Editor’s note: Seven days. Never enough hours.
Stacks of paperwork at the office and piles of laundry at home. It’s a never-ending cycle, which makes it difficult to stay on top of the endless news nuggets flowing from the White House, state capital, local government and business community. We get it — and we’re in the news business.
Enter “About Last Week.” This is our way of bringing news-hungry but time-strapped readers up to speed on happenings that may have flown under the radar. Our promise: We’ll keep it brief.
Our hope: You’ll read (or skim) and keep checking back every Monday.
So, without further ado, here are some noteworthy things that happened in Nevada last week.
Careless spending results in funding loss to program that’s intended to help struggling Nevada homeowners
The Treasury Department announced last week that it’s cutting $6.7 million worth of federal dollars to the Nevada Hardest Hit Fund after a pattern of wasteful spending and poor management.
The Nevada Hardest Hit Fund, which is administered by the nonprofit Nevada Affordable Housing Assistance Corporation (NAHAC), helps homeowners in the state who are struggling to pay their mortgages because of financial hardships.
But the fund only helped 167 Nevada homeowners last year, despite more than 72,048 people unemployed in the state and $84.7 million in available funding, according to a report released by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). From the first quarter of 2013 through the third quarter of 2017, Nevada’s fund saw a 94 percent drop in the number of homeowners helped each quarter.
Additionally, a September 2016 audit by SIGTARP unveiled $8.2 million in waste and abuse by the nonprofit administering the fund, including an $11,000 car allowance for the CEO’s Mercedes Benz and nearly $10,963 spent on employee bonuses, gifts, outings, lunches and other perks. The fund also spent $194,294 on private investigators, settlement payments for discrimination and severance payments to former employees, among other unnecessary expenditures uncovered by the audit.
Nevada was the only state to have its funds cut for the program. The chair of NAHAC’s board of directors could not immediately be reached for comment.
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, who sent a letter to President Barack Obama in March 2016 expressing concerns about the program, lambasted the latest development. The congresswoman said the state and NAHAC officials are giving the Trump Administration “a reason to pull even more housing assistance funds” from Nevada.
“That’s not just embarrassing. It is disgraceful and a disservice to the good people of our State,” she said in a statement. “The Attorney General should be investigating this, and the State needs to restructure the program yet again to provide greater oversight. My office will continue to work closely with SIGTARP and fight to ensure the State reforms NAHAC and works with federal officials to assist Nevadans.”
— Jackie Valley
More victims sought help from Rape Crisis Center last year
The Rape Crisis Center in Las Vegas saw a surge in demand for services last year — a trend officials attribute to the growing female empowerment movements that have shined a spotlight on sexual harassment and assault.
The center provided counseling services to 100 clients each month, on average, last year, which marked a 25 percent increase over 2016. That led to more than 2,127 hours of counseling session in 2017.
On top of counseling services, the center also assisted 747 victims at the hospital last year, which included eight victims in one 24-hour period in July. In 2016, the center assisted 715 victims at the hospital.
“The widespread attention on sexual assault and sexual harassment fostered by the #MeToo and female empowerment movements help victims know that they are not alone,” Daniele Dreitzer, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, said in a statement. “Seeing others, especially well-known celebrities, publicly tell their stories, may inspire them to seek help. We experienced this effect first-hand with year-over-year increase in calls to our hotline and inquiries to our website as the #MeToo campaign escalated and gained momentum.”
The 747 victims who received assistance from the center at hospitals represented a variety of ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, and their assaults occurred at all times of day and night, Dreitzer said.
Twenty percent of the assaults occurred in alcohol-serving settings such as bars, nightclubs and resorts. Thirty percent of the victims were not Nevada residents.
— Jackie Valley
NV Energy federal donations
Nevada’s primary utility gave $22,000 to Nevada congressional representatives and candidates in both parties, according to recently filed campaign finance forms.
NV Energy’s federal PAC gave donations to three of the state’s six congressional representatives between July and the end of 2017 , as well as to several candidates in the closely watched Republican primary for the state’s open 3rd Congressional District. The donations included:
- $5,000 to Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, as well as $2,500 to her leadership PAC, Democrats Time in Nevada
- $2,500 to Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, as well as $2,500 to his leadership PAC, Ponderosa PAC.
- $2,500 to All For Our Country Leadership PAC, associated with Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
- $2,500 to Republican congressional candidate Scott Hammond
- $2,500 to Democratic congressional candidate Susie Lee
- $1,000 to former Republican congressional candidate Stavros Anthony
- $1,000 to Republican congressional candidate Victoria Seaman.
The utility also contributed $180,000 over all of 2017 to the campaign accounts of state level candidates and PACs, according to recently filed campaign finance reports.
— Riley Snyder
Longtime state economist to lead Nevada Department of Taxation
A longtime state employee who has served as Nevada’s chief economist for more than a decade will take the helm at the Nevada Department of Taxation.
Gov. Brian Sandoval announced last week that he was appointing Bill Anderson to take over for departing taxation director Deonne Contine, who is taking a job at a private law firm and running for Assembly. He starts on Feb. 12.
Anderson has been the head economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation since 2006. He provides analyses and commentaries on the economy and the labor market, including unemployment rates, and supervises research activities in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
Anderson worked for a decade as an economist for the state budget office, and did stints with the Congressional Research Service and the City of Milwaukee.
“His work has allowed the state to better understand how dynamic job growth effects specific populations which has helped influence policy decisions,” Sandoval said in a statement. “He is knowledgeable of our state’s revenue sources and I am confident in his ability to serve as both a member of my cabinet and director of this active agency.”
The Department of Taxation collects levies, including the Commerce Tax, and it oversees Nevada’s regulated marijuana market.
— Michelle Rindels
Disclosure: NV Energy and Susie Lee have donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.