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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha said on Tuesday afternoon that she tested positive for COVID-19. Blaha said she is at home with manageable symptoms. She will quarantine for at least five days, her office said. “My first thought is thanks to all who worked to get us vaccinated and boosted,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s why this is an inconvenience for me instead of a tragedy.” I tested positive for COVID today. I’m home with manageable symptoms. My first thought is thanks to all who worked to get us vaccinated and boosted. It’s why this is an inconvenience for me instead of a tragedy. Found a couple new tools in the process, I threaded them below. — Julie Blaha (@julieblaha) May 17, 2022 She’ll be missing the DFL convention in Rochester this weekend as a result of her quarantine. Blaha is seeking reelection for the statewide office, and said volunteers will be at the convention in her place. Last weekend, Republicans nominated Ryan Wilson in an uncontested race for state auditor.
    SACRAMENTO —  California must step up its effort to distribute federal funds to renters struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic or the state risks forfeiting millions of dollars in assistance, the state auditor warned Thursday. Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report to Gov. Gavin Newsom that delays in the rent relief program and uncertainty over the federal rules raised concerns about the ability of the state Department of Housing and Community Development to distribute the first $1.8 billion in federal funds by a Sept. 30 deadline. “Despite its progress in obligating rental assistance benefits, HCD remains at risk of losing federal funds,” the auditor’s report said, adding: “It must employ every effort possible to increase its amount of funds obligated before the federal deadline.” Under federal rules, money is “obligated” when the state has agreed to pay it to households, not necessarily when it has been paid. The auditor said the department had obligated about $1.4 billion, or 81% of its first round of federal funding. If the agency does not obligate more money to renters in the coming...
    Asking questions. The Star Tribune’s Janet Moore report: “Two DFL lawmakers from Minneapolis have asked the state Legislative Auditor’s Office to review cost overruns, delays and management of the $2 billion Southwest light-rail project. … In a letter Thursday, Rep. Frank Hornstein and Sen. Scott Dibble said their decision to request a probe ‘was prompted by recent developments in the project’s timeline and cost changes, particularly for the Kenilworth tunnel.’ … The 14.5-mile line, which would connect downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie and run through St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka, was supposed to begin passenger service in 2023. But the opening of the state’s largest public works project has been pushed back due to construction challenges.” Pillow fight! Adweek’s Jason Lynch reports: “One of Fox News Channel’s biggest advertisers, MyPillow, said it will pull its ads from the network in retaliation for Fox News’ refusal to run a new spot tied to unproven claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. … MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell told the Wall Street Journal that he has informed his buyer to remove...
    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Office of the Legislative Auditor said Wednesday that it found no evidence that the state of Minnesota overpaid two companies it hired to conduct mail in and other rapid COVID-19 saliva testing. Instead, the auditor’s report said, managed care organizations. acting on behalf of the state, scrutinized the claims submitted by the two companies and paid just a fraction of the amounts originally billed. The Minnesota Department of Health signed an emergency contract last November with Vault Medical Services and Infinity BiologiX. The auditor conducted the review in response to complaints of excessive billing. The companies have collected and processed millions of COVID-19 tests taken by Minnesotans. Vault and IBX officials told the auditor’s office that the big differences between the bills they submitted and the discounted amounts approved by health plans weren’t unusual, and were consistent with reimbursement processes across the industry. The review did not not examine payment practices for individuals whose testing was covered by private insurance. The report said it’s possible that some private insurers have paid more than the...
    The Iowa Senate unanimously passed a bill increasing appropriations for administrative purposes for fiscal year 2022. The bill also appropriates $100 million in broadband grants for the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Fund . The bill, HF867, appropriates $149.6 million from the general fund and $58.4 million from other funds for fiscal year 2022. That would be an increase of $74.6 million from the general fund and an increase of $145,000 from the other funds. It provides for 1,157.7 full-time equivalent positions for fiscal year 2022, which would be a decrease of 15.3 full-time positions. Since fiscal year 2021, funding increases beyond the broadband grant appropriations include an additional $221,000 for the Department of Administrative Services; $43,000 for Terrace Hill operations; $52,000 for the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board; and $132,000 and 2.9 full-time positions for the Department of Inspections and Appeals Health Facilities Division. A $250,000 increase for the Secretary of State restores administration and elections funding to the fiscal year 2020 level, legislative notes on the bill said. There would be 18.2 fewer...
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- The California State Auditor issued a scathing report Tuesday on the EDD's disastrous response to a surge in unemployment claims during the pandemic. The report says the mistakes by the EDD opened the door to rampant fraud, forcing millions of workers to struggle for benefits. Not only that, millions may have to pay back benefits they got by mistake.The report says EDD knew for 10 years it wasn't ready for a disaster - and when the pandemic hit, sure enough, the system buckled.RELATED: Bank of America addresses freezing accounts, fraud in state assembly hearingMillions of unemployed workers' plights are now crystallized in the state auditor's scathing report on the disaster at EDD when efficiency was needed most."The EDD has known for over a decade that they have these problems and they did not fix their operations," said State Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R - Fresno).The auditor's report found EDD could not automatically process half the claims. Many required a manual review of items like ID verification.WATCH: CA EDD admits paying as much as $31 billion in unemployment...
    SACRAMENTO (AP/CBS13) – California’s unemployment agency might have overpaid millions of people since March after it stopped enforcing some eligibility rules so they could process claims faster, according to a new audit released Tuesday. As millions of claims poured in during the height of state restrictions on businesses, state officials decided to stop doing some of the time-consuming work necessary to make sure people who applied for benefits were eligible to get them. They also stopped their bimonthly checks with people who were already getting benefits to make sure they were still eligible to receive them. The result: Up to 4.1 million claimants could have to repay some or all of the unemployment benefits they got during the pandemic – some through no fault of their own. Of those claims. 2.7 million might have been ineligible for benefits at all and 1.7 million might have been overpaid. It’s unclear if there is overlap between the two groups. EDD’s inefficient processes led to significant delays in its payment of UI claims—hundreds of thousands of claimants waited to receive their benefits longer...
    California’s Employment Development Department was woefully unprepared for the recession-linked spike in jobless claims during 2020 and may face a stubbornly high backlog of unpaid unemployment claims for some time, according to a scathing report released Tuesday by the state auditor. The state Auditor listed an array of failures and mishaps at the EDD, which has consistently faltered in its efforts to pay benefits to workers who lost their jobs in record numbers amid coronavirus-linked business shutdowns ordered by state and local government agencies. The EDD’s problems during 2020 and so far in 2021 include a broken call center that can only handle a tiny fraction of phone calls from jobless California workers, a computer page hobbled by glitches, a crime wave of fraudulent claims, and a mammoth backlog of unpaid unemployment claims. Among the primary findings in the state auditor’s report: — significant weaknesses in EDD’s claims processing and workload management leave the EDD at risk of a continuing backlog of claims. — because the EDD responded to the surge in claims by suspending certain eligibility requirements, many Californians...
    By DAVID PITT, Associated Press DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand sharply criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday for not calling the Legislature into an emergency session to approve spending of at least a portion of the $1 billion the state has accumulated in ending balance, reserve and emergency funds. Sand, a Democrat, said in his annual budget review that restaurants and bars will lose $1.4 billion and roughly 1,000 could close due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and delayed action in Congress. He said hospitals in the state have lost $443 million despite federal aid and many are at risk of closure. Reynolds, a Republican, could have called the GOP-majority legislature back months ago to approve state aid to offset the pandemic, Sand said. "Every day of delay is another day of pain for Iowans around the state," he said. "This money belongs to Iowans and it should be in their hands to help survive this pandemic not sitting in state government accounts. We need to put people first." Iowa is...
    PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Republican candidate Timothy DeFoor has won the race for Pennsylvania Auditor General, according to the Associated Press. With 92% of the vote in and 8,423 of 9,147 precincts reporting, DeFoor holds a 3,226,803-2,933,348 lead over Democrat Nina Ahmad. The Associated Press has called the race for DeFoor. For comprehensive coverage of all things election-related in Pennsylvania, visit KDKA’s 2020 Election Guide. For live results of all election races in Pennsylvania, visit KDKA’s 2020 General Election results page. GO IN-DEPTH ON SOME KEY PA RACES: • Attorney General: Josh Shapiro (D) vs. Heather Heidelbaugh (R) • Auditor General: Nina Ahmad (D) vs. Timothy DeFoor (R) • State Treasurer: Joe Torsella (D) vs. Stacy Garrity (R) • U.S. House 17th District: Conor Lamb (D) vs. Sean Parnell (R) • State Senate 37th District: Pam Iovino (D) vs. Devlin Robinson (R) • State Senate 39th District: Kim Ward (R) vs. Tay Waltenbaugh (D) • State House 16th District: Mike Kelly (R) vs. Kristy Gnibus (D) • State House 28th District: Rob Mercuri (R) vs. Emily Skopov (D) •...
    PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With 28.17% of precincts reporting, Republican Timothy DeFoor is holding a lead over Democrat Nina Ahmad in the race for Auditor General. As of 10:34 p.m., DeFoor has 51.34% of the vote with roughly 947,000 votes while Ahmad has 44.36% of the votes with roughly 818,000 of results. For comprehensive coverage of all things election-related in Pennsylvania, visit KDKA’s 2020 Election Guide. For live results of all election races in Pennsylvania, visit KDKA’s 2020 General Election results page. GO IN-DEPTH ON SOME KEY PA RACES: • Attorney General: Josh Shapiro (D) vs. Heather Heidelbaugh (R) • Auditor General: Nina Ahmad (D) vs. Timothy DeFoor (R) • State Treasurer: Joe Torsella (D) vs. Stacy Garrity (R) • U.S. House 17th District: Conor Lamb (D) vs. Sean Parnell (R) • State Senate 37th District: Pam Iovino (D) vs. Devlin Robinson (R) • State Senate 39th District: Kim Ward (R) vs. Tay Waltenbaugh (D) • State House 16th District: Mike Kelly (R) vs. Kristy Gnibus (D) • State House 28th District: Rob Mercuri (R) vs. Emily Skopov (D) • State...
    The cleanup of thousands of lead-contaminated homes, child-care centers, schools and parks surrounding the closed Exide battery recycling facility in Vernon is running behind schedule and over budget due to poor management by California regulators and has left children at continued risk of poisoning, according to a state audit released Tuesday. The report by State Auditor Elaine Howle’s office criticized the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for delays, cost overruns, contracting problems and other shortcomings in its effort to remove lead contamination from properties across half a dozen communities in southeast L.A. County. The audit estimated the cleanup is likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the state has set aside. Among the most troubling findings, according to the auditor’s office, was Toxic Substances Control’s failure to remove lead-tainted soil from most of the 50 properties, including child-care centers, schools and parks, that it identified in the early stages of the cleanup as posing a particularly high risk to children. “Despite the risk these properties present, DTSC has yet to clean 31 of them,” the audit...
    AUSTIN – Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has requested that the State Auditor provide an audit of the nearly $140 million allocated for the historic preservation of the Alamo. In a letter to the State Auditor, Patrick asks for a “financial and programmatic” audit of the money appropriated by Texas in 2015. “As Lt. Governor I have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Texas,” Patrick wrote in the letter. “As I evaluate possible next steps for this project, I am writing to request a financial and programmatic audit on the use of those appropriations, including expenditures to date and the budget plan for the remaining appropriations.” Patrick says he has a responsibility to Texas taxpayers to account for when and how the money was spent and what the funds will be used for in the future. “This report should identify current objectives and timelines for General Land Office’s completion of the project, as well as any risks threatening those objectives and timelines," Patrick said in his letter. "Please prioritize this request by beginning as soon as possible and provide an...
              Democratic State Auditor Julie Blaha called for an end to criminal asset forfeiture under $1,500 because she said it unfairly affects low-income individuals. Blaha based her assessment on the newly-released 2019 Asset Forfeitures report, which found 94 percent of the crimes resulting in forfeitures were DUIs and controlled substances. For the past five years, DUI-related forfeitures increased by 21 percent while controlled substance-related forfeitures grew by 13 percent. In the press release, Blaha stated that the revenue generated from these forfeitures was minimal compared to its impact on the owners of the property taken. She added that legislative efforts should continue considerations of reform, referring to the proposed House Bill 4571. “The total net value of forfeitures under $1,500 in Minnesota in 2019 was approximately $1.5 million. On a system level, a change that size is manageable. On an individual level, those changes could make a big impact,” she said. Blaha’s highlights of the report stated a total of 7,708 forfeitures, several hundred less than the previous year. A majority of property seizures were...
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