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The First State Falls Behind in Pandemic Action

In the wake of coronavirus, Delaware businesses are struggling, shutting down, and asking for help. Unfortunately, many are not receiving the assistance they desperately need.

The Hospitality Emergency Loan Program (HELP)—offering no-interest loans up to $10,000 per business per month—has recently been expanded from the hospitality industry to include relief for personal care services businesses such as hair and nail salons and barbershops.

While this expansion is good news for some, other businesses are still being left behind.

This week, the languishing hotel industry asked Delaware lawmakers for tax deferments and to help their laid-off workers, but were told  this was not a priority and to wait. With over 10,000 Delawareans filing for unemployment in one week, helping businesses and laid-off workers are  just priorities they are deferring to address.

Delaware, who consistently ranks in the bottom in the nation relating to business, should take note from what some of the most business-friendly states are doing to compliment the federal coronavirus relief.

North Carolina, a top ranked state for business, is keeping its businesses and workers in mind while addressing the health crisis. The state has offered help for businesses through:

  • Expanding unemployment eligibility without placing the cost of benefits related to the coronavirus on businesses.
  • Business Edge: layoff aversion strategies and activities to help employers prevent or minimize job losses, by assessing needs and options for “at-risk” firms and addressing those needs.
  • The North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) is offering free assistance to small businesses to assess financial impacts of the pandemic, evaluate credit options, and apply for SBA disaster loans.

Georgia has delayed registration and registration fees for its corporations; Utah has combined health actions with economic responses in the “Utah Leads Together” program, and the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget will oversee the project management to ensure the state’s economy can recover quickly from the pandemic.

A Better Delaware recommends our lawmakers enact similar policies to those listed above, as well as implementing the following recommendations from the U.S. Small Business Chamber’s “Resources to Help Your Small Business Survive the Coronavirus:”

  • Waiving fees for businesses with low margins
  • Offering no-interest loans for businesses
  • Cancelling or deferring payment of payroll taxes

Delaware leaders can help our businesses recover now. To do this, the Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) can reallocate their funds used to attract new businesses to helping businesses in the state that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Governor and the legislature have a chance to minimize the impact of this health crisis on Delaware’s businesses, workers, and economy, and boost the First State’s standing nationally again. Policy decisions at this time must be made with caution, as the opportunity to further burden our businesses and economy is great.

Delaware’s senior most politicians admitted their focus is not on helping businesses at this time. Other states with more favorable business climates have already recognized the importance of this assistance and has taken steps early on to mitigate the problem.

Express the urgency of a dedicated response for businesses by contacting your legislator or reaching out to the Governor’s office.

Coronavirus and Delaware’s Future

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) epidemic has changed the day to day for many across the globe. Grocery stores struggle to keep essentials stocked, employers are mandating work-from-home policies, and health care systems are feeling a strain from testing and treatment.

Over the past week, many businesses in Delaware and nationwide have been forced to reduce service or even close their doors. Workers are concerned about lost wages, and business owners are facing massive revenue shortfalls.

Both are concerned about their ability to pay bills.

New cases are cropping up every day in the First State, and things will only get worse. Businesses will need help that comes from both the community and the state, and that help should not come at the expense of others struggling at this time: taxpayers.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has released “Resources to Help Your Small Business Survive the Coronavirus,” including some temporary measures lawmakers can take to help business survive the impact such as:

  • Waiving fees for businesses with low margins
  • Offering no-interest loans for businesses
  • Cancelling or deferring payment of payroll taxes

Governor Carney has already taken some steps to help businesses with programs like the Hospitality Emergency Loan Program (HELP). Under HELP, businesses are eligible to receive state support to pay rent, utilities, and other major overhead costs.

The state has also formally requested loans from the U.S. Small business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Declaration to help support over 25,000 small businesses in Delaware. Small businesses and non-profits would be eligible for up to $2 million each in low-interest loans.

As for the worker, unemployment must be revisited in a manner that expands eligibility and benefits without adding a burden onto already struggling or inoperable businesses.

There is still no such thing as a free lunch, and as our state’s government works to protect small businesses and workers, the total cost must be monitored closely. Increasing taxes to cover these programs will hurt Delawareans, and so will cutting essential programs to cover loss of revenue.

While a health crisis may be an extreme scenario, it is the perfect example of why our government must watch its spending habits in better times. Luckily, Delaware has a Rainy Day Fund that could be utilized to offset some of the financial burden associated with the critical programs coming from the Governor’s office, but requires a super majority vote from the General Assembly to spend. Additional coverage could come from the reserved monies from budgeting 98% of revenues, or Budget Smoothing. This $100M+ can be spent at the Governor’s discretion. However, our savings account is only so big, taxpayer pockets so deep, and business revenues so sustainable.

As the situation improves, it is imperative that our state leaders move forward with caution in any new spending or programs while revenues recover. Earlier in 2020, a $200 million “surplus” was attempted to be spent on various new spending projects. Now, that $200 million likely does not exist, digging the state into a worse position to help Delaware businesses and workers, and to recover from the impact of the coronavirus.

That revenue was from increasing taxes on Delawareans in recent years. The same can happen again if the state raises taxes to cover spending from the coronavirus, or to fund new, long-term programs deemed necessary because of it.

There won’t be tax cuts or a return of your money—so what will the new “surplus” be used for in five years?

Irresponsible fiscal policy now will likely hurt Delaware residents and businesses in a way that cannot be ignored or excused.

A sound recovery from Coronavirus will be tough job for our state leaders in the coming months, who must consider how to not worsen our already struggling business climate and interstate economic competitiveness in the aftermath.

Let’s have the foresight to implement recovery policies that encourage economic and job growth, a better place for businesses to grow and thrive, and an economy that lifts up Delawareans as a whole.

Delaware gives $4.5 million to bring Amazon to former Newport-area auto plant site

From the News Journal

It’s now safe to say that Amazon, with the help of $4.5 million in Delaware taxpayer grants, is coming to the Newport area.

The company, which reported $3.3 billion in profits for the three months that ended in December, says it is bringing about 1,000 full-time jobs to the former General Motors plant site on Boxwood Road.

The state’s seven-person Council on Development Finance approved the grant on Monday.

A Nevada-based distribution company that counts Amazon as a client plans those jobs and more seasonal ones for a 3.7-million-square-foot logistics warehouse, according to a presentation from the company at the Buena Vista conference center in New Castle.

Amazon’s application was not readily available to the public before or during the hearing. Monday’s agenda offered little more detail on the application, only revealing that Amazon was seeking the $4.5 million to “establish its operations in Wilmington, Delaware.”

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2020/02/24/delaware-gives-4-5-million-bring-amazon-former-newport-auto-plant/4817576002/

Amazon seeking $4.5 million from state for distribution center

From Delaware Business Now

Amazon plans to seek $4.5 million from the Delaware Strategic Fund for a fulfillment center.

An agenda item from the Delaware Council on Development Finance contained the request from Amazon and listed Wilmington as the location. The council will hold a meeting on Monday.

The Strategic Fund ties assistance from the state to the number of jobs created by the employer. Payback comes from additional income tax revenues.

The council passes its recommendations on to the state’s director of Small Business.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the request is related to a proposed distribution center at the former GM Boxwood plant west of Wilmington.

Read more:

https://delawarebusinessnow.com/2020/02/amazon-seeking-4-5-million-from-state-for-distribution-center/

Black Entrepreneurship 2020: A Special Report and Definitive 50-State Ranking

From FitSmallBusiness

Delaware ranks 30th in the nation for Black Entrepreneurship.

Black Entrepreneurs, All 50 State Rankings:

1. Georgia
2. Texas
3. Florida
4. California
5. North Carolina
6. Oklahoma
7. Tennessee
8. New York
9. Mississippi
10. Colorado
11. Wyoming
12. Washington
13. Nevada
14. New Mexico
15. Michigan
16. Missouri
17. Virginia
18. New Jersey
19. Arizona
20. Louisiana
21. Maryland
22. Ohio
23. Arkansas
24. Kentucky
25. South Carolina
26. Idaho
27. Illinois
28. Indiana
29. Massachusetts
30. Delaware
31. Alaska
32. Alabama
33. Utah
34. North Dakota
35. Oregon
36. West Virginia
37. Vermont
38. Pennsylvania
39. Iowa
40. Hawaii
41. Nebraska
42. South Dakota
43. Montana
44. Minnesota
45. Kansas
46. Connecticut
47. Wisconsin
48. Rhode Island
49. New Hampshire
50. Maine

https://fitsmallbusiness.com/black-entrepreneurship-2020/

Why the Delaware Way could prevent livestreaming of General Assembly

From The News Journal

The so-called “Delaware Way,” the bipartisan tradition in which First State politicians make decisions and work out tensions behind closed doors, could get in the way of the latest efforts to increase transparency.

In a state that’s been frequently criticized as having one of the least transparent governments in the country, a group of mostly Republican lawmakers is proposing that the General Assembly start recording its public meetings and posting them online for anyone to watch.

It’s something that the vast majority of states and several of Delaware’s local governments, in some capacity, already do.

But one of Delaware’s highest-ranking lawmakers, who controls the 41-member House chamber’s schedule, could try to block the effort over fears that private conversations could end up being recorded.

“I’m not too crazy about it,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, when asked about livestreaming. “I’m not putting cameras and microphones installed in our caucus rooms because we’d be at the mercy of anyone who’d want to tap into it and listen to us have our discussion.”

The bill does not mention recording private caucus meetings, which take place in some of the same rooms used for public meetings. Those caucus meetings are about as common as public meetings when the General Assembly is in session.

The proposal, House Concurrent Resolution 69, would create only a blueprint for how to livestream public floor debates and committee meetings in the General Assembly. Lawmakers would have to introduce a separate bill to actually execute it.

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/14/delaware-lawmakers-lack-transparency-could-prevent-livestreaming/4543708002/

Bloom’s latest blemishes: Delaware job cuts and multimillion-dollar ‘accounting error’

From The News Journal

Bloom Energy, the Silicon Valley company subsidized by Delaware, blamed an “accounting error” for misstating the amount of money it made in recent years.

Startling investors, Bloom said its revenues over the past four years are off by “less than 10 percent,” a limit that amounts to nearly $200 million.

“The adjustment has no impact on Bloom’s total cash,” said the company, which builds fuel cell electricity generators at a plant in Newark.

Released after stocks stopped trading on Wednesday, Bloom Energy’s statement follows rumors of layoffs at the company’s Delaware factory. Asked last week whether the claims were true, Bloom spokeswoman Natalia Blank said “some specific roles in Delaware were eliminated” because of changes to its operations.

Blank said a “small percentage” of its total Delaware workforce lost their jobs, but declined to disclose the number. She revealed only Bloom’s current Delaware head count when combined with the number of people it plans to hire.

Read more:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/business/2020/02/13/blooms-latest-blemishes-delaware-job-cuts-and-multimillion-dollar-accounting-error/4741488002/

Banning Dollar Stores Hurts Underserved Communities More Than It Helps

From The Foundation for Economic Education

According to the US Department of Agriculture, at last count, 12.7 percent of US census tracts fell under the banner of “low-income, low-access.” This simply means a large portion of that tract’s population lives more than one mile from a food store in an urban area or more than ten miles from one in a rural area.

Dollar stores exist in these areas because of the lack of direct competition. Economically depressed areas often struggle to encourage new businesses, like full-service grocers, and struggle to maintain the ones currently operating. Dollar stores fill a very real need for families across this country. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t exist.

By banning dollar stores, especially without the assurance of a full-service grocer, governments are limiting families’ options, forcing them to travel farther and longer to purchase things like tuna, sugar, Pampers, or other name-brand, discount items.

Sarah Nassauer summed it up in her article about Dollar General:

“Dollar General is expanding because rural America is struggling. With its convenient locations for frugal shoppers, it has become one of the most profitable retailers in the U.S. and a lifeline for lower-income customers bypassed by other major chains.”

This statement rings true for both rural and urban low-income communities.

Banning or limiting dollar stores does not, in turn, usher in an age of full-service grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods. It just means fewer options for those who live there.

Read the whole article:

https://fee.org/articles/banning-dollar-stores-hurts-underserved-communities-more-than-it-helps/

Most business incentives don’t work. Here’s how to fix them.

From Brookings Institute

In 2017, the state of Wisconsin agreed to provide $4 billion in state and local tax incentives to the electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn. In return, the Taiwan-based company promised to build a new manufacturing plant in the state for flat-screen television displays and the subsequent creation of 13,000 new jobs.

It didn’t happen. Those 13,000 jobs never materialized, and plans for the manufacturing plant have been consistently scaled back. Even if the project had gone through as planned, there is no way the Foxconn subsidy would have made money for the state, or provided earnings benefits for residents that exceed its costs. It now appears that few of Foxconn’s promises will be fulfilled, even though local governments have gone into debt over the project.

From 1990 to 2015, the size of these types of business incentives tripled. Foxconn-level incentives would escalate them another 10-fold, to 30% of state and local tax revenue. Such a surge threatens public services and the social safety net, turning a tool used to promote jobs and growth into a political and economic disaster.

Research suggests that at least 75% of the time, typical incentives do not affect a business’s decision on where to locate and create jobs—they’re all cost and no benefit. Furthermore, even when incentives do tip a location decision, they do not pay for themselves. They may create new jobs, but frequently they also bring in new workers from outside the city or state, which raises costs to public services that offset at least 90% of any increased revenue.

On average, only 10-30% of new jobs go to state residents who are not already employed. Only when new jobs increase employment rates—thus boosting local earnings and putting upward pressure on local wages—can they provide large and broadly shared local benefits.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2019/11/01/most-business-incentives-dont-work-heres-how-to-fix-them/

Wesley College to receive $3 million in state funding

From Delaware State News

DOVER — A state panel this week approved a request for $3 million from Wesley College, with conditions.

The funding is expected to help the college continue operations until it can come to an accord on a merger with another higher education institution, which could be announced in the coming weeks.

In November, the private school submitted a request for $3.2 million from the state’s Higher Education Economic Development Investment Fund. The group, which consists of the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the secretary of state, the co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Committee on Capital Improvement and the controller general, previously awarded $2 million to the college in 2019.

Wesley also was given permission in the spring to move $1.375 million earmarked for it the prior year to renovate the former Dover library.

College officials were informed in the summer they would not receive any more funding without first submitting a long-term strategic plan to the state, which they have not done as yet.

Read more:

https://delawarestatenews.net/schools/wesley-college-to-receive-3-million-in-state-funding/