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By Yemani Mason, Founder and CEO, VestMunity.com May 19, 2016 09:00 AM
Three of the top five metro areas in the country for distressed properties are in my home state of Florida, according to RealtyTrac. But while rehabilitating and reselling homes can result in a lift to neighborhood property values and provide local investors with wealth-building opportunities, the cost of doing so is often prohibitive even for experienced real estate developers. The average person has very limited access to the information and resources they need to safely pursue these types of investments, which is why I started VestMunity – I wanted to create a platform that connects everyday people to accessible investment opportunities.
I began building my business the same way that many tech startup founders do -- on my own, spending hundreds of hours blueprinting, coding, testing and debugging the VestMunity platform on a single laptop in my home. While at first I was flying solo, I luckily had enough savings to engage contractors to assist with the technical build-out phase. There were more than a few challenges along the way, however, and as costs mounted, I found it increasingly difficult to both finish building the platform and engage the important non-technical aspects of building a business.
By Joe Carbone, President and CEO, The Workplace May 10, 2016 01:00 PM
At first glance, employment in the U.S. appears to be on a slow and steady march of improvement. After reaching a high of 10 percent in 2010, the unemployment rate is now down to half of that amount– nearly reaching the 4.7 percent it was back in April 2006. But this promising trend obscures the ongoing struggles of those for whom being unemployed is in itself the biggest obstacle to finding another job.
More than a quarter of all unemployed Americans – 2.2 million people, roughly the population of Houston, Texas – have been without a job for 27 weeks or more, and are considered “long-term unemployed.” These workers are predominantly older (ages 55+), and many have a career’s worth of marketable skills and achievements which ought to give them an advantage in their job search; but as the weeks go by, and the time gap since their last job grows wider, prospective employers begin to overlook them in favor of candidates – even less qualified candidates – who currently have jobs or are only recently unemployed. As despair and debt quickly begin to pile up, the consequences are often financially and psychologically devastating, both for the workers and their families.
In 2011, we sought to take on this complex challenge by launching Platform to Employment (P2E) – a career readiness program which provides the long-term unemployed with the tools, resources and support they need to rejoin the workforce. Participants receive career coaching and professional skills training, such as resume-writing assistance and mock interviews. They gain access to free behavioral health services and, with support from Citi Community Development, receive financial counseling to overcome some of the challenges that result from long-term unemployment. Once participants complete the five week preparatory program, P2E helps participants find jobs with local employers. A dynamic element of the program is providing employers with a financial incentive to consider hiring participants. P2E offers employers an eight-week wage subsidy to cover a participant’s salary while they are given an opportunity to demonstrate they can do the job. Platform to Employment removes the perception of risk for employers, enabling them to evaluate the candidates fairly and without stigma.
By Val Smith, Director and Head of Corporate Sustainability May 05, 2016 12:00 PM
The event was held at Rio’s new iconic Museum of Tomorrow, an achievement in sustainable urban architecture
Cities are at the forefront of combatting climate change. Many cities and municipal governments and agencies were party to the Paris Agreement reached at COP21 in December, and many have committed to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals and meaningful climate strategies they must now implement. I recently participated in the first-of-its-kind global financing forum, hosted by the City of Rio de Janeiro, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities (WRI) and the Citi Foundation, where decision-makers from the private sector and nearly 20 global city governments convened to discuss the financial challenges cities face in pursuit of their sustainable climate strategies. The Financing Sustainable Cities Forum highlighted cities’ priorities around delivering sustainable urban solutions, including: cutting red tape, transit-oriented development and public-private partnerships.
An overriding theme of the forum was the sense of urgency many cities expressed for greater technical expertise in setting up public-private partnerships, a mode of project delivery that cities are increasingly looking to as a means of more efficiently delivering urban services. While public-private partnerships are great tools for leveraging private capital, their details determine how risks, revenues and costs are shared between a city and private partners over the term of a project. Experience and expertise are both required to ensure a strong partnership.
By Jen Mayer, Cohort Lead, City Accelerator Cohort 3 May 03, 2016 01:00 PM
The following blog post is part of the City Accelerator initiative supported by the Citi Foundation. The City Accelerator, in collaboration with Living Cities, aims to speed the adoption of local government innovations to improve cities and the lives of their low-income residents.
The third cohort of the City Accelerator, which formally kicks off April 15th in Denver, includes four cities that need to finance improvements to vital, but often overlooked infrastructure. St. Paul needs to come up with an overall framework and strategy for stormwater control for three critical developments. Pittsburgh needs to identify a strategy to fund, finance and deliver improvements to its historic stairway system. The District of Columbia would like to improve a number of infrastructure projects, including street lighting. San Francisco needs to shore up its seawall.
At first glance, these projects don’t seem to have a lot in common. Yet each project involves the kind of infrastructure that stays in the background when everything is going right, and only leaps to front and center in the public mind when something goes drastically wrong. Most of us don’t know (or care) much about how stormwater control works in our neighborhood – but when our basement floods, we quickly become very interested! Street lights and stairways are just things that are there – until they aren’t. San Francisco’s seawall is perhaps the most dramatic example of infrastructure that you don’t really see or appreciate until something happens. As we saw with the levees in New Orleans, the cost of failure is so high that it can be worth a huge investment to prevent it.
Most of the projects in the third cohort don’t involve a single, soaring piece of landmark infrastructure. We’re not talking about the multi-billion dollar New New York Bridge, replacing the Tappan Zee bridge, or even a brand new drinking water plant or solid waste facility. These projects have challenges of their own, of course, but many of the cities are struggling to fund infrastructure networks, like stormwater control structures, street lighting and sidewalks, that are harder to point to and get people to care about until they fail.
By Val Smith, Director and Head of Corporate Sustainability April 18, 2016 03:00 PM
Each year, Citi marks Earth Day, not just through events on that one date, but through a week-long series of employee-led sustainability initiatives around the world. These events raise awareness of important environmental and social issues, and support our Mission and Value Proposition by creating a meaningful, positive impact through reducing Citi’s operational footprint and deepening our ties to the communities where we live and work.
On Friday, April 22 – the date recognized globally as Earth Day – UN delegates will gather in New York City to formally sign and adopt the Paris Agreement. This agreement, a product of focused negotiations among nearly 200 countries, lays out a path to limit the rise in global temperature to under 2oC in an effort to avoid calamitous changes to our climate.
In support of Earth Day 2016 and the Paris Agreement, I would like to highlight some of Citi’s achievements in advancing Sustainable Progress, as well as our goals moving forward.
By Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, Miami-Dade County, Florida April 12, 2016 09:00 AM
Nearly one out of every five people who live in Miami-Dade County is an immigrant eligible for citizenship; but because of real and perceived legal, financial and informational hurdles, these individuals are missing out on the potential for higher earnings and access to vital resources for education and retirement.
That’s nearly half a million people -- greater than the entire population of the City of Atlanta.
Increasing immigrant integration in our county for those who are eligible will benefit families, their businesses, and both our local and national economies. Studies show that residents who naturalize see an average increase in earnings of between eight and eleven percent. If just half of all eligible residents became citizens, that could translate into a $3.2 billion boost in total earnings for Miami Dade residents. We also know that becoming a citizen opens up pathways for immigrants to stabilize their household finances and to build a stronger financial identity alongside their new national identity.
April 06, 2016 12:00 PM
Young people around the world need better economic opportunities, and increasingly the economic competitiveness of cities depends on their success. At the Citi Foundation, we work to inspire young people to believe in themselves and in their futures. That’s why, two years ago, we launched Pathways to Progress with a three-year commitment to invest $50 million to reach 100,000 low-income youth in ten cities across the U.S.
Through programs that cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset, instill leadership skills through debate and participation in service projects, provide a first job, and create networks of professional and personal support through mentor relationships, Pathways to Progress has connected tens of thousands of young people to opportunities that are shaping their progress and improving their economic futures. Today, we’re well on our way to meeting and exceeding our original goal, having reached over 70,000 young people.
By Steven Avadek, Director and Global Head, Citi Realty Services March 30, 2016 04:00 PM
Vashi Branch, Mumbai, India
For the ninth year in a row, Citi has engaged in Earth Hour campaign efforts encouraging Citi facilities to go 'dark' on March 19th between 8:30PM and 9:30 PM local time. Every year, Citi Realty Services coordinates with Citi sites across the globe to participate in Earth Hour by turning off all non-essential lights in office facilities and branches around the world. This year, Citi sites in South Africa, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, The UAE, The UK and US were among the over 3,181 Citi locations in 1,120 cities in 94 countries that switched off their lights during Earth Hour.
Citi first joined the Earth Hour event in 2008 with more than 50 registered locations, and has continued over the years to add more sites to support the campaign around the world. Sustainability is a key priority at Citi and I’m proud of the level of employee engagement around our sustainability initiatives. This year Citi came together more than ever before surpassing last year’s total sites ‘going dark’ and exceeding a participation rate of over 67 percent. Employee participation is critical to the success of any sustainability program and our colleagues continue to demonstrate their commitment to the importance of our sustainability initiatives.
Ventanilla de Asesoria Financiera: Building more financially inclusive cities for Mexican Immigrants
By Ambassador Sandra Fuentes-Berain, Consul General of Mexico in New York March 28, 2016 02:00 PM
Maria De Los Angeles Baez Rivera, a Mexican immigrant living in Queens, was in a very difficult place in October of 2014. Facing extreme financial hardship, she did not have a permanent home, and was constantly moving from place to place. She did not have a bank account, could not afford a mobile phone, and lacked the basic resources and stability necessary to obtain full-time employment.
There are roughly 320,000 Mexican immigrants in New York City—a community roughly the size of Pittsburgh—many of whom are struggling with similar situations as Maria. In order to better understand the financial needs of this community, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) and Citi Community Development published the Immigrant Financial Services Study in April 2013. The study revealed that more than half of Mexican immigrants in New York City do not have a bank account because of perceived or structural obstacles to engaging with financial institutions—obstacles which are often rooted in language, cultural or informational barriers to trust.
Mexican immigrants, like immigrants from many other countries, often have limited experiences with financial institutions in their new home. They worry about hidden fees, the security of their deposits or that authorities might take away their money. They are unfamiliar with tax benefits and are at times skeptical of programs that offer help.
By Pramit Jhaveri, Citi Country Officer, India March 23, 2016 09:30 AM
In January, Citi’s Club House Road facility in Chennai, India, became the very first Citi Realty Services (CRS) managed location globally to install solar photovoltaic panels. These clean energy generating units were installed on the rooftop of Citi’s office and are expected to generate a minimum of 60,000 kWh annually, generating around 3 percent of the building’s annual electricity consumption as well as avoiding over 55 tons of carbon dioxide being released per year - a significant contribution towards conservation.