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In The News

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/

 

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

WHY INFLATION IS AT A 12-YEAR-HIGH

From the Foundation for Economic Education

Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released numbers indicating that the average price level of consumer goods has risen 4.2% since this time last year. This is the highest rate since 2008. In other words, the average consumer making the same salary this year has taken a pay cut when you consider what their paycheck can actually buy.

How does the BLS know this? One way the BLS keeps track of inflation is by using the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI uses some of the common goods urban consumers buy, and they keep track of the prices of these goods each year.

A CPI growth of 4.2% means this “basket” of goods the average urban consumer buys has gotten 4.2% more expensive. Economists call this measure inflation.

The CPI is by no means a perfect measure of inflation, nor could any measure be, but it provides some kind of benchmark to compare how much prices are changing over time.

Why is inflation increasing now? It’s all about the money. Imagine tomorrow that suddenly all US money becomes a 10x larger number. Ten dollar bills become 100 dollar bills, bank accounts with $10,000 turn into accounts with $100,000, and the four quarters in your cup holder transform into a 10 dollar bill.

This might sound nice at first, but consider what happens next. If prices stay the same, suddenly people rush out to buy new things. Suddenly, a student with a $7000 student loan can buy a Porsche. Someone can afford a down payment on a house who was months away before. A kid with a generous allowance buys a flat-screen TV.

But now the problems appear. All cars for sale are being driven off the lot. TV shelves are empty. House offers pour in only minutes after listing. There is more money, but the exact same amount of goods exist. With so many customers demanding new goods, sellers have 10 customers fighting over one product. So what happens? The price is bid up.

In fact, prices in this world will make, on average, the same change as bank accounts. One dollar candy bars become $10, average quality TVs cost thousands of dollars, and the $100,000 two-bedroom in Kansas becomes a million-dollar purchase.

If more dollars chase the exact same goods, prices will rise.

Although the above example is simplified, the general idea holds in the real world. Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten 10x more money, but new money has been introduced to the economy.

The quantity of money (measured as “M2” by the Federal Reserve) has increased more than 32.9% since January 2020.

That means nearly one-quarter of the money in circulation has been created since then. As the following graph shows, a change like this is unprecedented in recent history.

Image Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Series M2SL

The newly printed money helps fund the slew of trillion-dollar coronavirus spending which benefitted massive corporations. It also is an attempt to satisfy consumers’ demand to hold money so they will be comfortable spending again. And spending they are.

As lockdowns end and finally allow consumers to return to normal economic activity, the new money begins to move through the economy more quickly. Banks have more money to lend out and people are building new homes. As more homes are built, the demand for wood increases. As the demand for wood increases, the price of wood goes up. Sound familiar?

Although the new money won’t hit all markets at the same time, and it may take some time for demand to return to pre-lockdown levels, the inflation numbers indicate this process has begun. In order for inflation to slow down, either spending would have to slow down, or the government would have to lower the money supply.

None of this means hyperinflation is coming tomorrow or ever. In fact, it could be a blip caused by a low CPI benchmark. But given all the new money floating around, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if this rate of inflation were to persist or increase.

The Federal Reserve members aren’t worried, and, in fact, they claim to not be considering contractionary monetary policy until inflation is this level for some time. Many economists argue inflation would need to be much higher to be worth worrying about. But inflation need not be hyperinflation to be harmful to many. Inflation’s effects are not equal.

After a year of lockdowns leading to job losses and pay cuts, many Americans aren’t in a position to pay 4.2% higher prices. It’s easy for someone with a comfortable job or nest egg to scoff at these price increases, but working-class and poor Americans feel the difference.

At a time when Americans work to rebuild their savings to protect their families from future uncertainty, is it wise to ignore a policy that slowly eats away at their savings while they scramble to find new coupons for groceries or consider taking a much longer public transit route to save on gas? These struggles are worth consideration.

So will inflation rise? Will it fall? No one can say for sure. But we can say for sure that inflation doesn’t need to be in the double digits to hurt.