Blight Money for Detroit, Other Cities, Safe in Transportation Bill

On July 24, the Detroit Free Press published an article discussing a Senate decision to not rescind unspent money from the Hardest Hit Fund in order to help pay for a transportation measure (DRIVE Act).

Blight money for Detroit, other cities, safe in transportation bill

WASHINGTON — An updated version of a 6-year transportation bill unveiled on Capitol Hill on Friday morning no longer includes a provision to rescind money from a fund that is paying for blight eradication in Detroit and across Michigan.

As first reported in the Free Press on Thursday night, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to ensure that unspent amounts in the Hardest Hit Fund were not raided to help pay for the transportation measure.

An earlier version of the legislation, released early this week, proposed taking $1.7 billion in unspent funds from the fund, a move which, if enacted, could have devastated blight removal efforts in Detroit and other Michigan cities.

The new version of the bill to be considered on the Senate floor no longer even mentions the Hardest Hit Fund. The Free Press obtained a copy of the substitute version earlier Friday.

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell noted the removal, noting the objections raised by several senators, including U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who had been working on an amendment to save the funds if necessary. Michigan and Ohio are among the top recipients of Hardest Hit Fund money.

Thursday night, Stabenow told the Free Press that she had reached the agreement with McConnell, R-Ky., that would save the remaining amounts in the $7.6-billion Hardest Hit Fund, including that still unspent in Michigan’s $498-million allocation. The state has allocated $175 million to battle blight in 16 Michigan communities, including $100 million in Detroit.

The fund was created in 2010 to help stabilize neighborhoods and help homeowners stay in their homes in the wake of the housing crisis and the great recession. While some of the funds are being used for blight removal in cities across the nation, no city in the U.S. has had as much blight removal money committed to it from the federal government as Detroit, as the Free Press has previously reported.

“It’s a major victory,” Stabenow said Thursday night. “They were talking about trying to tweak it. I indicated to them that it was not going to work. It was totally unacceptable.”

Stabenow said Thursday that even though attempts had been made by the Environment and Public Works Committee to mitigate some of the losses to the fund, she still considered it unacceptable and was willing to place a hold on the bill, which could have stalled it for days, with the U.S. House set to leave for a month at the end of next week.

With that threat on the table, Stabenow said McConnell, who has made moving the legislation a priority, agreed to remove the provision from the bill, meaning funding would have to be found elsewhere but that the legislation could move forward.

If there were any attempt to reinsert the provision, Stabenow said, she would again move to stall its progress. But she added that the effort to remove the funds means she and other senators from states receiving the funds are going to have to be on guard for any effort to take it away again in future legislation. Under the law, the states receiving the funds have until the end of 2017 to spend all they have been committed. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., received allocations under the Hardest Hit Fund.

“We’re going to have to watch very closely,” Stabenow said.  “I’ve been indicating for some time I thought this was an area Republicans would want to go after.”

A Republican-generated report outlining the intention to go after unspent money in the Hardest Hit Fund complained that the fund has been ineffective and poorly managed and that now, with housing values recovered in much of the nation, the remaining money — there was about $2.4 billion of the original $7.6-billion allocation left as of the end of June — could be used to pay for infrastructure.

Stabenow, along with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and members of Congress from other states, notably Ohio, howled loudly at the proposal, arguing that cities like Detroit or the state could get stuck with potentially millions in bills incurred but not yet reimbursed by the federal government. As far as the state of Michigan was concerned, for instance, practically all of the total $498 million has already been committed to work scheduled or programs already underway, even though many of the bills haven’t come in yet or been sent for reimbursement.

Peters said late Thursday in a statement: “I strongly oppose the provision in the highway bill cutting the Hardest Hit Funds and was proud to work with Sen. Stabenow and my colleagues in the Senate to ensure Michigan cities that are bouncing back from the economic crisis are not at a disadvantage as they work to revitalize their neighborhoods.”

The loss of the program would have been “devastating to Detroit’s neighborhoods,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement late Thursday that praised the victory by Stabenow, who he said “has been relentless over the last 48 hours leading the fight to restore this program.”

While it’s not known exactly how much Detroit, other cities and the state could have lost overall, it could have topped $100 million, depending on how the Senate defined “unspent” or “unobligated” funds. Meanwhile, it could have stymied an ambitious blight removal program in Detroit which has torn down thousands of properties, as well as those in older industrial-based municipalities across the state.

In Michigan, more than $340 million of its $498-million allocation had been spent as of June 30, leaving more than $150 million. But much of that has already been committed to projects around the state.

Stabenow, in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, argued against the provision, calling any move to rescind money already promised to cities for revitalization efforts “outrageous,” especially since in many cases work has already been done but not yet been reimbursed by the federal government.

“Money they have been counting on, money they have been allocated, will be taken back,” said Stabenow, who added that more than a dozen cities in Michigan have been hiring contractors to tear down buildings or do redevelopment work “counting on the fact that they will be paid because we, the federal government, have given them, in writing, our word.”

In her speech, Stabenow talked at length about home values rising in Detroit as blight is removed and neighborhoods are redeveloped. She also noted reporting done by the Free Press about the dangers posed by a vast number of vacant structures around city schools and how the Hardest Hit Fund program is helping support efforts to tear down some of those buildings.

“For communities around this country, this is a big deal. Certainly this is a big deal for Michigan, and I can’t in any way support any effort going forward unless this is fixed,” said Stabenow at the time.

Please click here to view the article online.

Please click here to view the full text of H.R. 22 (Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act) online.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the mortgage field services industry leader, preserving vacant and foreclosed properties across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Safeguard provides the highest quality service to our clients by leveraging innovative technologies and proactively developing industry best practices and quality control procedures. Consistent with Safeguard’s values and mission, we are an active supporter of hundreds of charitable efforts across the country. Annually, Safeguard gives back to communities in partnership with our employees, vendors and clients. We also are dedicated to working with community leaders and officials to eliminate blight and stabilize neighborhoods. Safeguard is dedicated to preserving today and protecting tomorrow.  Website:



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.