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Coronavirus’s painful side effect is deep budget cuts for state and local government services

https://theconversation.com/coronaviruss-painful-side-effect-is-deep-budget-cuts-for-state-and-local-government-services-141105

Coronavirus's painful side effect is deep budget cuts for state ...

Nationwide, state and local government leaders are warning of major budget cuts as a result of the pandemic. One state – New York – even referred to the magnitude of its cuts as having “no precedent in modern times.”

Declining revenue combined with unexpected expenditures and requirements to balance budgets means state and local governments need to cut spending and possibly raise taxes or dip into reserve funds to cover the hundreds of billions of dollars lost by state and local government over the next two to three years because of the pandemic.

Without more federal aid or access to other sources of money (like reserve funds or borrowing), government officials have made it clear: Budget cuts will be happening in the coming years.

And while specifics are not yet available in all cases, those cuts have already included reducing the number of state and local jobs – from firefighters to garbage collectors to librarians – and slashing spending for education, social services and roads and bridges.

In some states, agencies have been directed to cut their budget as much as 15% or 20% – a tough challenge as most states prepared budgets for a new fiscal year that began July 1.

As a scholar of public administration who researches how governments spend money, here are the ways state and local governments have reduced spending to close the budget gap.

Cutting jobs

State and local governments laid off or furloughed 1.5 million workers in April and May.

They are also reducing spending on employees. According to surveys, government workers are feeling personal financial strain as many state and local governments have cut merit raises and regular salary increases, frozen hiring, reduced salaries and cut seasonal employees.

Washington state, for example, cut both merit raises and instituted furloughs.

survey from the National League of Cities shows 32% of cities will have to furlough or lay off employees and 41% have hiring freezes in place or planned as a result of the pandemic.

Employment reductions have met some resistance. In Nevada, for example, a state worker union filed a complaint against the governor to the state’s labor relations board for violating a collective bargaining statute by not negotiating on furloughs and salary freezes.

Most of the employee cuts have been made in education. Teachers, classroom aids, administrators, staff, maintenance crews, bus drivers and other school employees have seen salary cuts and layoffs.

The job loss has hurt public employees beyond education, too: librarians, garbage collectors, counselors, social workers, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, health aides, park rangers, maintenance crews, administrative assistants and others have been affected.

Residents also face the consequences of these cuts: They can’t get ahold of staff in the city’s water and sewer departments to talk about their bill; they can’t use the internet at the library to look for jobs; their children can’t get needed services in school.

Most of these cuts have been labeled temporary, but with the extensions to stay-at-home orders and a mostly closed economy, it will be some time before these employees are back to work.

Suspending road, bridges, building and water system projects

As another way to reduce costs quickly, a National League of Cities survey shows 65% of the municipalities surveyed are stopping temporarily, or completely, capital expenditure and infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, buildings, water systems or parking garages.

In New York City, there is a US$2.3 billion proposed cut to the capital budget, a fund that supports large, multiyear investments from sidewalk and road maintenance, school buildings, senior centers, fire trucks, sewers, playgrounds, to park upkeep. There are potentially serious consequences for residents. For example, New York housing advocates are concerned that these cuts will hurt plans for 21,000 affordable homes.

Suspending these big money projects will save the government money in the short term. But it will potentially harm the struggling economy, since both public and private sectors benefit from better roads, bridges, schools and water systems and the jobs these projects create.

Delaying maintenance also has consequences for the deteriorating infrastructure in the U.S. The costs of unaddressed repairs could increase future costs. It can cost more to replace a crumbling building than it does to fix one in better repair.

Cities and towns hit

In many states, the new budgets severely cut their aid to local governments, which will lead to large local cuts in education – both K-12 and higher education – as well as social programs, transportation, health care and other areas.

New York state’s budget proposes that part of its fiscal year 2021 budget shortfall will be balanced by $8.2 billion in reductions in aid to localities. This is the state where the cuts were referred to in the budget as “not seen in modern times.” This money is normally spent on many important services that residents need everyday –mass transit, adult and elderly care, mental health support, substance abuse programs, school programs like special education, children’s health insurance and more. Lacking any of these support services can be devastating to a person, especially in this difficult time.

Fewer workers, less money

As teachers and administrators figure out how to teach both online and in person, they and their schools will need more money – not less – to meet students’ needs.

Libraries, which provide services to many communities, from free computer use to after-school programs for children, will have to cut back. They may have fewer workers, be open for fewer hours and not offer as many programs to the public.

Parks may not be maintained, broken playground equipment may stay that way, and workers may not repave paths and mow lawns. Completely separate from activists’ calls to shift police funding to other priorities, police departments’ budgets may be slashed just for lack of cash to pay the officers. Similar cuts to firefighters and ambulance workers may mean poorly equipped responders take longer to arrive on a scene and have less training to deal with the emergency.

To keep with developing public safety standards, more maintenance staff and materials will be needed to clean and sanitize schools, courtrooms, auditoriums, correctional facilitiesmetro stations, buses and other public spaces. Strained budgets and employees will make it harder to complete these new essential tasks throughout the day.

To avoid deeper cuts, state and local government officials are trying a host of strategies including borrowing money, using rainy day funds, increasing revenue by raising tax rates or creating new taxes or fees, ending tax exemptions and using federal aid as legally allowed.

Colorado was able to hold its budget to only a 3% reduction, relying largely on one-time emergency reserve funds. Delaware managed to maintain its budget and avoided layoffs largely through using money set aside in a reserve account.

Nobody knows how long the pandemic, or its economic effects, will last.

In the worst-case scenario, budget officials are prepared to make steeper cuts in the coming months if more assistance does not come from the federal government or the economy does not recover quickly enough to restore the flow of money that governments need to operate.

 

 

 

Merkel says pandemic reveals limits of ‘fact-denying populism’

https://thehill.com/policy/international/506393-merkel-says-pandemic-reveals-limits-of-fact-denying-populism?fbclid=IwAR1gnqKU3igIHkK-e2p4iZjGPTfswBYJFMjvf3ewGH9uRPNIp5ROr6y5qns#.XwZdo2fqr7s.facebook

Covid-19 has exposed the limits of 'fact-denying populism', Merkel ...

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told European Union (EU) countries Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic is showing the limits of “fact-denying populism” as she urged the bloc to reach an agreement on an economic recovery package.

Merkel said that the EU “must show that a return to nationalism means not more, but less control,” according to France 24.

Without naming any specific nations, Merkel said: “We are seeing at the moment that the pandemic can’t be fought with lies and disinformation, and neither can it be with hatred and agitation.”

“Fact-denying populism is being shown its limits,” she added. “In a democracy, facts and transparency are needed. That distinguishes Europe, and Germany will stand up for it during its presidency.”

The pandemic has killed more than 100,000 people in the 27 EU nations and sparked what is expected to be the largest recession the continent has experienced in decades.

On Tuesday the EU released a report predicting the bloc’s economy will contract more than initially expected due to coronavirus-related lockdowns.

Merkel on Wednesday joined EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni in urging the commission to quickly reach an agreement on the 750 billion-euro stimulus package proposed earlier this year.

“The depth of the economic decline demands that we hurry,” Merkel told lawmakers, according to The Associated Press. “We must waste no time — only the weakest would suffer from that. I very much hope that we can reach an agreement this summer. That will require a lot of readiness to compromise from all sides — and from you too.

 

 

 

 

Navigating a Post-Covid Path to the New Normal with Gist Healthcare CEO, Chas Roades

https://www.lrvhealth.com/podcast/?single_podcast=2203

Covid-19, Regulatory Changes and Election Implications: An Inside ...Chas Roades (@ChasRoades) | Twitter

Healthcare is Hard: A Podcast for Insiders; June 11, 2020

Over the course of nearly 20 years as Chief Research Officer at The Advisory Board Company, Chas Roades became a trusted advisor for CEOs, leadership teams and boards of directors at health systems across the country. When The Advisory Board was acquired by Optum in 2017, Chas left the company with Chief Medical Officer, Lisa Bielamowicz. Together they founded Gist Healthcare, where they play a similar role, but take an even deeper and more focused look at the issues health systems are facing.

As Chas explains, Gist Healthcare has members from Allentown, Pennsylvania to Beverly Hills, California and everywhere in between. Most of the organizations Gist works with are regional health systems in the $2 to $5 billion range, where Chas and his colleagues become adjunct members of the executive team and board. In this role, Chas is typically hopscotching the country for in-person meetings and strategy sessions, but Covid-19 has brought many changes.

“Almost overnight, Chas went from in-depth sessions about long-term five-year strategy, to discussions about how health systems will make it through the next six weeks and after that, adapt to the new normal. He spoke to Keith Figlioli about many of the issues impacting these discussions including:

  • Corporate Governance. The decisions health systems will be forced to make over the next two to five years are staggeringly big, according to Chas. As a result, Gist is spending a lot of time thinking about governance right now and how to help health systems supercharge governance processes to lay a foundation for the making these difficult choices.
  • Health Systems Acting Like Systems. As health systems struggle to maintain revenue and margins, they’ll be forced to streamline operations in a way that finally takes advantage of system value. As providers consolidated in recent years, they successfully met the goal of gaining size and negotiating leverage, but paid much less attention to the harder part – controlling cost and creating value. That’s about to change. It will be a lasting impact of Covid-19, and an opportunity for innovators.
  • The Telehealth Land Grab. Providers have quickly ramped-up telehealth services as a necessity to survive during lockdowns. But as telehealth plays a larger role in the new standard of care, payers will not sit idly by and are preparing to double-down on their own virtual care capabilities. They’re looking to take over the virtual space and own the digital front door in an effort to gain coveted customer loyalty. Chas talks about how it would be foolish for providers to expect that payers will continue reimburse at high rates or at parity for physical visits.
  • The Battleground Over Physicians. This is the other area to watch as payers and providers clash over the hearts and minds of consumers. The years-long trend of physician practices being acquired and rolled-up into larger organizations will significantly accelerate due to Covid-19. The financial pain the pandemic has caused will force some practices out of business and many others looking for an exit. And as health systems deal with their own financial hardships, payers with deep pockets are the more likely suitor.”

 

 

 

 

Cartoon – Pillars of Democracy

Exhibit highlights cartoonists' focus on First Amendment | WTOP