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Delaware lawmakers OK pay hikes and pension increases

From Bay to Bay News:

DOVER — Delaware lawmakers wrapped up budget markup after just two days this week, setting the stage for the final month of the 2021 legislative session.

Legislators approved a number of aspects of Gov. John Carney’s January recommendations for the operating budget, adding roughly $60 million to that spending plan to bring the total to about $4.77 billion. There’s also a supplement containing some one-time funding that comes to $221 million, which represents a sixfold increase there.

Though the Joint Finance Committee was scheduled to meet for up to six days, it only needed two. Lawmakers breezed through the budget-markup process, aided by a glut of revenue in the form of an extra $750 million or so since the governor unveiled his budget proposal.

The extra money makes the job easier for legislators in one sense because they do not have to debate cuts to services or tax hikes, though it does  demand for more funding from many areas. Read more here:  https://baytobaynews.com/stories/delaware-lawmakers-ok-pay-hikes-and-pension-increases,49182

The Summer Season is Here, But Workers Are Not

From WBOC:

DELMARVA – Business owners say say this could be the busiest summer in Delmarva’s history, and it all kicks off this weekend with Memorial Day.

Workers are needed to deal with the unprecedented crowds, and store owners say they still need more help.

Local hotel manager Benjamin Gray says the crowds will only get bigger from here.

Gray said, “It’s a recovery like I’ve never seen before. I’ve been in this industry for over a decade, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
He says staffing is the number one concern in the hospitality industry, and for his business, the cleaning staff is slim.

“Not many people want to go off of unemployment to clean rooms, so that’s the main issue we’re running into. Also front desk seems to hurt a little bit as well, but primarily housekeeping, that’s where we have the dire need for this particular market,” Gray said.

But Seacrets in Ocean City says their need is everywhere. “We’ve got something for everyone. Kitchen, bars, wait staff, even AV with all our entertainment, so you can go to our website and apply there. More and more people are coming down, so we’re just hoping to fill those spots,” said Seacrets’ Marketing Manager Jackie Weisenberg.
Read more:https://www.wboc.com/story/43971205/the-summer-season-is-here-but-workers-are-not

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Delaware auditor launches effort to track Rescue Plan funds

From Bay to Bay News:

DEWEY BEACH — Whether it’s one penny or a billion dollars, governmental accountability and transparency are paramount, says Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness.

On Wednesday morning in Dewey Beach, Ms. McGuiness — flanked by officials from several Delaware municipalities — unveiled what she calls a historic statewide initiative to track how school districts and local and county governments spend the $1.25 billion they are receiving in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“The premise of this initiative is simple — Delawareans will be able to see and compare how their county, the municipalities and school districts are spending the millions in tax dollars they receive from the American Rescue Plan,” said Ms. McGuiness. “Through this project, I am encouraging every Delaware citizen to become a citizen watchdog. The execution of this initiative is also simple — county and municipal officials will go to the secure portal on my website and put in the details of where they have spent their ARP funds each week.”

The initiative is named “Project: Gray Fox” in honor of Delaware’s state animal, Ms. McGuiness said.

“For most Delawareans, the third stimulus payment they received this spring is likely either spent on bills or put into savings already,” she continued. “But for county and local government officials, as well as school district officials, the $1.25 billion in ARP funds they will receive have yet to appear in their bank accounts.”  Read more: https://baytobaynews.com/stories/delaware-auditor-launches-effort-to-track-rescue-plan-funds,49079

American biomedical innovation is leading the world: Why would we stifle that? | Opinion

 

From Delawareonline: President Joe Biden was spot on when he recently told Congress that continued investment in research and development is essential to our country’s global leadership and economic security.

Fortunately, the American bioscience sector is a shining exemplar of our nation’s unparalleled ability to nurture and produce engines of innovation that both benefit humankind and drive extraordinary economic opportunity at home through just that kind of sustained investment.

The dramatic impact of this biomedical renaissance couldn’t be clearer:  Vaccines and therapeutics developed and produced in record time and at an unprecedented scale are leading the world out of the deadly clutches of a catastrophic pandemic.

Yet, despite this historic success story, a proposal is being considered in Congress that would jeopardize this leadership by applying foreign pricing models to breakthrough medicines. Read more:https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2021/05/21/delaware-leads-american-biomedical-innovation/5166978001/

Gov. Hogan lifts all COVID-19 capacity limits on businesses, restaurants in Maryland

 

From: Delmarva Now  Maryland will lift nearly all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, restaurants and venues across Maryland on Saturday as vaccines make progress in slowing the virus’s spread.

Gov. Larry Hogan said capacity limits on indoor and outdoor dining, entertainment venues, sporting events and all businesses will end in response to improving COVID-19 metrics.

“Effectively, as of Saturday, every business in Maryland will be able to open at 100% with no restrictions,” Hogan said Wednesday.

Read more: https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/local/maryland/2021/05/12/maryland-covid-hogan-lifts-capacity-limits-businesses-restaurants/5062563001/

With so much federal stimulus cash, state predicts surplus of $1 billion

From: Delaware Live

A state council that forecasts Delaware’s state budgets is predicting there will be a surplus of more than $1 billion in 2022.

It’s a stunning rise from the $669 million predicted in December, which was already surprising against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council’s expenditures and revenues committees heard Monday that jump came about largely because of the amount of federal stimulus money coming in, particularly checks sent to residents.

The full committee is voting on their recommendations Monday afternoon.

Withholdings from personal income tax has risen 16.4%, said David Roose, director of Research & Tax Policy for the state Department of Finance.  The sharp increase is partly because the numbers are being compared with last year, when so many people lost jobs and withholdings fell.

Net corporate income tax in April, covering the first quarter, is one of the four best Aprils in the last 25 years, Roose said. Some of the higher industries were healthcare, finance and home building.

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The state has also seen an increase of nearly $16 million in franchise tax, a 50% rise in transfer tax — a state record, and rises in general receipt taxes from retailers, general wholesalers and services as the economy has started to improve.

Amid the amazement at the rapid transformation of Delaware’s financial fortunes was worry about what happens next.

Read more:: https://delawarelive.com/with-so-much-federal-stimulus-cash-state-predicts-surplus-of-1-billion-in-2022-2/

Jewish leaders condemn Morrison post, ask to talk about Israeli attacks

From: DelawareLive: Two state representatives are among 15 Delaware Jewish leaders who have taken another Delaware state representative to task for what they describe as “hurtful and inflammatory” language describing Jewish attacks in Gaza as “ethnic cleansing.”

In a May 21 open letter to Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow, the 10 rabbis and five other leaders singled out his May 16 Facebook post, in which he calls attacks in Gaza “ethnic cleansing at best, genocide at worst.”

Among those signing the letter from the Jewish Community Relations Committee were Morrison’s fellow legislators, Rep. Deb Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, and Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman, R-Clayton. Read more: https://delawarelive.com/jewish-leaders-condemn-morrison-post-ask-to-talk-about-israeli-attacks/

 

How will Delaware overcome the workforce shortage?

With COVID-19 cases on the decline, restrictions lifting and businesses beginning to operate as usual, now seems like the perfect time for those unemployed due to the pandemic to get back to work.  But, in Delaware – a state with an unemployment rate above 6 percent – employers are struggling to find workers.

 

This is an unusual problem while recovering from a recession, but that is partly because the recession caused by COVID-19 was itself unusual. According to economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin,  three major factors changed during this recession. First, people did not need to prove they were seeking employment while on unemployment, self-employed and contractual workers became eligible for unemployment and, a $300 federal benefit was made available on top of existing unemployment insurance.

 

These changes have meant that 37 percent of those currently on unemployment are bringing home more than they made while employed pre-pandemic. This in large part contributes to the 8.1 million unfilled jobs across the country.

 

The Foundation for Economic Education says that the labor shortage caused by these compounding financial factors was an unintended consequence, but it wasn’t difficult to predict. It calls the supplemental unemployment benefits a “cautionary tale about what happens when lawmakers meddle in labor markets.”

 

Delaware’s worker shortage will likely be most visible this summer at the beaches. In 2019, Delaware’s tourism industry contributed nearly $4 billion to the economy – 42 percent of that came from Sussex County, home to Delaware’s top beach destinations. As tourists return in what are expected to be large numbers this summer, business owners predict they will not be able to offer the same quality of quantity of services as before.

 

According to Delaware Online, dozens of beach business owners are calling the employment crisis a “nightmare scenario.”  Some businesses quadruple their staff every summer with most the positions filled by spring break, but this year, the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce were compelled to host a job fair to help businesses fill their open positions – a need that has not existed in recent memory.

 

 

As of May 18th, Governor Carney’s office announced that the requirement of those on unemployment to be actively seeking a job will be reinstated beginning June 12. Will this be enough to improve the worker shortage?  Only time will tell what additional moves Gov. Carney will make to get Delaware back to work.

Delaware JobLink site slammed by unemployed Wednesday

FROM: DELAWARELIVE:
As of June 12, those on unemployment will again be required to prove they searched for a job to keep checks coming

 

It was mighty hard to get onto Delaware’s JobLink site Wednesday.

Many of those who tried got this message: “This website is under heavy load (queue full). We’re sorry, too many people are accessing this website at the same time. We’re working on this problem. Please try again later.”

As of June 12, signing up at that link will be first step that the unemployed must take in Delaware in order to keep getting their benefits, the Department of Labor announced Tuesday.

On orders from Delaware Gov. John Carney, as of that date, anyone on unemployment must prove they are looking for jobs in order to keep getting state and federal benefits.

When COVID-19 hit last year and the unemployment rolls swelled by tens of thousands overnight, the requirement to hunt for a job was dropped and payments were increased to $900 a week in a combination of state and federal money.

As vaccinations have risen and the community opens up, employers have complained that they can’t find enough people to take the jobs that are open. One reason, they say, is because of high unemployment payments, coupled with no requirement to seek a job.

 

Carney said Tuesday he will not drop the extra $300 in federal pay as other governors have. That extra money runs out in September.

But he did order the Department of Labor to reinstitute the job-seeking requirement.

Now, the unemployed once again must first sign up with JobLink, which will require creating or uploading a resume. In addition, they also must complete at least one unique job search a week to remain eligible.

JobLink, which was required before the pandemic, allows employers and job seekers to create and post jobs and resumes in a sort of state-sponsored matching system.

“Delawareans are getting vaccinated, and businesses are reopening and expanding hours of service,” said Secretary of Labor Karryl Hubbard in a press release.  “Thousands of jobs are currently available and UI claimants want to get back to work.  JobLink is a key tool for connecting potential employees to employers.”

Claimants should check in JobLink to ensure they are properly registered, the Labor Department stressed. The system will include information about the most in-demand occupations by industry and on-the-job training and apprenticeship opportunities.

Once registered, claimants can begin their weekly required job search, which they must document and record to keep getting unemployment payments. For more on how to do that, go to labor.delaware.gov.

The Department of Labor is planning a number of customized communications, including phone calls and posts on the website, to alert those in the system that the rules are changing.

“With nearly a month to complete the JobLink registration, we are seeking to provide Delawareans ample time to comply with the reinstatement of these requirements, said Darryl Scott, director of Unemployment Insurance, in the press release. “We want to strongly encourage people to start this process now.”

On Wednesday, it looked like people were taking that seriously.

Unemployment benefits are available to workers in Delaware that are unemployed through no fault of their own, who are ready and able to accept work, who are actively seeking work and whose past income meets a minimum amount based on an 18-month base period.

 

Delaware state senator Darius Brown charged following altercation at Talleyville restaurant

FROM: DELAWARE NEWS JOURNAL

A Delaware state senator has been charged with offensive touching and disorderly conduct after police say he punched an acquaintance and threw a glass of water at a Talleyville restaurant Sunday evening.

Delaware State Police were called to Taverna Rustic Italian Restaurant on Silverside Road just before 6:30 p.m. for reports of a “domestic altercation.”

When troopers arrived, a 44-year-old woman said she and Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, were arguing about a social media post when he punched her. He then threw the water glass, which “broke into pieces,” police said.

Brown left the restaurant before troopers arrived. The woman “sustained some redness to the side of her face but did not require any medical attention,” police said.

Brown, a former Wilmington councilman, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was elected to the General Assembly in 2018 as the District 2 senator.

Since then, he has been one of the Statehouse’s champions of criminal justice reform. In 2019, for example, he voted to pass a bill that expanded the types of offenses that can be expunged after a certain amount of time.

In the spring of 2018, while he was running for the District 2 seat, Brown was hit with a federal tax lien for $50,803 in unpaid income taxes from 2012 through 2016. A month later, the Delaware Division of Revenue filed a complaint in Superior Court for $9,854 in unpaid taxes and penalties from 2014 through 2016.

STORY:Delaware Senate candidate owes $50K to feds, $10K to state

“I have a tax liability,” Brown said at the time. “I have a payment arrangement to make a monthly payment. That’s what I do to satisfy my liability, which is no different than other people with the challenges they have.”

Brown declined to provide an explanation for how his taxes appeared to have gone unpaid for years.

On Wednesday, Delaware Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola addressed Brown’s arrest, saying accusations of domestic violence “are serious and in direct conflict with the values of the Delaware Senate Democratic Caucus.”

“However, a presumption of innocence is one of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system,” Sokola said. “I will carefully consider whether any formal actions are warranted in the coming days as we learn more about this incident.”

When a Delaware Online/The News Journal reporter called Brown for comment, they received a message that his voice mailbox was full. Other attempts have also been made to reach the state senator for comment.

Delaware