By: Abby De Molina

ALPFA-Law Boston, the legal branch of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, put on an event at Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge LLP on June 11, 2009. The event was titled «The Impact of the Federal Economic Stimulus Bill» and included a panel of four legal experts who analyzed different facets of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The first speaker (and moderator) was Gary J. Campbell, a partner at the firm McCarter & English LLP. He gave an overview of the stimulus bill, highlighting the basics: it was done in order to create jobs, jump-start the economy, and build a foundation for further economic growth. He also pointed out some important features; more transparency and enhanced whistleblower protection.

Following Gary, Lourdes German spoke. Lourdes is a VP of Municipal Finance at Fidelity Investments. She focused her remarks on the exciting Build America Bonds program. Basically, for the next two years state and local governments can issue taxable bonds and then use the proceeds to finance capital expense projects. The government subsidizes a portion of the borrowing costs (between 35 and 45% of the total coupon interest). The program has generated a lot of interest so far with states such as CA, VA, and MN already capitalizing. It is a win-win as the goverment gets a huge tax base, engages investors, and it is cheaper for the states to finance programs than before.

Noah Berger, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, was up next. He obviously focused on MA issues and discussed the current $5B budget shortfall our state is faced with. One of the important things is that the $1.5B in federal stimulus money is going to help the state budget a lot but we will need to make long-term improvements in order to make the money worth it. It is also going to help the state avoid education cuts, which are very important in the long-term picture. Additionally, he provided some insight into a few of the holes in the bill, such as the fact that states that are progessive are almost penalized for their innovation, which is the case with MA not getting reimbursed for our groundbreaking healthcare changes (expanded Medicaid coverage).

The last member of the panel was Ellen L. Janos, a member of the firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, PC. Ellen specializes in health law and discussed how one of the biggest initiatives, and sure to be challenges, is Obama’s desire for physicians and hospitals to convert all health records electronically by 2014. The goal is to increase the quality of care, reduce errors, and reduce costs; a pretty tall order. One of the highlights of ARRA is the fact that there is more regulation of business associates and personal health records, as privacy and security are big concerns.

The event was a great opportunity to learn more about ARRA. Let’s hope the recovery is already working!

In the picture, Right to left: Camille Marcos (Marcos Law Office, P.C.), Gary J. Campbell (McCarter 7 English LLP), Daniel Leonardo (Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, LLC), Carolina Avellaneda (McCarter & English), Nadia Tejeda-Colon (Liberty Mutual), Lourdes German (VP of Municipal Finance at Fidelity Investments), Paul Francisco (Foster & Francisco, President of ALPFA Boston ), Noah Berger (Executive Director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center), Yvonne Garcia (Liberty Mutual, VP ALPFA), Adriana Rojas (ALPFA Law Committee), Ellen L. Janos (Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, PC) and Betty Francisco (Millennium Partners Sports Club Management)

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