The construction industry backed a bill introduced during the recently completed Wyoming legislative session that would have allowed the state to accept federal funds to extend unemployment benefits for many workers. The bill failed, but some representatives, including at least five who voted against it, accept federal farm subsidies, a different kind of federal financial assistance. Aid Debate, a WyoFile special report, looks at whether there is a double standard in how some legislators view different forms of federal assistance, how America’s farm subsidy system doesn’t necessarily make a priority of helping the nation’s smallest agricultural producers and how Wyoming’s construction industry continues to struggle despite the slowly improving economy.
Before Wyoming felt the cumulative effects of the 2007 credit crunch, the 2008 real estate collapse and a punishing national recession, home builder Nick Randol had 15 people working for his construction company. Today, he employs four.
“A two-year drought of work hasn’t been real prosperous, or even profitable,” said Randol, a general contractor in Cody who has seen some of his former employees file for unemployment, while others found work in the agricultural sector.
Construction workers, construction industry advocates and employers like Randol were looking for help from a state bill that would have extended unemployment benefits, but some were left wondering after the measure failed whether there is a double standard in how some Wyoming elected officials view federal assistance programs.
CONTINUE READING: Aid Debate — Workers question double standard in unemployment vote
Workers in Wyoming’s struggling construction industry have had little good news so far in in 2011, and matters took a turn for the worse last week when the U.S. Commerce Department announced that new home sales in February had dipped to the slowest pace on record.
Besieged by continuing foreclosures, existing home prices sank to their lowest level since December 2003.
For home builders and others in the construction trades around Wyoming, that means a surge in new home building this spring is unlikely, as buyers and sellers continue to struggle through a stagnant market for existing homes.
CONTINUE READING: Aid Debate — Construction industry continues to struggle
Since the 1930s, the federal government has managed an increasingly complex system of subsidies, direct payments, incentives and other financial assistance to American farmers, all with the goal of making the difficult and risky work of farming less volatile and more sustainable, particularly for small, family operations.
But even some who participate in the system concede that it is far from perfect, often producing unintended consequences and counterintuitive results.
“In some respects, the ag industry is every bit as much a leech in taking what it can get out of the government as any sector receiving money from the government,” said Rep. Hans Hunt, a Newcastle rancher whose family business has received more than $16,000 in farm subsidies from 2005-08.
CONTINUE READING: Aid Debate — Farm subsidies a complex mix of financial aid, politics & markets