What President Obama’s Economic Agenda Means for You

3. You are current on your mortgage payments.

4. You believe the amount you owe on your first mortgage is less than or equal to the current market value of your home.

This refinancing plan is open to borrowers whose first mortgage is no larger than 105% of the home’s present market value. If, for example, you suspect the house is worth $300,000, but you owe the bank $315,000 or less, you could qualify. The actual market value of your home will be determined after you apply to refinance. It is possible that borrowers with interest-only “teaser” rates could refinance through the Making Home Affordable program. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased some of these types of loans in 2006 and 2007. In the end though, you will save more money over the life of the loan. Interest rates on refinanced loans will be pegged to market rates at the time you apply. And, of course, the new loans won’t carry any prepayment penalties or balloon payments. For more information about loan modifications or refinancing, you can call a federally approved housing counselor at 888-995-HOPE (4673) or visit http://makinghomeaffordable.gov.

First-time Home Buyer Tax Credit: If you’re about to purchase a house for the first time or you haven’t owned a primary residence in at least three years prior to the date of purchase, you may be eligible for a tax credit of 10% of the purchase price of your home. The maximum tax savings is $8,000, which can clear your tax bill (if you owe) and/or result in a refund. To get the credit you must earn less than $75,000 per year in gross income (or, for married couples, $150,000)—and you need to act quickly. The tax savings will only go to those home buyers who close the sale of their new home by Dec. 1 of this year. A few final words of caution: Beware of con artists posing as reputable brokers, lenders, or aid agencies.

Many business owners and advocates applaud the Obama administration’s efforts to revitalize American business, large and small, through its economic stimulus and financial stabilization initiatives. The administration’s focus has been in three key areas: financing, tax breaks, and industry-specific projects.

Financing: Most notable is the plan to unfreeze credit for business owners through the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Consumer and Business Lending Initiative––a program under its Financial Stabilization Plan––in which it will inject $15 billion into the small business loan market by purchasing securities backed by Small Business Administration-guaranteed loans in secondary markets. The White House believes the process will get old loans off the balance sheets of lending institutions and, in turn, free up capital for them to grant additional financing for small businesses. Moreover, the government has agreed to increase the guarantee it provides on SBA-backed loans from 75% to 90% for 7(a) and 504 community development loans. It has also waived fees for businesses. Minority and women-owned businesses are three to five times more likely to receive an SBA-backed loan than a conventional bank loan, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute, a research organization that examines social and economic issues.

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