Friday, December 16, 2011

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Development Finance Authority is a relatively small state agency in terms of staff and office space. However, the agency is rather large if you measure its economic effect on the Arkansas business community and the state's housing market.

ADFA has received a new federal grant of $13.1 million that it will use to help small business obtain financing. The agency has a successful track record in managing previous federal grants, using the money to help small businesses and minority-owned businesses hire more workers, buy new equipment and install innovative technology.

One factor in the success of the loan programs is the involvement of private lending institutions. Each dollar provided by the ADFA loan program is expected to leverage an additional $10 in private investments, so the grant will ultimately provide $130 million in investments for small businesses in Arkansas.

Small businesses represent the overwhelming majority of businesses in Arkansas. More than half a million Arkansas jobs are in small businesses.

ADFA finances numerous economic development programs that promote investment in agri-business, port facilities, tourism, waste water projects and venture capital for emerging technologies.

The agency also has loan programs that help people with low and moderate incomes buy houses, and help developers finance the construction of affordable apartments.

ADFA has 50 employees in three divisions - housing, development finance and agriculture/aquaculture. The agency is one of state government's major sources of financing for low-income housing and bonds for infrastructure projects and small business development.

Crime Victims Reparations

Crime victims in 143 new cases and 20 old cases received more than $220,000 in reparations in November.

The state attorney general's office administers the crime victims reparations program, which last year awarded $3.3 million in claims in 1,704 cases. The legislature created the crime victims reparations program in 1987. The money comes from court costs and fees, as well as fines paid by convicted criminals.

Claims are awarded to victims to compensate for lost wages, medical costs, counseling, funeral expenses, cleanup of crime scenes and replacing lost or broken eyeglasses and hearing aids. The program does not pay for attorneys' fees, property loss or pain and suffering.

Most individual awards are for $10,000 or less, but can be as much as $25,000 if the crime victim suffered catastrophic injuries that caused total and permanent disability.

Heart Disease Improvements

According to a recent report from the state Health Department, the number of Arkansas residents with heart disease has gone down slightly over the past five years. This is important because heart disease kills as many Americans as cancer, accidents and respiratory diseases such as pneumonia every year.

In 2006 physicians diagnosed 7.7 percent of Arkansans with some form of heart disease. By 2010 the rate had declined to 7.1 percent. West Virginia and Kentucky reported the highest rates of heart disease in 2010, with 8 and 8.2 percent respectively.

Public health officials attribute the improvement to a reduction in smoking rates and the fact that more people are controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Other risk factors are obesity, lack of physical activity and poverty.

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