Charleston Housing Authority grant money on hold due to government shutdown

By Alexis Simmons | January 9, 2019 at 6:13 PM EST – Updated January 9 at 6:16 PM

However, there is a freeze on those funds because of the government shutdown. Their day-to-day operations have not been impacted yet, but if the shutdown continues until March it will.

“If they’re in public housing I would say that they shouldn’t be worried,” Cameron said.

He says the U.S. Department of Urban and Housing development known has HUD has enough reserve funds to contribute its typical $600,000 a month for public housing in Charleston through February despite the government shutdown.

After that, Cameron says the Charleston Housing Authority could operate a couple more months by using its own savings.

There could be problems after that.

“The other program is our Housing Choice Voucher Program or Section 8. We support on behalf of the federal government 1,500 families and 20 percent are veteran families,” Cameron said. “If the check doesn’t come in on the first of March we can’t make those payments.”

“It’s really ironic is the day of the shutdown we were notified that we had a grant we applied for to help people go to work and give them counseling. $390,000 has been approved for three years,” Cameron said. “Unfortunately with the shutdown we can’t access it.”

That funding allows two Housing Authority employees to work with residents to help them prepare for employment and get jobs.

There’s also another $3 million dollar grant they received for capital improvements to existing public housing buildings, but that money also has not yet been released.

For example, one project on the list is for 61 apartments to receive new floors with that money, and the plumbing will have to be redone as well.

“[People] should be observing and keeping up with the news with what’s going on and let their congressman and congress person know how it could impact them in the future,” Cameron said.

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3 Charleston real estate trends to watch for in 2019

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2019 real estate trends

A new year is upon us and with it brings speculation about what’s going to happen in the real estate market. Here are three things to watch for:

Rising interest rates: Mortgage interest rates are expected to rise with the Federal Reserve anticipated to boost borrowing rates at least two times in 2019.The current long-term interest rate on a 30-year loan is just under 5 percent, but economist expect the rate to reach an average of 5.5 percent by the end of the new year.The hike in rates is meant to ward off inflation in a roaring economy filled with jobs, but the spike also means it will be more expensive for those financing home purchases in the new year, especially millennials and others looking to enter the housing market for the first time.Cooling home sales: In the Charleston region, home sales began to cool in 2018 as interest rates rose, but they could very well end the year matching the record pace set in 2017 if December’s figures come in strong. Home sales are off just by four from last year through November. If 1,527 homes sell in December, last year’s record 18,381 residential transactions will be met.While home-buying is expected to continue throughout the Charleston region at a moderate pace in the new year, prices will continue to escalate. Property information service CoreLogic expects rates to climb nationally 4.8 percent. The Charleston region has been experiencing about 6 percent growth in prices for the year. The cost of available land, rising materials’ costs and government regulations that slow down the building process all contribute to the region’s housing affordability issue. 2019 could be the year when home sales begin to cool further.Apartment surplus: New products coming online in 2019 in the form of several new developments throughout the Lowcountry are expected to help renters with pricing as the vacancy rate rises somewhat, according to Charlotte-based apartment service Real Data and national real estate economist Lawrence Yun. Rental rates have been rising across the region as well, but new supply is expected to outpace demand in the new year, helping to keep apartment prices in check. Average apartment rental rates in Charleston come in at $1,242 a month, matching Nashville and coming in second only to Orlando in 15 metro markets across six southeastern states from Virginia to Florida tracked by Real Data. The firm does not include Atlanta.

As the new year unfolds, we will see how this all plays out.

New homes on the rise in northern Mount Pleasant. The town is considering increasing fees to inspect site preparations before homes are built, to reduce stormwater flooding problems. Leroy Burnell/Staff July 25,2017

Mount Pleasant might increase a home-construction fee ninefold in order to step up inspections to prevent flooding.

By the numbers

3,200: Commercial square footage in the one-acre site on King Street SCANA is selling off to pay for a settlement with SCE&G customers.

160,000: Square footage of the Embassy Suites currently under construction just past the Ravenel Bridge in Mount Pleasant.

This week in real estate

+Luxury sale: Belmond Charleston Place, one of the largest, priciest and best-known hotels and business-meeting destinations in South Carolina is changing hands.

+‘Attainable’ housing: a new nonprofit focuses on creating “attainable” housing — homes affordable to families with incomes that are higher than most in the Charleston area but not high enough for a home in Mount Pleasant.

+New flood maps: Your Berkeley County property may now be in a flood zone.

60 Montagu
The mansion at 60 Montagu St. on the Charleston peninsula. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

The three-story, antebellum Gaillard-Bennett House at 60 Montagu St. recently sold for $5.6 million. It was priced at $12.95 million before a twice-delayed auction, originally set for May, then July and later September. The latest asking price before the last scheduled auction was $6.99 million.

Upcoming real estate events
Dinner meeting: Charleston Apartment Association’s monthly dinner meeting is set for Jan. 15.Financial reviews: Origin SC offers ongoing one-on-one financial review sessions. It provides professional financial, housing and health counseling services to residents and businesses of South Carolina.
Charleston-area transactions

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Dragon Boat Charleston’s Paddles & Pearls Team Raising Funds to Travel to International Breast Cancer Racing event in July

Surviving breast cancer makes someone pretty tough. Continuing to stay healthy and prevent recurrence takes perseverance and encouragement. The members of Dragon Boat Charleston’s Paddles and Pearls team understand this, and they walk the walk – or paddle the paddle – every week. In fact, they are paddling their way to an International event where they will represent Charleston in July.

The IBCPC Dragon Boat Festival is held every four years under the auspices of the International Breast Cancer Paddler’s Commission. The Festival is an international non-competitive participatory event targeting Breast Cancer Survivors teams who engage in Dragon Boat activities as post-operative rehabilitation. Born from the idea of a Canadian sports medicine physician, Doctor Don McKenzie about twenty years ago, Dragon Boat paddling has become a rehabilitation therapy for tens of thousands of men and women worldwide, who have undergone surgery. For the first time since its institution in 2005, the IBCPC FESTIVAL will be held in Europe – in Italy. The Florence 2018 Festival will involve 129 teams from 17 countries, and for the very first time ALL the continents are represented.

To help fund their trip, the 45-member team has been busy with fundraising in the last six months and continues to work hard. Anyone interested in supporting their efforts are welcome to do so by sending a donation to: 1643 Savannah Highway Box 261 Charleston SC 29407 or by attending an upcoming event.

What: Sunset on the Creek (Shem Creek at Coastal Expeditions)

When: Thursday, May 17 from 5:30-8:30pm

Cost: $100.00 per person (includes music, hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine, and choice of water activity)

Press are invited to attend this event. Please contact Amy Brennan for credentials.

Dragon Boat Charleston is a Charleston-based nonprofit organization. Its mission is to promote the physical and mental health of cancer survivors and their community through the sport of dragon boating. The vision is to redefine cancer survivorship.

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Seven local officials commit to help fix Charleston’s affordable housing crisis at annual CAJM gathering

"There’s still a lot of people who didn’t show up, and a lot of work to be done."
Congregants and members take their seats at the Charleston Area Justice Ministry’s annual Nehemiah Action gathering on April 30, 2018.

Seven representatives from various Lowcountry governments agreed to join a regional housing coalition and to help establish a regional housing trust fund at the Charleston Area Justice Ministry’s annual Nehemiah Action gathering Monday night.

Nehemiah Action is arguably the largest gathering of policy-driven activists in the Charleston area. The rules of engaging with elected officials who show up to the meeting are created and enforced by the 27-member group to maximize clarity. They are asked yes or no questions and given 30 seconds to respond, after which their microphone is cut off.

The justice ministry collected 1,650 free "tickets" at the door.

"Our officials spend hours negotiating behind closed doors," said Claire Curtis of the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim synagogue in downtown Charleston. "The Nehemiah action opens those doors."

Last night’s event was not as adversarial as the rules, or previous meetings, might suggest. Unlike the more contentious and emotional race-based issues that CAJM has tackled in the past, the affordable housing crisis is an issue felt by everyone, and one that is supported by staggering statistics.

A quarter of Charleston-area renters, about 21,800 households, spend more than half their income on rent, according to a study by Harvard University’s Joint Center of Housing Studies. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends that households spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing and utility in order to afford other basic necessities. North Charleston, where the average person’s income trails Charleston’s by $16,000 a year, is now the highest eviction market in the country. Additionally, CAJM’s research, conducted between the group’s Community Problems Assembly in November and last night, found that the average Charleston renter would need to earn nearly $20 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Charleston County, much higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

"Greater Charleston is a tale of two cities," said Claudette Hart of Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church in the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood of Charleston. "[Tourists] can sulk in Charleston’s culture, eat at fine restaurants, and relax. On the other hand, Charleston is a difficult place to live."

CAJM’s proposed Housing Action Plan included the creation of a Regional Housing Coalition that will meet within 75 days to help write a proposal for a Regional Housing Trust Fund to be introduced at various local chambers. After that, officials are expected to champion dedicated sources of funding for the trust fund and report any progress at the next large CAJM gathering in November. The activist group argued that the existing South Carolina Community Loan Fund does not receive an adequate funding stream, and that the $20 million affordable housing bond passed in November by Charleston city voters does not do enough to solve the crisis. It is expected to bring 800 affordable housing units to the city. However, there are 211,000 who spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing in the Charleston area.

The regional trust fund idea is borrowed from cities like Milwaukee, which have seen success in the implementation of their own funds.

Rabbi Stephanie Alexander of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in downtown Charleston speaks at the Charleston Area Justice Ministry’s annual Nehemiah Action on April 30, 2018.

The area leaders in attendance were: Charleston City Council members Carol Jackson, James Lewis, William Dudley Gregorie, and Keith Waring; Charleston County Council chair Vic Rawl; North Charleston City Council member Mike Brown, Jr.; and Mt. Pleasant Council member Guang Whitley.

They all agreed to help the activist group fulfill its goals.

Charleston City Council member William Dudley Gregorie agreed to support the CAJM’s housing action plan, though he initially backed away from joining any sort of committee or council.

"What it means is: I’m not looking for work, but I will assist in any way I can," he said.

After pressure from one of the moderators, Gregorie eventually relented and agreed to join the Regional Housing coalition to riotous applause from the nearly-packed sanctuary.

Charleston City Council member James Lewis defended the city’s efforts thus far.

"The city has produced over 10,000 affordable housing units in the last 15 to 20 years," he said. "We have a plan to produce 1,300 more units in the next three to five years."

CAJM spokesperson Treva Williams stressed that the group sent invitations out in December, and that last night’s questions were also sent in advance. City spokesperson Jack O’Toole told CP that Mayor Tecklenburg would be out of town with his family on Monday night. It is unclear where the mayor went, but O’Toole said he was expected back at City Hall by Tuesday morning.

"The officials who came were clearly well prepared in terms of what we were asking for," said Rabbi Stephanie Alexander of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. "There’s still a lot of people who didn’t show up, and a lot of work to be done."

Despite the positive responses, CAJM leaders urged the crowd to keep the pressure on by showing up to Council meetings and actively participating in their cities’ decision-making process.

"The most important thing is always to show up at those Council meetings, whether its your local city or town or County Council meetings, to continue the momentum behind the issue and to continue to support those officials who have given us their support," Alexander said.

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Faith-based group tackles affordable housing in Charleston region

CAJM is an interfaith organization of 27 Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations throughout the Charleston community. Their yearly Nehemiah Action starts at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 30, 2018 at the Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, 7396 Rivers Avenue, North Charleston, SC 29406.

“Nehemiah gathered a great assembly, and not just he, but all of the people, demanded that their leaders act fairly, and return land, children, and interest to their rightful place and owners. Nehemiah’s vision of doing justice, is our guiding vision.” Rabbi Stephanie Alexander, of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, wrote in a statement about the event.

More than 2,000 people of faith are expected to attend the meeting.

This year’s Action is focused on providing solutions for the regional housing crisis. Members of CAJM spent six months researching the problem of the lack of affordable housing. From their study, they reported 40% of owners and 57% of renters in Charleston County spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing cost. High housing cost forces many out of cities and into areas far from where they work, according to the organization.

The organization wants elected leaders to create a regional plan and an annually funded trust to address the problem.

Currently those who have committed to attend the Nehemiah Action include Charleston County Council Chair Vic Rawl, Charleston City Council members Dudley Gregorie, Keith Waring, James Lewis and Carol Jackson, North Charleston Council member Mike Brown and Mount Pleasant Council member Guang Ming Whitley.

In the years since its 2011 inception, CAJM’s advocacy has won 280 additional slots for Charleston County School District’s early childhood development program; engaged local law enforcement agencies to reduce the incarceration of non-violent juvenile offenders; pressed the School District to enact evidence-based programs to reduce suspensions; and convinced Charleston City Council to issue a Request for Proposal to hire a police auditor to audit their police department for racial bias, according to the organization’s press release.

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Study: China’s importance to Charleston, SC growing even as trade war rumors stir

BMW vehicles made in the South Carolina Upstate wait to be driven onto a car carrier docked at the Port of Charleston’s Columbus Street Terminal. File/Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

South Carolina has vaulted to the nation’s fourth-largest exporter to China, with BMW vehicles and Boeing airplanes helping to nearly wipe out the Palmetto State’s trade deficit with the Asian economic power, a new study shows.

The report by the U.S.-China Business Council comes at a time when Trump administration officials are heading to Beijing to meet with the Chinese government over possible trade sanctions.

The U.S. is threatening to place tariffs on up to $150 billion worth of Chinese goods. China has said it would retaliate with steep tariffs of its own on agricultural products like pork — another key export commodity for the Port of Charleston.

South Carolina’s emergence this past decade as a top exporter to China coincides with German automaker BMW more than doubling production of vehicles at its Upstate plant, which now exports about $2.4 billion worth of SUVs to China.

It also follows Boeing Co.’s decision in 2009 to build an assembly campus for its 787 Dreamliner commercial jets in North Charleston. Planes and aerospace parts account for $2 billion in exports to China.

Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority, said he thinks there is room to negotiate better trade deals between the U.S. and China, but he doubts a full-out trade war will erupt.

"This discussion about who has more to lose in a trade war than the other is a bunch of nonsense —both sides have too much to lose," Newsome said. "China has a growing middle class of 500 million people and they want U.S. products, and we need their production.

"I think at this point in time, everybody views this as something that will get worked out," he said.

The report from the U.S.-China Business Council — a nonprofit promoting free trade between the two countries — shows products exported from South Carolina to China have grown by 660 percent over the past decade, from $800 million in 2008 to $6.3 billion last year.

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At the same time, the value of goods moving from China to the Palmetto State has grown at much slower pace, at 195 percent.

That means South Carolina’s trade deficit, which once stood at billions of dollars, is now roughly nonexistent in global commerce terms at roughly $300 million.

As a nation, the U.S. trade deficit with China hit a record $375.2 billion in 2017.

South Carolina now ranks fourth among states with exports to China, behind Texas, California and Washington.

Instead of creating tariff-related trade barriers, the council says U.S. officials should be looking for ways to boost exports of American-made goods to China.

"The United States should pursue multiple approaches to improve market access for U.S. companies, including bringing legally sound, industry-supported cases to the World Trade Organization, coordinating with like-minded countries on advocacy with China and engaging in results-oriented dialogue with China to address barriers of longstanding concern," the report states.

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South Charleston baseball mows down rival GW, 4-1

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South Charleston pitcher Jeremy Graley jumps for joy after beating GW.

KENNY KEMP | Gazette-Mail

South Charleston’s record hasn’t always been impressive this season, but its pitching has been.

Jeremy Graley continued that trend Friday afternoon, tossing a six-hit complete game and taming George Washington’s bats as the host Black Eagles registered a 4-1 victory during the Ed Carter Memorial Tournament.

Graley, who struck out six and walked two, allowed only four bunt singles and two other infield hits against the Patriots (8-7), who hold down the No. 2 spot in the Mountain State Athletic Conference rankings.

South Charleston got three unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning against GW’s Aidan Johnson and tacked on an insurance run in the sixth on Ty Sizemore’s single that scored Tyson Burke, who had doubled.

The game was 3-1 after the first inning and remained that way until the bottom of the sixth as Graley and Johnson kept putting up zeroes on the scoreboard.

“After the first inning or two, I settled down,’’ Graley said, “and started throwing strikes. I just felt from there on that we had it. You’ve got to try and give their 3-4-5 [batters] something to hit, but you also want to try and pitch around them and that’s what we did, and it worked out for us.’’

SC’s three most-used pitchers this season — Graley, left-hander Alex Jarrell and Nick Workman — all hold earned run averages of 1.15 or lower, but the Black Eagles began the weekend still under .500 as a team.

“It sucks not to have a whole lot of wins,’’ Graley said, “but all that matters is that we’re working toward sectionals.’’

The Patriots took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Preston Taylor, their first out of the inning. In the first three innings, they twice had bases loaded with none out and in the other frame placed two runners aboard with two outs, but managed just a single tally.

“It’s tough to put pressure on when you’re not swinging at good pitches in the zone,’’ said GW coach Mike Davis, “and you’re not aggressive in the zone. We’re swinging at pitches out of the zone, helping him out and there’s zero pressure put on the defense when you’re doing that.

“Then we’ve got to come out and create some offense by laying down bunts. And it is what it is. We could never get that timely hit, and we made a stupid baserunning mistake we shouldn’t be making this late in the year to run ourselves out of an inning. You can’t win close ballgames when you’re doing those type things.’’

Johnson went the distance for the Patriots, permitting five hits and one unearned run in six innings, fanning two and walking one.

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Charleston, SC Real Estate: Open Houses

So you want to look at some open houses for sale in Charleston this weekend? Good idea. An open house planned by the right realtor can help you in any number of ways. Open houses provide you information on how to list and show your own house and they can give you an idea of the quality of homes in an area before you waste too much time going house to house.

The best open house of all? The open house that you end up owning. Take a look at the open houses in and near Charleston listed by our partners at realtor.com.

So you want to look at some open houses for sale in Charleston this weekend? Good idea. An open house planned by the right realtor can help you in any number of ways. Open houses provide you information on how to list and show your own house and they can give you an idea of the quality of homes in an area before you waste too much time going house to house.

The best open house of all? The open house that you end up owning. Take a look at the open houses in and near Charleston listed by our partners at realtor.com.

So you want to look at some open houses for sale in Charleston this weekend? Good idea. An open house planned by the right realtor can help you in any number of ways. Open houses provide you information on how to list and show your own house and they can give you an idea of the quality of homes in an area before you waste too much time going house to house.

The best open house of all? The open house that you end up owning. Take a look at the open houses in and near Charleston listed by our partners at realtor.com.

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Charleston family pushes for ban on chemical that caused man’s death

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — A Charleston family is pushing for a ban on a paint stripping chemical that caused the death of 31-year-old Drew Wynne.

Drew was working on the floors of his startup business, Riptide Coffee in North Charleston, when the fumes from methylene chloride overcame him. He was using a product that contained the chemical. He was found dead the next day.

Now, his family is partnering with the Environmental Defense Fund and federal lawmakers to push for a ban on the chemical.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that something could kill you that quickly. The idea that you can just buy something like that…it’s just impossible to wrap your head around,” said Brian Wynne, Drew’s brother.

South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford, along with South Carolina US Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, wrote a letter to the environmental protection agency also in support of the ban.

“If a product is being sold that has as much smoke around it as this chemical does in regard to death and injury, then we ought to go the extra mile in taking a step in saying it doesn’t belong there,” Sanford said.

“I think there are unnecessary deaths and tragedies because people are not taking action, and that’s what’s propelling us today,” Cindy Wynne, Drew’s mother, said.

In January 2017, the EPA suggested banning the chemical. However, no official regulation has taken place. Drew died October 3, 2017.

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Global Entry and PreCheck programs coming for airport travelers returning to Charleston

International travelers who sign up for Global Entry and domestic travelers in the PreCheck program can avoid some of the hassles of airport checks. File/Grace Boehm/Staff

Two federal programs that make it easier to get through airports are making a return flight to Charleston.

U.S. Customs officers with the Global Entry program for travelers entering the United States will be conducting interviews March 26-28 at the Gaillard Municipal Center on the peninsula.

Officers with the TSA’s PreCheck program for travelers flying out of U.S. airports will conduct interviews April 26-27 at the AAA office on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.

An online application and background check are required before either interview.

The application process for Global Entry starts with creating an account through the "Apply Now" link on the Global Entry website at tinyurl.com/y7kvhlrs. Travelers can’t schedule an interview until they’re conditionally approved.

Creating the account costs $100, and it’s not refundable if applicants are denied because of a past DUI conviction or some other reason. Membership is good for five years.

The interviews will be conducted in the Gaillard Center’s first-floor public meeting room at 2 George St. in downtown Charleston.

Those who are approved for Global Entry are also eligible for PreCheck.

The PreCheck interviews will be conducted 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. April 23-26 and from 1 to 5 p.m. April 27 at the AAA office at 2031 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.

Appointments can be scheduled at universalenroll.dhs.gov. Click “Apply Now,” and at Step 4, enter Charleston SC and choose “Pop-Up Event: AAA Carolinas.” Then move to the bottom of page and click Next for an appointment time.

At the interview, you must show a government-issued photo ID with proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a passport or birth certificate, and be fingerprinted. Membership is $85 for five years.

A sign at Calhoun and Concord streets announces a request to change the zoning to allow 180 hotel rooms on the site. The parking garage across from the S.C. Aquarium is in the background. Dave Munday/Staff

A request to change the zoning at Calhoun and Concord streets to allow 180 hotel rooms instead of 100 is back on the Planning Commission’s agenda Wednesday, after being withdrawn last month.

The site at 7 Calhoun St. is the empty field near the S.C. Aquarium. RB Charleston LLC, an affiliate of RockBridge LLC of Columbus, Ohio, bought the property in 2015 for $5.75 million. Concord Park Associates LLC is also listed as a partner.

Charlestowne Hotels, based in Mount Pleasant, has opened its first hotel in Nashville, the 1970s-inspired Fairlane Hotel. Provided

Charlestowne Hotels, the management company that’s based in Mount Pleasant, has opened its first property in Nashville.

The 81-room Fairlane Hotel was the former headquarters of Fidelity Federal Savings & Loan. The renovation is a retro modern design, including a 1970s-inspired 4,000-square foot penthouse, fourth-floor terrace restaurant, Montreal-style delicatessen and lobby coffee counter.

Charlestowne Hotels added 10 new properties to its management portfolio in 2017, including two historic hotels in Vermont and a redevelopment project on the West Coast. It operated 47 hotels at the end of last year.

The company reported a 6 percent increase in average revenue per available room last year, which was twice the national average for the seventh consecutive year, but it did not disclose the dollar amount.

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