefore, Hunter said, Betancourt and Sky Group did not break the law when they failed to repay the lenders.

Diaz described Betancourt as a “mini-Madoff,” a reference to the late New York financial adviser Bernard Madoff, who led the biggest Ponzi scheme in US history.

“I have dealt with, filed for and defended Ponzi schemes over the years,” he told the Herald. “Efrain Betancourt is the sweetest, most cruel and arrogant, selfish and narcissistic of all.”

Diaz’s client Andres Zorrilla told the newspaper he grew suspicious when Betancourt didn’t take his calls and ignored his emails when he tried to withdraw $ 30,000 from his investments in the business to help cover her mother’s medical expenses. One of her emails included a photo of her mother showing the surgical stitches from brain surgery.

“The guy was just stealing money,” said Zorilla, 38, who added that he also referred his wife, brother and several other business associates to the Betancourt company. Together, Zorrilla and her immediate family invested $ 150,000 in the business. They received a few interest payments, but lost all of their principal.

“He made a lot of money and went a little crazy with the money,” Zorrilla said.

For more information on copyright, see the distributor of this article, The Miami Herald.


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After 2 years of COVID, farmers seek to make a difference in 2022

December 23, 2021

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Wisconsin farmers have had a tough few years. Recent investments could help reverse this trend.

An extremely difficult profession for decades, farming in Wisconsin has only become more difficult in almost two years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Difficulties in finding sufficient manpower. Increased spending. Sales of animals delayed or abandoned due to backlog of meat processing. Growing Mental Health Problems of Farmers.

These and other problems, added to the economic woes that have caused a record number dairy farmers to shut their doors and grain farmers to struggle even before the pandemic began, have created historic challenges for the state’s agricultural sector, said Randy Romanski, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Consumer Protection (DATCP) of Wisconsin. But recent investments from federal and state agencies are expected to help farmers as they continue to weather the challenges.

“Obviously, there are challenges we still face because of COVID. Unfortunately, these did not leave, ”Romanski said. “What we hear from farmers is that the prices they receive for their produce are going up in many cases. But the challenge is that their costs have also increased. Seeds, fertilizers, equipment, it’s all costing more this year.

Hardship during the pandemic, in addition to half a dozen years of costs exceeding income, is forcing farmers across the state to scramble to stay financially viable, Buffalo County dairy farmer Joe said. Bragger. While higher milk prices and a bumper grain harvest have provided a much needed increase in income, that money is being offset in many cases by rapidly rising costs, he said.

Fertilizers cost double or triple normal prices, he said, and a labor shortage means hiring costs are higher as well. Supply chain bottlenecks have drastically increased other prices farmers pay, he said.

“I’m told the costs are going to stay high for over a year,” Bragger said. “Farmers are going to have to be very careful about how much we spend on certain items. You really have to ask yourself with every purchase, is it worth it?

RELATED: Farm to School Program Hopes State Can Solve Supply Chain Problems in School Cafeterias

Wisconsin farmers like Bragger are grateful to receive the highest grain and milk prices they have seen in years, said Wisconsin Farmers Union president Darin Von Ruden. But in too many cases, “farmers are using this money to offset losses they have suffered for years,” said Von Ruden, a dairy farmer near Westby.

Other challenges, including a continuing shortage of meat processors, have left farmers waiting a year or more for their animals to be slaughtered, which has significantly slowed sales. A long-standing milk pricing policy that places Wisconsin dairy farmers disadvantaged and an agricultural market in which farmers often receive little money for the sale of their produce needs to be overhauled to allow more producers to be successful, said Von Ruden.

“Right now, taxpayers are paying for [agriculture subsidies] in addition to the higher costs in the market, ”he said. “It’s really a question of how to get more money from the farmers. ”

Wisconsin farmers say they have difficulty finding farm machinery or other items they need to do their jobs due to supply chain disruptions that are delaying manufacturing and transportation. Farmers say the wait for some equipment lasts a year or more. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

Meeting infrastructure needs

Despite troubled times made worse by the ongoing pandemic, financial assistance is on the way for farmers who have been affected for years by low milk prices, uncertain markets, rising operating costs and now the pandemic, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said.

Vilsack touted rural project funding during a visit last week to a dairy farm near Cottage Grove in Dane County and Chippewa County Bloomer’s Town to promote President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill that has stalled in the US Senate. Bloomer will receive $ 27.6 million in loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program, part of $ 114 million to address drinking water infrastructure and other projects in rural Wisconsin.

“When we invest in rural infrastructure, we are investing in the livelihoods and health of rural America,” Vilsack said in a press release.

Bragger sees the benefits of spending on infrastructure in the hills of the city of Buffalo County, MT, where he lives and serves on city council. Most of the city has benefited from broadband upgrades in recent years, he said, and the city council is working to connect residents to high-speed internet in the part of town that does. is still lacking.

“I spent a lot of my time for an entire year at Zoom meetings,” Bragger said. “Here I am in the hills of this rural community, and I have one of the best connectivity you can imagine… We realize how important it is for everyone to have this access.

Investments considered key

Romanski said he sees signs of hope on the horizon in the form of state and federal funding and in the creative approaches farmers are taking to stay financially viable.

Combined $ 100 million coronavirus relief funding disbursed by Governor Tony Evers through the Wisconsin Farm Support Program helped keep many farmers afloat during the pandemic. On Monday, Evers announced that more than 20,000 Wisconsin farmers will receive nearly $ 2,500 each in Farm Support Program dollars, in a $ 50 million disbursement first announced in August.

A shortage of meat processing plants in Wisconsin, made more apparent during the coronavirus pandemic, has delayed sales and processing of animals, reducing farmers’ incomes. State officials are looking for ways to increase processing capacity. (Photo by Julian Emerson)

“This money doesn’t make anyone safe, but it has enabled farmers to pay a few bills and use the money they earn to pay for other costs,” Romanski said.

Earlier this month, Evers invested $ 30 million in food security payments to help two state food banks, Feeding Wisconsin and the Hunger Task Force, distribute food to people in need. These agencies will get in touch with farmers to involve them in the program.

“It’s a great way to connect the dots and bond with Wisconsin farmers,” Romanski said. “There is a continuing and ongoing need to help those who are food insecure. “

Romanski said his agency is also working on plans to increase the number of meat processing plants in Wisconsin. The state recently hired two meat inspectors and plans to hire two more soon, he said. Six meat processors have applied for grants to expand their facilities, and Romanski has said he expects more to do so.

Addressing the shortage of processors is key to increasing farmer animal sales and hopefully curbing high consumer meat prices, Von Ruden said. He said negotiating changes to the federal Farm Bill to manage the supply of produce to avoid oversupply and simultaneous low prices is key to helping more farmers survive financially.

“We are seeing some interest… in getting a system that will benefit everyone involved, from the farmer to the consumer,” he said.

“Building on our successes”

Von Ruden said he sees other opportunities next year that could benefit farmers. He praised the Biden administration for seriously considering competition issues in agriculture. Tackling what are essentially monopolies in agricultural sectors, such as the meat industry, would reduce supply chain problems, he said.

“There are too few people who own the production systems that we have,” he said.

He said he is encouraged by a growing number of young farmers enter the business. More and more farmers of all ages are finding connections with customers, in some cases through local food movements, said Von Ruden.

Romanski said such partnerships can help deliver more nutritious food to customers while providing much needed new markets for farmers. The Farm to School program, in which DATCP, WFU, and the state’s Department of Education work to connect farmers to their local school districts, has grown in importance as schools are struggling to get food for student meals. Two bills to raise funds to better connect farmers and school districts are expected to go to the state legislature next year.

“The governor would also like to build resilience with this issue,” Romanski said of school feeding programs. “We are trying to connect these dots at the regional level. If we can find a school that needs a particular food item, and there might be a farmer on the road who can provide it… we want to make those connections.

Designing new approaches to help farmers will be key to preventing more of them from going out of business, especially as pandemic-related issues appear likely to continue into the next year as crops grow. COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin in recent months and the recent spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, Romanski and Von Ruden said.

“COVID and the challenges it presents are still with us, unfortunately,” Romanski said. “But with investments in agriculture and new ideas and approaches, we look to the next year to try and find more ways to come together to build on our successes.”

Bragger agrees with this sentiment, saying some farmers would not always be in business without the COVID-19 aid funding. He said he was optimistic about possible changes to the milk pricing formula that would benefit Wisconsin dairy farmers. And he’s inspired by the resilience farmers have shown, a feeling he says will be needed next year as well.

“Of course, these are difficult times,” he said. “We just need to stay together and support each other, and we’re going to be okay with it. ”


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