Money Odds & Ends

Milwaukee law firm forms stimulus team of attorneys; Fiserv survey says more consumers are banking online; Treasury’s new plan will include boost in SBA loans

Milwaukee law firm forms stimulus team of attorneys

Davis & Kuelthau s.c. has formed a team of attorneys to assist public sector and private sector clients with the federal infrastructure stimulus program, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009.

In addition to the federal legislation, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle also recently created the Office of Recovery and Reinvestment, designed to direct stimulus bill funds to state projects.

"The billions of dollars in targeted spending currently proposed in the bill will have a considerable impact on municipalities, school districts, contractors and suppliers in Wisconsin," said Ann Rieger, president of Davis & Kuelthau. "The rapid deployment of these funds and the ‘shovel ready’ requirement of the projects will require many hours of manpower to comply with the sheer volume of projects that will be funded. We are pleased to provide the necessary support as clients navigate their way through the requirements of this complex and comprehensive initiative."

Fiserv survey says more consumers are banking online

U.S. consumers are paying more attention to their finances and using online banking services more frequently during the current global financial crisis, according to a newly commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Fiserv Inc., a Brookfield-based provider of information technology services to the financial industry.

Seventy-one percent of consumers said they are keeping a closer eye on their finances than they did a year ago. Slightly more than three-quarters of the consumers surveyed said they use online banking, with non-users making up the remaining one-quarter. Online banking usage increased far more than any other banking channel, with 28 percent of consumers indicating they are using online banking more than they did a year ago, and 63 percent said managing all of their accounts online from one site would help them feel more in control of their finances.

"In these difficult times, financial institutions are looking for new ways to reach out to consumers and provide value," said Todd Lesher, division president of Fiserv Electronic Banking Services. "This survey indicates that online banking is still a great opportunity for financial institutions looking to strengthen their ties with consumers. Consumers are using online banking more frequently to monitor their cash flow, manage their finances more actively and save money on stamps. Financial institutions are playing an important role by providing new and innovative online tools to help consumers weather the financial storm."

Sixty-percent of consumers said they are spending less than they did a year ago, and 24 percent reported paying for items with cash more often. To help tighten their belts in response to the financial crisis, 66 percent of those surveyed reported making a decision to drive less, 27 percent cancelled vacation plans and 18 percent delayed a new car purchase. More consumers also resorted to credit cards and savings to help pay the bills. Thirty-six percent said had tapped savings to help pay bills, and 34 percent had paid a bill with a credit card in the past 12 months.

Savings deposits were hit hardest by the economic slump. Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed said they had decreased the amounts they had deposited into savings accounts, and 19 percent said they were putting less money into their checking accounts than a year ago.

For more information about the survey, visit

Treasury’s new plan will include boost in SBA loans

Last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled a new Financial Stability Plan to save America’s banks, provide relief for overburdened homeowners and make more money available to be lent to consumers and small businesses.

"Without a powerful Economic Recovery Act, too many Americans will lose their jobs and too many businesses will fail. And unless we restore the flow of credit, the recession will be deeper and longer, causing even more damage to families and businesses across the country," Geithner said.

Geithner said the first half of the Troubled Asset Relief Program was necessary, but it was not adequate and it was not transparent.

"The force of government support was not comprehensive or quick enough to withstand the deepening pressure brought on by the weakening economy," Geithner said. "Our challenge is much greater today because the American people have lost faith in the leaders of our financial institutions, and are skeptical that their government has – to this point – used taxpayers’ money in ways that will benefit them. This has to change.

Unlike the first half of the TARP, the revised program will be conducted transparently, with the flow of the taxpayer dollars documented at a new web site,

Geithner acknowledged that the new programs could cost more than $1.5 trillion dollars in total.

Geithner said the plan will include increased funding for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to make more money available to be lent to small businesses and create more jobs.

"And because small businesses are so important to our economy, we’re going to take additional steps to make it easier for them to get credit from community banks and large banks. By increasing the federally guaranteed portion of SBA loans, and giving more power to the SBA to expedite loan approvals, we believe we can turn around the dramatic decline in SBA lending we have seen in recent months," Geithner said.

He said some of the relief also will be focused on shoring up the nation’s real estate markets.

"By providing the financing the private markets cannot now provide, this will help start a market for the real estate related assets that are at the center of this crisis," he said.

Geithner said the new plan will include the following components:

1. A financial stability trust that will require a comprehensive "stress test" for banks that will receive support and limits on executive compensation.

2. A public-private investment fund ($500 billion to $1 trillion) to absorb toxic debt.

3. A consumer and business lending initiative (up to $1 trillion).

4. A transparency and accountability agenda, including dividend limitation.

5. An affordable housing support and foreclosure prevention plan

6. A small business and community lending initiative.

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