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Insurance companies boost investments in inner cities, rural areas

May 3, 2011 | 12:31 pm

Major insurance companies are pumping $11 million in new investments into inner-city and rural areas that normally aren't served by large financial institutions.

The money is part of a 14-year-old program called the California Organized Investment Network that's designed to encourage insurers to plow some of their profits back into low-income communities.

The program, known as COIN, has invested more than $100 million since its inception. The money has financed low-cost housing, mobile home mortgages, small businesses, day care centers and other community improvements.

On Tuesday, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and state Assembly Speaker John Perez jointly announced the three investments: $7 million from the Farmers Insurance Exchange, $2 million from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and $2 million from Pacific Life Insurance Co.

The companies are providing zero-interest, five-year loans in exchange for 20% tax credits worth $2.2 million.

"A couple of months ago, I called on insurance companies to help rejuvenate the COIN tax credit program, which had been sorely underutilized in recent times," Jones said. "COIN is an avenue for the insurance industry to help empower underserved communities."

Perez praised COIN for helping create new jobs as California recovers from the worst recession since the 1930s.

"This program underscores how creative solutions and partnerships between the public sector and the private sector can have genuine, real-world benefits," Perez said.

-- Marc Lifsher

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