Friday, November 21, 2008

News Briefs

State hikes unemployment tax

The severe economic downturn that has put an unprecedented number of workers in line for unemployment benefits will drive the tax rates employers pay to support the benefit program up 70 percent in 2009, the Idaho Department of Labor reports.

The rate increase and benefit reduction are driven by a formula meant to keep the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund solvent. The fund balance declined from nearly $320 million in November 2007 to less than $240 million at the end of September. Benefit payments in recent weeks are double the amounts paid a year ago and well ahead of the record pace of 2003, when more than $181 million in benefits were paid.

Right now, the weekly checks are helping more than 15,000 workers and their families pay bills, the department of labor reports. Another 8,400 workers, who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits, are receiving additional benefits under the federally financed extended benefits program.

For every worker getting the wage, an employer paying the average annual wage in Idaho will see its tax liability rise from $296 to $518.

Ski & Mountain trauma conference

The Ski & Mountain Trauma Conference, hosted by St. Alphonsus Trauma Center, will be held at the Sun Valley Inn from Nov. 21-22.

The conference provides an opportunity to learn about ski and mountain safety, rescue and trauma care.

Attendance is open to emergency personnel, including paramedics, ski patrol, firefighters, physicians, nurses, and search and rescue personnel. Workshops include emergency childbirth simulation, improvised splinting, avalanche beacon use, landing zone safety, and how to stabilize traumatic injuries in the field.

For more information, contact the Meeting Network at (208) 385-9510 or register at

Input needed for Sustain Blaine

Sustain Blaine's contracted consulting group TIP Strategies is looking for public input to help pinpoint the challenges and opportunities for countywide economic development.

A questionnaire has been created for local residents to easily provide feedback and ideas on creating a comprehensive plan for economic sustainability in the Wood River Valley.

A link to the survey can be found on today's Breaking News section of the Mountain Express Web site.

PILT payments rise

Blaine County has received an additional $654,731 through the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, for a total 2008 payment of about $1.73 million.

The supplemental payment, received Thursday, is in addition to a payment of over $1 million distributed in June.

The program pays counties containing federal land as compensation for their loss of potential property taxes.

The U.S. Department of the Interior this week distributed $138.7 million to about 2,200 counties and other local jurisdictions around the country.

Those jurisdictions received about $228.5 million in June. The combined payments—totaling $367.2 million—will provide these governments their first full PILT entitlement payments since 1994, a news release from the Interior Department states.

Send treats to troops

At the Hailey post office, people can help make a soldier's holiday special by filling a box and sending it to Iraq. People can also bring in names of soldiers and add them to the tree. Names and a list of suggested items to include in the box are available at the post office.

Special boxes can be mailed for $10.50 regardless of weight online through, or for $10.95 at the post office where military mail boxes, mailing labels and customs forms are available.

Boxes must be addressed to a specific officer. Boxes may also be addressed to Capt. Seth Bodner, who is stationed in Iraq and will dispense items to other soldiers. The deadline to send a box is Dec. 4.

For restrictions and other information call Hailey Postmaster Kathleen Eder at 788-2276.

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