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Unemployment Trust Fund tapped for fraction of potential relief

2276 words / VTDigger.org

Vermont legislators agreed in May to offer up to $8.67 million in refunds and discounts to businesses that laid off workers in the wake of 2011′s disastrous floods.

But only 75 employers, among the untold eligible businesses hailing from every county in the state, applied for the unemployment insurance relief. Instead of giving breaks for a “worst-case” scenario of 11,247 layoffs, the state forgave at least partial charges on just 299.

On their July 1 unemployment insurance bills, 54 businesses accepted $264,178.53 in refunds.

“Really, that’s all? Wow,” said Steve Moyer, CFO of Woodstock Farmers’ Market.

Federal reforms pushing flood insurance rates ever higher

1199 words / VTDigger.org

When it comes to flood insurance in Vermont, it’s federal reforms that worry Susan Donegan.

“You can debate global warming,” Donegan said, “but you can’t deny that we’re having more severe and more frequent severe storms.” Known as BW-12, the Biggert-Watters Act was crafted to address that reality and shore up federal flood insurance in its wake.

Donegan doesn’t argue the intention, but she’s concerned about what its drastic changes will mean for Vermont property owners.

Leahy proposal would alter EB-5 job creation formula

946 words / VTDigger.org

Proposed changes to the controversial EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program would tweak the job creation requirement. Full-time employment defined as one person working at least 35 hours per week would be replaced by the equivalent of a full-time job, “regardless of how many employees fill the position.”

Aviation and aerospace industries land in Vermont

947 words / VTDigger.org

When Adam Truso returned to Vermont after flying Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq, he wanted to transition to civilian employment.

But most of what he found in the want ads were jobs as nurses and Walmart greeters, Truso said. Wasn’t he surprised when a contact from the Vermont Department of Labor introduced him to Liquid Measurement Systems in Georgia.

Truso now works in the sales and marketing division for LMS — a company considered an anchor in Vermont’s $2 billion aviation and aeronautics industry.

Capitol Hill controversy puts EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program in national spotlight

In-depth daily article explaining the connection between a national controversy and a state-run business plan. / 1173 words / VTDigger.org

Controversy on Capitol Hill this week shined a national spotlight on one of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s signature economic development initiatives — a program that plays a key role in Vermont’s business strategy.

Monday, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General revealed to a lawmaker an ongoing investigation into Alejandro Mayorkas. The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the No. 2 position at the Department of Homeland Security.

Mayorkas had been accused of mismanaging the federal Immigrant Investor Program, also called “EB-5” for the type of visa it affords. Leahy is in the process of pushing Congress to make EB-5 permanent after 20 years in a pilot stage. The program — until Monday — had remained fairly obscure by national standards, despite a recent spike in use. But in Vermont, EB-5 plays a prominent role.

The art, science and mystery of nonprofit news assessment

by Charles Lewis and Hilary Niles / grant-funded research on measuring the impact of nonprofit journalism / Investigative Reporting Workshop

A review of recent, relevant literature and informal conversations with experts in the field reveal growing ambitions toward the goal of developing a common framework for assessing journalism’s impact, yet few definitive conclusions about how exactly to reach that framework. This is especially the case when journalism’s “impact” is defined by its ultimate social outcomes — not merely the familiar metrics of audience reach and website traffic.

This grant-funded research explores the realm of nonprofit journalism assessment, borrowing principles from philanthropic and other media circles. The report gained attention from such media watchers as The Poynter Institute, Nieman Journalism Lab and the American Press Institute.

Nature

I have worked to develop visual skills for my reporting, and I also enjoy photography as a hobby.

Click the link to see thumbnails and a slideshow of a small selection of images from nature.

Kurt Schaefer wins re-election to 19th District Missouri Senate seat

No Republican representing Columbia and Boone County has ever been re-elected to the Missouri Senate for a second term. Until now.

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, defeated his challenger from the House, two-term state Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, by a 15.8 percent margin Tuesday.

“On an evening when Missourians have shown they are unbound by party, they have told us one thing unmistakably. They want us to pull together. And in my second term, I will be in the harness with the great Boone County delegation to make sure we get the things done we need to get done.”

Despite the wins for Schaefer and his new counterpart in the 44th District Missouri House seat, Republican Caleb Rowden, the mood was subdued as news came in that President Barack Obama had been re-elected.

988 words / The Columbia Missourian