Millions Available For Travel, Tourism, And Outdoor Recreation Federal Grants

Millions Available For Travel, Tourism, And Outdoor Recreation Federal Grants

By Terri Jo Neff |

Only two weeks are left to apply to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for grant funding under the American Rescue Plan Act for Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation.

The EDA aims to assist communities and regions in recovery from the coronavirus pandemic’s significant negative impact on the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors. The grant program is designed to provide a wide-range of financial assistance to communities and regions to rebuild and strengthen their travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation industry through various infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects.

EDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has already issued $510 million in tourism grants directly to states, including nearly $6 million to Arizona. Another $240 million is set aside for EDA Competitive Tourism Grants to at least 150 applicants. 

According to EDA, eligible entities are a public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with a general purpose political subdivision of a State; an institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education; a State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, or a consortium of political subdivisions; an Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes; or a District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District.

Eligible applicants for EDA’s Competitive Tourism Grants are advised to apply no later than Jan. 31, so the agency can review and process the application in time to get a potential award in place prior to deadlines imposed by Congress. Any award is subject to the availability of funds.

Additional information is available at https://eda.gov/arpa/travel-tourism/faq/

Maricopa County Ranks 13th In U.S. For Most Investment Income Earned By Residents

Maricopa County Ranks 13th In U.S. For Most Investment Income Earned By Residents

By Terri Jo Neff |

When all of the investment income earned by Maricopa County residents is combined, the county ranks #13 in the United States with an Investment Index of 26.48. By comparison, Pima County ranked 79th in the nation with an Investment Index of 4.93.

That’s the findings of SmartAsset, which used data sourced from the Internal Revenue Service’s Statistics of Income County Data to compare the 3,006 counties in the U.S. on three metrics: Net Capital Gains, Ordinary Dividends, and Qualified Dividends*. The rankings are based on countywide totals without a per capita adjustment.

“We calculated an Investment Index for all U.S. counties based on a combination of these three statistics and ranked them accordingly to provide a holistic view of what areas of the U.S. are generating the most investment income,” SmartAsset announced Friday.

The Top 10 counties by Investment Income are:

New York County (NY), Investment Index of 100.00

Los Angeles County (CA), Investment Index of 80.03

Cook County (IL), Investment Index of 57.25

Palm Beach County (FL), Investment Index of 45.24

Santa Clara County (CA), Investment Index of 44.64

King County (WA), Investment Index of 41.81

Harris County (TX), Investment Index of 34.25

San Francisco County (CA), Investment Index of 31.78

Miami-Dade County (FL), Investment Index of 30.17

Orange County (CA), Investment Index of 30.11

*Ordinary Dividends are payments made by a company to their shareholders and are taxed as regular income, whereas Qualified Dividends are dividends that meet certain requirements set by the IRS and are taxed at a lower capital gains tax rate. Net Capital Gains refers to the amount an asset has increased or decreased in value realized when the asset is sold.

A nationwide map is available at https://smartasset.com/investing/capital-gains-tax-calculator?year=2021#us

FDIC Political Strife Will Leave No Republicans On Board Of Directors

FDIC Political Strife Will Leave No Republicans On Board Of Directors

By Terri Jo Neff |

Jelena McWilliams, the Trump-appointed chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and only Republican on the board of directors, is resigning her position after accusing three Democratic directors of engaging in “a hostile takeover” of the agency responsible for maintaining stability and public confidence in the nation’s financial system.

News of McWilliams’s unexpected resignation effective February 4 was buried in a press release issued on New Year’s Eve. She took the helm of the FDIC in June 2018 after being confirmed by Congress to serve a five-year term as chair of what is supposed to be an independent agency that examines and supervises more than 5,200 banks and financial institutions for safety, soundness, and consumer protection. It also manages receiverships and insures deposits.

McWilliams’ announcement came just two weeks after she submitted an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal warning of the politization of America’s banking system.

The former executive vice president for Fifth Third Bank wrote of how for nearly 90 years day-to-day FDIC operations were delegated to its chairman, who controlled the board agenda and “worked collaboratively with other board members” regardless of political difference. 

But that collegiality ended in late October, according to McWilliams, when the three Democratic-appointed members teamed in an effort to begin a FDIC review of the standards used for bank mergers without McWilliams’ assent. 

Those other members are Michael Hsu, acting Comptroller of the Currency;  Michael Hsu. Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and Martin Gruenberg, former FDIC chairman who is serving on a temporary basis because the Biden Administration has not moved to fill two vacant board positions.

The FDIC may not have more than three directors of the same political affiliation. President Joe Biden, by keeping one of the five seats open throughout his first year in office, has been able to impede McWilliams’ inherent powers as chair.

McWilliams, who previously served as chief counsel on the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, initiated a program at the FDIC called Trust through Transparency in an effort to make the FDIC more accessible, understandable, and responsive. As part of that initiative, she visited in person with stakeholders in 30 states prior to COVID-19 then continued the visits on a virtual basis, including a meeting with the Arizona Bankers Association.

The Republicans on the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services tweeted Monday about concerns with McWilliams’ resignation.

“The attempted power grab by CFPB Director Chopra and Interim Chair Gruenberg raises serious concerns about @FDICgov‘s independence. Dems’ support for this unprecedented action exposes their ongoing effort to politicize our regulators for their own gain.”

McWilliams also continues to have the public support of industry groups due to her efforts to ensure all stakeholders were heard. One such supporter is Richard Hunt, the CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association.

“A total class act who always sought balance—much to my chagrin at times,” Hunt said after learning of McWilliams’ resignation. “The FDIC cannot operate where the minority is not represented.”

Free Training And Counseling Available To Small Business Owners

Free Training And Counseling Available To Small Business Owners

By Terri Jo Neff |

While many Arizona businesses see a productivity downturn over the holidays, small business owners know there is often little time for respite. And that is where the Arizona Small Business Development Center (AZSBDC) Network can be of help.

The AZSBDC Network works with small business owners to preserve and create small business jobs and revenue by helping launch, grow, and sustain businesses in every stage of development. There is also confidential support for small businesses seeking guidance on federal, state, and local contracting opportunities.

The free services offered by AZSBDC includes resource assistance, training programs, and free one-on-one counseling with specially trained advisors who have small business ownership and management experience. Several training programs are available each month on subjects from how to decide if being a small business owner is a right choice, to business plan development and review, and addressing cyber security issues for a small business.

Many of the training programs are provided online, while others are conducted in person at one of the 10 AZSBDC offices (Casa Grande, Flagstaff, Kingman, Phoenix, Prescott, Show Low, Sierra Vista, Thatcher, Tucson and Yuma) or multiple satellite offices located throughout the state. There are also some Spanish language programs.  

Upcoming online subjects include:

Jan. 5 – Is a Small Business Right for Me?

Jan. 11 – 10 Steps to Starting a Business in AZ

Jan. 12 – 10 Steps to Cyber Secure Your Small Business

Jan. 19 – AZ Business Startup Clinic

AZSBDC can also assist with advice and resources for small business owners trying to navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.  More information about the network of Small Business Development Centers in Arizona can be found at https://azsbdc.net/

Key Arizona Commercial Real Estate Association Releases 2022 Legislative Agenda

Key Arizona Commercial Real Estate Association Releases 2022 Legislative Agenda

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Chapter of NAIOP, otherwise known as the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, has released its 2022 legislative public policy agenda which seeks to continue the momentum of recent sessions, NAIOP Arizona’s CEO Suzanne Kinney announced this week.

“With the monumental changes of the past two years, 2022 presents a unique opportunity for our market to break away from the pack,” Kinney said. “We will aggressively pursue legislation that will help accelerate our movement towards Tier 1 status for business attraction and job creation.”

Leading NAIOP Arizona’s legislative efforts will be its 2022 Executive Committee comprised of Kinney; Board Chair Rusty Kennedy of CBRE; Board Vice Chair Cathy Thuringer of Trammell Crow Company; Treasurer John Orsak of Lincoln Property Company; Programs Chair Phil Breidenbach of Colliers International; and Secretary Derek Flottum of Irgens. The group’s immediate Past Chair is Danny Swancey of ViaWest Group, who was preceded by Jim Wentworth of Wentworth Property Company.

NAIOP Arizona’s guiding principles involve supporting policies that drive demand for commercial real estate in Greater Phoenix and throughout Arizona, promote legislation that positions Arizona to be the preferred choice for corporate locations and expansions, and encourage “organic business growth through public policies that encourage entrepreneurship and new business formation.”

According to Kinney, the Arizona Legislature made significant progress this past year to blunt the impact of income tax increases imposed on small businesses and other taxpayers through Proposition 208. Another achievement was a two percent reduction of the commercial property tax assessment ratio, which remains a top policy priority in an effort to achieve parity with other types of property owners.

Kinney also said NAIOP Arizona will continue to oppose legal efforts and new ballot initiatives that would reduce Arizona’s economic competitiveness. And in response to recent lawsuits about economic development incentives, NAIOP will work to refine the system so that complicated development projects which bring value to the community can avoid time-consuming and costly litigation.

On the federal front, NAIOP will work with Arizona’s Congressional delegation to prevent damaging tax policy proposals from going into effect. Of particular concern are restrictions on 1031 like-kind exchanges, the taxation of carried interest as ordinary income rather than capital gains, elimination of the stepped-up basis for inherited assets, and removal of tax deductions for qualified pass-through entities.

The 900-member NAIOP Arizona is part of the main 19,000-member NAIOP, considered the leading association for developers, owners, and related professionals in office, industrial, retail and mixed-use real estate.  The state chapter is the fifth largest out of 53 chapters across the United States and Canada.

“The growth of our chapter underscores its importance and relevance in Arizona’s commercial real estate industry,” said Kinney. “We’re extremely proud of what the chapter has accomplished considering the economic challenges of the past year and a half. We are a resilient industry.”

In 2021, NAIOP supported the development of CRE leaders through Diversity Student Scholarships for those pursuing a graduate degree in commercial real estate. One of the four scholarships was awarded to NAIOP Arizona member Margarita Effron, a graduate student in Arizona State University’s Master of Real Estate Development program.

Other members of the NAIOP Arizona board include Jenna Borcherding of VanTrust Real Estate, LLC; Matthew Krause of Krause Architectural & Interiors; Chris Anderson of Hines; Chris Burson of Alliance Bank of Arizona; Danielle Feroleto of Small Giants; Jeff Foster of Prologis; Tom Jarvis of  Willmeng; Jeff Moloznik of RED Development, LLC; Kate Morris of Transwestern; Michael Olsen, of Globe Corporation; CJ Osbrink of Newmark Knight Frank; Darren Pitts and Velocity Retail Group; and Candace Rosauro of Layton Construction.

Health Care Industry Divided On Billing Dispute Rule Under No Surprises Act

Health Care Industry Divided On Billing Dispute Rule Under No Surprises Act

By Terri Jo Neff |

The No Surprises Act passed by Congress in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency to better inform patients of the costs of medical procedures and other services doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, but the Biden Administration is already getting pushback on how it intends to implement one provision of the new law.

That pushback is coming from health care providers who recently blanketed federal officials with negative comments about a regulatory rule issued by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the providers claim goes against the language of the Act, which was passed to formulate a nationwide process for resolving “surprise” or unexpected medical bills.

The two most common expected billing problems patients face in Arizona result from being treated by an out-of-network doctor at a medical facility within their network, or when a patient requires emergency or urgent care at an out-of-network facility.

For those in rural areas, a third common surprise billing issue involves charges for out-of-network air ambulance, or medical evacuation, services.

Under the new law, a patient’s copayment for an out-of-network bill will be limited to roughly what the patient’s copayment would be had the service or procedure been fully conducted in-network. Any unpaid balance can be challenged by the out-of-network provider, who must first attempt to negotiate the matter with the patient’s insurer or commercial health plan.

The rule also establishes an arbitration process the provider must follow if an agreement cannot be reached with the insurer / health plan. And after that, according to the American Hospital Association and other provider groups, is where the rule as currently written verves away from the intention of the new law

As put forth by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, the rule requires an arbitrator to consider an insurer or health plan’s in-network median payment rate for the service or procedure in question as the “presumptively correct” rate. Priority is given to that rate over other factors mentioned in the Act, such as complexity of the billed procedure or service, whether a party engaged in good faith during negotiations, and the health care provider’s training and expertise.  

“By directing arbiters to presume that the plan’s or issuer’s median contracted rate is the appropriate out-of-network reimbursement rate and creating a significantly higher bar for consideration of other factors means that the [independent dispute resolution] process effectively will be unavailing for providers,” according to Stacey Hughes, AHA executive vice president.

But not everyone in the health care industry is opposed to the rule’s presumption of the reimbursable rate during arbitration. Insurance companies and commercial health plan support the arbitration rules which make it harder for out-of-network providers to receive payment.

It is also seen as a way to force providers to sign on to more networks to reduce the cost of getting paid.

“The approach taken in the interim final rules is a clear win for hardworking people,” said Matthew Eyles of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a national association whose members provide health care coverage. “This is the right approach to encourage hospitals, health care providers, and health insurance providers to work together and negotiate in good faith. It will also ensure that arbitration does not result in unnecessary premium increases for businesses and hardworking American families.

For now, the Biden Administration appears to be standing behind the rule even though 35 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives signed off on a letter in November urging the presumptive rate rule be reconsidered.

The Biden-Harris Administration will continue implementing federal regulations from the No Surprises Act to not only protect the patients but also curb rising costs in health care,” Becerra said in response to the pushback. “We want costs to go down. When the arbitration process is wide open, no boundaries, at the end of the day health care costs go up, not down.”

The No Surprises Act was passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.