Weekly Reader

Friday, June 6, 2020

Year-end reporting – The State Auditor has worked to extend the deadline for local government annual reports since soon after the stay home, stay safe order was issued. The Auditor recognized the challenges local government would be facing as we worked through the Pandemic. On Friday, May 29 at 6:19 pm, the CWCOG and many of you received notice from the State Auditor that the deadline had been extended to June 17. The original deadline was Sunday, May 31. The CWCOG was among the 80 percent of the 1,800 local governments that filed on time. According to the State Auditor “Annual reports are a cornerstone of financial transparency in Washington, and I believe your communities should be proud of your efforts to file them”. I am proud and pleased that the CWCOG met this and other deadlines during this difficult period.

Economic Development
For the first time in many years, the unemployment rate in Both Cowlitz and Wahkiakum Counties is below the state unemployment. They are not good numbers, but it is better than being two points higher than the state average.

Month/Year Cowlitz Wahkiakum Washington State
April 2020 15.7% 13.2% 15.8%
April 2015 8.1% 9.1% 5.4%
April 2010 13.5% 16.9% 10.9%
April 2005 7.8% 8.1% 5.5%
Source: Employment Security Department/LMEA; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics

The Columbia River STEM Network has been working on a number of issues and opportunities over the last few months. Check out these resources – https://www.careerconnectsw.org/, Twitter #CareerConnectionSW, Facebook STEM@EDD112

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 2.5 million in May, and the unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent. These improvements in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Click here for the news release.

Here is a story from the Brookings Institute on how remote work may change America. Here is an excerpt from the full story – “Recently, both Facebook and Twitter announced that they would allow many of their employees to work from home permanently. Could Big Tech’s shift to remote work help address America’s uneven economic geography?”

Here is an interesting visual animated graphic from TIP Strategies regarding job losses and growth from 1999 to today.

The CWCOG and the Cowlitz Economic Development Council have been working to bring WSU’s, Trevor Lane to the region to discuss the possibilities of creating a Local Investment Network in the region. Please plan to attend this event titled “The State of Local Investment Networks in WA:  Vital Now More Than Ever” on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 2:00-3:30 Zoom Webinar. Several communities around Washington have established Local Investment Networks (LIN) to enable community members to invest in local businesses.  This supports local entrepreneurs, builds lasting community relationships, and grows local economies. This lively discussion will featured speaker, Michael Shuman, author of several books including: Put Your Money Where Your Life Is, Local Dollars, Local Sense and The Small Mart Revolution. Partners from the Association of Washington Cities and the WSU Extension Office will share about their work to launch these Investment Networks around the state. These inspiring presentations will be followed by local leaders who have been matching investors with small businesses for several years. They will be share about their processes and their experiences, and share stories about how these business connections have influenced their communities.  Click here for registration information. Watch for information on a regional forum on this issue in the coming months as allowed.

According to SHRM – “Around 1.8 million U.S. workers filed for new unemployment benefits during the week ending May 30. First-time claims have been gradually falling since hitting a record 6.8 million in late March, indicating that the downturn triggered by a near shutdown of the country in mid-March to control the spread of COVID-19 is bottoming out. It is important to note however that another 623,000 self-employed, independent contractors and other nontraditional workers claimed unemployment last week under the newly created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program providing jobless benefits to workers previously not eligible for unemployment. Click here for more on this story.

CWCOG is required by federal and state regulations to develop a Transportation Improvement Program for its Metropolitan and Regional Transportation Planning Organization that covers a four-year period. The Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP) identifies and priorities federally funded and/or regionally significant transportation projects within both the MPO and RTPO. One of the primary purposes is the RTIP is to identify the transportation projects to be included on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for Washington or Oregon. Related to the RTIP, an Annual Listing of Obligated Projects is published annually in March to track the progress made towards implementation of projects programmed in the RTIP. The Annual Listing of Obligated Projects is a federal requirement and only includes projects in the MPO and Cowlitz County. Click here for access to the mapping element of the projects listed on the RTIP.

Community Development / Other
Wahkiakum County approved for phase 3 opening by the state. The County received a letter from the state Dated June 5 providing formal notice of the approval of the Phase III application with certain conditions.

On Thursday, Cowlitz County reached its 2010 self-response rate when 66.4% of all households had answered the census.  Cowlitz County is the eighth county in the state to reach this milestone! This success is a direct result of the efforts of the Complete Count Committee members and many CWCOG members that have assisted in the effort.  Thank you all for the support in reaching this goal. Let me know if you need thoughts or ideas on how to continue the effort and enhance our self-reporting success. We still have work to do to ensure our fair share of funding for the coming decade.

Cost-effectiveness strategies for schools. Learning loss has real consequences for individual students as well as major economic repercussions for the United States as a whole. A. Brooks Bowden and Rebecca Davis explain how schools can effectively allocate their resources to combat the issue.

The Environmental Finance Center Network is offering technical assistance free of charge to small drinking water systems serving 10,000 or fewer people. Services include a resource help desk, financial health check-up, water and wastewater rates analysis tool, and a financial resilience dashboard. Click here for more information.

There will be significant challenges ahead as we move forward in efforts to rebuild our lives and our economy. The Brookings Institute has published Volume I: Reopening America with the Volume II: Reopening the World report anticipated soon. The document covers a wide variety of issues from leadership challenges to metrics to help with decision-making. It addresses ways to preserve jobs and to assist low-wage workers as we work through the recovery. There are specific chapters on reopening schools, government operations, the health system and possible impacts of AI and emerging technologies. Click here for the report.