8 Numbers That Sum Up The Financial Crisis Facing State And Local Governments


As the coronavirus crisis continues to force business closures and layoffs across the country, state and local finances are stretched to the limit. The cost of healthcare and public services is soaring as states attempt to contain the virus. Meanwhile, tax revenues are plummeting as jobs disappear and spending slows.

Here are eight numbers that sum up the crisis.

$555 billion

That’s the combined budget shortfall that states are projected to face through 2022, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


That’s the percentage of cities that say it will be more difficult to meet the financial needs of their communities in fiscal year 2021 compared to the prior, according to a new report from the National League of Cities.


That’s the portion of cities that delayed capital expenditures or infrastructure projects in June, according to the NLC.

1.2 million

That’s how many local government jobs have been lost since pandemic hit the United States in February, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


That’s the weekly payment states were initially asked to contribute to President Trump’s proposed federal unemployment supplement. States immediately balked at the plan, with many refusing to commit or saying their budgets were already stretched too thin. New guidance this week clarified that states won’t have to chip in, after all, to be eligible to pay out a federal $300 benefit through the new program.

$9.9 billion

That’s how much New Jersey can borrow to cover the budget shortfalls created by the coronavirus crisis, according to a New Jersey Supreme Court decision. Hawaii and Illinois have also considered loans to fill budget gaps.

$150 billion

That’s the amount of federal aid the Cares Act, signed into law in March by President Trump, provided for state and local governments.

$1 trillion

That’s how much additional aid Democrats allotted for state and local governments in the Heroes Act, the $3+ trillion aid package they passed in May. Republicans, on the other hand, didn’t include any additional state aid in their proposal. This issue has been a major sticking point in negotiations over the next bill. So far, top Democrats and the Trump Administration have not been able to reach an agreement.

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I’m a breaking news reporter for Forbes focusing on economic policy and capital markets. I completed my master’s degree in business and economic reporting at New York University. Before becoming a journalist, I worked as a paralegal specializing in corporate compliance.

Source: Forbes


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Life After Forever 21: How To Reduce Your Personal Cost Per Wear


Forever 21, the fast-fashion retailer that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late September, announced this week it will be shuttering 200 stores—a fourth of its total worldwide. For a time, founders Do Won and Jin Sook Chang, who established the company in 1984, brilliantly capitalized on American teenagers’ taste for flocking to the mall and buying the latest fashion—-on the cheap. At the company’s peak, they had a combined net worth of $5.9 billion.

But times changed. Foot traffic to malls has declined. Moreover, some Millennial and GenZ consumers are pushing back against fast fashion and looking for more sustainable ways to dress.

The appeal of fast fashion has always been the ability to dress stylishly at a low cost. But dressing sustainably doesn’t have to break the bank—particularly if you think of clothing costs on a Cost Per Wear (CPW) basis. After all, while fast fashion items may be trendy, they’re not exactly known for durability.

Here are five ways to move on from fast fashion, without breaking the bank on a CPW basis.

1. Start Buying “Investment Pieces”

If you’ve ever pulled some new fast fashion find out of the washer to find it’s shrunken, discolored, or otherwise unwearable, you know: Cheap clothing means cheap quality. Fast fashion is inexpensive up front, but it makes you continuously pay to replace defunct items, meaning your overall savings likely diminish (or vanish) over time.

Instead, start purchasing “investment pieces,” or higher-quality clothing items (which often means more expensive) for your closet staples.

If you’re struggling to justify a $100 work blazer, do the CPW math in your head: Divide the item’s total cost by the number of times you expect to wear it. For example, if you wear the $100 work blazer twice a week  (or 100 times per year, assuming a two week vacation) that means the cost per wear is $1 per wear—-if it only lasts a year. Assuming it lasts two years, you’re down to a $0.50 CPW. That’s the same CPW as a $25 blazer that lasts six months.

You get the idea. A quality blazer could end up with a lower CPW than the cheap version.

Today In: Money

2. Take Advantage of Rewards, Cash Back and Loyalty Programs

There are ways to save on more costly clothing items—-not only looking for sales but also being strategic in how you pay for purchases.  Using a cashback rewards card, for example, will give you instant savings. The Citi Double Cash Back card, for example, grants 2% back on every purchase.

If you really want to maximize your savings though, you could super stack your purchase with an online cash back portal, like Rakuten (formerly eBates) which can sometimes offer as much as 10% cash back while shopping.

You could even take it a step further by enrolling in specific stores’ loyalty programs—-which are making a comeback. After a certain amount is spent at the store in a given time period, you could be eligible for a discount on your next purchase. The North Face’s loyalty program, VIPeak, rewards members with 10 Peak Points for every $1 spent online and in retail stores. Points can be redeemed for discounts on purchases.

Read more: The Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Read more: Loyalty Rewards With No Credit Strings Attached

3. Don’t Shy Away From Consignment

If you don’t frequent thrift and consignment stores, let me tell you a secret: You’re missing out.

I used to be someone who hated thrifting—not because I’m too pompous to wear secondhand clothes, but because giant thrift stores overwhelm me. After moving to New York, however, I’ve learned that they are worth the extra effort (and hour) to sort through their massive collections.

I recently bought five cashmere sweaters for $3 each. Last year, I managed to find a vintage little black dress by Dolce & Gabbana for $80—with the tags still on. If you take the time to really dig through those racks, you can find high-quality clothing for low prices. (Just imagine the CPW on those sweaters!)

4. Sell Items You No Longer Want

Fast-fashion contributes to the appalling amount of clothing discarded each year. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the main source of textiles in municipal solid waste is discarded clothing; in 2015, it comprised 6.1% of total waste that year. Synthetic materials found in this clothing can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

If you buy quality items, and at some point they no longer suit you, you can sell them.

Apps like Poshmark, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace make selling unwanted goods a breeze. I personally use Poshmark, mainly for its convenience; instead of having to coordinate busy schedules with someone, I just pack up the item and drop it off at the post office instead. (This convenience, though, does cost money: Poshmark takes a cut of your sale.)

Old jeans too worn to sell? Recycle them at Madewell and the retailer will give you a coupon for $20 off a new pair, while turning the denim into housing insulation. (Look for more such initiatives as the fashion industry confronts its sustainability problems.)

5. Rent One-Time Outfits

Special events usually call for one-time outfits. As ridiculous as it sounds, be realistic: Things like wedding guest and formal gowns are often worn just once.

Instead of spending hundreds on one-time outfits—and then letting them collect dust in your closet—consider renting these pieces instead. Online services like Rent the Runway and Le Tote pride themselves on sustainable fashion. For example, a $750 Badgley Mischka gown can be rented on Rent the Runway for only $130. Most offer monthly memberships, too, which means you can swap out trends in your closet for a fixed cost each month.

Since many consumers are renting a single item, in theory, the demand for clothing production will lessen, which makes these items “sustainable.”  (A new peer-to-peer rental app in England aims to take this one step further by arranging for customers to rent each other’s clothing, so no new items are bought by the service.)

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I’m a personal finance writer on the Money and Markets team at Forbes. Previously, I covered personal finance at other national web publications including Bankrate and The Penny Hoarder. I’ve been featured as a personal finance expert in outlets like CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, CBS News Radio and more. When I’m not digging up the best ways to manage your money, I’m out traveling the world. Follow me on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

Source: Life After Forever 21: How To Reduce Your Personal Cost Per Wear

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Home Improvement & Remodeling Ideas that Increase Home Value (And What to Avoid) – Heather Levin


With the real estate market still in a slump, more and more people have decided not to sell their home. Instead, they have chosen to stay put, until things get better. I count myself in this group; I had my own home on the market for two years. My house sold, and the sale fell through, on two separate occasions. As a result, I’ve resolved to stay put until the real estate market improves.However, now that I’ve decided to stay in this home instead of moving, I plan to make several home improvements to make my home more comfortable (e.g. building a sunroom to combat the dreary Michigan winters, and building a backyard deck)…..

Read more: https://www.moneycrashers.com/7-home-improvements-to-increase-its-value



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America’s Real Economy: It Isn’t Booming – Peter Georgescu


Ostensibly, for the past ten years, US economy has been recovering from the 2008 collapse. During the past few years, our comeback seems to have gained momentum. All the official indicators say we’re back in boom times, with a bull market, low unemployment and steady job growth. But there is an alternative set of data that depicts a different America, where the overlooked majority struggles from month to month.

The Nation recently published a stunning overview of the working poor and underpaid. One of the most powerful data points in the piece described how empty the decline in unemployment actually is: having a job doesn’t exempt anyone from poverty anymore. About 12% of Americans (43 million) are considered poor, and yet they are employed. They earn an individual income below $12,140 per year, and slightly more than that for a family of two. If you include housing and medical expenses in the calculation, it raises the percentage of Americans living in poverty to 14%. That’s 45 million people.

At that level of income, there’s almost no way to pay for food and shelter in any sizeable American city. That means people now can both be employed and homeless. Rajon Menon writes, for The Nation:

In America’s big cities, chiefly because of a widening gap between rent and wages, thousands of working poor remain homeless, sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or in their vehicles, sometimes along with their families.

Fewer and fewer people have savings to weather time between jobs or an emergency expense. A third of the U.S. population has no savings and another third has saved less than $1,000. Two-thirds of American households, by this measure, are desperately scrambling to make ends meet from check to check. Nearly half the American population earns too little to live on comfortably:

One-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42% earn less than $15. That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs.

Even in households that combine income from two wage-earners, it’s rarely enough to live on without anxieties about money. It takes an average of a little more than $100,000 per year now for a household to be able to live without anxieties about money.

Slow and steady inflation has eroded buying power over the past decade. According to The Nation, the minimum wage rose to $7.25 by 2009, but since then inflation has eroded 10% of its buying power. So this year, someone will have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.

  • Healthcare costs are projected to go up 20% in the coming year.
  • Credit card debt has crested at a trillion dollars and is projected to increase at 4.7% by 2020.
  • Wages have been increasing by only 2.9% per year.
  • For the young, education debt has reached a record $1.52 trillion.

How long is this sustainable?

What’s genuinely astonishing to me is that the private sector doesn’t see the immense danger in all this—not simply the prospect of a collapse from enormous household debt loads, but the prospect of civil unrest after another huge correction like the one in 2008. Our current course is unsustainable. And for all the proposals for changes in public policy to ameliorate income inequality, only the private sector can get the nation on a better track by raising wages, increasing benefits and investing in new ventures and expanded markets.

There are numerous ways in which our wealthiest companies could help change the course of our economy. Here are some suggestions from Larry Thompson, former executive VP for PepsiCo, and his coauthors writing for Fortune magazine:

  • Get involved in early education for children of employees. Programs that start at birth can lift their earnings by up to 26%. At PNC Financial Services Group, their Grow Up Great program has served over 2 million children throughout the U.S., through grants to organizations that support early learning in math, science, and the arts.
  • Fund higher education for existing employees. In collaboration with Southern New Hampshire University, Anthem Insurance (ANTM, -0.06%) recently began making associate’s or bachelor’s degrees available at no cost for 50,000 eligible workers. Another company, FedEx, partners with nearly 20 higher education institutions including Western Governors University.
  • Businesses also should look to re-employ the long-term unemployed, Frontier Communications has hired more than 250 of the long-term unemployed in 2014 alone by eliminating most qualifications and simply observing how well applicants communicated.

These initiatives only scratch the surface, but they are exactly what all companies need to be thinking of doing. If every employer in America came up with even just one modest step—higher wages, regular profit sharing, tuition reimbursement—to help workers spend and save more, the nation would begin to right itself economically. It needs to happen now. We’re running out of time.



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Controlling Costs: Should You Buy New or Used Equipment? – Pj Germain


Making a profit is the primary reason that most businesses are started. Nobody goes into business with the goal of losing money. Once you have committed to starting a business a large portion of your mental energy will be spent on trying to find ways to increase its profitability. Depending on the type of business in question, there may be various marketing methods that work better to spread the word and make potential customers aware of your offering.

While growing your business is the most obvious way to generate greater profits, there are other means to give your business a better chance of being successful. In the restaurant business, there are a number of ways that you can control costs through your purchasing decisions. Searching for better deals on locally grown produce and constantly comparing distributors for the best prices can help minimize costs and increase your profit margin. Finding a used food trailer or food truck for sale can save you a lot of cash when you are looking to expand your business outreach.

Restaurants use a lot of different kinds of equipment to serve their customers. Some of this equipment is visible to the clientele and some is out of sight in the kitchen or a back room. This means that in some instances the appearance of the piece of equipment can be as important as its functionality. In other cases, the primary concern is that the item operates properly and looks are not a consideration when making the purchase.

When you are attempting to control costs in your operation you have the option of buying new or used equipment for your restaurant business. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and disadvantages of buying new or used restaurant equipment to help you decide which way to go when planning your purchasing strategy.

Buying New Equipment

New equipment usually comes with a higher price tag than used equipment. According to katom.com, there are a number of factors that may sway you toward buying new equipment despite the savings inherent in buying used items. Here are some of the major reasons you may want to purchase new rather than used restaurant equipment.

  • Reduced maintenance – New equipment is less likely to need maintenance than a used component. Service calls are expensive and can quickly eat up the savings that you thought you had achieved by buying second-hand equipment. Parts may also be hard to obtain in the event that a replacement is required.
  • Longer warranties – New equipment will have a manufacturer’s warranty that may extend for the life of the item. Contrast this with the short-term warranty you might get with a used piece of equipment.

Controlling Business Costs

  • Better performance – Technological advances will often mean that a newer piece of equipment will perform at a higher level and also be constructed to minimize water and power consumption. This leads to steady savings over the life of the equipment.
  • Get exactly what you need – If you are ordering a new piece of equipment you can insist on getting all of the features that you need and desire. You may have to make concessions when buying used and have to settle for a less than optimal component for your restaurant.
  • Conform to health standards – As technology advances and materials such as stainless steel are used more often to assist with cleaning, health standards also evolve. That used piece of equipment that you are considering buying may end up causing you some issues with the health inspectors and have to be replaced sooner than you had planned.

Buying Used Equipment

Used equipment can afford you substantial financial savings over purchasing brand new machinery. While at first glance, this may be all of the incentives you need to buy used stuff, slow down for a minute. As with any strategy that saves you money, there are some aspects of buying used restaurant equipment that you need to consider before making your decision. According to restaurant.org, here are some of the key factors to keep in mind when thinking about purchasing used equipment.

  • Know your requirements – If the equipment is an essential part of your business, such as a pizzeria’s oven, you should be cautious of used components. Make sure that the equipment that you are buying is actually what you need, and not a compromise determined solely by price.
  • Cost of the used item – Paying more than 50% of what a new piece of equipment would cost is probably not worth the savings.
  • Consider the total cost of ownership – You may save some money on the initial purchase, but over time a used item may end up costing you more in operating expenses. Saving on energy and water bills can help boost your bottom-line, and older models that are not as efficient can offset any saving made in the purchase price.
  • Reconditioned equipment – If the seller has reconditioned the item and perhaps replaced parts, it may be more serviceable than one that is bought “as is”, but will generally have a higher price tag.

Used Equipment for Sale

  • Warranties – Some dealers offer 30 to 90-day warranties on used equipment. This will not be the case for items bought at auction or through a private individual where no warranty is the norm.
  • Service and part availability – Can your equipment be serviced and can you obtain replacement parts? If not, it is a very risky undertaking if it is an important part of your operation.
  • Check the operability of the equipment – Ask the dealer to hook it up and see how it works. A reputable dealer will do that, though when buying used parts online this not practical.
  • Does the equipment stand up over time – Ovens, ranges, and stainless steel tables will last for a long time with no performance degradation. Other items like dishwashers and ice machines may not have as long a life if not maintained properly by the former owners.

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