Idaho Educators make early push to continue increasing teacher pay

Idaho Educators and the Push for Increasing Teacher Salary

On July 26, 2017, the Idaho State Department of Education received intentions from Education groups that their intent is to continue increasing teacher salary. Under current Idaho legislation, teacher’s salary is determined by using a career ladder. The House Bill for the career ladder was signed in 2015 and is a five-year plan to increase teacher pay. This career ladder was developed to give all teachers a pay raise, annually. When the plan is fully implemented in 2019-2020, teachers in the first three years of teaching will make $37,000 to $39,000 per year. Teachers with more than three years of teaching experience will make $42,500 to $50,000 annually. This plan raises the base teacher salary as well as experienced teacher’s salaries. The current average teacher salary in Idaho, reported by IDEdNews, is $45,207. Increasing teacher salary is something on which all sides appear to agree. It is the hope of all parties involved to attract teachers to Idaho.

Career Ladder

One of the hopes for the career ladder was attracting teachers to districts who were experiencing difficulty getting new teachers to apply at their schools. In 2015 for example, Northern Idaho pay was 15% less than a district 30 miles away in Washington. Another hope was to retain experienced teachers. Also in 2015, an experienced teacher could make $13,000 more by moving across the border into Oregon. This lack of pay for teachers developed a low morale among Idaho teachers. Neighboring states pay more in starting salary to their teachers. Over the course of five years, the career ladder will increase those salaries and help school districts attract and retain effective teachers.

After the bill was signed in 2015, school districts were given $33.5 million for teacher pay. Schools could decide how to implement the career ladder or if they wanted to implement the career ladder. Districts could keep their existing pay scale and negotiate pay raises. That was a popular option for many of Idaho’s school districts. The career ladder boosts beginning teacher pay, but one of the challenges will be finding money to keep experienced teachers. Most of the career ladder money goes to beginning teachers. The legislature chose not to create a top tier cap at $60,000. Instead, they capped it at $50,000. In the 2019-2020 school year, the Master Educator Premium will be instituted to reward Idaho’s most experienced teachers.

Another aspect of the career ladder is teacher evaluation. Most of Idaho uses the Danielson model for teacher evaluations. Idaho law requires that administrators conduct a minimum of two classroom observations per year for every teacher in the building. The creator of the model, Charlotte Danielson, is troubled by the fact a teacher evaluation is being used to award raises. Danielson is not the only one concerned about the evaluation. Currently, Idaho Governor Otter is concerned about the accuracy of teacher evaluations. The state needs an accountability piece to justify the millions spent on teacher pay. Because of those concerns, $1 million of funding has been provided to train administrators in teacher evaluations.

Top Issues for Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Education

Along with increasing teacher pay, the Superintendent of Public Education, Sherri Ybarra is going to try a third time to make a rural school support center a reality. She would like to see the mastery-based education pilot program expanded to more than the current 19 participants. Funding for technology in the classroom is also on her list of priorities. Superintendent Ybarra must have her budget package to the Governor Otter by September 1.

Top Issues for Idaho Education Leaders & Groups

Education Leaders also have more priorities than ensuring teacher’s salaries are increased. They would like to see increases in funding for classified staff that are not currently covered by the career ladder. Education leaders would like to see more local control of how their monies are spent rather than have certain dollar amounts earmarked for specific spending. Professional development funding for teachers to increase their skill set to help students is also another priority.

The Legislative School Funding Formula Committee will meet during the summer months to look at modifying or overhauling how Idaho schools are funded. They will be discussing insurance and Master Educator Premium issues. An Educator Pipeline Workgroup has also formed to look at possible solutions for Idaho’s teacher shortage.

Revisions to the Idaho Payday Loan Act, authored by Twin Falls Republican Sen. Lee Heider

When it comes to the payday lending industry in Idaho, Republican Senator Lee Heider has done what he can to protect consumers and help them stay out of the debt cycles that are all too common with short-term loans. While there is still work to be done, he has at least made progress.

Here’s how payday loans work in Idaho

The Payday Loan Process

For consumers in need of fast cash, payday loans are often the fastest option. The payday loan process is as follows:

1. The consumer goes to the payday loan company’s office and fills out brief paperwork.
2. As long as the consumer has a job and a bank account, the payday loan company will approve them for a loan.
3. The payday loan company lends the consumer their desired amount.
4. The consumer writes the payday loan company a check for the loan plus the finance charge.
5. The payday loan company waits until the next pay period, typically two weeks, and then cashes the consumer’s check.

The payday loan company doesn’t run a credit check on consumers and the entire process hardly ever takes longer than an hour. Because of this, payday loan companies get quite a few low-income borrowers and they need money to cover an emergency.

The Dangers of Payday Loans

So, what’s the problem with the payday lending industry? It all comes down to the interest rates on payday loans, which are astoundingly high. For comparison’s sake, a high-interest credit card or loan could have an interest rate of 36 percent. The average interest rate on payday loans in Idaho are 582 percent. That’s the highest in the nation, but it’s not like Idaho is an outlier here. In states where payday loans are legal, interest rates are almost always extremely high, unless there are laws preventing it.

Let’s say you get a payday loan for $1,000. At that interest rate of 582 percent, you’ll need to pay $242.50 in interest after the first two weeks, meaning you’ll write the lender a check for $1,242.50. One of two things would typically happen in Idaho after that. The lender would try to cash the check, but the consumer didn’t have the money and would get hit with overdraft penalties. Lenders often would try to cash checks several times resulting in more fees for the consumer.

Or, the consumer refinances their loan with the lender. The standard method of refinancing a payday loan is paying the interest and starting up a new term. The problem with this is you then need to pay more interest for that new term, putting you in the same position as before. The Idaho Payday Loan Act does put a limit to renewals on payday loans, capping them at three before the loan must be paid in full.

Changes to the Idaho Payday Loan Act

As of July 1, 2014, changes went into effect for the Idaho Payday Loan Act. Senator Heider sponsored Senate Bill 1314, which contained several provisions designed to protect consumers.

It started by putting a cap on the amount that payday loan companies could lend to consumers. The maximum amount for a payday loan is now 25 percent of the borrower’s gross monthly income or $1,000, whichever is lower. This ensures that consumers don’t borrow more than they can afford to pay back.

To keep consumers from getting hit with overdraft fee after overdraft fee, the bill stipulates that lenders can initial present the check once, and then present it again two more times should the loan still be unpaid.

To prevent consumers from ending up in a cycle of debt, the bill requires that lenders offer extended payment plans for consumers who request them. These payment plans give consumers the opportunity to repay a payday loan over 60 days in four equal payments without any extra fees. However, consumers can only request this for one payday loan every 12 months.

Finally, the bill requires payday loan companies to include a disclosure in 12-point bold, capitalized font. There are six disclosures that lenders must provide to all consumers. This ensures that consumers are fully informed regarding how payday loans work and their rights.

Interest Rates Are Still an Issue

The obvious omission from Senate Bill 1314 is anything related to payday loan interest rates, which can still be as high as the lender wants. That has led to some criticism that the bill doesn’t offer much in the way of protection that wasn’t already part of the Idaho Payday Loan Act.

Idaho Community Action executive director Terri Sterling says that consumers are still vulnerable and advocates for a 36-percent interest rate limit on payday loans. It would seem that this limit allows payday lenders to continue to make money while retaining a competitive advantage over other lenders that take longer to approve borrowers for loans. Of course, the payday lending industry always pushes back against anything that threatens its profits, and 36-percent interest is quite a bit smaller than 582-percent interest.

The good news is that more traditional lenders in Idaho have started offering short-term loans of their own with interest rates starting at 15 percent. This gives consumers who would have previously turned to payday loans another option.

The Future of Payday Lending in Idaho

Right now, the payday lending industry is still thriving in Idaho due to those high interest rates. While the consumer protections of Senate Bill 1314 help, they don’t solve the dangers of payday loans, and it’s a bit like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

If Idaho ends up capping short-term loan interest rates in the future, expect to see many payday loan companies leave the state. That’s what has happened in several other states that passed laws establishing interest rate limits for short-term loans.

Idaho officials pitch new plan to address Medicaid gap

Idaho Plans to Address Medicaid Gap

Medicaid has been an issue for the state of Idaho for several years now. Lawmakers are attempting to come up with creative solutions to address the problem. Idaho has had problems with Medicaid in the past with regard to cuts in services covered as well as billing problems. The Affordable Care Act was intended to help Idahoans by expanding coverage of Medicaid. Idaho elected not to expand. This article outlines the Medicaid gap, Idaho’s history with Medicaid expansion, how officials plan to solve the gap and what the plan would mean for residents.

Understanding the Medicaid Gap

Idaho is currently trying to solve a complex health care problem—getting the poorest in the state covered under health insurance. Right now it faces a Medicaid gap. When it was passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided for the expansion of Medicaid in order to give the poorest in each state medical coverage. After a Supreme Court ruling in June 2012 which made Medicaid expansion optional, Idaho decided not to expand the program despite later attempts to expand it.

For states that did elect to expand Medicaid, the ACA provides coverage to people who have incomes at or below 138% of the poverty line. In the case of Idaho, electing not to expand coverage meant keeping the very limited rules of Medicaid. In order to qualify for Medicaid in most states including Idaho, people must have a certain income threshold to meet.

Those that do not meet the income threshold for Medicaid must purchase insurance through the state insurance exchange. The Medicaid Gap forms when there are people who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford regular insurance.

About 2.6 million adults fall into this gap nationally. The Western region including Idaho has 3% of that population.

History of Insurance and Medicaid Expansion in Idaho

  • Shortly after the Supreme Court decision in 2012, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter requested a working group of Medicaid expansion and the creation of an Idaho insurance exchange. In November, the working group for Medicaid recommended expansion. For almost 4 years, bills were introduced in the legislature for expansion and the working group continued to recommend it too. But no progress was made with regard to Medicaid Expansion.
  • A plan called “Healthy Idaho” which would ensure those up to 100 percent of the poverty line through Medicaid is introduced in 2014. The remaining 38% in the 138 percent ACA provision are insured through state exchanges. It does not go anywhere at the time.
  • At the start of 2016, Governor Otter and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dick Armstrong introduced a primary care program targeted toward those in the Medicaid gap at a cost of $30 million. It hit a roadblock in the legislature. Democrats thought the coverage provided by the program should be more comprehensive. Republicans, in contrast, were wary of the cost and the idea of a welfare program.
  • A Medicaid expansion bill and a bill to implement Healthy Idaho are introduced at that time. But they don’t get anywhere. Around this time, lawmakers begin to discuss getting a Federal Medicaid expansion waiver in order to create their own state plan.

Trying to Get Coverage for All

As of the last attempt to expand Medicaid in March 2017, 78,000 people in the state fell into the coverage gap. They did not meet the income requirement and they didn’t make enough money to purchase insurance through the state exchange.

Instead of trying to expand Medicaid like they have in the past, Idaho officials now want to introduce waiversto the state legislators like they talked about in 2016. If approved, these waivers would ask the federal government to provide subsidies to adults that earn too much for Medicaid. These subsidies would help them afford insurance in the state exchanges. Medicaid would then be preserved for sicker patients to get the coverage they need. If the legislature passes the proposed plan, 38,000 people would be covered under health insurance and premiums would go down by 20%.

Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron and the now former DHW Dick Armstrong are behind this proposal. They estimate that 40% of insurance claims in the insurance exchange is made by the sickest adults which are about 2,500. Getting them off of the exchange is expected to lower premiums. The cost would be $22 million because the state would be partly matching Medicaid expansion funds from the Federal Government.

The plan will be discussed at the start of the 2018 legislative session.

Creating Stability

Officials have said that they have introduced this plan to stabilize the insurance marketplace mainly. This is to ensure that people have as many options for coverage as possible. The second purpose of the plan is to make sure as many people as possible get coverage.

Those who are currently costing the most on the state insurance exchange would not be required to switch to Medicaid. They could still buy insurance. However, it would offer those people access to cheaper prescriptions and their medical care costs would not be as high. Idaho currently gives women who are classified as low-income coverage under Medicaid for certain cancers. The state would simply be using the same framework and give it to more people.

Idaho would fair better under the ACA system if they took the Medicaid expansion provision. Up to 90% of the cost for the expansion would be matched by the Federal Government. But officials say that opting for their own plan is a better solution given the uncertainty of health care under Congress. Under the most recent healthcare bill, Graham-Cassidy, Idaho would receive a boost in funding. It would only be temporary though. Starting in 2027, the state would see massive cuts. So wariness of Federal healthcare is not completely unfounded.

The solution proposed by officials in Idaho is not an instant fix. If it is approved, the plan would take nearly a year to put into place. In the meantime, about 5 percent of the state population will still be in the Medicaid gap.

What to Know

  • 78,000 people are currently in the Medicaid Gap
  • Waivers would be introduced to the Legislature in 2018.
  • They would waive federal Medicaid expansion and request subsidies to cover people in the state exchange.
  • Sicker people have the option of going to Medicaid
  • Lower premiums would be in effect as a result
  • It would take 1 year to implement
  • The latest federal health care proposal would hurt Idaho in the long run.

Idaho Payday Loan Interest Rate Regulations

Payday loans have the highest interest rates of any type of loan. A report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stated that 64% of new borrowers will renew their payday loans. They have also concluded that more than 80% of borrowers do not show a decrease in principal amount owed when loans are renewed. Put simply payday loans create a cycle of debt that only forces consumers to continue borrowing.

How Do Payday Loans Work?

Lenders make money by charging customers a fee to borrow a certain amount. For example, you need to borrow $100. If the fee for borrowing $100 is $25, you would write a check to the lender for $125 dated for your next payday. If you don’t have the funds to pay the lender $125 by your next payday you can extend the loan by another pay period. More than half of the people who take out payday loans extend or roll over that loan. Extending the loan results in an additional fee of $25. Consequently, the initial cost of borrowing $100 has gone from $25 to $50. If you were to extend this loan 3 times the cost of borrowing that $100 has jumped to $100. In order to repay your debt you must now pay $200 to the lender.

Who Uses Payday Loans?

Many people who use payday loans are living paycheck to paycheck. Unexpected expenses cause people to seek out payday loans in order to avoid borrowing money from friends or family. These same people commonly don’t have good enough credit for other lenders such as banks and credit unions to offer them a loan. Consequently, they turn to cash advances on payday loans to make ends meet. Unfortunately those that utilize these companies end up in a recurring cycle of debt.

There are alternatives to payday loans. Usually local banks and smaller loan companies will be more forthcoming with lending than corporate chains. Most people want to avoid turning to family and friends for financial support. However, in comparison to payday loans it is a much better alternative. In the end those with payday loans will usually turn to family as a last resort in order to get out of the cycle of borrowing caused by the initial payday loan. Another option is to search for local government programs. Idaho offers temporary assistance programs that you can search and apply for here.

Idaho’s Payday Loan Regulations

Despite Idaho’s astronomical interest rates for payday loans there are regulations in place to help protect consumers. The Idaho Department of Finance prevents consumers from renewing a payday loan more than 3 times. They also prevent new payday loans being offered to those that have an outstanding balance of $1,000 or 25% of their gross monthly income, whichever is less. Consumers also have a one time opportunity in a twelve month period to convert a payday loan into an extended payment plan with no added penalties.

End The Cycle

If you have found yourself in a difficult financial situation remember that you have options:

  • Seek loans from local banks and credit unions.
  • Try smaller loan companies instead.
  • Search for local government programs.
  • Reach out to friends and family for help.

Educating yourself about these types of loans is the best way to protect yourself from them. If you are struggling to pay back a payday loan do whatever you can to avoid renewing that loan. Be sure to call your loan officer before the loan defaults and ask for the extended payment plan option. Idaho also offers a consumer affairs response program for those who would like to file a complaint against a licensed lender for violating any regulations in place by the state.

Idaho hotel owner is betting on a water-saving laundry machine that uses polymer beads

Water Saving Laundry Washers Hit Big in Idaho

Jerame Petry happened upon an article in Lodging Magazine that caught his attention. As the owner of three hotels in western Idaho, Petry often looks for ways to save money and increase profits. The article he read described a new type of commercial washing machine; one that uses nylon polymer beads and very little water and electricity. Jerame estimated he would be able to lower his water usage by 1.3 million gallons of water per year at his three hotels. He took a risk and leased three machines immediately.

The technology that drives these washing machines was discovered nearly 10 years ago at the University of Leeds School of Textiles in the U.K. Scientists realized these tiny nylon beads were incredibly effective at absorbing dirt and stains from clothes when mixed with a little bit of water and a different type of detergent.

The Xeros Corporation was the first company to incorporate this technology and bring their washers to market. They debuted in the U.S. at a trade show in New York, where potential customers (many of them hotel owners) were fascinated and a little bit skeptical at first. The potential savings, as well as the environmental impact, was too attractive to pass up.

The machines use thousands and thousands of beads to clean clothes. The washers utilize the nylon polymer beads with a tiny bit of water and a special detergent. The nylon beads act as sponges, soaking up dirt and debris. After the cycle is finished, the beads are removed from the washer and can be reused – up to 1,000 loads. The service fees and replacement beads run each user around $600 per machine per month.

By the time Petry read about this technology, the machines were already up and running in some areas of the U.S. The machines were effective and the savings were palpable. The reduction in carbon footprint for these machines was incredible.

The Xeros salesmen were claiming savings of:

  • 50% less energy
  • 50% less detergent
  • 80% less water

However, users of these machines were astounded to realize the actual water savings is closer to 90%. These machines clean more efficiently than regular commercial washers. And the beads are much gentler on clothes and linens. Some equate these gentle commercial washers to hand washing. A gentler wash for hotel linens mean a longer life and less replacement costs.

While Petry was the first to lease machines in Idaho, Xeros had already clients using these machines in California, Washington and Oregon. With a constant battle against drought, one California hotel operator leased three machines from Xeros. His estimated water savings after only one quarter was about 4 million gallons of water – or roughly the size of 6 Olympic swimming pools.

Petry is no stranger to taking risks on new technology. He conducted a lot of research on these machines and Xeros. When he realized how great the environmental benefits could be, his decision was made.

In all three of his hotels, Petry estimates his machines wash 580,000 pounds of laundry combined each year. Financial and environmental impacts aside, Petry also found that these washers cleaned more efficiently than traditional washers, allowing his housekeeping staff to wash more linens in a shorter amount of time.

The Hotel & Hospitality Industry is responsible for 15% of all commercial water use in the U.S. Not only is Petry saving money for his business, he’s also helping the environment. Whereas traditional hotels may save water usage by asking their customers to reuse towels and linens, Petry is going the extra mile with these washers.

It is very rare for innovative technology like this to come to the hotel industry. The potential impact and savings are huge. Jerame Petry hopes more hotels will follow in his footsteps.

Why You Need To Take a Closer Look at Idaho’s Business Tax Reimbursement

If you are a business owner based in Idaho or have plans to do business in Idaho, now would be a good time to take a closer look at the Business Tax Reimbursement Incentive and allow it to tip the scales for you.

Along with a combination of other benefits offered by the state of Idaho, the Business Tax Reimbursement Incentive alone is worth jumping on the bandwagon with others who have found it to be one of Idaho’s great game changers.

Those who do decide to jump on the bandwagon will be in good company as some very prominent businesses have already taken full advantage of all that this reimbursable tax benefit has to offer.

Here’s How It Works

The State of Idaho has put forth a tremendous amount of effort to encourage further business growth and expansion. And now, with the new Business Tax Reimbursement Incentive, there’s, even more of a reason to do business in Idaho.

“The TRI, short for the Idaho Tax Reimbursement Incentive went into effect on July 1st of 2014. It has already proven to be a game-changer in the state of Idaho. Just this past year both national and international attention has been given. They continued to rank in the top 10 list of several key performance areas. This includes areas such as job growth, economic strength, and business development. More specifically the rankings involved in the following areas:

• the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked the state of Idaho 6th in the nation for 2015 Best Economic Outlook
• They ranked 2nd for “Overall Most Friendly State for Business” by the Governing magazine
• They were ranked 1st in the nation for highest personal-income growth by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in 2013
• They were ranked the 5th-highest GDP growth rate in the nation by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
• Kiplinger ranked them 6th for the “State with the Fastest Job Growth

In addition to these accolades, they also experienced an $869 million wage increase. These incentives have enabled Idaho to generate a significant amount of momentum through investing into some of Idaho’s current as well as emerging industries, community development efforts and public-private partnerships programs. More specifically, the TRI has provided at least a 30 percent refundable tax credit to be implemented for up to a period of 15 years on all sales, income taxes and payroll. The program is designed to benefit companies that hire a minimum of 50 new employees above the average county wage, which is 20 new employees in rural areas.

Enormous success has been experienced with the implementation of their new incentive programs. They continue to experience a significant amount of interest from current companies who are interested in expanding or new companies who are considering having a presence in the state of Idaho.

As of July 1, 2014, 12 different projects have already been approved for the TRI, which has resulted in improvements in the following key performance areas:
• $869 million was generated in total wages
• 2,294 in total jobs generated
• $336 million in total capital investments:
• New State Revenue that totals $127 million

The state of Idaho takes business development and business growth strategies very seriously. Their government officials work diligently to bring as many opportunities to its Idaho citizens as possible. Their grant and other incentive programs have been the drawing card that has attracted more and more businesses to the state of Idaho than they’ve ever experienced before.

These incentives combined with their already high quality of life to include low costs, low taxes, and receptive government officials makes it the ideal place for business and to make Idaho your permanent place of residence.

Idaho Makes it Easy for Companies to Do Business in Idaho

If you are located in or near Idaho, you may want to consider taking a closer look at the Idaho Business Tax Reimbursement Incentive program as the economy is currently accelerating as a result of this and other programs.

Because of the key performance indicators indicated above, the state’s has made note of the companies that have been attracted to the state of Idaho to establish a new business or expand their existing business to Idaho. Those who decide to make the decision to do business in or expand to the Idaho area will be in good company as other prominent businesses have already taken advantage of its many benefits. These include household names such as SkyWest Airlines, Amy’s Kitchen, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and other business that has been recognized as one of Forbes list of the top 5,000 fastest-growing private companies, which includes Scentsy that ranked 516, Balihoo that ranked 853 and Pita Pit that ranked 4,256.

Existing businesses can also enjoy more and more opportunities being delivered by the State of Idaho in their effort to increase business growth and momentum.

More Reasons to Consider Idaho

In addition to the Business Tax Reimbursement Incentive, there are still even more reasons to consider doing business in Idaho. Such as the following indicated below:
• Their sensible business-friendly regulations make it easy for businesses to get set up and operate in Idaho by removing those regulations that are the most burdensome and interfere with progress and success.
• Their easy access to government programs and officials
• A fast and easy response team of key state government officials known for their ability to quickly respond to companies who are interested in doing business in Idaho.
• Their low taxes and costs

The government officials are also very friendly too. And they know that good relationships mean good business. Being business-friendly also means making it easier to do business in Idaho.
They are also adamant about placing premiums on all Idaho state agencies that remain connected to each other with the intent of responding as quickly as possible to the many opportunities that arise.

Their government officials are also very friendly and encourage networking to increase opportunities. If you are located in or near the Idaho area, you may want to consider their business incentives and all that Idaho has to offer.

Trump to Cut Agricultural Subsidies By $9 Billion: An Unpredictable Future for Rural America

Idaho farming regions in rural America, where Trump found some of his biggest supporters are going to take a big hit under the proposed 2018 budget. The USDA will see its budget cut by about 21 percent. This will mean that they have less money to spend on water programs and on staffing for its local Farm Service Agency offices countrywide. The recent election showed that Trump had a lot of support in the rural areas of Idaho. People facing economic hardship because of low crop prices turned on in drove to give Trump their support.

What Leaders Have to Say about It

While the director of market intelligence for the American Farm Bureau Federation agrees that the budget has to be balanced, they still oppose such cuts to agriculture. Collin Peterson, the House Ag Committee Ranking Member of Minnesota, said such cuts would be damaging to the heartland. He said that these cuts demonstrated that Trump had no understanding of the impact such cuts have on rural America. The USDA secretary has yet to be confirmed. Collin Peterson said that when the Agriculture Secretary took up his role, he would be able to explain how valuable these programs were to farmers in America. K. Michael Conaway, who is the House Agriculture Committee Chairman, also criticized the plan. He expressed concern that the cuts would hamper important work carried out by the department. He pointed out the fact that average farm income had dropped to about 50 percent of where it was just four years ago.

What about Mandatory Programs

The USDA has mandatory programs such as the nutritional assistance program and food stamps. These programs made up about 80 percent of its spending in 2016. The programs also include school lunch programs and child nutrition programs.

The Statistical Cuts

It is not yet clear whether Trump plans to cut the statistical capabilities of the USDA. The research staffs at the USDA produce reports and data about commodities such as hogs, cattle, and major crops such as wheat and soybeans. It is not yet clear which areas of statistics will be cut. However, it is an area of concern since all growers rely on market data when making planting, selling, and harvesting decisions.

In 2013, the USDA was forced to make cuts because of the sequestering. It led to the agency having to suspend some of its statistical reports. It was forced to cut its monthly cattle report and suspended data collection for some crops. However, it is not expected that there will be any major cuts, which would affect crop or price reporting.

In general, the USDA has more than 100,000 employees working in over 30 of its agencies and offices. The employees are found in over 4,500 locations across the country and abroad. USDA staff work abroad to promote agricultural trade for the US.

Some of the Hard Hitting Areas

One of the hardest hit areas by Trump’s budget is that of insurance premiums. The US government chips in to help Idaho farmers pay insurance premiums in case crop prices fall or the yield per acre falls. The result would be that the Federal government would reduce spending by about $28 billion in 10 years. Under the proposal, Trump wants to cap insurance subsidies for farmers at $40,000 for every farmer. The thinking behind this is that farmers do not really need incentives to take part in crop insurance. The reason for this is that having insurance is also already an important part of their business model.

Trump has proposed to cut subsidies to farmers by $9 billion. This will be achieved by reducing the maximum income level from $900,000 to $500,000 for one to be eligible. These cuts would also reduce the staff at the USDA by about 5.5 percent. This would lead to about 5,263 lost jobs. Economists and farmers all agree that agriculture needs more support. It employs about 11% of all employees in the US and contributes nearly $1 trillion to domestic productivity

There is No Need for Panic

Experts say there is no reason for farmers to worry. Brent Gloy, an agriculture economist, says it is going to be hard for Trump to get anything done. In fact, a seating member of Congress says the insurance cuts by Trump are unlikely to get past Congress. This is similar to proposed cuts by Obama and Bush, which never saw the light of day. Even farmers say that it is too early for Trump supports to feel let down by Trump. Subsidies for crop insurance have been helpful to farmers when wheat and corn prices have plummeted in recent years.

What Trump’s Side Has to Say

Trump’s administration says the proposed cuts are in line with the promise to balance the budget. Sonny Perdue, who is the acting secretary of Agriculture, says people knew what they were doing when they voted for Trump. He stated that these cuts were a chance for American people to see more being done with less. Some farmers are even supportive of these cuts. They believe that some subsidies are responsible for overproduction of certain crops, which hurts market prices. The budget will eliminate a flagship program known as Food for Peace. This was an international food aid program that would have cost the USDA $1.7 billion.

These are Merely Proposals

Of course, these are just proposals that Congress will have to consider. If past records are anything to go by, it is likely that Congress will reject a huge chunk of them. The agricultural committee chairmen of the House and Senate released a joint statement that did not directly talk about the proposal. However, they did promise to fight to ensure that farmers have a strong safety net.

Additionally, the Chairmen promised to ensure that nutritional assistance programs were aiding the most vulnerable in society. This is an indication that they will revive the rural-urban coalition, which has in the past worked to protect farm subsidies and food aid.

Montana & Idaho CDC Teams Up With Capital Matrix to Fund Start-Up and Existing Local Businesses

Montana & Idaho CDC (Community Development Corporation) and Capital Matrix, both nonprofits devoted to helping entrepreneurs who don’t quite qualify for a bank loan, are funding dozens of Idaho and Montana small businesses with millions of dollars of financing.

The two nonprofits are teaming up to do together what they both already do individually, which is lend critical investment capital to businesses that “almost” qualify for a traditional bank loan. The end-result of these “Good Samaritan Lending” efforts is numerous new small businesses creating thousands of new jobs in local Idaho and Montana communities.

Idaho is seeing strong economic growth in recent years, partly due to a business-friendly state government with low taxes, a low regulatory burden, and a constitutionally required balanced budget. Montana’s economy has also outpaced national economic growth, had perpetually lower unemployment rates, and above-average job growth numbers. The contributions and efforts of groups like Montana & Idaho CDC and Capital Matrix have capitalized on these favorable business environments as well as helped to create them.

Montana & Idaho CDC has more than a thirty year history behind it, but it was only in 2015 the group began operating in Idaho and in 2016 that “& Idaho” was added to their name. At this point, a majority of MICDC’s loan volume is Idaho-based and, by 2016, they had assisted over 50 Idaho businesses with timely, affordable business loans not otherwise obtainable. Dozens more small business loans are being issued by MICDC in 2017, and by 2019, it is expected the nonprofit will have have lent out 10 million dollars in Idaho alone.

MICDC specifically focuses on helping business men and women acquire business property, remodel property they already own, purchase essential equipment, or even buy out an existing business. Additionally, they offer valuable business consulting services and are involved in providing affordable housing to Montana residents. MICDC was among the original certified U.S. Community Development Financial Institutions, and their tax credit and other programs have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into Montana and Idaho communities over the last three decades.

Capital Matrix has the same basic vision as MICDC, to “bank almost bankable small businesses” so they can purchase or lease properties, stock up on initial inventory, and do everything else necessary to get off the ground and running. Capital Matrix is based out of Boise, and they allow Montana & Idaho CDC (which has several offices in Montana) to set up their Idaho office in the same building. Thus, the level of cooperation between these two nonprofits is truly remarkable.

Capital Matrix began in 1983 when the municipality of Boise, the local chamber of commerce, and individual Idaho entrepreneurs got together to find a way to promote local small business growth. Today, the nonprofit is privately owned and operated but is also a licensed administrator of the federal SBA 504 loans program.

In 2016, MICDC was awarded 90 million dollars in funds for the New Markets Tax Credit program in recognition of its longstanding commitment to helping local communities grow and prosper. That was the 7th time they received the award, making their all-time grant money for the program reach to over 400 million dollars. The New Markets fund is devoted to helping both start-up and expansion projects for Montana and Idaho businesses. The tax credits are also used to fund community buildings that benefit low-income residents.

Considering how many contenders there are every year for the New Markets Tax Credit program, it is remarkable that MICDC has “won” the application process so often. (Only around half of applicants are approved.) And Montana & Idaho CDC has made every dollar invested in the tax credit fund pay big dividends, creating over 2,000 permanent, good-paying jobs and bettering the lives of tens of thousands in local communities.

Some of the specific businesses and other projects helped by MICDC and Capital Matrix over the years include: Telaya Wine, Richard’s (a restaurant), Zeppole Baking, Valley Natural (jerky manufacturer), Red Lion Inn and Suites, the tribal administrative building for the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Universal Athletic Service HQ, and the Cameron Family Center run by the Great Falls Rescue Mission. The list could go on and on.

Both Montana & Idaho CDC and Capital Matrix have served budding entrepreneurs and local communities in Idaho and Montana for decades with critical financing not otherwise available. The total impact they have had, and continue to have, on the lives of local residents and on state and local economies is difficult to measure, but it is clearly great.