Walmart to offer community training

America's biggest retailer is using its employee training programs to also help provide personal financial help and career planning for local communities, including Chattanooga.

Walmart's training academy at its superstore on Little Debbie Parkway in Collegedale is one of more than 200 such Walmart training facilities that are also beginning to provide free community classes.

"Community Academy began with a question: How can we help?" said Andy Trainor, vice president of learning at Walmart. "With so many communities struggling economically and education sometimes out of reach, we recognized a need that we're uniquely suited to fill. Our goal is to help people invest in themselves, increase upward mobility and create fundamentally stronger communities as a result."

Walmart is now offering virtual courses at no cost, and registration is open to all. Class topics include everything from résumé building and interviewing skills to budget and finance, standardized test preparation and navigating college admissions. Each of our courses are grouped into one of five overall themes – community, personal finance, home, career progression and technology – "and we'll expand our offerings throughout the year," Trainor said.

Enrollment and more information is available on the web at


Alabama lands firm from San Francisco

Landing, an apartment rental company created by the founder of Shipt, is moving its headquarters from San Francisco to Birmingham.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the relocation will create 816 full-time jobs.

"Landing is a fast-growing company with an innovative business model, and we are thrilled that it will establish its headquarters in Alabama," Ivey said in a statement.

Landing uses a membership model to rent furnished and unfurnished apartments across the nation. The company says it provides flexibility to renters by offering "flexible leases, concierge services, top-tier furnishings, ready-stocked basics, and 24/7 support." Members pay an annual membership of $199 and can rent in 81 locations, according to the company's website.

"As a Birmingham native, relocating our headquarters and expanding our Alabama team was a natural transition," Bill Smith, founder and CEO of Landing, said in a statement.

Smith previously started Shipt, the app-based delivery service that was later acquired by Target Corp.


30-year mortgage rate remains below 3 percent

Mortgage rates remained near historic lows this week. The benchmark 30-year home loan held below the 3% mark amid further signs of the economy's recovery from the pandemic recession.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average for the 30-year rate loan dipped to 2.96% from 2.99% last week.

The rate for a 15-year loan, which is a popular option among homeowners refinancing their mortgages, edged down to 2.23% from 2.27% last week.

In the latest economic news, the government reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week for the sixth straight week, to 376,000, a new pandemic low.

"Despite the stronger economy, the housing market is experiencing a slowdown in purchase application activity due to modestly higher mortgage rates," said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "However, it has yet to translate into a weaker home price trajectory because the shortage of inventory continues to cause pricing to remain elevated."


GOP lawmakers investigate leak of personal tax info

Republicans in Congress are alarmed by the leak of confidential IRS data to the investigative news organization ProPublica, enabling it to reveal that famous billionaires including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg paid little in U.S. income tax at times. A senior IRS official said Thursday that a federal criminal investigation into the leak has been requested.

Taking a detour from the debate over President Joe Biden's tax overhaul plan, the GOP lawmakers are demanding to know how the private tax data was disclosed and they are pressing the Treasury Department and the IRS to pursue anyone who violated the law.

"Taxpayers must have the utmost confidence in federal institutions that house their personal and confidential information," a group of Republican senators said in letters demanding an investigation. "Regrettably, it appears personnel with access to Americans' personal and confidential information are misusing protected information for political reasons. Treasury and the IRS must hold accountable any and all individuals who broke federal law by inappropriately sharing the confidential tax information and tax returns of multiple Americans."

Douglas O'Donnell, a deputy IRS commissioner, said at a hearing by a House panel that the Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, has referred the matter for investigation to the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in the District of Columbia.