Archive | February, 2010

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Census Under Fire Over Ad Dollars


Alexandra Moe, News Report, New America MediaReview it on NewsTrust

A congressional subcommittee wants to know if the Census Bureau’s multi-million dollar advertising campaign is reaching communities that can be the hardest to count.

At a meeting Wednesday night on Capitol Hill of the House Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Subcommittee, a parade of congress people worried that the Census has not done enough to engage local and ethnic media, which Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) called “the bibles of certain communities.”

NNPA, Black BroadcastersNNPA’s Danny Bakewell and James Winston, head of the National Association
of Black Owned Broadcasters testified at the hearing. Ph: Roy Lewis/NNPAOver $340 million has been allocated to the Census Bureau for a promotion and advertising campaign to avoid an undercount, part of an overall Census budget of $15 billion, triple the bureau’s 2000 budget.

But with just five weeks to go before the April 1 deadline for mailing back Census questionnaires, lawmakers wondered if that money was being targeted effectively. They were quick to criticize Census officials for a culture of “unresponsiveness,” and for a campaign that often seemed to rely on “big talent” rather than local voices.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) noted that $118 million had been allocated for “production, labor, and ‘other’” in budget notes. Many lawmakers on the panel, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), said they still hadn’t received clear budget breakdowns for which communities were receiving what share of the ad dollars, and how many ad firms the Census had subcontracted with.

“I, for one, am terribly disappointed in the Census in giving us details,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as the hearing began on Wednesday night.

Much of the subcommittee’s criticism centered around the conduct of the Madison Avenue firm DraftFCB, which is coordinating the Census Bureau advertising campaign.

In questioning the campaign’s effectiveness in reaching communities that had been undercounted in 2000, Chaffetz cited the Census Super Bowl ad, which cost $2.5 million, and ads during the Olympics that had cost over $5 million. He called attention to the Census on-line campaign that had yielded only 8,500 followers on Facebook, 2,400 followers on Twitter and 64 uploads on You Tube. Noting the low numbers, Chaffetz said, “How do you justify millions of dollars out the door? It’s a mystery to me.”

Jeff Tarakajian of DraftFCB defended the campaign by saying that awareness about the Census “was extremely high for where we are now,” and that 54 percent of the paid media budget was allocated to ethnic audiences in 2010 compared to 47 percent in the 2000 Census. Groves added that over 200,000 “partner organizations” around the country had been called on to help get the word out.
Robert GrovesCensus Chief Robert Groves
But lawmakers continually questioned who those partners were, and whether the Census was digging deep enough into communities. They said their constituents in California, Utah and Texas had expressed dismay at widespread disorganization at the regional level.

“I am increasingly concerned about what I am hearing from black newspapers and black radio stations,” said Waters. “It appears that our message of reaching the undercounted is not being respected.”

That’s unnecessary, said Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media, who appeared before the subcommittee.

“There’s no question that the ethnic media ‘get’ the Census — they get their communities’ stake in a complete count,” Close said.

She described meeting with nearly 600 ethnic media representatives around the country in 12 roundtables with local and national Census officials over the past year. At those briefings, she said, “You could cut the enthusiasm with a knife.”

But 47 percent of those outlets were left out of an ad buy, and 70 percent reported never hearing back from Census advertising firms, including DraftFCB, Close noted. Their experience with the Census was one of “anxiety and confusion” over how they could get involved, she said.
Karen NarasakiKaren Narasaki, Asian American Justice Center
“The selection process that you use for minority ad buys is unacceptable,” echoed Jackson Lee.

Also appearing before the committee were Karen Narasaki of the Asian American Justice Center, Arturo Vargas of National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), and Danny Blakewell, chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).

Vargas cited an over-reliance by the Census on using Spanish-language media in reaching Latino audiences, and not enough messaging in reaching the 9.1 million Latinos in the United States who only speak English at home.

One reason for the widespread feeling of disengagement, said Narasaki, was that a lot of decisions had been made about who would be working with the Census many years earlier – years before a recession and heightened fears over immigration status had changed America.

“One of the biggest issues to overcome among Asian and Latino audiences is distrust in government,” she said. “It’s the media in those communities who are going to help. An ad on the Super Bowl is not going to do it.”

But panelists agreed that it was not too late to turn the tide. As the Census enters the third phase of its campaign – the crucial “nonresponse phase” – many called for a greater investment in the ethnic media sector.

“The Black Press of America needs at least $10 million,” said Bakewell, head of NNPA. “Black people do not live in only 16 markets in America. Black newspapers, radio stations, black churches — that’s where we are.”
Arturo VargasArturo Vargas, NALEO
Close, of New America Media, called on Congress to invest in the ethnic media sector directly, so that the media themselves could create the messages that would most effectively mobilize their communities for the 2010 Census.

Close cited one targeting the Native American community where a woman in jeans walks across an open plain, towards three tepees.

“These ads were created for a Native American community that is nowhere near the plains and who do not live in tepees,” said Close. “They were offensive, and the media didn’t use them.”

Another ad was brought to the overhead screen, created by the Hoopa tribe of Northern California for the Two Rivers Tribune. Across a local landscape the ad read, “Save our Water, Save Our Way of Life – Stand Up and Be Counted! Census 2010.”

That kind of unique messaging will “move the needle those extra percentage points that will pay off in hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Close.

Lawmakers called for Census officials to turn over several documents relating to ad buys, sub-contractor fees, and correspondence, and demanded greater transparency. There was talk of investigation several times throughout the night. And again and again, panelists were asked if they thought it would be more effective to use local media to act as “trusted messengers.”

“Your tepees were the icing on the cake,” said Waters to Close, at the door of the conference room, as panelists filed out for the evening, four hours after the hearing began, at almost midnight.

Related Articles:

Latinos Still Divided Over Census

In Redistricting, Diversity Isn’t Everything

Participating in the Census Is Like Voting For Yourself

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Blighted Building on St. Francis Ave Bulldozed


HARTFORD — Thanks to a new Anti-Blight Ordinance that went into effect last July,  Hartford has more control and enforcement power regarding blighted properties.

Today, Mayor Eddie  Perez announced a major step forward today in fighting blight in the capital city as the city begins its demolition of an old warehouse with a sagging roof at 42 Francis Ave.

The new Anti-Blight Ordinance allowed the city to obtain the property through strict foreclosure.

On or about Nov. 6, 2008, citations and regulation violations of $400 per day from various city departments started adding up quickly for Westall Company, LLC.  At the time of acquisition, $56,000 was owed to the city, according to a press release today.

Once the lot is cleared, the property could go up for public auction or otherwise be available for development.  In the meantime, several other blighted properties are in the process of being foreclosed.

Blight is one of the most talked about quality of life issues in our neighborhoods.  Mayor Perez thanks Parkvilleneighbors for their commitment to improving their community.

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Police Identify Body Found in Hartford


HARTFORD —  Hartford Police have confirmed the identity of the body found on Garfield Street in  February 23,

The body, police said, belongs to Trevin Antoine Hendricks, 23,  of 70 Waverly St., Hartford.

The Office of the State’s Chief Medical Examiner has determined the cause of death was a gunshot wound and has ruled the death as a homicide.

 Police said that on Feb. 23, 2010, at approximately 9:24 a.m. Hartford  officers responded to the area of 22-24 Garfield Street on a report of an unresponsive party. 

Upon arrival, officers located a black male on the side of the home located at that address.  Emergency Medical Services personnel arrived and pronounced the victim dead at 9:40 a.m., police said.

The Hartford Police Department’s Major Crimes and Evidentiary Services Divisions responded and began an investigation.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Sergeant Rob Davis of the Hartford Police Department’s Major Crimes Division at 860-757-4256 or to call the Hartford Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 860-722-TIPS (8477).

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Hartford’s Town Committee Politics DeMystified–Somewhat


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  Mike McGarry has no qualms about telling it like it is.

According to McGarry, people approach him and sometimes complain about city services, taxes, and a host of other ails. Cantankerous complainers are usually greeted with one question from the former city council member and now chair of the Republican town committee: do you vote?

When found guilty of shirking their civic duty, McGarry fires off one his prickly one-liners.

“I tell them, look. If you don’t vote, don’t complain,” he said yesterday to about 60 Hartford residents and stakeholders at a two-hour informational session about local town committees. He urged people to get involved, get on town committees and get ready to spend hours away from home.

McGarry was one of three town committee chairs, who convened at the Hartford Public Library’s panel on how town committees work. The other committee chairs were Steve Fournier of the Green Party and Jon Green of the Working Party. The Hartford Public Library and other organizations sponsored this public service to inform Hartford residents about the machinations of local politics in a city with 17 neighborhoods, 23 voting districts and a gaggle of party bosses. The goal was to increase civic participation in a city with voter apathy, organizers said.  Hartford has a history of an abysmally low voter turnout. Of about 46, 000 registered voters in 2008, only 8 percent—or 3,527 people—voted in the Nov. 9 Board of Education election.

This is why Democratic Town Chairman Sean Arena’s absence was beyond objectionable, some say. City Council Majority Leader rJo Winch filled in for Arena. Winch said Arena had a prior engagement.

That did not sit well with many at the session. That’s because that was the only concern: People noticed that a concerted effort to inform the populace was missing. Unlike the Republicans who were present at one of the eight tables that lined the back of the room, the Democrats failed to have informational materials or someone manning a table to explain the shrouded process of the city’s Democratic town committee. After all, some said, it is the largest and most dominant town committee in the city.

On the other hand, Republicans had handouts and a volunteer who showcased the Republican’s new webpage while informing the public about upcoming events they can participate in. In fact, many Democrats, including long-time resident Linda Bayer, said they have never received information about the Democratic town committee meetings or forthcoming events that would be crucial to being part of the political process.

The Working Families Party let their website do the work of demystifying the political process. It has a vibrant website, which includes information on its endorsement process. “It’s a pioneering process that helps hold politicians accountable to working people,” according to its website.

The Green Party’s website has very little action on the local level with its town committee with the same two candidates running for election in most races. They had one visible Green party member on the local level, former councilwoman Elizabeth Horton Sheff. But she quit the party. The Working Party’s influence in the city is quite the opposite. With only about 100 members they have two members on the city council and one in the city’s registrar’s office:  Councilmen Luis Cotto, Larry Deutsch and Urania Petit respectively.  Green said that instead of focusing on personalities, Working Families focuses on polices—raising awareness about issues that would benefit working and middle class America.

But still, this party does not have the cache and visibility as the city’s Democrats and Republicans. With the Republican Party’s 2,030 members and the Democrat Party’s 33,709 members, the Democrats dominate city politics.  In fact, Hartford’s democratic committee is the third largest delegation to the state convention in recent years. A look at the Hartford Democratic town committee’s website, however, fails to convey its dominance, influence or relevance, some critics said. When checked today, the site’s contact page, lists its current number as 860-555-5555, and it’s mailing address is P.O. Box ABC.

Large or small, town committees play a crucial role in local politics because they are the architect of the character and temperance of local government. And if a neighborhood lacks services they need, these town committee members are to be held accountable. And there’s only one way to hold them accountable while playing a part in the political theater, according to political punditry.

“People need to organize,” Mc Garry said. ”They need to get involved.”

View Hartford’s Interactive Map here.

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Nine City Stores Sell Cigs to Minors


HARTFORD — Nine local stores were found to be in violation of the Connecticut law that prohibits the sale of tobacco to minors under 18 years old, according to Hartford police.

Hartford detectives from the vice and narcotics division and staff members of the State of Connecticut, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services conducted unannounced compliance inspections of establishments that sell tobacco products. 

A total of 23 unannounced compliance inspections were conducted.  Of this total. The offending clerks at these establishments were issued an infraction in the amount of $200.00.  

In addition, the Cigarette Dealer license holder at each establishment found in violation also faces additional administrative sanctions from the Department of revenue Services which is the state agency that issues the Cigarette Dealer Licenses.

The inspections were performed in an effort to determine compliance with state laws concerning the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes and/or tobacco products to persons under the age of eighteen, according to a press release today.

Under the direction and supervision of DMHAS investigators, an underage youth, employed by the Tobacco Prevention and Enforcement Program, entered the establishments and attempted to purchase tobacco products.

The following nine  businesses  violated the  Connecticut State Statute regarding the sale of tobacco to underage persons:

  • Frank’s Stowe Village Mini Mart located at 2753 Main Street –Clerk Bryan Williston (03/02/86) of 208 Maple Ave, Hartford was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor
  • Valero Gasoline Station located at 215 Albany Avenue – Clerk Erdal Kupuc (01/20/73) of 109 Richard Street, West Hartford, CT was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor
  • Y2K Supermarket located at 714 Albany Avenue – Clerk  Alvaro Luis Medina Rosario (04/16/86) of 66 Mountford Street, Hartford was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor
  • Williams Grocery and Deli Store located at 247 Sigourney Street – Clerk Elvin Burgos (06/06/75) of 82 Bates Drive, East Hartford was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor
  • Johldy Grocery located at 60 Gillette Street- Clerk Luis E. Reyes-Gutierrez (02/05/80) of 191 South Whitney Street, Hartford was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor
  • Mario’s Grocery Store located at 252 Farmington Avenue – Clerk Cecilio Roman  (08/26/43) of 353 Garden Street, Hartford was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor
  • No. 1 China Palace located at 252 Farmington Avenue – Clerk Peter Liu (09/19/75) of 88 Schaller Road, Manchester, was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor
  • Leyla’s Grocery located at 760 Park Street – Clerk Miguel Suabo (11/29/75) of 65 Broad Street, Hartford was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor
  • El Buen Vecino located at 513 Park Street – Clerk Jose Angelles (11/30/73) of 36 Howard Street, Newington was cited will one count of Illegal Sale of Tobacco to Minor

The following 14 business were found to be in compliance with the law:

  • King Kong Grocery located at 179 Mather Street
  • Stop and Shop located at 859 Albany Avenue
  • Oterio Grocery located at 132 Homestead Avenue
  • Homestead Grocery Store located at 216 Homestead Avenue
  • City Cellars located at 304 Farmington Avenue
  • Sam’s Food Store located at 472 Farmington Avenue
  • C-Town Supermarket located at 259 Barbour Street
  • Ideal Grocery located at 2370 Main Street
  • Congressman Supermarket located at 1978 Main Street
  • Congressman Package Store located at 1988 Main Street
  • Peoples Plaza located at 1631 Main Street
  • Los Cubanitos Market located at 206 Park Street
  • Anamil #2 Grocery located at 546 Park Street
  • El Bajio Grocery located at 287 Franklin Avenue.

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Program to Highlight Legacy of Elizabeth Colt


HARTFORD — Does the name “Colt” trigger thoughts of armaments?  Ever wonder how “Colt” became synonymous with the arts and philanthropy?  By what measure can we truly understand the impact Elizabeth Colt had on the Hartford community?

Leadership Greater Hartford will help you answer those questions at its next Community Connections event on March 9 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 155 Wyllys Street in Hartford from 5: 30 p.m. to 7: 15 p.m.

The event will highlight  people and places that make our community special, organizers said. The is series will feature Elizabeth Colt: A Life of Art, Philanthropy and Civic Leadership.

Colt’s story is also the story of Hartford’s transformation from a part-time, government center and trade port on the Connecticut River, to a prosperous industrial metropolis.

Sam (1814-1862) and Elizabeth (1826-1905) Colt have been described as one of the “most alluring couples of the industrial age.”  In 1856, Sam married Elizabeth Hart Jarvis.  While Sam was known as an inventor and industrialist, Elizabeth was renowned for her philanthropy and her role as an institution builder and art patron. In January 1862, Sam Colt died, leaving his widow one of the wealthiest women in America. She became the sole owner of the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Co.

Upon her death in 1905, Elizabeth Colt left to the Wadsworth Atheneum a collection of nearly 1,000 objects, artworks, and documents and a fund to build the Colt Memorial, the first American museum wing bearing the name of a woman patron. Her impact is remembered today in the parks, schools, museums, patriotic societies, agencies of poor relief, and the Episcopal Church, that all bear the imprint of her civic vision.

This Community Connections program is being hosted by the Church of the Good Shepherd which was founded in 1868 by Elizabeth Colt.

To register contact Maggie Irving at 860.951.6161 x15. The program is free to all Leadership Greater Hartford members and $15 for nonmembers.

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Hartford Gas Prices Up


HARTFORD — The average retail gasoline prices in Hartford have risen 3.3 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.75 per gallon today.

This compares with the national average that has increased 3.5 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.65 per gallon, according to gasoline price website HartfordGasPrices.com.

Including the change in gas prices in Hartford during the past week, prices today are 77.4 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 10.5 cents per gallon lower than a month ago.

The national average has decreased 6.9 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 75.4 cents per gallon higher than this day a year ago Feb. 22, according to the website.

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For Ethnic Communities, a Year of Stimulus Not Enough


New America Media, Commentary, Aaron Glantz

It’s been a year since President Barack Obama signed the $787 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus package. The largest public investment in America’s infrastructure since the Great Depression, Obama called it “the most sweeping economic recovery bill in our history.”

But a year later, many Americans are still hurting. And while the Labor Department reports the unemployment rate for whites has begun to fall (to 8.4 percent in January), it continues to rise for ethnic minorities. For African Americans, it is 16.5 percent and for Latinos unemployment is 12.6 percent.

And the reasons for these disparities lie at least in part in the unfair and unjust way the stimulus package has been implemented.

A series of investigations coordinated by New America Media show that over the last year those dollars have systematically bypassed communities of color.

Consider the following: In the last year, 98 percent of stimulus contracts from the U.S Department of Transportation have gone to white-owned firms. Meantime, a new government-backed small business loan program created by the stimulus benefited white-owned businesses 91 percent of the time. These disparities run across almost every government agency that received money under the Recovery Act. Of the 630 grants given to arts organizations by the National Endowment for the Arts, for example, only 12 (less than 2 percent) went to Latino organizations .

In Minnesota, the apportionment of stimulus dollars has been so unfair that community leaders have begun circulating a petition formally requesting that their state immediately terminate all federally funded transportation contracts.

Nine projects with estimated costs at over $91 million are located in the Twin Cities’ outer suburban ring, while Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which has highest proportion of blacks and other people of color, received the lowest amount of transit work dollars ($3.8 million) among the state’s eight U.S. districts.

There is some reason to hope, however.

Almost a year to the day President Barack Obama signed the stimulus into law, his administration finally pulled stimulus funds from an agency for failing to comply with federal civil rights laws. The case involves BART, Northern California’s commuter rail, which sought to use $70 million from the stimulus to build a spur to the Oakland Airport that would travel through — but not stop in — impoverished East Oakland.

In a February 12 letter to local officials, FTA administration Peter Rogoff said BART’s plan failed to comply with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits agencies that receive federal funds from using discriminatory practices.

Community leaders cheered the decision. The Rev. Scott Denman, the Rector of Oakland’s St. John’s Episcopal Church noted that without the President’s intervention scarce transportation dollars would have been “taken away from those who have trouble affording bus tickets and given to those who have no trouble affording airline tickets.” The money now appears destined for local bus and streetcar service where massive service cuts and fair hikes had been proposed.

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CT Film Program to Offer Free Training


HARTFORD — Gov.  Jodi Rell today announced that the state will again be offering its Connecticut Film Industry Training Program, an opportunity for residents seeking the skills to work in the state’s growing film industry.

This will be the third time Connecticut has offered the program, the first of its kind in the nation. Applications are only available on the newly updated Web site www.ctfilmworkforce.com and must be submitted by April 23. Classes begin June 7.

Connecticut’s diverse geography provides a range of scenic backdrops and the perfect settings for films and television shows, Rell said.

The state is offering training for people who want to learn the basics of feature and episodic television film production and pursue entry-level work in the industry, according to Rell’s press release.

Classes will be taught by motion picture professionals who have significant career experience and are active members of the motion picture trade unions related to the skills they teach.

The 2010 training program will again be offered at Quinnipiac University in Hamden.

Areas of specialization include: assistant directing, location management, production office coordination, script supervision, lighting and grip, camera, sound, props and set dressing, set construction and wardrobe. At the end of Week 4, graduating trainees will receive a certificate from the Office of Film, Television and Digital Media.

Upon completion of the program, certified trainees may receive up to 5 weeks of internship, working alongside producers and crew members on a project shooting in-state. Opportunities for internship participation are dependent on the cooperation of producers and on the shooting schedules of participating productions. Internships will take place throughout the year.

The training program curriculum:

Week 1: Production Overview (June 7 – June 11, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) – A comprehensive production overview and survey of job categories in the feature film and episodic television industry.

Week 2: Concentrated Training (June 14 – June 18, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) – Each student will pursue his/her selected area of production or technical concentration during intensive, hands-on training in the classroom, studio and on location.

Week 3: Pre-Production (June 21 – June 25, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) – Led by the assistant director instructor, final organization, scheduling, and planning. The script is reviewed to make sure all elements are in place to begin the shoot.

Week 4: Production (June 28 – August 2, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) – A five-day film shoot of a short narrative script. Led by an experienced DGA director, trainees will work together to produce, manage, and coordinate this week-long effort.

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Foreclosure Crisis In Sight?


The Associated Press is reporting that the foreclosure crisis is near. That’s because, the report says, for the first time in almost three years, the number of homeowners falling behind on their loans is declining.

WASHINGTON — The end of the foreclosure crisis is finally in sight. For the first time in almost three years, the number of homeowners falling behind on their loans is declining. The drop means the number of people losing their homes will start to fall.

But some pain from the crisis is sure to persist. Because millions of people are already in foreclosure, deeply discounted houses will put pressure on home prices for years. “Housing is on a path to recovery,” said Mike Larson, a real estate analyst with Weiss Research.

“It’s going to be a very long, gradual process.” In high-foreclosure cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami, homes have lost roughly half their values from their peaks. But a report Friday from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed Nevada, Arizona and Florida had some of the biggest declines in new delinquencies.

The figures probably mark “the beginning of the end” of the crisis, said Jay Brinkmann, the trade group’s chief economist. However, more than 15 percent of homeowners with a mortgage have missed at least one payment or are in foreclosure, a record. Worse, nearly half of all delinquent borrowers were at least three months behind on their payments, up from a typical level of less than 20 percent.

“The bad news is that we still have a big problem,” Brinkmann said. “The good news is it looks like it may not get much bigger.” That’s because the percentage of borrowers who missed just one payment on their home loans fell to 3.6 percent in the October-to-December quarter from 3.8 percent in the third quarter, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

That decline was even more surprising because delinquencies usually rise at that time of year due to higher heating bills and holiday spending. In another encouraging sign, the number of borrowers who had missed at least one payment but were not yet in foreclosure also fell for the first time since the beginning of 2007.

Banks are delaying the foreclosure process, traditionally between four and six months, as they evaluate borrowers for help under the Obama administration’s $75 billion mortgage-relief effort. It lowers borrowers payments to as low as 2 percent for five years and extends loan terms to as long as 40 years.

But experts warn that hundreds of thousands of borrowers will not be eligible or will not complete the process. So far, only 116,300 borrowers out of 1 million who enrolled have had the terms of their mortgages changed permanently.

Despite the government’s efforts, there may be 6 million foreclosed homes that are put on the market over the next three years, according to Barclays Capital. Timing is key. If banks unload them suddenly, “it will be much more detrimental to the housing recovery than if it’s a slow, gradual bleed,” said Michelle Meyer, a Barclays economist.

On Friday, Obama announced that housing agencies in the five hardest-hit states of Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada will receive $1.5 billion in financial rescue money. It will go to local programs to help unemployed homeowners, “under water” borrowers who owe more than their home is worth, or to give lenders incentives to assist borrowers with second mortgages.

The programs will need to be approved by the Treasury Department. “Government alone can’t solve this problem,” Obama said. “But government can make a difference.” In a briefing with reporters, administration officials acknowledged that the effort was just a small one. But they said it could help develop broader national solutions. “What we’re trying to do here is foster innovation,” said Herbert Allison, an assistant Treasury secretary.

Associated Press Writer Ben Feller in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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