State Bankruptcies

by JASON | 12:18 PM in |

There’s good news tonight for people in danger of losing their unemployment pay before they can find a job. Lawmakers voted to extend unemployment benefits by 20 weeks. But while the state is grabbing 418 million federal dollars to extend benefits, it’s passing up the chance to receive another half a billion dollars more. Jobless Floridians are eligible for 59 weeks of unemployment pay, but for many that’s not enough time to find a job. That’s why lawmakers voted to lengthen the eligibility period to by 20 weeks.

“What we are anticipating is, probably by the end of May having a notification out to those who are potentially eligible and hopefully by the beginning of July, having that money in Floridians hands.”

An estimated 250-thousand people will qualify to receive the extra 418 million in extended benefits from the federal stimulus package. While the state is taking the money to extend benefits another 400 million is being left on the table. To qualify for the money the state would have to loosen its unemployment qualification standards. Lawmakers turned their backs on the changes this year. Governor Charlie Crist hopes they’ll reconsider.

“I’m encouraged that the deadline isn’t until 2011 to get the additional money for unemployment compensation”

With the state paying out 60 million dollars a week in unemployment claims, more money will likely be needed before then. Lawmakers estimate the state’s unemployment compensation fund will run out of money by July. But unemployment benefits are mandated by the federal government so the state says people who are eligible will still receive a check.

So the stimulus money bought them another 8 to 10 weeks...

WASHINGTON - Minnesota has been certified to receive $130 million in federal economic stimulus funds to help make unemployment payments and provide services to laid-off workers, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Wednesday. The money, which is available immediately, will help the state meet unemployment insurance obligations estimated at more than $1.5 billion this year, state officials said.

Minnesota and six other states, including South Dakota, have qualified for the additional federal aid under a program that requires states to help unemployed workers who entered the work force recently, work part time, or have lost their jobs due to "compelling family reasons" such as domestic violence. The additional funds do not increase or extend unemployment benefits, which were already beefed up under the $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year.

LANSING, Mich., May 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The Democrat-controlled Michigan House of Representatives today passed legislation to permanently expand Michigan's 100 percent employer-financed unemployment system in an effort to accept one-time dollars from the federal government (HBs 4785-86).

"Today, House Republicans stood with Michigan businesses in support of job creation and retention while House Democrats pushed through a job-killing proposal (HBs 4785-86) to increase unemployment insurance taxes on Michigan employers at a time when they can least afford it."

"House Democrats took the easy and short-sighted route to $138 million in one-time federal money, while turning their backs on the job providers who will be left to foot the bill of the $69.7 million per-year expansion of the 100 percent employer-financed unemployment insurance system."

"The Democrats' action today will permanently increase costs and further strain the unemployment system and the ability of the state to fulfill its commitment to those who are currently eligible for unemployment benefits."

"While we recognize the appeal of money is alluring, the federal funding that is currently on the table is not a 'gift' from Congress."

Vermont's unemployment insurance fund could run out of money in less than a year, but business groups are at odds with labor advocates over how to bail it out. More money is being taken out of the fund to pay benefits to roughly 17,000 unemployed Vermonters than is being raised in the taxes businesses pay into the fund.

"Contributions are down, expenses are up. It's just not sustainable," state Labor Commissioner Patricia Moulton Powden said Wednesday.

In January, the fund had $179 million. By April, it had shrunk to $79 million. The unemployment fund won't affect the state budget because it is a discreet pot of money paid for by businesses.

The cost of doing business just went up another notch...for more check out my post on Government Capitalism...

Indiana’s General Assembly last week approved a plan to replenish the state’s bankrupt jobless fund. The bill, which passed the Senate 46-3, is a bipartisan compromise that preserves worker benefits, restores the fiscal integrity of the system, and prevents premium increases for employers who do not lay off workers – generally speaking, Indiana’s vital family-owned small businesses.

For some time, premiums paid by businesses – which fund unemployment benefits for laid-off Hoosiers – have failed to keep pace with benefits paid-out to workers. As a result, Indiana’s fund is now partially sustained by a more than $800 million interest-free loan from the federal government, an amount estimated to top $1 billion by year’s end.

If lawmakers failed to find a fix in the near-term, we risked facing a federal government takeover of the fund – a move that could have resulted in a massive, permanent expansion of Indiana’s unemployment insurance system and additional premium increases on top of those required to balance the fund.

Thirty states have jobless funds which are already insolvent or at risk of insolvency, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. But many of these states are placing the burden to replenish their funds solely on the shoulders of businesses without looking to find efficiencies in their systems. No general tax revenues are used to fund the UI system. All proceeds are paid in via insurance premiums paid by employers, and all of the premiums in the UI fund are used only to pay unemployed worker benefits.

Facing South has been covering the ongoing saga of Southern Republican governors vs. the federal stimulus. A handful of GOP rising star governors -- including those in Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama -- have been making headlines in recent months for rejecting unemployment benefits from the $787 billion federal stimulus package.

Here's the conflict: Not everyone who loses a job automatically qualifies for unemployment benefits, but the federal stimulus package gives states a chance to expand eligibility, a move that could help thousands of unemployed Americans weather the recession. The unemployment funds would make it easier for more jobless people to qualify for benefits and draw checks for longer periods, as well as cover laid-off part-time workers. In some states the shift would require changes to state law in order to qualify for the stimulus funds. The handful of Southern governors that have argued against the unemployment funding have said that the aid comes with "too many strings" attached and would hurt employers in the way of higher taxes down the line.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri has delayed tax refunds and quietly borrowed $325 million from its cash reserves to keep the state afloat.

State financial documents obtained by The Associated Press show the state borrowed $175 million from its reserves in February and an additional $150 million in March. But Gov. Jay Nixon's administration never publicized the borrowing.

If the state had not borrowed the money, it would have been $100 million in the hole at the start of April.

Documents also show the state paid out $65 million less in income tax refunds as of April 1 compared to the same point last year. Those refunds aren't projected to be paid until later this month.

A Revenue Department spokesman said budget constraints are one reason for the delay.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said Monday that an estimated $1.39 billion in total refunds will be paid to taxpayers. She also said all refunds will be paid out by or before June 30, the last day of this fiscal year.

"It's just a matter of managing our cash to make sure we can pay all of our bills," Luebbering said.

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Some of the 2,900 state employees paying into a reimbursement plan are expressing outrage that the state has fallen behind in returning their money for medical care and other expenses.

The state of New Mexico dutifully deducts pre-tax money from those employees' paychecks and puts it into individual flexible-spending accounts. The plan functions like a savings account, but employees only get reimbursed when they submit an authorized claim for things like child care and medical care.

Workers, some living paycheck to paycheck, first pay those expenses out of their own pockets. And now some of those workers are saying the state hasn't held up its part of the deal.

SAN FRANCISCO, March 31 (Reuters) - California will not need to borrow an additional $1.5 billion from Wall Street and has enough cash to meet all its payment obligations in full through June, or the end of its current fiscal year, the state controller said on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, California's state government was on the verge of running out of cash, and required officials to withhold tax refunds along with payments to local governments and vendors.

The crisis eased in February when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers agreed to a budget deal that closed a shortfall of more than $40 billion.

A recent $500 million note from Golden 1 Credit Union, internal borrowing and federal stimulus aid further bolstered the state's cash account.

"With sufficient cash on hand, we will be able to meet all of our obligations in full and on time, including tax refunds to California taxpayers and payments to private businesses and local programs that provide needed services to our most vulnerable residents," State Controller John Chiang said in a statement.

Chiang said the state government has already made $3 billion in delayed payments, including $2.2 billion in tax refunds.

Property-tax revenue has fallen more than 9 percent as valuations drop, stressed homeowners delay paying property taxes and the number of foreclosures continues to rise.

A shrinking pipeline of state aid and tax credit reimbursement has north metro cities at the budget chopping block.

Although cuts won't be final until the end of the legislative session, cities are planning for the worst-case scenario. And cities' decisions are guided by Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget, which cuts millions in local government aid (LGA) and withholds a piece of cities' property tax revenues.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to impose surcharges on West Virginia businesses and workers to keep the state's Unemployment Compensation Fund from going broke, amid warnings the fund has already reached a crisis point.

On Monday evening, members of the House Judiciary Committee advanced Gov. Joe Manchin's bill (SB246) to the Finance Committee - despite concerns from some that the plan would hurt businesses already struggling in the recession.

Surcharges for employees and employers would kick in if the fund's reserves fall below $180 million, something that has already happened, state Unemployment Compensation Director Michael Moore told delegates.

Unemployment claims are up 60 percent compared to this time last year, and the fund paid out more than $32 million in March, Moore said. That left it with about a $170 million balance.

"I think it's pretty obvious," he said. "If we don't do anything, we're going to go broke, probably before the end of the year."

State unemployment claims for the third week of March have risen 153 percent since 2008 and 182 percent since 2007 for the same period, said Jeff Hentschel, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The state paid unemployment claims to 115,865 people in the third week of March, up from 45,651 people in 2008, Hentschel said.

"Generally speaking," he said, "we are paying out about $25 million per week."

The exorbitant increase in unemployment claims has caused the state's Unemployment Trust Fund Reserve to fall from $650 million to below $450 million in the last six months. Now, state legislators are considering making changes to the tax laws to stabilize the fund.

Employers now pay an average of 2.7 percent on the first $7,000 paid to each of their employees into the trust fund.

Proposed legislation would increase the base to $9,000 and add a surcharge of .06 percent to the payment as well to increase fund reserves, said Jim Brown, Tennessee director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Brown said the combined increases would be the equivalent of an average 3.3 percent unemployment tax on each employer.

DENNIS TOWNSHIP, N.J. - New Jersey has joined the list of states unable to pay the escalating number of unemployment insurance claims without borrowing from the federal government, Gov. Jon S. Corzine said Monday.

Corzine told a group of small-business owners in south Jersey that the state's unemployment insurance fund has temporarily run out of money. The fund expects a cash boost from businesses to begin the second quarter in April, but until then it must borrow from Washington. The loan is interest-free through December 2010, Corzine said.

"There is a standard procedure that is in place when you run down your unemployment fund," Corzine said.

New Jersey's unemployment claims have continued to rise as the recession deepens. They're running about double the number as last year.

Labor Department spokesman Kevin Smith said that about $75 million in claims was being paid out weekly as of Feb. 28, compared with $45 million in claims the prior year.

Unemployment claims are funded mostly through a payroll tax on businesses, with a smaller contribution from workers. Last year, New Jersey employers paid $1.5 billion into the fund, while workers contributed $350 million, Smith said.

New Jersey began borrowing from the federal government on March 5, said Leni Fortson, of the federal Department of Labor in Philadelphia. As of March 19, the state had borrowed $120 million. Fourteen states are borrowing federal cash to pay for jobless claims, Fortson said.

New Jersey's fund has been depleted by years of raids by lawmakers of both parties, and as a result is now chronically underfunded. About $4.7 billion has been diverted from the fund since 1993 to pay for charity care to hospitals and other programs.,0,6332989.story

There is a high chance a majority of the States within the United States of America could file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. There are currently 46 states with high budget deficits, Arizona being one of them.

In fact, Jan Brewer, the newly appointed Governor of Arizona has a major crisis on her hands, one that Arizona and national media isn’t covering. The alarming news is the State of Arizona has 90 to 120 days before they completely run out of money. After that, all bills and tax refunds owed to the citizens will go unpaid.

Before Janet Napolitano left for her new Homeland secretary position, she had a stand-off with Arizona Treasurer Dean Martin. The AZ Treasurer forewarned Napolitano about Arizona’s financial crisis, but she refused to heed his words.

With neighboring California on the verge of bankruptcy this year, many States will follow in their steps.

Many States are already scurrying to cut unwanted costs, cut State-funded programs, raise taxes, not issue tax refunds to their citizens, and borrow money just to survive in 2009. Unfortunately, many banks — the same banks the Fed bailed out — are refusing to loan money to the States and their Treasury agencies.

It’s very possible you’ll see the end of the United States as we know it. If the Fed doesn’t bailout the States when their cash dries up and the banks don’t loan them money, then our States will be left in financial ruin. This would be a tragic and unprecedented event never experienced in the United States.

No State has ever filed bankruptcy, but it could be coming to a State near you this year.

We are on the brink of something far worse than the Great Depression.

States are facing a great fiscal crisis. At least 46 states faced or are facing shortfalls in their budgets for this and/or next year, and severe fiscal problems are highly likely to continue into the following year as well. Combined budget gaps for the remainder of this fiscal year and state fiscal years 2010 and 2011 are estimated to total more than $350 billion.

States are currently at the mid-point of fiscal year 2009 — which started July 1 in most states — and are in the process of preparing their budgets for the next year. Over half the states had already cut spending, used reserves, or raised revenues in order to adopt a balanced budget for the current fiscal year — which started July 1 in most states. Now, their budgets have fallen out of balance again. New gaps of $51 billion (over 10% of state budgets) have opened up in the budgets of at least 42 states plus the District of Columbia. These budget gaps are in addition to the $48 billion shortfalls that these and other states faced as they adopted their budgets for the current fiscal year, bringing total gaps for the year to 15 percent of budgets.

The vast majority of states cannot run a deficit or borrow to cover their operating expenditures. As a result, states have three primary actions they can take during a fiscal crisis: they can draw down available reserves, they can cut expenditures, or they can raise taxes. States already have begun drawing down reserves; the remaining reserves are not sufficient to allow states to weather a significant downturn or recession. The other alternatives — spending cuts and tax increases — can

further slow a state’s economy during a downturn and contribute to the further slowing of the national economy, as well.

The downward spiral....we are just beginning!

Continuing economic problems have created budget problems in many states, leading at least 40 states to propose or enact reduced services to their residents, including some of their most vulnerable families and individuals. Additional cuts are likely in the coming months as states develop budgets for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2009. In addition, at least 14 states have increased taxes or otherwise raised new revenue; governors in six more states have proposed new revenue measures.

Thirty-six states have cut education or proposed such cuts because they face massive, devastating budget deficits in this recession.

The combination of rising unemployment, declining consumer spending, declining asset values, and foreclosures has led to declining state revenues. And the number of people in poverty is growing, adding costs to state budgets for programs such as Medicaid and social services.

Education is by far the largest component of state budgets. Some 46 percent of all state general fund expenditures is devoted to elementary, secondary, and higher education.

Nearly all states are required to balance their general fund budgets. When large budget deficits develop, education often is cut deeply.

States that collectively cut $40 billion in spending to balance their budgets over the summer are now facing an additional $32 billion shortfall as tax receipts come in below estimates, the report said.,8599,1864620,00.html

Here's the kink in the works...the guy on the know the "tax payer" insolvent. Game over!

When the states start stealing from their citizens....

TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas has suspended income tax refunds and may not be able to pay employees on time, the state's budget director said Monday.

The state doesn't have enough money in its main bank account to pay its bills, prompting Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to suggest transferring $225 million from other accounts throughout state government. But the move required approval from legislative leaders, and the GOP refused Monday.

Budget Director Duane Goossen said that without the money, he's not sure the state can meet its payroll. State employees are due to be paid again Friday.

Goossen said the state stopped processing income tax refunds last week.

GOP leaders are hoping to pressure Sebelius into signing a bill making $326 million in adjustments to the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Legislators approved that bill last week, but it has not reached her desk.

Goossen said the state might also have to delay payments to public schools and to doctors who provide care to Kansans under the Medicaid program.

Last minute update...

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say a budget impasse that held up state income tax refunds and threatened to delay state employees' paychecks has come to an end.

Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius met a key demand from Republican legislative leaders by signing a bill Tuesday to balance the state's current budget.

Republican leaders say they will now approve a plan from Sebelius to borrow money internally to shore up the state's main bank account.

The move eases a cash crunch that had threatened to prevent the state from meeting its payroll on Friday and had halted tax refunds.

They didn't mention where the funds where coming from internally???

New York State’s unemployment insurance system, besieged by claims from laid-off workers, ran out of money on the first business day of the year and is borrowing daily from the federal government to bridge a fast-growing and potentially huge deficit, state labor officials say.

Despite paying lower benefits to its jobless residents than other Northeastern states, the state’s unemployment fund has been borrowing about $90 million a week from the federal unemployment trust fund, state officials said. The deficit has already reached $212 million and is expected to exceed $2.5 billion by the end of 2010, they said.

State officials say that the deficit does not threaten the continued payment of benefits.

But the loans could wind up costing the state’s unemployment fund more than $100 million in interest and could result in a punitive tax on all employers across the state two years from now, state officials and experts on the unemployment insurance system said.

More than 500,000 people were collecting unemployment checks in New York State in the first week of this year, nearly three times as many as a year before.

Nearly 400,000 North Carolinians were unemployed and seeking work in December – a record number. The number of unemployed jumped by 185,000 in 2008.

“We’re having some days where we pay out $26 million a day and those payouts will sometimes out pact collections,” said. David Clegg, deputy chairman of the state Employment Security Commission.

North Carolina's jobless rate was 8.7 percent in December, the highest rate in 25 years. About a third of the state's 100 counties reported at least 10 percent unemployment for that month, twice the number with double-digit unemployment in November.

“We’re paying benefits for about 400,000 and the wages in North Carolina are the highest in the southeast, which makes our benefit levels the highest in the southeast,” Clegg said.

The ESC has paid out $17 million in benefits over the past two days and will likely have to borrow more money next week, spokesman Larry Parker said.

First-time claims for state unemployment in Georgia have shot up yet again. And the state's labor commissioner predicted Georgia's 8.1 percent unemployment rate would likely get worse before it improves.

"I believe that we will see double-digit unemployment in Georgia," Michael Thurmond told reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday.

Thurmond's comments came after the Georgia Department of Labor reported that the number of people filing first-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits jumped 80.7 percent in January from the same month in 2008. Labor officials said Thursday that 120,139 people who have been laid off filed for benefits in January.

It's placing unprecedented pressure on the state's unemployment insurance trust fund, which pays jobless claims.

The fund paid out $140 million in January and another $144 million in December. Those are, by far, the highest payouts in the state's history, Thurmond said. The fund still has $753 million and Thurmond said he remained confident it would remain solvent for the remainder of 2009.

The state to move to....

So many North Carolina residents are unemployed that the state has borrowed $13 million from the federal government to pay its jobless benefits this week and likely will need to borrow again.

Employment Security Commission spokesman Larry Parker said Thursday that the $13 million covered two days of payments this week. The state, which has a $540 million line of credit with the federal government, may need to borrow again as early as Monday.

"Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays are the biggest payout days," Parker said. Although the unemployment insurance trust fund is "near zero right now," there was enough money to cover Thursday night's smaller payout, he said.

The loans are interest-free if repaid by October.

One reason for concern is that the state just received $71 million from 200,000 employers, which is the ESC's major quarterly payment, Parker said. The state does get some smaller employer payments throughout the quarter, but another large payment isn't due until May, he said.

The $71 million covers the fourth quarter, which typically is the smallest of the four major payments from employers, whose taxes fund unemployment benefits.

North Carolina's unemployment increased every month in 2008, almost doubling by the end of the year. The state started the year by paying $99.4 million in January and ended it with $194.2 million in December, Parker said.

Thirty U.S. states are at risk of having the funds that pay out unemployment benefits become insolvent over the next few months, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

Indiana's unemployment trust fund became insolvent last month and has borrowed twice from Washington since then - the first such loans to the state since 1983. It also expects to request an additional $330 million early next year.

Michigan, which has been borrowing money from the federal government for the past few years to replenish its fund, is now $508.8 million in the hole and unable to repay it. Next month the state, where the unemployment rate is more than 9 percent, will begin levying a special "solvency tax" against some employers to replenish its trust fund.

California, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and other states are inching toward insolvency as well and may have to borrow from the federal government to get through at least the first quarter of 2009.

In South Carolina, officials recently requested a $15 million line of credit.

"Right now we have $40 million in our trust fund, and we are paying out around $11 million a week," said Allen Larson, deputy executive director for the unemployment insurance program at the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. "So we think it is going to be very close as to whether or not we can get through this year. We have never experienced anything like this."

Officials in New York said the state was not in dire straits but very well may need to borrow in the first quarter of next year.

"With longer-term solvency issues due to the sharp increase in unemployment, federal borrowing quickly becomes expensive," said Loree Levy, a spokeswoman for the Employment Development Department in California, which is already facing a multibillion-dollar budget gap. "We are anticipating interest payments of $20 million in 2009-10, and if nothing is done to revise the revenue generation model, the interest would be $150 million in 2010-11."

As such, states then have to raise taxes or cut services, or both.

"Unemployment taxes are one of a number of taxes that make it difficult to do business here," said Robert Vincent, a spokesman for Gtech, a technology company in Rhode Island that focuses on the lottery industry.

In many cases, states that have kept unemployment tax rates artificially low, or in some cases decreased them, find themselves in the most dire situation. Indiana legislators, for example, reduced the tax rates for businesses by 25 percent in 2001.

"Frankly, they created the perfect storm," said John Ruckelshaus, the deputy commissioner for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. "The Legislature will have to go in and look at the whole unemployment trust fund first thing when they begin their session."

Barry Baer, a member of the subcommittee, said Indiana will probably have to borrow between $400 million and $500 million from the federal government to cover benefits between now and when the legislature can changes the law. And it will take an additional $500 million to $800 million to rebuild the fund so it is strong for the future.

A little dry humor for you....

April 23 (Bloomberg) -- The number of Americans filing first-time applications for unemployment insurance rose last week to 640,000 as forecast, while total benefit rolls reached a record, indicating the labor market continues to deteriorate.

“There is nothing suggesting at this point that payroll declines are going to abate,” said Tom Porcelli, a senior economist at Castlestone Management Ltd. in New York. “We could bounce along the bottom here for a while.”

The U.S. lost 663,000 jobs last month, Labor said April 3, and the unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent, the highest level since 1983.