Above the Fold 04.27.09

Food stamps past due date in Indiana…Nevada residents may soon be able to gamble!…California new home buyers (if there are any) could get more tax breaks…More retirees just don’t want to retire in Milwaukee…FL County workers clean up with overtime…Iris-scan technology looks to spread…The token CivSource swine flu update…

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration is having trouble getting food stamp applicants processed, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports. During the last three months, FSSA missed its two-month deadline 33 percent of the time, which is giving welfare advocates fuel for their cries to overhaul the system. A $1.16 billion contract was awarded to ACS and IBM to manage Medicaid, food stamps and TANF to modernize the system, but advocates are calling for more caseworkers. The backlog, according to FSSA officials stems from an increase in applicants – 98,000 in 2007 to 133,000 a year later.

The New York Times is reporting that the Monty Carlo of the United States may finally have its very own state lottery. Nevada, which has slot machines in every grocery store and convenience store, doesn’t have its own lottery – but now the state legislature is looking to bring one to the people in order to help shore up a $3 billion budget deficit. Steven A. Horsford, a Democrat from the Las Vegas area, said, “To me, it’s a small piece of a whole. This is not how we’re going to get out of a $2 billion hole.” There is some resistance, though, from advocates who say the lottery is little more than a regressive tax on the poor.

The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that California’s home builders could be in high demand soon because as much as $10,000 in state tax credits might be heading towards new home buyers. “We are hoping the state will lift the cap and say build as much as you want,” says Matt Towery, president of Towery Homes, a builder in Bakersfield. The state legislature is looking to eliminate the $100 million limit on the total amount of credits that homebuyers can tap. Some economists worry though the tax will having a meaningful effect on the real problem in California – foreclosed homes.

Milwaukee County employees are holding on to their jobs, helping to lower pension payments, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “People are making a very conscious decision to try to hang in there until those funds make some sort of upswing,” says Richard Abelson, executive director of District Council 48. But the effect may only be temporary as people react to the uncertain economic climate and downsized workforce. The county has a program that offers to pay retirees a reduced monthly pension check in exchange for a lump-sum payment at retirement – though the “backdrop” and a 25% pension bonus have cost the county far more than it expected, and could be bad news when retirees start actually leaving the job.

An analysis of 2008 payment records in Duval County, Florida have found that annual overtime payouts to individual county employees were as high as $79,000, the Jacksonville Times-Union reported. According to their findings, the overtime total exceeded $32 million, $4 million more than in 2007. Overtime payouts to six corrections employees raised the highest eyebrows, receiving more than doubled their regular salaries in overtime pay. City managers say that if the numbers are disturbing the city council and greater public than they need to hire more bodies to cover the shifts.

More and more law enforcement agencies are turning towards biometric identification called iris-scan technology, the Kansas City Star reports. Scott County sheriff’s office just became the first Missouri agency to adopt the technology and Butler County in Kansas began using the system in 2005. “It’s a quick, painless, rock-solid system,” said Sgt. Phil Wickwire of Butler Co., Kansas. Forty states have agencies using iris-scan technology.

Twenty certifiable cases of swine flue were confirmed around the country, the New York Times reports. Cases in New York, California, Kansas, Ohio and Texas have tested positive for the strain that has killed over 100 in Mexico and sickened a reported 1,600. The Centers for Disease Control has declared a public health emergency until more is known about the H1N1 swine flu strain.

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