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Report: Federal unemployment benefits kept millions from returning to work

From: The Center Square

Increased federal benefits last year perpetuated unemployment and kept millions of Americans from returning to the workforce, a new study released Wednesday reports.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation published the report, which evaluated the impact of federal handouts, particularly the controversial federal unemployment payments of $300 per week. More than two dozen states opted out of the federal program before it was set to expire last year, citing the elevated joblessness, while blue states largely continued to take the federal money.

The report found that “3 million more people stayed on unemployment in states that maintained the increase in benefits versus the states that ended the program early.”

“The takeaway is not just that some states improved their employment numbers, and some didn’t,” the report’s author, E.J. Antoni, said. “It’s that extending unemployment benefits had a significant negative impact on the ability of communities to recover from the pandemic. Lives and livelihoods were put on hold for a much longer period than was necessary as a result of this wrong-headed policy.”

The weekly unemployment payments would not be enough for many Americans to live on, but when combined with state unemployment, stimulus checks, and a range of other state and federal programs, they were enough to make staying home more appealing than returning to work for millions of Americans, according to the study.

“Even at higher incomes, the supplemental benefits, in conjunction with other government programs and payments, provided the equivalent of a $100,000 annual income for a family of four in 19 states and the District of Columbia,” Antoni said.

The federal unemployment payments ended in September of last year, but many states left months earlier. The report adds that states that refused the federal funds saw employment numbers increase by more than 2 million.

Antoni said the federal programs “created a considerable disincentive for many people to return to work or even to continue working an existing job.”

Critics of the program also point out the rampant fraud and abuse that occurred while delivering the billions of dollars in federal funds. A Government Accountability Office report found that in just the first year of the pandemic, April of 2020 through March of 2021, states and territories overpaid unemployment benefits by $12.9 billion in taxpayer dollars.

Congress gave the Department of Labor $2 billion to prevent the waste and fraud, but it did not stop the rampant waste uncovered by the government watchdog’s report.

“The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, enacted March 11, 2021, subsequently provided DOL with $2 billion to detect and prevent fraud, promote equitable access, and ensure the timely payment of UI benefits,” the report says. “As of May 20, 2021, DOL officials said that DOL was working to develop detailed plans for this $2 billion in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget and noted that developing spending plans across 53 states and territories involves complex considerations.”

1/1 Gale Warning (Moderate) – Maryland: Del. General Assembly announces plan for March session

From:47ABC News

DOVER, Del. – As the Delaware General Assembly plans to return to session next week, legislative leaders have announced several changes to previous COVID-19 restrictions for Legislative Hall.

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola announced Friday that as a result of significant declines in case counts, hospitalizations, and positive test results, Legislative Hall will re-open to the public on session days.

Staff, lawmakers, and visitors will no longer be required to wear masks or face coverings in the building, although it is strongly recommended in gatherings where people cannot maintain safe social distancing. Unvaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to wear a mask at all times when interacting with others, especially in public settings. Additionally, legislative staff and legislators will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test to be able to enter Legislative Hall.

Both the House and Senate will meet in person at Legislative Hall to consider legislative agendas during the month of March. House and Senate committees will continue meeting virtually via Zoom until further notice. Members of the public will be able to attend all virtual committee meetings and deliver comments on pending legislation. Legislative session will continue to be broadcast online on the General Assembly website.

On session days, a limited number of seats in the gallery of each chamber will be available to members of the public on a first-come, first-served basis. The foyers, cafeteria seating area, and library will be open to the public. Guests wishing to meet with their legislators are encouraged to call ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

The House and Senate floors will be closed except to members, staff, special guests, and witnesses. The cafeteria will be closed for food service, but seating will be available for those needing workspace.

Transparency in public education – a parental right – a state obligation

From Charlie Copeland, Director Center for Analysis of Delaware’s Economy & Government Spending, Caeser Rodney Institute

Parents have the right to decide the content and quality of their child’s education, full stop. The political elite (like the Bidens, Carpers, Carneys, Coons, and Markells) have exercised this right for years by sending their children to private schools and/or elite Charter schools.

Regular Delawareans have not been so privileged. A simple addition to Delaware law can help fix this.

It is reported that Delaware State Representative Charles S. Postles, Jr. (R-Milford North) will be introducing education transparency legislation. While the Caesar Rodney Institute has not seen this legislation nor been involved in it, we look forward to its introduction, assuming it promotes content transparency in the manner detailed below.

Transparency needs

Since the start of “remote learning” in our public schools, many regular Delaware parents have discovered that school curricula were not what they expected or remembered. This situation has upset many in Delaware and across the country. Parents should not be surprised by the content taught to their children, nor should they be forced to try to infiltrate the education bureaucracy to get answers to content questions. It is a matter of equity for all Delaware public school parents and taxpayers to have access to the following information at a minimum:

(1) All instructional or training materials, or activities, used for staff and faculty training.

(2) All learning or curricular materials, or activities, used for student instruction; and

(3) Any procedures for the documentation, review, or approval of the training, learning, or curricular materials used for staff and faculty training or student instruction at the school, including by the principal, curriculum administrators, or other teachers.

Today, to access this information, Delawareans must file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with their school, their district, or the Delaware Department of Education. The FOIA law was established back in 1977 – pre-internet – stating that “it is vital that citizens have easy access to public records” to support a free and democratic society.

Delaware is post-internet, and access to public records is NOT “easy.”

Fortunately, every school or district now has its own website, and the state has spent (and is spending) millions to ensure broadband access for all Delawareans. As a result of this technology, forcing hardworking parents to follow a 40 plus-year-old antiquated process is wrong and fixable. Schools can simply post the information online with exceptions for copyrighted material.

Bipartisan Support

A solution like that mentioned above is supported by both progressive and conservative parents across the country. Last October, the Democrat polling firm, ALG Research, joined with the Republican polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, to poll 2,500 Americans on public education issues. Two key findings of the poll were:

Americans – and Democrats – are unhappy with the direction of their schools. Pluralities of Democrats (33%) and voters overall (44%) think the quality of their state’s public schools has gotten worse. A majority of voters (54%) and public-school parents (55%) are frustrated with how their child’s school handled the pandemic.

Voters want to see changes to get students back on track. More than two-thirds (68%) of parents across the country believe their children began the year behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fully 71% of voters-including 85% of Democrats-want to see changes and adopt new ways of doing things to get students back on track. Across the aisle, fully 57% of GOP voters believe schools should make “bold” or “some changes” and adopt new ways of doing things.

In short, Democrat and Republican voters agree that our public schools have dropped the ball during the Pandemic. “The bars are open, but the schools are closed” has become a popular meme on social media. The legislative ideas recommended above would help bring back sorely needed trust in public education – in a bi-partisan manner to boot.

Op-Ed: Historic tax reform achieved – Gov. Reynolds, Iowa Legislature deliver for taxpayers

From: The Center Square 

The Iowa legislature on Thursday passed a historic tax reform measure. Going into the 2022 legislative session, Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Republican-led legislature made tax reform a priority. The tax relief bill passed by both chambers phases in a 3.9% flat rate for individual income tax by 2026, a major reduction from today’s top marginal rate of 8.53%. Beginning next year, Iowans will no longer pay taxes on retirement income. And the reforms will also pare down Iowa’s corporate tax credits while lowering our top corporate tax rate of 9.8% to a flat 5.5%.

All taxpayers in Iowa will see tax relief in this package of tax cuts; Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver estimates this will save Iowans an average of $1,326 on their taxes on an annual basis. This is real money and Iowans are looking forward to an improved tax code. An ITR Foundation poll released this week shows 57% of Iowans support a new, low flat tax, while only 24% of Iowans oppose the change.

One of the major economic lessons from the past few years can be gleaned from the population changes in high and low tax states. States with low, or even no income taxes, are gaining population and creating more economic growth. Conversely, states with high tax rates and a penchant for government spending are losing population and seeing poor economic growth.

Just how significant are these reforms? A brief examination of Iowa’s income tax history will demonstrate the magnitude of this victory for taxpayers. In 1934, the first income tax (and sales tax, for that matter) was levied in Iowa to provide property tax relief. The rates in 1934 ranged from 1% to 5%, spread over five tax brackets. The corporate tax was introduced at 2% that same year, and eventually grew to become the highest corporate tax rate in the nation at 12%.

Individual income tax rates continued to increase until they reached a high point of 9.98% in 1987. In 1998, a 10% across-the-board rate cut brought the top rate down to 8.98% with nine tax brackets.

During her first year in office (2018), Gov. Reynolds made tax reform a priority and the legislature responded by passing, at the time, the largest tax cut in Iowa history. The individual income tax still had nine brackets, but the top rate was immediately lowered to 8.53%, with additional cuts planned, subject to future revenue triggers. Iowa’s 12% corporate income tax rate was reduced to 9.8% in 2021 as part of those changes, along with a modernization of Iowa’s sales and use tax.

In 2021, the legislature passed another tax reform measure, which not only phased-out the obsolete inheritance tax, but it also repealed the revenue triggers which had been established in the 2018 law to guide further individual income tax rate reductions. By repealing the triggers in 2021 the top rate would be lowered to 6.5% in 2023.

While the reforms passed in 2018 and 2021 were great steps in the right direction, this year’s set of income tax reforms dwarfs them. Under the new tax reform measure passed by the legislature this week, individual income tax rates will be reduced as follows:

  • 6 percent (2023)
  • 5.7 percent (2024)
  • 4.82 percent (2025)
  • 3.9 percent (2026)

In 2026 the individual reforms will be complete with all Iowans paying a flat, 3.9% income tax. And of course, the aforementioned exemption on retirement income begins next year.

The path to corporate rate reduction is slightly different. In addition to reducing the amount of tax credits that can be refunded to a corporate taxpayer, the top rate corporations pay will be reduced as corporate tax revenues grow. This ratcheting down will be complete once a flat rate of 5.5% is reached.

A critical part of Iowa’s successful tax reform story is often forgotten. The reason why Gov. Reynolds and the Republican legislature have been able to enact meaningful pro-growth tax reform since 2018 is because they have adhered to prudent budgeting. By practicing fiscal conservatism and keeping spending growth restrained, tax reform was made possible. “So how did we get there? We stuck to conservative budgeting practices,” Gov. Reynolds said in addressing a room full of Iowans for Tax Relief and NFIB members just this week. “There is nothing more vital than seizing the opportunity to return taxpayer dollars back to Iowans.”

It’s no surprise that Gov. Reynolds was chosen to give the GOP response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech next week. In addition to being an example of how conservative leadership works, Iowa is becoming a national leader on state tax policy. Our state’s progress is a story worth sharing.

Tax Rates Matter

From: ITR Foundation Tax rates matter. Whether it is allowing individuals to keep more of their hard-earned income or creating a more competitive economic climate, tax rates have a significant impact on a state. States are in economic competition with each other for both businesses and people. It is important for Iowa not to become complacent as numerous states are looking at reducing tax rates in 2022. Governor Reynolds and the Republican led legislature are making sure that Iowa does not become complacent by making tax reform a priority.

The Tax Foundation’s 2022 State Business Tax Climate Index provides a good overview of each states’ tax climate. Iowa’s ranking has improved and is ranked 38 out of 50. Previously, Iowa was in the top ten states for worst tax climate.  A reason why Iowa’s ranking has improved is the significant progress that is being made on reducing tax rates.

Since 2018, Iowa has been working to lower income tax rates to provide tax relief and create a more competitive economy. Last year, Iowa’s corporate tax rate fell from 12 percent, the highest in the nation, to 9.8 percent, which ties with Minnesota. In addition, the legislature passed a tax reform measure that will ensure that the individual income tax will be reduced to 6.5 percent in 2023 and it phases out the inheritance tax.

Governor Reynolds, who has made tax reform a priority, has recently introduced a pro-growth comprehensive tax reform plan. The proposal calls for lowering the individual tax to a flat 4 percent rate by 2026. Governor Reynolds is also pushing to lower the corporate tax to be reduced from 9.8 percent to a flat 5.5 percent. Finally, her proposal will eliminate taxes on retirement income.

Governor Reynolds is demonstrating that fiscal conservatism works. Prior to the pandemic, Iowa’s fiscal house was in strong condition. During the pandemic the Governor kept the economy going and Iowa’s economy was able to weather the economic impact of the pandemic. Currently, Iowa’s budget has a $1.24 billion surplus and revenue projections are healthy. The surplus is expected to continue to grow. Iowa’s Taxpayer Relief Fund, which already has a $1.8 billion balance is estimated to grow to $2 billion later this year.

Governor Reynolds is correct in calling for lowering both the individual and corporate income tax rates. Reducing corporate taxes are often mistakenly viewed as “tax cuts for the rich,” but high corporate rates impact jobs and productivity. In addition, high corporate tax rates are passed onto consumers. Having a lower corporate tax will also encourage more economic growth.

Taxes on income, whether individual or corporate, are the most harmful for economic growth. Income taxes punish work, investment, savings, and productivity. Tax rates have a significant influence on the economic decisions individuals and businesses make on a regular basis. Both lose incentive to work if their earnings are consumed by taxes.

A major lesson from the federal census demonstrates that an exodus is taking place as people are leaving high tax states. A significant economic challenge for Iowa is the need for more workers and a lower tax climate will help attract new residents.

This is especially true as more Americans, both workers and employers, take advantage of remote work or who are looking to escape the plethora of problems plaguing many cities across the nation. “The ongoing migration from high- to low-tax states, and particularly states with low income taxes, is likely to accelerate with the growing viability of telework,” argues Timothy Vermeer, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Tax Foundation.

This year has the potential to be a record setting year for state tax reform across the nation. Currently 30 states are considering some form of tax relief and or reform. These are not just Republican “red” states, but also Democrat “blue” states. In 2021, 15 states enacted tax reforms.

Governor Reynolds in her Condition of the State address made a crucial point when she noted that her tax reform plan rewards work. “All of these tax cuts have one thing in common—they reward work. Work to be done and a lifetime of work to be proud of,” stated Governor Reynolds.

Tax reform is about rewarding work, allowing individuals and businesses to keep their hard-earned income, and in return that creates a stronger and economically competitive Iowa. Governor Reynolds stated that allowing taxpayers to keep more of their income will result in more dollars being “spent every single day on Main Streets, in grocery stores, and at restaurants across Iowa. We’ll see it spent in businesses instead of on bureaucracies.”

Governor Reynolds, along with the Iowa House and Senate, have each introduced tax reform bills that will make Iowa more competitive. Iowa is demonstrating that prudent budgeting along with responsible tax reform is creating a more competitive economy, while unleashing opportunities.

 

With workforce still down, Delaware restaurants at ‘most vulnerable’

From: Delaware Business Times

WILMINGTON — For nearly two years, Delaware’s restaurants have struggled to keep food on the table and in take-out boxes. But now, the Delaware Restaurant Association President and CEO Carrie Leishman thinks that unless something is done fast, the First State could see many eateries close their doors for good.

During the pandemic, Delaware’s restaurant industry lost more than $1.2 billion in sales, according to figures from the DRA and the state finance department. That number has not been updated since mid-May.

“Restaurants are at the most vulnerable point of recovery, where the workforce still hasn’t come back and many establishments are making slim to no profit,” Leishman said. “One restaurateur told me recently that we should expect to see more restaurants close, up and down the state, in the next 18 to 24 months.”

Nationally, the restaurant industry has yet to hire more than the 650,000 jobs lost in the early days of the pandemic. In Delaware, the hospitality industry has shed 4,300 jobs between December 2019 and December 2021.

Leishman and the DRA are campaigning for new measures to ideally boost the restaurant workforce in 2022, namely loosening labor laws for teenagers and the re-entry workforce as well as subsidizing benefit programs.

In Delaware, minors 16 and 17 years old cannot work more than 12 hours in a combination of school and work hours per day and must have an 8-hour period of no work and no school in between.

For those who are incarcerated, the Carney administration established a blueprint last year to create apprenticeship programs and work with Delaware Technical Community College to expand opportunities for human services. Later that year, the National Restaurant Association awarded Delaware funds to establish a Hospitality Opportunities for People (re)Entering Society (HOPES) program, which is a job skills program for formerly incarcerated people looking to work in the restaurant industry.

“We’re grateful for the ARPA money from Gov. Carney, and it’s the first step in recovering our workforce. But there’s more that needs to be done, whether it’s raising the number of apprenticeships for re-entry or disability issues. There’re systemic issues at work here, and it’s just one more obstacle that restaurants have to overcome,” Leishman said.

A new DRA report shows that against the backdrop of the national labor shortage, Delaware restaurants are facing hard challenges between inflation and shifting consumer patterns. Inflation continues to rise at a record-setting pace, and 83% of 200 Delaware restaurant operators surveyed reported costs were higher in 2021 compared to 2019. In the same time period, 68% of restaurants said sales volumes were lower.

“Inflation can eat up about 3% to 5% of your profit margins, and restaurants are already operating on razor thin margins,” Leishman said. “Prices are at the highest we’ve seen in 40 years, and customers value their dollar, especially since it doesn’t have enough buying power as it used to. Restaurants are competing with groceries, streaming services, and other entertainment — there has to be a breaking point somewhere.”

Compared to 2019, 68% of restaurants said sales volumes were lower in 2021. It’s a trend that’s echoed across the country. The Morning Consult, a global business intelligence company, reported that 68% of adults are not eating at restaurants as often as they would like, the highest it has been before the omicron variant disrupted life starting in November.

More than half of nationwide restaurant operators say it will be a year or more before business conditions return to normal, according to the DRA report.

William W. Erhart, Elder Law Attorney Joins Board at A Better Delaware

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wilmington, Del.William “Bill” Erhart has joined as an Advisory Board member at A Better Delaware, a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in state government.

Chris Kenny, Chairman and Founder of A Better Delaware announced the addition of Erhart to the board this past week. “William Erhart is one Delaware’s top experts in elder law and estate planning”, said Kenny. “ABD is fortunate to benefit from his extensive knowledge of Medicaid and Veteran benefit systems and expertise in financial planning. His deep understanding of the effects of rising costs in healthcare and living expenses on our aging population will be invaluable as we work to advocate for them.”

“I see my role at A Better Delaware as an extension of my work as an Elder Law Attorney, ministering to the elderly and veterans through advocacy on their behalf. I look forward to advising ABD as they help protect our most vulnerable citizens against the effects of fraud waste and abuse within Delaware’s healthcare system.”

Bill, a Certified Elder Law Attorney, became a lawyer in 1982 and focusses on estate and elder law exclusively. Bill’s time in the Marines after High School provided the foundation for his personal and professional path. Following his service, Bill entered the Reformed Episcopal Seminary, earning his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1979. After graduation from Rutgers Law School, Bill served as law clerk for Superior Court and began his legal career as a prosecutor before entering private practice.

Throughout his career Erhart has helped thousands of individuals and families with estate planning, family trusts, veterans’ benefits, Medicaid planning and probate. Erhart’s professional associations include Delaware State Bar Elder Law Section Chair (2010-2012), National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and National Elder Law Foundation. Erhart has been recognized as a top Delaware Elder Law Attorney by Delaware Today Magazine, Super Lawyer Magazine, and Peers.

“In William Erhart ABD has a compassionate dedicated champion for improving senior and veteran’s quality of life. “He will be an invaluable resource as we advocate for senior and veteran tax reducing bills, reforming the Health Resources Board and a formal audit of Medicaid eligibility.”- Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director, A Better Delaware.

   ABOUT A BETTER DELAWARE

A Better Delaware is a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in state government. A Better Delaware can be found on Facebook @abetterdelaware and at www.ABetterDelaware.org.

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Rent Availability and Cost by State

From:QuoteWizard  Americans are moving, and it’s changing the price of rent nationwide. Our team of analysts found that this reshuffling has dramatically changed the number of available apartments in almost every state, creating a significant issue of supply and demand that has reversed long-standing trends in the price of rent.

Key findings:

  • The number of available apartments has decreased by more than 50% in Nevada, Vermont and Delaware.
  • Indiana, New Jersey and Massachusetts saw their numbers of available rental properties increase by over 70% each.
  • Nationwide, 10 medium-sized cities had their numbers of available apartments decrease by 50% to 73%.
  • Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Boston had 50% to 400% increases in their numbers of available rental properties.

Our team of analysts tracked changes in America’s rental market over the last two years. We found that while the number of available apartments has stayed the same nationwide, some states have seen their numbers of available rental properties drop by as much as 60% or increase by up to 175%.

The change in available apartments (vacancy rate) is strongly tied to both the state’s population and the average price of rent. Since 2019, the vacancy rate has gone down by as much as 60% in less populous states and risen by as much as 175% in more populous ones. Additionally, of the 29 states that had decreases in their vacancy rates, 23 of them also saw the average price of rent increase.

CHANGES IN AVAILABLE APARTMENTS BY STATE
Rank State Change in available apartments 2019-2021 Change in rent cost 2019-2021 Current vacancy rate
1 Nevada -59.2% 6.4% 3.1%
2 Vermont -56.1% -4.3% 1.8%
3 Delaware -54.5% 12.3% 3%
4 Kentucky -42.1% 1.6% 6.2%
5 Alabama -39.9% 5.2% 9.5%
6 Virginia -38.8% -7.8% 4.9%
7 Oregon -37.9% -1.6% 4.1%
8 Arkansas -36.4% 3.9% 7%
9 Maryland -33.8% 0.8% 4.7%
10 Oklahoma -32.5% 4.2% 7.9%
11 Mississippi -30.2% 5.3% 6.7%

Rental changes in certain cities have been even more dramatic. Our analysts looked at the 75 largest metropolitan areas in the country and found a consistent pattern. The number of apartments available to rent went up in large cities and down in smaller ones, indicating that people are moving out of larger metropolitan areas and moving into smaller ones.

CITIES WITH THE LARGEST INCREASE IN AVAILABLE APARTMENTS
City/metro Increase in available apartments 2019-2021 Change in rent cost 2019-2021 Current vacancy rate
New Haven, CT 400.0% 3.8% 9.0%
Boston, MA 305.9% -7.6% 6.9%
Cape Coral, FL 266.7% 3.3% 8.8%
Buffalo, NY 169.2% N/A 14.0%
San Jose, CA 160.0% -13.4% 6.5%
Bridgeport, CT 108.6% 3.6% 7.3%
San Francisco, CA 102.6% -14.0% 7.9%
Denver, CO 93.8% -0.2% 6.2%
Indianapolis, IN 91.2% 6.8% 10.9%
Detroit, MI 85.1% 5.4% 8.7%
New York, NY 62.5% -5.6% 6.5%

CITIES WITH THE LARGEST DECREASE IN AVAILABLE APARTMENTS
City/metro Increase in available apartments 2019-2021 Change in rent 2019-2021 Current vacancy rate
Richmond, VA -73.7% 7.6% 2.0%
Raleigh, NC -69.2% 3.5% 2.0%
Grand Rapids, MI -65.3% 5.7% 1.7%
Fresno, CA -63.4% 15.7% 3.4%
Memphis, TN -61.5% 10.7% 5.0%
Las Vegas, NV -56.3% 9.6% 2.8%
Syracuse, NY -54.2% 9.8% 8.2%
Milwaukee, WI -53.4% 3.1% 3.4%
Riverside, CA -52.7% 15.7% 2.6%
Oklahoma City, OK -51.3% 5.0% 5.7%
Columbia, SC -46.8% 9.2% 5.8%

Americans are moving out of highly populated, heavily congested urban centers and into more suburban ones. Much of this change happened during the pandemic, but the signs go back to the first quarter of 2019. The difficulty is that while rental habits and housing prices have changed, income has largely remained stagnant. Our worry is that these trends could create a situation where long-time residents can no longer afford to live in the place they’ve called home for so long.

Methodology

To calculate the change in rental vacancy rates, we looked at housing data from the United States Census Bureau and compared the first quarters of 2019, 2020 and 2021. Current vacancy rate data was also compiled using this data.

 

Delaware sees drop in unemployment as job sectors numbers rise

From:(The Center Square) – While the number of new unemployment claims is on the rise across the country, Delaware is bucking that trend.

The Department of Labor released its Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims report, and The First State saw a decline in first-time filers.

Nationally, according to the report, there was an increase of 23,000 initial claims filed for the week ending Feb. 12, which put the total at 248,000. The previous week there were 225,000 claims filed, putting the four-week average at 243,250 claims filed, a decrease of 10,500 from the previous week’s average.

For the week ending Feb. 12, according to the report, Delaware saw a drop of 296 initial claims being filed. There were 354 advance claims filed for the week, and 650 the previous week.

The state’s Department of Labor, in its December 2021 Monthly Labor Review, reports the state’s unemployment rate decreased by one-tenth of a point to 5.0%. March 2020 was the last time the state’s unemployment rate sunk below 5%, when it was 4.8% that month. The state currently ranks 37th in the nation.

According to the report, the state ended the year with 11,900 more jobs than it did when the year began. Over the course of the year, the Leisure & Hospitality industry saw an increase of 5,800 jobs, while Wholesale & Retail Trade, and the Construction industry, saw an increase of 2,300 jobs over the year. However, Professional & Business Services saw a decrease of 1,300 jobs and Manufacturing saw a decrease of 300 jobs.

INELIGIBLE MEDICAID ENROLLEES ARE COSTING TAXPAYERS BILLIONS

From: The Foundation for Government Accountability

KEY FINDINGS

Overview

While initially meant as a program for the truly needy, Medicaid has bloated into a massive welfare program for millions of able-bodied adults dependent upon the government.12 Medicaid has rapidly become the largest line item in state budgets, reaching more than $700 billion per year.34 More than 89 million people are now dependent on the program, nearly two and a half times as many as in 2000.567 Unfortunately, as Medicaid has grown, so has its mismanagement.

Today, more than one in five dollars spent on Medicaid is improper.8 Virtually all improper payments are due to eligibility errors, administrative oversights, or outright fraud.9 And because eligibility errors make up more than 80 percent of improper payments, countless individuals are receiving Medicaid benefits for which they are not eligible.10

However, never-before-released data shows the improper payment crisis is even worse in several states. Improper payment rates have reached staggering proportions that threaten the sustainability of the Medicaid program.

While the national improper payment rate for Medicaid is nearly 22 percent, in some states the situation is far more dire.11 Never-before-released data from state Medicaid agencies reveals that improper payment rates have reached as high as nearly 50 cents for every Medicaid dollar spent in some states.

Equally concerning is that an overwhelming number of improper payments are due to eligibility errors, signaling that these are not simply administrative blunders—but rather serious situations of countless enrollees receiving resources for which they are not eligible.

Ohio

Ohio’s Medicaid program is nearing insolvency. The program now costs taxpayers nearly $32 billion per year—almost double what it cost a decade ago and more than four times what it cost in 2000.12131415 These skyrocketing costs have crowded out funds for all other state priorities, as Medicaid now consumes more than half of Ohio’s entire general revenue budget.16

The pandemic has only made these problems worse, with enrollment spiking by more than half a million people since February 2020.17 As a result, Ohio’s Medicaid program has been plagued by major budget shortfalls, leading to further cuts.1819

Coupled with Ohio’s Medicaid enrollment and spending crisis is an equally pernicious improper payment crisis. Ohio’s Medicaid improper payment rate is an astonishing 44 percent, more than twice the national average.20 Virtually all of that improper spending—98 percent of it—was caused by eligibility errors.21 At this pace, Ohio’s Medicaid program is on a clear trajectory towards calamity.

Illinois

Illinois has also struggled with a rapidly growing Medicaid program. The program now costs taxpayers nearly $29 billion per year—more than double what it cost a decade ago and nearly four times what it cost in 2000.22232425 Enrollment has swelled to nearly 3.9 million people—growing by more than 750,000 new enrollees in just one year.26 As a result, Illinois’s Medicaid program now consumes nearly one in every three dollars in the state budget.27

But much of this spending is improper. The state’s official improper payment rate sits at more than 37 percent—far above the national average.28 A whopping 95 percent of these improper payments are due to eligibility errors.29

Missouri

As the Show-Me State gears up to implement ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, the state’s Medicaid program is already on fragile footing. Before expansion, Missouri’s Medicaid program cost taxpayers nearly $11 billion—nearly three times what it cost in 2000.30313233 The program already consumed nearly 40 percent of total expenditures—the highest level of any non-expansion state in the country.34 With Missouri implementing ObamaCare expansion effective October 1, 2021, these budget issues are only going to worsen, as expansion could add nearly 600,000 more enrollees to the program.35

Much of this spending growth has been driven by waste, fraud, and abuse. Nearly one in three dollars Missouri spends on Medicaid is improper, with roughly 70 percent of those improper payments driven by eligibility errors.36 As Missouri implements ObamaCare expansion over the coming months and years, it can only look forward to even greater improper payments in the future.

Kansas

By rejecting ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, Kansas has seen lower enrollment and spending growth than many states, helping it better weather the COVID-19 pandemic. But even without expansion, the cost of Kansas’s Medicaid program has more than tripled since 2000, reaching nearly $4.4 billion in 2021.373839 Medicaid now consumes nearly one-fifth of the state’s total expenditures.40

But nearly 28 percent of Kansas’s Medicaid spending is improper—with an eye-popping 99 percent of these payments attributable to eligibility errors.41 Democrat Governor Laura Kelly has repeatedly lobbied to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare, which would add at least 262,000 more able- bodied adults to the program and undoubtedly drive this improper payment rate even higher.42

It is no coincidence that the two states with the highest publicly available improper payment rates have expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare. In fact, the national improper payment rate in Medicaid has nearly quadrupled since ObamaCare expansion was first implemented.43

Federal Medicaid spending has grown by more than $200 billion since 2013—an increase of 80 percent.444546 Improper payments make up more than 40 percent of that growth.4748495051 Medicaid expansion not only coincided with the spike in improper payments, but were a key cause of it. The Obama administration paused annual reports auditing Medicaid spending during the rollout years of Medicaid expansion, both delaying and concealing critical information regarding improper payment rates.52

In California, auditors found nearly 450,000 Medicaid expansion enrollees who were ineligible or potentially ineligible.53 In Ohio, federal auditors found that nearly 300,000 of the state’s then-481,000 expansion enrollees were potentially ineligible, undoubtedly explaining why Ohio has one of the highest improper payment rates in the nation.54 Similar audits and reports in other expansion states—such as Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York—have reached equally alarming conclusions.55565758596061

But as bad as Medicaid expansion’s effect on improper payment rates is, we still do not know the full scope of this out-of-control crisis.

The True Extent of Improper Payments is Still Hidden.

In 2021, improper Medicaid spending hit a record high.62 But official reports may only scratch at the surface of waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicaid program, as the true extent of improper payments remains hidden.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suspended the annual reports auditing Medicaid spending for 17 states, including large expansion states like California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.63

Worse yet, Congress imposed federal Medicaid handcuffs on states in 2020 that provided a temporary boost in federal Medicaid funding in exchange for states agreeing not to remove ineligible enrollees from their Medicaid programs.646566 As a result, millions of individuals are now locked into coverage for which they are no longer eligible.6768

Medicaid enrollment has grown by an estimated 18 million people since February 2020.69 State data reveals that more than 90 percent of that growth has been caused by states’ inability to remove ineligible enrollees. This disastrous arrangement has further muddied the waters of determining accurate improper payment estimates.

BOTTOM LINE: Policymakers should work to reduce improper payment rates and improve transparency.

States do not need to wait for the Biden administration to act in order to get improper Medicaid spending under control. State policymakers have a wide variety of tools at their disposal to reduce improper payments and improve transparency.

FIRST, states should remove the Medicaid handcuffs imposed by Congress. By rejecting the temporary extra funding, states can regain control over their Medicaid programs, conduct redeterminations and renewals, and remove ineligible individuals from their programs.

SECOND, states can implement Medicaid program integrity measures, such as cross-checking Medicaid enrollees against death, employment, wage, and residency records. States can also verify Medicaid applications received through the ObamaCare exchange and prohibit individuals from self-attesting to eligibility without verification. In 2021, Arkansas and Texas enacted several of these commonsense program integrity reforms to reduce Medicaid improper payments and preserve Medicaid resources for the most vulnerable.7071

FINALLY, states can require their Medicaid agencies to submit annual reports on improper payment amounts and causes in order to better monitor and address the issue.

It is long past time for policymakers to ensure that Medicaid is preserved for truly needy Americans—not for waste, fraud, and abuse.

APPENDIX: STATES’ MOST RECENT IMPROPER PAYMENT RATES (2019)