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Inside Washington (02/08/2008)
* WASHINGTON (2/11/08)—The economic stimulus package approved by the House and Senate Thursday contained provisions addressing the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), both set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress makes the changes permanent. For FHA, the stimulus measure raises FHA's loan limit for its single-family program from 87% of the conforming loan amount to as high as 175% (effectively $362,790 to $729,750) of the conforming loan limit in certain geographic regions where the cost of housing is very high and from 48% to 65% (effectively $200,160 to $271,050) of the conforming loan limit in less expensive markets. FHA would also have the authority to raise those loan limits by up to an additional $100,000 if market conditions warrant such increases. For the GSEs, the bill increases the loan limits for single-family homes from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from $417,000 up to $729,750 and covers loans made between July 31, 2007, and December 31, 2008. * WASHINGTON (2/11/08)--The Federal Reserve Board announced that it will cut prices for its electronic payment services, including image clearing and automated clearing house transactions, and drop some services for handling paper items. The price cut aims to encourage banks to adopt check imaging (American Banker Feb. 8). The Fed also plans to increase fees for processing paper checks this year and stop accepting cash letters containing paper checks. Last December, the Fed estimated that 60% of its presentments were arriving as check images instead of paper checks, said Fred Herr, senior vice president in the Retail Payments Office ... * WASHINGTON (2/11/08)--The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s (FDIC) morale issues can be traced back to an “outdated organizational culture,” according to a consulting firm hired to investigate complaints made by agency workers (American Banker Feb. 7). The group said the agency’s culture is “paternalistic, risk-averse and hierarchical,” leading to distrust and slow employee growth. The report recommended that the FDIC improve communication between management and lower level employees. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said the agency would make changes to address the report’s results. Last year, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) was highly ranked in an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) survey of employees’ perceptions of their agency’s success. NCUA received a No. 2 ranking in a “talent management index” and a No. 5 ranking in a “results-oriented performance culture index” ...


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