September 2, 2014

Loan program announced to bolster Ferguson businesses impacted by riots, looting

Businesses that have been impacted by unrest following the shooting death of Michael Brown August 9 are being offered no-interest loans. $1-million dollars is being committed to the program, divided evenly among the state’s small business loan program, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and a coalition of St. Louis region banks.

Businesses in a specified area that were affected by looting and vandalism will be eligible for the loans.

“Over the past few weeks some businesses were looted or damaged and there have been dozens of others who have taken a financial hit because of lost customers and lost business,” says Nixon.

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a North St. Louis County native, has been placed in charge of distributing the loans. He says the owners of businesses in the region where looting and rioting occurred are facing challenges they’ve never faced before, but they haven’t backed down.

“With all these businesses not one had said, ‘We don’t think we can make it. We’re giving up,’” says Zweifel. “There’s a sense of optimism and resolve, I think, for most small business owners that we have.”

Governor Nixon says the program is only a first step toward helping spur economic, as well as emotional, recovery in the region.

Chamber applauds bill that redefines ‘misconduct’ becoming law

The state Chamber says a bill that will make it harder to get unemployment benefits will benefit both employees and employers.

The bill changes the definition of “misconduct” in relation to employment, so that it is harder for people to get unemployment benefits after doing things like violating an employer’s rules or even state standards that could get an employer in trouble.

Lawmakers backing the bill gave examples during debate including employees who urinated off of buildings or fell asleep on the job, yet were still able to draw benefits, and said the bill is needed to keep such things from happening again.

Vice President of Governmental Affairs with the Missouri Chamber, Tracy King, says fewer people getting benefits takes pressure off the unemployment trust fund.

“I think this is a common sense first step in what we need to do to try to shore up the unemployment trust fund and the system that’s out there,” says King, “so that it is out there for the people who truly need it.”

King says it was a series of compromises that led to Governor Jay Nixon (D) allowing the bill to become law this year, after vetoing similar legislation the past three years.

“There was some opposition with the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys last year. We worked with them on trying to compromise on this legislation, as well as the unions,” says King. “We felt like we found common ground.

She says the bill also includes language Governor Nixon wanted.

“The Governor vetoed a similar provision last year and in that veto message he stated that he needed some additional language in order for us to be in compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor. We included that this year.”

The bill takes effect August 28.

Gov. Nixon vetoes payday loan bill, says it is not ‘meaningful reform’

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has vetoed legislation aimed at restricting payday loans, dismissing the bill as not being true reform.

“Senate Bill No. 694 provides false hope of true payday lending reform while in reality falling far short of the mark,” writes Nixon in his veto message.

The bill would prevent consumers from taking out new short-term loans, as can happen under six times under current law, with interest continuing to accumulate. It would also require that once a year, lenders offer extended 60- to 120-day payment plans to borrowers, free of additional interest or fees.

The bill would also cap interest fees on loans at $35 for every $100 in principal. The current cap is 75-percent of the original principal.

Nixon writes the bill, “fails to protect consumers and fails to prevent the cycle of debt that payday lending perpetuates.” Instead, he says the bill, “appears to be part of a coordinated effort by the payday loan industry to avoid more meaningful reform.”

See the legislation, SB 694

The bill passed both legislative chambers by margins wide enough to overturn Nixon’s veto, if enough lawmakers would vote the same way.

McCaskill: cable, satellite TV need truth in billing (AUDIO)

Senator McCaskill’s Consumer Affairs Committee is going to investigate billing practices of the cable and satellite television industry.

She’s asking customers to send their horror stories to her as part of her committee’s look into possible “truth in billing practices” legislation. She says some of the practices are unfair to consumers and need to be cleaned up. In fact, she says, she’s a victim. “You’ve got a ten dollar charge on your bill and when you call in, you find out what you’ve been charged ten dollars for is now standard. This happened to me. They were charging ten dollars for a certain speed of internet. Well, I call in and I find out that’s the standard speed now. And I said, ‘When were you going to quit charging me the ten dollars?’ and they said, ‘When you called in.’”

She says consumers should not have to put up with stuff like that. She says cable and satellite TV companies make a lot of money by continuing to bill people for something that is now free. She also wants to look at the tier system that makes customers pay for a lot of channels they don’t want.\    

McCaskill says she doesn’t want government to interfere with a healthy and competitive market place, but she says there clearly are some questionable practices in the industry.

AUDIO: McCaskill interview 7:19

Anheuser-Busch reveals ingredients for first time, to The Food Babe (VIDEO)

Anheuser-Busch has for the first time revealed the ingredients of two of its beers. The brewing giant has posted the list of what goes into Budweiser and Bud Light on its website in response to an online petition from food blogger Vani Hari, also known as “The Food Babe.”

Hari encourages people to know what is in the food they eat and to make healthy choices, and teaches them how to lives an organic lifestyle. During her effort to get beer makers to inform the public about what they put in their products, she started the petition at FoodBabe.com/beer.

“Within 24 hours we received over 50-thousand signatures, but around the 40-thousand mark I received an e-mail, a tweet and a phone call from the head of communications at Anheuser-Busch,” says Hari. The company invited her to tour its St. Louis brewery and indicated that, “they are going to now release all ingredients on the website.”

Anheuser-Busch has posted the ingredients of Budweiser and Bud Light on its website, tapintoyourbeer.com, with a promise that other brands’ ingredient lists will follow.

 

“As American consumer needs evolve, we want to meet their expectations,” wrote Terri Vogt, Vice President of Communications at Anheuser-Busch. “Therefore, we are working to list our beer ingredients on our website, just as you would see for other food and non-alcohol beverage producers. We are beginning immediately, having incorporated this information earlier today onwww.tapintoyourbeer.com for our flagship brands Budweiser and Bud Light, and will be listing this for our other brands in the coming days.”

“Anheuser-Busch was not trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes,” says Hari, who appreciates the company’s professionalism and quick response, but she wants to see more of those product ingredient lists, and quickly.

“I’m not sure why they’re not up right now. It would be a quick website change,” says Hari. “I’m a computer scientist. I know how to do this information. They’re a multi-billion-dollar company. I’d like to see them work pretty quick.”

According to Anheuser-Busch’s website both Budweiser and Bud Light contain water, barley malt, rice, yeast and hops.

Hari hopes other beer makers will also reveal their ingredients, but she would really like to see the government change its practices. Right now, the Treasury Department regulates beer, so manufacturers don’t have to list ingredients on labels as do the makers of products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.