The Capitol Beat: September 16-20, 2013

From Gaffney, Bennett & Associates

September 16, 2013 – September 20, 2013

Connecticut’s unemployment rate continues to hover between 8 percent and 8.1 percent, vexing an administration that has tirelessly recruited and promoted the state and its workforce.  Even the Fed seems at a loss to explain the national unemployment numbers, opting this week to continue the infusion of cash into the economy for fear of destabilizing the fragile recovery. Here are some numbers and news from the week.

  • State Labor Department Announces August Jobs Decline, Revises July Gains Downward   

Call it the summer doldrums.  The state Labor Department Thursday announced that the state lost 6,000 jobs in August as slight gains in private sector employment failed to offset losses in the local government sector.  In addition, the DOL revised July’s employment numbers downward from 11,500 job gains to 9,600. Over the past eight months the state added 15,400 jobs compared to the same period in 2012.

  • More About Less from the DOL

According to the DOL, the financial services sector in Connecticut – long an iconic industry in the Land of Steady Habits – has not been immune from the recession.  Though the industry has begun a slow comeback nationwide, here at home the industry has lost and not regained 13,000 jobs since 2008. Current employment stands at 130,000 in Connecticut, compared to 143,200 in 2008 according to the state DOL.

  • Access Health CT to Redouble Efforts to Solidify Plan Networks

Racing to remove speed bumps and work out final glitches before the October 1 open enrollment period, those powering up Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, aka Access Health Connecticut, were asked to redouble their efforts to nail down who would be participating in the networks.  While the state Department of Insurance has approved and made public the cost to consumers of signing up for the bronze, gold or platinum plans, little is known about what the provider networks will look like under those plans. At the final meeting of the Board before the rollout on October 1, executive director of Access CT, Kevin Counihan, emphasized that the networks must be solidified and updated sooner rather than later.  Minimum network adequacy standards developed by the Exchange require participating insurance plans to offer networks that are “substantially similar” to those they currently offer in the state. “The goal is to make sure there is reasonable access to care,” said Access Health CT’s marketing director.

Also at Thursday’s Exchange Board meeting, it was revealed that while two call centers have been opened in Hartford and New York to field questions about the Exchange, the participating plans have yet to be certified to participate.   And finally, the chief financial officer for the Exchange said the cost of ramping up and rolling out the insurance marketplace is expected to be about $158 million, much of which has been and will continue to be subsidized by grants from the federal government under the Affordable Care Act – at least until 2015.

  • CL&P, UI Sign Long-term Contracts to Buy 270 MW of Clean Energy

Governor Dannel Malloy today announced that the state’s two largest utilities have signed long-term contracts to purchase 270 MW of electricity and renewable credits.  The electricity will be purchased from a photovoltaic solar installation to be developed in Sprague and Lisbon, Connecticut by HelioSage Energy (20 MW), and from a land-based wind farm in northern Maine, being developed by EDP Renewables of North America (250 MW).  CL&P and UI said they expect the projects to be operational by 2016.

  • September Bond Commission Bountiful   

Some of the big ticket projects included on the preliminary September 27  Bond Commission agenda include: school construction projects ($250 million);  low-and-moderate income housing ($44.5 million in DECD/DOH housing grants); Bridgeport waterfront development ($31 million); manufacturing assistance grants ($15.6 million); energy microgrids ($15 million); school security ($10 million); and Small Business Express program ($5 million).Have a look:

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