HOW HAVE STATES USED THEIR DIRECT COVID RELIEF FUNDS?

Link: https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2022/01/how-have-states-used-their-direct-covid-relief-funds

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The federal government provided $512 billion in direct financial assistance to help state and local governments cover their expenditures and revenue losses associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. So far, about $400 billion of that total has been disbursed. Here are some notable trends showing how lower levels of government have spent some of their relief funds using a database compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Publication Date: 14 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Second SFA Decision

Link:https://burypensions.wordpress.com/2021/12/23/breaking-news-second-sfa-decision/

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The PBGC Special Financial Assistance program for troubled multiemployer plans has ruled on the third plan to apply for bailout money.

According to a PBGC press release:

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) announced today that it has approved the plan application for the Idaho Signatory Employers-Laborers Pension Plan (Idaho Signatory) in Portland, Ore. The plan covers 682 participants in the construction industry and will receive $13.9 million in special financial assistance, including interest to the expected date of payment to the plan.

Author(s): John Bury

Publication Date: 23 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Burypensions

What Illinois didn’t tell you about its celebrated early payment of federal loan – Wirepoints

Link: https://wirepoints.org/what-illinois-didnt-tell-you-about-its-celebrated-early-payment-of-federal-loan-wirepoints/

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In fact, the state originally did intend to pay off the Federal Reserve loan with other federal bailout money from ARPA, the American Rescue Plan Act, according to The Bond Buyer. But the “Treasury threw a wrench in repayment prospects” when the initial federal guidance barred the use of ARPA aid for debt repayment. “The state lobbied for a change in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. But as state tax collections turned rosier, state leaders opted instead to cover repayment with tax collections,” says The Bond Buyer.

The bottom line is that all of us, as federal taxpayers, will bear the cost of the federal bailout, for Illinois and other states, whether through higher taxes to repay the Treasury or inflation created by Federal Reserve money creation. And Illinois will be worse off because only Illinois borrowed extra and incurred interest costs.

So, no, Governor Pritzker, paying back this loan ahead of schedule doesn’t mean Illinois achieved a “level of fiscal prudence not seen in our state for decades.”

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date: 7 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Unprecedented federal borrowing floods state budgets

Link: https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/556660-unprecedented-federal-borrowing-floods-state-budgets

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Once per calendar quarter, the state of Michigan conducts a Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference that provides updates on both the national and state economies and the state’s fiscal outlook. The May conference each year is especially significant because it sets the official revenue targets for the next fiscal year’s state budget. 

The May meeting packet contained a broad range of data points, but a few jumped out.

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Another chart broke down the components of personal income. Over the previous four quarters, personal income was nearly $3,000 higher than pre-pandemic forecasts had expected. However, employee compensation actually declined by about half that amount. The entire increase is the result of the 53 percent increase in federal transfer payments that have floated U.S. households over the past year.

Author(s): DAVID GUENTHNER

Publication Date: 5 June 2021

Publication Site: The Hill

Treasury Rescue Won’t Bail Out Chicago, New Jersey From Debt

Link: https://news.yahoo.com/treasury-lifeline-won-t-bail-190632365.html

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(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Treasury Department is sending a message to states and cities that the billions in aid from the American Rescue Plan should provide relief to residents, not their governments’ debt burdens.

The department on Monday released guidance on how state and local governments can use $350 billion in funding from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package. The funds are intended to help states and local governments make up for lost revenue, curb the pandemic, bolster economic recoveries, and support industries hit by Covid-19 restrictions. In a surprise to some, these funds can’t be used for debt payments, a potential complication for fiscally stressed governments that had already etched out plans to pay off loans.

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker had suggested using some of the state’s $8.1 billion in aid to repay the outstanding $3.2 billion in debt from the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facility and to reduce unpaid bills. Illinois was the only state to borrow from the Fed last year, tapping it twice. On Tuesday, Jordan Abudayyeh, a Pritzker spokesperson, said the administration is “seeking clarification” from the Treasury on whether Illinois can use the aid to pay back the loan from the Fed.

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The rule could also affect New Jersey, which sold nearly $3.7 billion of bonds last year to cover its shortfall during the pandemic. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, a Republican, in April had called for Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, to use some of the federal aid to pay down the state’s debt.

Author(s): Shruti Date Singh, Amanda Albright

Publication Date: 11 May 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo Finance

Days Ahead Of First Federal Stimulus Payments, Local Governments Still Don’t Know How—And In Some Cases If—They’ll Spend The Money

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfarmer/2021/05/06/days-ahead-of-first-federal-stimulus-for-governments-lawmakers-still-dont-know-how—and-in-some-cases-if–theyll-spend-it/?sh=2abe348711d8

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The first round of aid for state and local governments is set to go out next week, but with no guidance yet on the spending rules, leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included $350 billion in direct aid to states and localities and the law requires the U.S. Department of Treasury to distribute the first tranche by May 10. Since it passed on March 11, the department has been developing guidance on the spending rules with input from government organizations. The ARPA law says governments can use the money for public health crisis expenses and for budget deficits, but more specifics are needed because governments are required to track and report on their spending.

Now, with just days to go until the first round of aid is to be delivered, the rules still aren’t out and frustrations are mounting. This is particularly true for those governments who are receiving direct federal aid for the first time since the pandemic began.

Author(s): Liz Farmer

Publication Date: 6 May 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

How much is your community getting under the American Rescue Plan? A searchable database for the nation is here – Wirepoints

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Embedded below are a set of searchable databases that provide the estimated allocation of the $360 billion in direct government aid to states, counties and cities under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The remaining stimulus includes funding for schools and other programs, for which detailed data is not yet available.

The $360 billion is split as follows: State governments are set to receive $230 billion in direct and capital project grants, county governments will receive $65 billion, and municipal governments will receive the other $65 billion.

Author(s): Ted Dabrowski, Mark Glennon, John Klingner

Publication Date: 17 April 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Multiemployer Pensions: Will the Recent Bailout Destroy Pensions (in the Long Run)?

Link: https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/multiemployer-pensions-will-the-recent

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I think it unlikely that Congress, at least this Congress, will pass any MEP reforms. The bill allowing for MEP benefit cuts passed under Obama, during his second term – with a Republican House and a Democratic Senate.

There may eventually be MEP reforms, but with a big cash injection into Central States Teamsters, the reckoning day has been pushed off.

The real crisis was Central States Teamsters going under. It would have taken down the PBGC. The puny plans like Warehouse Employees Union Local No. 730 Pension Trust (total liability amount: $474,757,777) are drops in the bucket compared with Central States (total liability amount: $56,790,308,499).

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 5 April 2021

Publication Site: STUMP at substack

Pension and Executive Compensation Provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act

Link: https://www.seyfarth.com/news-insights/pension-and-executive-compensation-provisions-in-the-american-rescue-plan-act.html

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Seyfarth Synopsis: On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”), the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.  ARPA includes various forms of multiemployer and single employer pension plan relief, as well as certain executive compensation changes under Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”), which are discussed further below. Please see our companion Client Alert on the other employee benefit items of interest in ARPA here.

Author(s): Seong Kim, Christina M. Cerasale, Kaley M. Ventura, Alan B. Cabral

Publication Date: 11 March 2021

Publication Site: Seyfarth

COMMENTARY: COVID stimulus won’t cure the pension pandemic

Link: https://fredericksburg.com/opinion/commentary-covid-stimulus-won-t-cure-the-pension-pandemic/article_d33a07f1-ee2d-59f4-9e24-c7380f2020a8.html

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While state and local governments cannot put their stimulus directly towards pensions, depending on how the federal government enforces this restriction, they will still have the leeway to free up money that can then go towards pensions (or be spent on budgetary items that have been cut in recent years due to growing pension obligations).

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Public pensions will continue to use overly optimistic assumptions about how their investments will perform, accounting tricks that mask the true size of their pension liabilities, and underreport how much money is needed to fund them.

They will also continue to expose themselves to risky investments in order to attempt to shore up funding gaps. In fact, as the fiscal health of pensions plummeted following the 2008 financial crisis, pension plans only doubled down on the practice.

Author(s): Daniel J. Smith, Eileen Norcross

Publication Date: 27 March 2021

Publication Site: The Free Lance-Star

Fact-checking a GOP talking point on state, local relief in the American Rescue Plan

Link: https://www.politifact.com/article/2021/mar/19/fact-checking-gop-talking-point-state-local-relief/

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• The American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden allocates state and local aid based on the extent of unemployment in a state in late 2020. Critics say this punishes states that opened their economies earlier, under the assumption that their unemployment levels were lower.

• It’s not so clear-cut. Preliminary academic research shows that government policies on reopening had only a modest impact on unemployment. States that depend on especially hard-hit industries like tourism and oil and gas show high unemployment regardless of the government policy.

• Experts say that no method for targeting aid to the states is perfect; each has pluses and minuses.

Author(s): Louis Jacobson

Publication Date: 19 March 2021

Publication Site: PolitiFact

State Aid in American Rescue Plan Act Is 116 Times States’ Revenue Losses

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Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have now published revenue data for all 12 months of 2020; in those states, revenues are up $3.2 billion in aggregate compared to the previous calendar year, thanks to robust gains in financial markets and federal assistance that has kept businesses afloat and provided benefits to individuals. Some of those are, indeed, taxable benefits, in the case of enhanced and expanded unemployment compensation benefits. For the remaining seven states, it is necessary to project revenues through the end of the calendar year based either on U.S. Census Bureau data through the three quarters, or, in Nevada and New Mexico, state data running through October and November respectively.

These adjustments yield an aggregate $1.7 billion decline in state revenues. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, states would receive $195.3 billion in aid, divided according to each state’s share of national unemployed workers. Under Senate amendments, a further adjustment is made to ensure that each state receives, at minimum, the amount it was allocated for purposes of the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the CARES Act. While some conservative lawmakers have criticized this allocation model (which benefits states with steeper job losses) on the grounds that different state policies and approaches may yield some of this variation and that the federal government should be neutral to these decisions, we have argued previously that using the change in unemployment is a more efficient targeting method than allocating aid per capita. Far less defensible, however, is the notion that aid to states should be 116 times the decline in state revenues—especially since the federal government has already provided over $200 billion in fungible aid to subnational governments.

Author(s): Jared Walczak

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: Tax Foundation