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As donations run dry, closure looms for some Delaware nonprofits. What about their clients?

From The News Journal

Sixty-seven percent of surveyed nonprofits said they need financial support to pay for the cost of personal protection equipment required by state order, and 52% of nonprofits who received Personal Paycheck Protection loans from the Small Business Administration will need more to retain employees, according to a survey of over 100 Delaware nonprofits by the Delaware COVID-19 Emergency Response Initiative.

Meals on Wheels volunteer Bob Casey, right, delivers a meal to a recipient Thursday, August 27, 2020, in Dover.

But much of this funding will be gone by the fall.

The survey found that despite assistance from the philanthropic community and funds from the federal government, nearly a third of responding nonprofits have less than 10 weeks of available cash on hand.

Take Modern Maturity, which doubled its production when the pandemic began and went from delivering 1,500 meals a day to almost 3,000 for several weeks. Now, the center is back to 1,500 meals but has added services like phone check-ins to make sure the seniors are receiving care.

Employees also keep an eye on clients like Hutson. Recently, she told the carrier that her fan was broken during one of Delaware’s particularly hot weeks and the center provided her with one – free of charge – and set it up.

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Delaware stays in middle of pack in Covid-19 jobless claim decline

From Delaware Business Now

Delaware continues to see a slower recovery than its neighbors from the coronavirus pandemic.

The WalletHub website reports that the state ranked 19th in the decline in unemployment claims stemming from the shutdown of schools, businesses, and nonprofits from Covid-19.

Source: WalletHub

Florida, which has been struggling with a surge in cases, ranked 51st. Two other states with a surge in cases, Texas and California, ranked 37th and 40th respectively.

Neighboring Pennsylvania ranked third in the decline of jobless claims, with Maryland seventh and New Jersey in the 10th spot.

Delaware saw a decline in its June unemployment rate, but ranked 10th from the bottom among the 50 states.

The hospitality industry has seen a sizable loss in jobs, even though the state was quicker to reopen than neighboring New Jersey and Philadelphia.

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State, New Castle County will offer $100 million in grants to small business, nonprofits

From Delaware Live

The state of Delaware and New Castle County have launched a new program that will offer $100 million in relief grants to small businesses and nonprofits across the state who have been affected by COVID-19.

The DE Relief Grants program will be funded by some of the state’s and county’s share of money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Delaware Division of Small Business director Damian DeStafano said during Gov. John Carney’s weekly press conference about COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon that the fund would be “at least” $100 million, but will be re-evaluated if the need is higher than anticipated.

The program is expected to reach more than 3,000 small businesses and nonprofit organizations with grants ranging from $30,000 to $100,000, a press release from Carney said.

The Division of Small Business will be taking applications in early September at delbiz.com/relief.  Funding rounds will follow in October and November.

The site is live now, he said, and the division will be hosting online webinars about how to apply. DeStafano recommended that business owners and nonprofits sign up now in order to be alerted by the webinars.

The program is designed to reimburse people for changes required by COVID-19 or who want to make changes because of it, DeStafano said.

The grants can be used for:

  • Purchasing equipment to make a workplace suitable for COVID-19 safety (such as PPE, plexiglass, air purifiers, etc.)
  • Refinancing of debt incurred due to COVID-19 (including State of Delaware HELP loans)
  • Advertising efforts undertaken as a result of COVID-19
  • Fixed expenses the applicant accrued during COVID-19

The size of the relief grant will be based up the business or nonprofit’s 2019 revenue:

  • $0-$500,000: Up to $30,000
  • $500,000-$1 million: Up to $50,000
  • $1 million-$2.5 million: Up to $72,500
  • $2.5+ million: Up to $100,000

“Multiple programs are necessary to address the challenges Delaware’s small businesses face,” DeStefano said in the press release. “We believe this assistance, coupled with other efforts, including the Hospitality Emergency Loan Program (HELP) and the COVID-19 Customer Protection Standards, help make the difference for some of our small businesses.”

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Delaware rolls out financial aid for renters, homeowners late on rent, mortgage payments

From The News Journal

Delaware is going to spend $40 million to help residents who are struggling to pay rent or mortgages during the coronavirus pandemic.

Eligible renters and homeowners can get up to $5,000 in aid. The money would be paid directly to the property owner or mortgage servicer.

Gov. John Carney and the Delaware State Housing Authority announced Monday that the state is resurrecting the Delaware Housing Assistance Program to help people who are missing payments because they lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The program was originally launched in late March but then halted a few weeks later because it was swamped with applications. At the time, they received requests from three times more tenants than they originally set aside funds to help.

The $40 million to pay for this program comes from the federal CARES Act, which Congress passed in late March to help states and local governments cover coronavirus-related expenses. The state is paying half from its share of the federal money and New Castle County is paying the other half.

Using weekly Census surveys, the financial consulting firm Stout Risius Ross LLC found about 29% of renters in Delaware at the end of July had no or only slight confidence in their ability to pay the next month’s rent. That firm also estimated a monthly shortfall of $10 million in rent statewide.

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Carper sets stage with ENCORES bill to support live entertainment venues

From Delaware State News

MILTON — Live entertainment venues look to get a boost, as Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., discussed his newly introduced bill at Milton Theatre on Monday, which will give live entertainment venues across the country a tax credit to make up for revenue lost to canceled shows amidst COVID-19.

The Entertainments New Credit Opportunity for Relief & Economic Sustainability (ENCORES) bill was introduced by Sen. Carper and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, to Congress on July 29. The bill has been assigned to the finance committee in the House of Representatives to await further discussion.

Sen. Carper said his love for the arts is what pushed him to create the ENCORES bill.

“I love music, I love live performance, it’s one of the joys of my life, and I think it’s one of the joys of a lot of people’s lives,” Sen. Carper said. “If we didn’t have music and the arts, we would be missing a whole lot. You don’t have to be in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, or LA to find great music. We have it here.”

The live entertainment industry has dealt with show cancellations, ticket refunds and strict health regulations since the spread of COVID-19, making it one of the hardest-hit industries by the pandemic thus far. Live entertainment simply does not exist in the same way since March, as they were one of the first industries to shut down and have faced many hardships in trying to reopen safely.

Milton Theatre Executive Director Fred Munzert spoke Monday about how COVID-19 has taken a significant toll on its staffing and revenue.

“On the 13th (of March), we shut down. It was just so emotional for us and everyone who worked here. (For) almost 30 employees and contractors, this was our life blood, our passion, our love, and for many, our mortgage payment, putting food on the table for our kids, all of those things,” Mr. Munzert said.

“We let everyone go. We had to. Our income stopped in a day. Then, the influx of calls for refunds. $150,000 almost immediately of requests for refunds came in. It was remarkable, the impact and terrifying.”

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‘I am going to be screwed’: Unemployed Delawareans face loss of federal benefits

From Delaware Online

Qiana Jones’ catering business, founded in late 2018, really took off last year. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, Jones was forced to return $15,000 worth of payments for canceled events, sending her bank account into the negative.

Jones did not receive her unemployment insurance until the week of July 4. Two weeks before she was paid, she was handed a 60-day eviction notice and moved in with her brothers.

“I’m 48 and sleeping on an air mattress in a living room, and I’m trying to find a place now,” Jones said through tears. “It’s difficult. It’s really hard.”

Jones is among the 12.5% of Delawareans who are unemployed as of June. For some, the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit is all that is keeping them afloat. But with those benefits due to expire at the end of the month, many Delawareans who still cannot return to work are wondering how they will go on.

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Commentary: Transparency issues would accompany Wesley-DSU merger

From Delaware State News

By Rep. John Kowalko

The imminent merger/acquisition of Wesley College, a private college, by Delaware State University, a public university, has once again brought into focus the determined effort by our state government to resist the transparency and openness necessary to allow public awareness and accountability. Delaware has historically ranked near the bottom for its lack of transparency and accountability.

Delaware’s shaky financial disclosure and ethics system is one big reason why the state earned a failing grade on the State Integrity Investigation, an assessment of state government accountability and transparency by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity.

A report released in November 2015 shows that Delaware received a 56, or grade of F, ranking it 48th among all states. See the report here: publicintegrity.org/politics/state-politics/state-integrity-investigation/delaware-gets-f-grade-in-2015-state-integrity-investigation/.

In assessing the systems in place to deter corruption in state government, some of the categories that Delaware failed in were public access to information (grade F, rank 24th), political financing (grade F, rank 27th), executive accountability (grade F, rank 36th), legislative accountability (grade F, rank 48th), state budget process (grade D, rank 42nd) and ethics enforcement agencies (grade F, rank 43rd). These statistics do not present a very flattering picture of the “Delaware Way.”

Recent examples of Delaware’s embracement of government secrecy and lack of public accountability abound.

Gov. John Carney, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Division of Public Health have refused to release or post data as to the specific locations of coronavirus outbreaks, despite repeated requests by myself and other legislators. This information would be invaluable as we reopen child care centers and plan to reopen schools.

Delaware’s State Department has failed to require identification of beneficial ownership as regards nearly 1 million Limited Liability Company licenses issued yearly, and the Legislature has failed to pass legislation to require oversight that would be in the public’s interests.

The recent case involving the closed-door negotiations between the governor and the Wilmington business community that resulted in the dismantling of the Rodney Square bus terminal and the secretive bidding process and awarding of contracts for construction and management of the new Wilmington Bus Hub exemplifies an unwillingness to allow public access or scrutiny to major policy decisions. Repeated Freedom of Information Act requests on the particulars were rejected.

We’ve witnessed the abuse of the “epilogue language” process in the recently passed budget bill that allows select schools to keep money specifically allocated by law for student transportation expenses. Although existing state law requires that the money not used for transportation expenses be returned to the taxpayers, the epilogue language inserted into the budget bill contravenes existing code, and my amendment to remove it failed on the House floor.

Delaware’s Legislature created the Delaware Partnership for Prosperity, a public/private entity that recommends disbursement of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to some of the richest corporations in America. Some recent recipients of note were Amazon Inc. and Barclays banks. Despite written FOIA requests by me for details, the DPP has claimed it is exempt from FOIA rules, even those submitted by a sitting lawmaker on behalf of his constituency.

These continued abuses of the public trust have cemented Delaware’s reputation as a secretive operation that feels it has no responsibility or obligation to the taxpaying public that it is sworn to represent.

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GE Aviation to lay off nearly 200 in Newark

From Delaware Business Times

NEWARK – GE Aviation is laying off nearly its entire workforce in Delaware as it copes with a devastating drop in airline travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the company reported.

A subsidiary of the conglomerate giant General Electric, GE Aviation is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of commercial airplane engines for companies like Boeing and Airbus. Its Newark plant, located at 400 Bellevue Road, employs around 200 workers, who build advanced aircraft engine components made of ceramic matrix composites (CMCs).

On June 29, the company notified the state that it intended to permanently lay off 194 workers in Newark. A company spokesman told Delaware Business Times that the layoffs will be implemented in a few phases, with most occurring in July and continuing to the end of 2020.

“These actions are consistent with previously-announced plans to reduce our workforce and consolidate operations due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on the commercial aviation industry,” said Richard Gorham, spokesman for GE Aviation. “We appreciate the commitment of all our employees during this difficult time, and we regret having to take this action. We remain focused on protecting the safety of our employees, continuing to serve our customers, and preserving our capability to respond as the industry recovers.”

Despite laying off nearly all of the plant’s employees, Gorham said that GE Aviation does not plan on closing the facility. A small number of production staff will remain in Newark in order to fulfill the terms of military contracts that GE has secured, Gorham said.

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Question marks hang over Delmarva economy

From Delaware State News

This chart from Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker (https://tracktherecovery.org) shows the drop in spending in Delaware and its three counties. Sussex County has seen the slowest recovery. The data is drawn from private companies – from credit card processors to payroll firms – to provide a real-time picture of consumer spending.

DOVER — After three-and-a-half months, it is readily evident that the pandemic has hurt local businesses in a big way.

But, according to a Delmarva economy expert from Salisbury University, it is too early to assess their fates.

“There are so many unknowns that are holding question marks over us, in terms of which businesses are going to be harmed in what ways,” said Memo Diriker.

“What we do know is that a certain percentage — a significant percentage of businesses — are going to find it very difficult to be in business this time next year.”

Consumers were starting to spend a little more freely once restrictions eased, but will that curtail greatly again as cases and concerns about COVID-19 rise?

Can businesses pivot to a model that better relates to contactless service?

Can businesses hold on with the help of government stimuli, such as the Paycheck Protection Program?

What if a second wave of the coronavirus arrives with flu season?

“What we’re seeing, really, is that this is the weirdest ‘dominos falling’ scenario,” said Dr. Diriker. “Some of the things will happen almost in slow motion.

“There have been some businesses that were operating at the edge of profitability, or at the edge of sustainability, and those are the ones that are currently most vulnerable — PPP or not.”

Consumer spending

Dr. Diriker is director of the Business, Economic, and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) at the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University.

One of his immediate gauges of Delmarva’s economy is actual sales.

“The most important thing is consumer spending power,” said Dr. Diriker. “In the state of Maryland, sales tax revenues are dipping compared to the previous year of the same period.

“That’s a warning sign.”

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As COVID-19 cases climb at Delaware beaches, businesses struggle to stay staffed, healthy

From the News Journal

This Fourth of July weekend, beaches in coastal destinations like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles County will be closed in an effort to stop beachgoers from spreading the coronavirus among family, friends and strangers there – and when they return home.

But in Delaware, the beaches will remain open – with a lot of new restrictions in place, including for the businesses beachgoers often frequent.

“Over the last couple weeks we have experienced an uptick, a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the beach areas specifically,” Gov. John Carney said during a press briefing on Tuesday. “We also have witnessed – across our state, but particularly in the beach communities – complacency with respect to mask wearing and social distancing.”

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