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McMillan expresses support for S.1117/H.R.2319

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan (R) recently wrote an editorial supporting passage of legislation to restore legislation involving governments and money market funds, S.1117/H.R. 2319. McMillan is also Alabama’s Treasurer-elect.

“Alabama’s growing economy requires increased investments in areas like K-12 education, public colleges and universities, health care, transportation, affordable housing, public safety, and other infrastructure projects,” Commissioner McMillan said. “These projects help promote economic growth and create jobs. Unfortunately, higher interest rates mean that our public institutions will incur higher costs to finance these priorities.”

“Here’s how the process works. Institutions like state and local government or universities that fund large projects typically don’t have the cash on hand to pay for a new building or road,” McMillan explained. “It’s like shopping for a home. Few shoppers have money in the bank to buy a home so they borrow to take out a mortgage. Just as rising interest rates drive up costs for individual borrowers shopping for homes, rising interest rates drive up costs for institutions financing major infrastructure projects.”

“Higher interest rates and high borrowing costs leave less money for other priorities,” McMillan continued. “This also creates pressure to keep tax rates high to bring in enough revenue to pay for others government services that get squeezed when borrowing costs rise.”

“There is bipartisan legislation ready to be voted on that would protect our state from higher interest rates and borrowing costs by restoring money market funds as an important source of low-cost capital markets financing,” McMillan stated. “This legislation (H.R. 2319 in the House and S. 1117 in the Senate) would effectively reverse a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulation that hurt the ability of money market funds to invest in our state.”

“As of result of the regulation, which forced money market funds to operate on a floating rather than stable value basis, investors withdrew $1.2 trillion in assets from money market funds that support local economies to funds that invest strictly in U.S. government debt,” McMillan wrote. “Tax-exempt money market funds, which are the largest investors in the short-term debt issued by state and local governments for public infrastructure and economic development, dropped by 50 percent.”

“According to a recent study by Treasury Strategies, a financial consulting firm, state and local government entities in Alabama lost over $500 million in funding from tax-exempt money market funds between January 2016 – when implementation of the SEC rule started to be phased in – and April 2018,” McMillan stated. “Over the same period, borrowing costs for our state entitles that issued debt to tax-exempt money market funds rose from an average of .05 percent to 1.77 percent. That amounts to a tax-equivalent rate increase of 2.87 percent.”

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“Congress needs to enact legislation to restore the stable value for all money market funds,” McMillan urged. “This would significantly and immediately increase investor demand for tax-exempt debt and lower the cost of borrowing for infrastructure and economic development projects. The bill pending in Congress has the support of over 300 national, state and local organizations, including 30 from Alabama. Supporters include elected leaders, public and private sector finance officers, trade organizations and local chambers of commerce.”

“As interest rates continue to rise, the SEC’s money market fund rule will be costlier to Alabama’s taxpayers and businesses without any material benefit, other than to satisfy a Washington-know-best regulatory agenda that undermines our state’s sound financial management practices,” McMillan concluded. “We ask our state’s Congressional delegation to support enactment of legislation to restore the stable value of money market funds. This will allow our state and local governments to utilize lower-cost borrowing options, increase investments in infrastructure projects that benefit our communities, and provide increased economic opportunities for our citizens.”

Starting in October 2016, two categories of money market mutual funds commonly used by state and local governments, businesses, non-profits and other organizations were forced to abandon a key feature: the funds will no longer be allowed to offer a stable $1 per share valuation. Proponents of the legislation argue that the move negatively impacted two kinds of funds vital to the needs of public and private organizations: stable value institutional prime money market funds, which invest in short term debt issued by businesses and stable value institutional tax-exempt money market funds, which invest in short-term debt issued by states and municipalities. HR2319 would reverse the rules back to what they were before 2016. Proponents of the legislation point argue that the rule change has meant that $billions have moved from commercial banks to the stock market as a result of the rule change.

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There is bipartisan support for S.1117/H.R. 2139; but if it does not pass during the lame duck session of the current Congress, then it will have to be re-introduced in the next Congress and go back through the committee process again. Because Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-California) will be the Chair of the powerful house Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over this sort of legislation. It is not known how those changes in Congress could impact the legislation.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Alabama DHR announces grants providing temporary assistance for stabilizing child care

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Human Resources announced on Friday a new grant program to provide assistance to licensed child care providers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Temporary Assistance for Stabilizing Child Care, or TASCC, grant program’s purpose is to stabilize the number of child care providers that are open and providing services, as well as encourage providers to reopen.

DHR is now accepting applications for TASCC grants. The deadline to apply is August 7, 2020. The total grant amounts will be based on each provider’s daytime licensed capacity with a base rate of $300 per child.

To be eligible for a grant, licensed providers must be open or plan to reopen no later than August 17, 2020, and continue to remain open for a period of one year from the date of receiving the grant award. As of this week, 1,306 of Alabama’s 2,448 child care facilities were open in the state.

“We are proud to offer this program as a support and an incentive to an important sector of our economy. These grants will give the support many providers need to reopen and assist those already open,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “This program is going to be vital for our child care numbers to reach the level required to provide adequate services as parents return to work. We have already made significant strides in reopening facilities over the past several months; in April only 14 percent were open while now 53 percent are open.”

These grants will provide support for paying employees, purchasing classroom materials, providing meals, purchasing cleaning supplies, providing tuition relief for families, as well as other facility expenses.

DHR recommends child care providers read all guidance prior to submitting a TASCC application. Child care providers need to complete the application to determine the estimated grant amount. Grant applications will be processed as they are received and grants awarded once approved.

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An online fillable application is available for the TASCC grant at www.dhr.alabama.gov/child-care/. The application must include an Alabama STAARS Vendor Code in order to be processed. For questions regarding the application, please email DHR at [email protected].

 

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Gov. Ivey awards grant for new system to aid child abuse victims

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Gov. Kay Ivey delivers the 2019 state of the state address. (CHIP BROWNLEE/APR)

Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded a $375,000 grant to establish a statewide network that will ensure that victims of child abuse receive immediate and professional medical care and other assistance.

The grant will enable the Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics to collaborate with the Alabama Network of Children Advocacy Centers in creating the Child Abuse Medical System.

 “Child abuse is a horrendous crime that robs children of their youth and can negatively affect their future if victims do not receive the proper professional assistance,” Ivey said. “I am thankful for this network that will ensure children get the professional attention they need and deserve.”

The medical system will be a coordinated statewide resource that includes pediatric physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals along with specialized sexual assault nurse examiners.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant.

“ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey and those dedicated people who are part of the Child Abuse Medical System to support these children at a time they need it most,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.

Ivey notified Tom Shufflebarger, CEO of Children’s of Alabama, that the grant had been approved.

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ADECA manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.

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Courts

U.S. Attorney Jay Town announces resignation

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Attorney Jay Town announced his resignation Friday. (WHNT)

Jay Town, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, on Friday announced his resignation and plans to work at a Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company. 

Town’s resignation will be effective Wednesday, July 15, according to a press release. 

“After much thoughtful prayer and great personal consideration, I have made the decision to resign as the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Alabama.  I have tendered my resignation to Attorney General William Barr. General Barr expressed his gratitude for my service to the Department of Justice and to the Northern District and, despite having hoped I would continue in my role, understood and respected my decision,” Town said in a statement. 

“I am extremely grateful to President Trump, to whom I also tendered a letter, for his special trust and confidence in me to serve as the U.S. Attorney. It was an honor to be a part of this Administration with an unrivaled class of United States Attorneys from around the nation.  I will forever remain thankful to those who supported my nomination and my tenure as the U.S. Attorney,” Town continued.

Town said his job with the unnamed Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company is to begin later this year, and the company is to announce his position “in a few weeks.” 

“The Attorney General of the United States will announce my replacement in the coming days or weeks,” Town said in the release.  

Town has served in his position since confirmation by the U.S. Senate in August 2017. Prior to that appointment, Town was a prosecutor in the Madison County District Attorney’s office from 2005 until 2017.

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Attorney General William Barr in a statement Friday offered gratitude for Town’s three years of service. 

“Jay’s leadership in his District has been immense.  His contributions to the Department of Justice have been extensive, especially his work on the China Initiative and most recently as a Working Group Chair on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I appreciate his service to our nation and to the Justice Department, and I wish him the very best,” Barr said in a statement.

The U.S. Justice Department in April 2019 notified Gov. Kay Ivey that the department’s lengthy investigation into the state’s prisons for men found systemic problems of violence, sexual assaults, drugs and corruption which are likely violations of the inmates’ Constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment. 

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Town’s office leads the discussions between the U.S Department of Justice and the state on the prison conditions. 

Problems with violence, deaths and drugs in Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons have not markedly improved in the year’s since the U.S. Department of Justice released its report.

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Health

Alabama’s daily COVID-19 deaths second highest since start of pandemic

In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama saw 35 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, the second highest daily number of deaths since the pandemic began. 

The previous record daily high was May 12, when the state recorded 37 coronavirus deaths. Prior to that, the high was on April 22, when Alabama saw 35 deaths from the virus. In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.

While cases have been surging since mid-June, deaths have largely remained stable. Deaths are considered a lagging indicator, meaning that it takes longer for deaths to begin rising after cases and hospitalizations begin rising.

“The fact that we’re seeing these sharp increases and hospitalization in cases over the past week or two is really concerning,” said UAB expert Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom earlier this week. “And we expect, given the lag that we know there is between cases and hospitalization — about a two-week lag, and a three-week lag between cases and deaths — that we’re on a part of the curve that we just don’t want to be on in our state.”

It’s unclear whether this new rise in deaths will become a trend, or whether it is a one-day anomaly, but the 14-day average of deaths per day is now nearly as high as the previous peak on May 14 — weeks after the state hit its first “peak” in cases per day in late April. The previous high of the 14-day average of deaths per day was 16 on May 14. The average is now at 14 deaths per day, on average.

The uptick in deaths comes after days of record-high new daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state added 1,304 new COVID-19 cases Friday, down from Thursday’s record-high of 2,164, but the trend of rising daily cases has continued largely unabated since early June. 

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The 14-day average of daily tests was at an all-time high Friday, at 8,125, which was 308 more tests than the previous high, set Wednesday. The percent of tests that were positive also increased, however, so the new cases can’t be attributed solely to more testing. 

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The 14-day average of the percent positivity was 14.22 on Friday. Excluding Thursday’s figure, because the Alabama Department of Public Health didn’t publish total tests administered on Thursday, which threw  off percent positive figures, Friday’s 14-day average was the highest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic. 

There were a few higher 14-day average percent positivity days in April, but those numbers were skewed as well, because ADPH wasn’t able to collect all testing data from commercial labs during that time period. 

Along with surging new cases, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday was higher than it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic. On Thursday 1,125 coronavirus patients were being treated in state hospitals, which was the fifth straight day of record current hospitalizations. 

UAB Hospital’s COVID-19 Intensive care units were nearing their existing capacity earlier this week. The hospital has both a COVID ICU and a COVID acute care unit designated to keep patients separated from those who don’t have the virus, but it has more space in other non-COVID units should it need to add additional bed space.

Hospitals in Madison County this week are also seeing a surge of COVID-19 patients. Paul Finley, the mayor of the city of Madison, told reporters Wednesday that local hospitals were reporting record numbers.

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