State distributes funds to help the unemployed
Good news for unemployed workers looking to upgrade their skills: the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council has been awarded $4.08 million by the state Employment Security Department to help people find jobs.
The funds come from the federal Department of Labor through the Workforce Investment Act. Though the funds are about $552,000 less than was awarded last year, due to federal budget cuts, they’ll still help a lot of people who seek services at WorkSource offices in Clark County. That’s important, since the area’s unemployment rate is still 50 percent higher than the rest of the state.
The funds provide counseling, skill assessments, job-search assistance and training to laid-off workers, low-income adults, and low-income or disadvantaged young people.
If you or a friend or family member need training or help finding a job, you can find the WorkSource employment center nearest you at go2worksource.com.
Oct. 29 is next Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
Do you have unwanted and unused medications in your medicine cabinets at home? Are you looking for a safe way to dispose of these medications properly? The DEA’s next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is Saturday, October 29, from 10:00am to 2:00pm. This is a day where anyone can drop off expired, unused and/or unwanted prescriptions at no charge and no questions asked.
The DEA is partnering with local law enforcement to have collection sites available if you wish to dispose of the medications you no longer need. Law enforcement professionals will monitor the sites to ensure the drugs are disposed of properly.
Prescription drug abuse and misuse is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem. It is a rapidly growing public health and safety crisis. Based on CDC trend data from 1999-2006, fatal drug poisoning is the second leading cause of injury death overall. The largest portion of the poisoning burden is drug poisonings. Deaths related to prescription opioids are increasing the fastest overall. Washington State ranks in the top tier of states that have the most alarming trends.
Four days after last fall’s Take-Back Day, Congress passed legislation amending the Controlled Substances Act to allow the DEA to develop a process for people to safely dispose of their prescription drugs. Until that process is complete, however, DEA will continue to hold Take Back Days every six months.
For more information, visit the DEA’s website.
Agency consolidation takes effect
The most significant reorganization of state government in at least 20 years took effect this week with the merger of five agencies into the single Department of Enterprise Services.
The new agency operates behind the scenes for most folks. It purchases supplies, manages the motor pool, and provides human resources expertise and technology services, to name a few of its services. But those services enable other state agencies, from the Department of Social and Human Services to the Department of Licensing, to do their jobs.
The agency includes the former departments of General Administration and Printing and parts of the departments of Information Services and Personnel and the Office of Financial Management. The move was approved by the Legislature this year both to save money — $18 million initially — during difficult budget times.
More young adults have health care coverage
One of the bright spots in a recent report by the US Census Bureau is in the health insurance coverage rate for young adults. This is very likely tied to national health care reform championed by President Obama and embraced by Washington state.
Roughly half a million more young adults (aged 18-24) had insurance coverage in 2010 than in 2009, according to the report. That’s a 2 percent drop in the uninsured rate over one year; overall, the percentage of people without health coverage in the US remained essentially flat. The federal Affordable Care Act requires health plans to offer coverage to member’s adult children until they are 26 years old, helping those just starting their careers or in college gain access to care.
The federal regulation has led to early adoption by states and insurers, likely causing a boost in coverage rates, as reported by Kaiser Health News.
Proposals for cuts in public services accessible online
As legislators prepare for a Nov. 28 special session to address a $1.4 billion shortfall in revenue expectations, state agencies are submitting plans to cut back on the public services they provide. Those reports are now being posted on the Office of Financial Management's site.
The plans are a response to a request from OFM Director Marty Brown for proposals to reduce budgets first by 5 percent and then by 10 percent.
The new round of cuts comes in the wake of three years of reductions in public services across the board. The Department of Corrections, for example, has already closed three prisons, eliminated 1,200 staff positions, and shortened supervision of 12,000 less serious offenders.
In the coming weeks, I will be working with my Senate colleagues to explore possible solutions to this very difficult budget situation. For three years, we have reduced public services; as we look at even deeper cuts, it becomes increasingly more important to weigh how the reductions in service will affect Washingtonians in various capacities across the state.
Revenue forecast: Revenues $1.4 billion down
The state’s September revenue forecast reduced the projected revenues for the 2011-2013 biennium by an additional $1.4 billion. Since the adoption of the biennial budget in May, the forecast has dropped by $2 billion. Factoring in the budget reserve, that leaves a budget hole of $1.27 billion.
The drop is largely a result of much slower than expected growth projections. While revenues are still growing in 2011-2013, the rate of growth has slowed to 7.1 percent for the biennium, which is less than the June forecast of 12.2 percent and less than the historical average of 4.5 percent per year.
Employment flat despite continued job growth
Despite 12 consecutive months of job growth in Washington state as of August, the state unemployment rate has barely budged. Washington added approximately 3,800 jobs last month, bringing the year’s total to more than 46,000 new jobs, according to the state Employment Security Department.
August’s 9.3-percent unemployment rate was unchanged from July and only slightly lower than the 9.4-percent rate a year ago. You can see the full report here.
Washington leads country in new-business start-ups
Washington state leads the country in the number of new-business start-ups per capita, according to Bureau of Labor statistics for 2010. The statistics, compiled by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. (EMI), show Washington moved up from third place in 2009 to first place for 2010. These latest statistics cap a fast rise since 2008, when Washington was 11th in the country for new-business start-ups.
Washington led the country with the formation of more than 8,300 new business establishments last year, according to the report EMI uses the federal bureau’s quarterly census of employment and wages to track trends from one year to the next. A business establishment is defined as a single physical location of some type of economic activity; a single business may have multiple establishments.
International recession still hinders Washington
Washington can’t avoid the impacts of a struggling international economy and will likely see its revenue expectations lowered, the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council was told recently.
Though the state economy continues to benefit from strong export growth and hiring at Boeing and Microsoft, the drag from the weakening national and global economies offsets those gains, warned Arun Raha, the council’s executive director. Raha reported that the U.S. economy nearly stalled earlier this year and Europe is at risk of slipping into a recession. China and India are still growing but not enough to drive global growth.
Job vacancies rising across state
The number of job vacancies in Washington state is the highest in three years, according to a recent survey by the Employment Security Department. The department’s survey estimated the state’s vacant jobs at about 60,000, or 55 percent more than a year ago.
More than half of the available jobs were in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
Discover Pass revenues off to strong start
Washington sold $3 million worth of passes to state parks in the first six weeks of the program.
Those numbers have state agencies optimistic that sales will continue to grow. The $30 annual Discover Pass and $10 day-use pass are critical streams of revenue for keeping the state's parks open. As recently as July, the state was able to re-open the Ahtanum Meadows Campground in the Northern Cascades and plans to re-open other long-closed public parks and lands as revenues accrue.
The pass provides access to the state's recreational lands, including parks, trails and wildlife areas. Officials expect sales to increase as the Discover Pass becomes available at vehicle licensing offices. The program is expected to bring in more than $64 million every two years and will come in addition to revenue the state already collects from camping reservations, picnic shelter rentals and other fees.