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VOL. 44 | NO. 24 | Friday, June 12, 2020

State adopts COVID-19 spending plans

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The state has outlined new spending plans that reflect significant revenue reductions due to the economic impact of COVID-19.

Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley presented state lawmakers with the revised budget plans for the current fiscal year, as well as FY 2020-21, which begins July 1, 2020, and a framework for the following fiscal year, 2021-22.

“We will balance our budget each year while providing important services to our citizens,” Eley said. “We’re adjusting to the immediate impact of the pandemic on state revenues of up to $1.5 billion through the end of the next fiscal year, planning for the worst and hoping for the best.’’

In March, the administration and the General Assembly agreed on $397 million in recurring reductions at the onset of COVID-19, and the administration is proposing an additional $284 million in reductions for FY 20-21, bringing the total to $681 million in reductions.

Hiring and expenditure freezes have also been in place since March. The state will close the current fiscal year June 30 with unbudgeted non-tax revenues, agency savings and reserves.

In FY 20-21, the state will utilize reserves to lessen the impact of immediate spending reductions, allowing for thoughtful review of business practices for greater efficiencies and creative delivery of vital services as well as the development of strategic plans to reduce the employee workforce over the next two years.

The state’s multiyear spending plan provides full funding for:

  • The Basic Education Program (BEP) for K-12 public schools
  • Contributions to the state employee pension fund
  • State payments for employee health insurance
  • Debt service requirements

Multiyear reductions will be achieved, in part, through:

  • Up to 12% reductions through greater efficiencies in all departments
  • Reduction in new capital projects and funding for capital maintenance
  • Authorizing bonds for existing capital projects previously funded with cash
  • An employee buy-out initiative to reduce the state workforce over the next two years

The state has reserve funds totaling $4 billion, including the Rainy Day Fund, which will reach $1.2 billion after an additional deposit of $325 million at the end of the fiscal year June 30.

State honors Milcrofton Utility District

The Milcrofton Utility District in Williamson County won the 2020 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards in the water quality category.

The program recognizes exceptional voluntary actions that improve or protect the environment and natural resources with projects or initiatives not required by law or regulation.

Milcrofton Utility District was awarded the first U.S. pilot for the new Advanced Meter Infrastructure system by Kamstrup Water Meters of Denmark.

The Kamstrup water meter is an ultrasonic water meter that more accurately measures water movement across a wide spectrum of flows. Over the course of an eight-month period in 2019, all water meter and transmission tower infrastructure was replaced for the utility district’s entire 94-square mile service area to report the data back to a central hub.

Hourly data collection and monitoring allows for the district to more efficiently pinpoint specific issues, such as where a leak may be occurring. Each weekday, a customer location that has registered 24 hours of continuous usage is contacted either by direct phone, voicemail or email, communicating that a potential water loss issue may be occurring. During these interactions, Milcrofton customer service representatives have an opportunity to discuss the issue, including some “quick” steps to determine continuous usage source and ways to conserve water in general.

Many customer calls reveal that water has been accidentally left running. In other circumstances, irrigation systems may be working improperly. Customers were not previously notified until they received the next monthly water bill. Real time notifications and early intervention have saved customers tens of thousands of gallons of valuable water that previously was wasted or lost along with a monetary savings.

PathGroup offers new COVID testing option

Nashville-based PathGroup, a private provider of pathology, clinical and molecular laboratory services, has announced the availability of a new, minimally-invasive nasal swab collection option as a part of its comprehensive COVID-19 testing program.

Many current molecular diagnostic COVID-19 tests rely on a nasopharyngeal swab, which can cause discomfort for patients during the collection process. The new nasal swab collection option is more comfortable for patients and easier for health care providers to administer.

“As we start to reopen and resume public activities, increased testing capacity remains a critical element for ensuring public health and safety,” says Ben W. Davis, M.D., president and chief executive officer of PathGroup. “We continue to work diligently to expand our capabilities to include the most patient and provider-friendly options.”

PathGroup operates in 25 states across the Southeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, serving more than 100 hospitals and 15,000 referring physicians.

Lucd develops model to cope with COVID-19

Nashville’s Lucd, a provider of an end to end Enterprise AI Platform, has developed its newest agent-based model Avicenna to fight the unknowns associated with COVID-19.

Lucd’s powerful AI software as a service will enable organizations to use Avicenna’s predictive disease spread modeling to forecast future challenges and accelerate efforts in fighting the pandemic and in mitigating its effects.

Avicenna handles complex and disparate data inputs and constructs to provide predictions that can be assessed for future times for a specific area or location of interest. Leveraging Big Data, distributed computing and deep learning capabilities within the Lucd AI platform, Avicenna also has the capability to provide insight for planning product releases, making market entry decisions, minimizing staffing challenges, performing financial projections, foreseeing potential supply chain disruptions, and much more.

Prediction results as high as 99.5% accuracy have been achieved.

The new AI model, Avicenna, is available via free download as part of the Lucd JedAIclient in Steam. Lucd is making this capability available so that researchers can easily generate faster insights.

Investors purchase Bennett Tool & Die

Brennan Investment Group has announced it has acquired Gallatin-based Bennett Tool & Die and simultaneously leased it back to the company.

The 90,250-square-foot building serves as Bennett’s corporate headquarters and primary manufacturing facility. The company is a leading contract tooling and metal stamping supplier.

Despite current conditions, the Nashville industrial market continues to demonstrate strong fundamentals with 1.5 million square feet of positive net absorption year-to-date and a vacancy rate of 7.4%, according to Brennan.

“This transaction demonstrates our Corporate Real Estate Solutions initiative in action,” says Robert Vanecko, managing principal and the head of the single-tenant net lease division at Brennan. “Part of our strategy is to buy mission-critical industrial properties that are capitalizing on the reshoring of U.S. manufacturing and the shortening of global supply chains.”

Brennan continues to expand its presence in the Tennessee and Kentucky markets with 1 million square feet of holdings.

SNAP recipients can buy food on Amazon

Tennessee has been approved for a pilot program that allows families who have SNAP benefits to buy food online with Amazon and Walmart during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USDA says Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients are now able to use their benefits to buy food on Amazon.

Walmart will accept SNAP benefits at two locations, 577 N. Germantown Parkway in Cordova and 4150 Ringgold Road in East Ridge, but the USDA has additionally announced plans to expand online purchasing to more retailers in the future.

Families can access this new resource by entering their Electronic Benefit Card information on Amazon’s SNAP dedicated website or by following the guidelines Walmart has established for SNAP online purchasing.

More than 900,000 individuals in Tennessee receive SNAP benefits.

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