Business Briefs – December 2021
State increases workers comp rates by over 3%
Workers compensation premiums will rise by an average of 3.1% in 2022, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries announced.
It said the increase is driven by rising costs associated with cost-of-living adjustments for long-term cases and are tied to Washington’s increasing average wages.
The increase boosts the average rate to $1.53 per $100 of payroll. Employers will see rates rise or fall depending on their recent claims history. Workers pay about a quarter of the premium.
Public hearings were held in October.
Apprenticeships thriving in Washington state
Nearly 22,000 apprentices participated in job training programs in Washington during the 2020-21 school year, an all-time high that rivals the enrollments of the University of Washington and Washington State University.
“Apprenticeship programs are thriving across the state,” said Jody Robbins, apprenticeship program manager for the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). “We’re encouraged to see a growing number of employers, educators, and other workforce partners get involved.”
“Employers need a reliable talent pipeline and workers need pathways into rewarding careers,” Robbins said. “Registered apprenticeship programs provide an opportunity for employers and workers, boosting our entire economy.”
The latest numbers from L&I show there are more than 5,000 employers in the state participating in 182 apprenticeship programs across nearly 250 occupations.
For a complete list of programs and occupations, go to: Lni.wa.gov/Apprenticeship.
Benton County honors Prosser businessman
The Benton County Commission approved a proclamation honoring a Prosser businessman for his contributions to the community on his 100th birthday.
Victor Lee Murphey, who was born Nov. 24, 1921, to Stephen and Vera Vista Murphy in Culdesac, Idaho, served in the military during World War II before relocating to Prosser.
He and his late wife, Ella, were married on Sept. 14, 1955, at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Prosser. The couple raised two daughters and have six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
They opened ACM Feed with his brothers Bill and Jim, their father and other local families, and operated it until 2011.
WSU says 94% of employees are vaccinated
Washington State University said more than 94% of employees across the system were vaccinated against Covid-19 following internal verification efforts in November.
Under the state’s vaccine mandate, all state employees, including those in public universities were required as a condition of employment to receive an approved Covid-19 vaccine or an exemption for either documented medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs.
Of the approximately 10,000 full- and part-time employees across the state system, 94% were fully vaccinated, while 3% had received religious exemptions and 1% had received medical exemptions.
The remaining 2% included employees who had initiated the vaccination process and were on leave until they were considered fully vaccinated.
Formal employment separation proceedings were initiated with 23 employees. Separations can occur either as a result of non-compliance with the state mandate or an inability to accommodate a religious or medical exemption in a way that would protect community health.
Additionally, the university required vaccines for students as well. The vaccination rates were at 89% or higher for each of WSU’s five physical campuses by November.
Need interns? Register for virtual fair now
Tri-Cities employers can connect with prospective interns in January at a virtual internship fair.
Washington State University Tri-Cities and the Washington Workforce Portal are organizing the event, which will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan 25.
Employers are encouraged to sign up for the free event by Jan. 21.
Go to: bit.ly/WSUInternFair.
Tri-City Herald co-founder dies at 102
A co-founder of the Tri-City Herald died Nov. 14 at age 102.
Robert “Bob” Philip was one week short of his 103rd birthday.
He worked in the import-export business and was raising a family in Seattle when he and co-worker Glenn Lee decided to start their own import business called Philip and Lee. It led them in 1947 to the Tri-Cities and to buy the Pasco Weekly newspaper. Shortly thereafter they turned it into a daily paper and called it the Tri-City Herald, according to Philip’s obituary.
In 1979, they sold the paper to The McClatchy Co.
During his three decades in the Tri-Cities he was involved in the Kiwanis Club and as a co-founder of the Tri-City Nuclear Industrial Council, serving as president from 1963-82.
Philip grew up in Tacoma and attended the University of Washington. He served in the Navy from 1941-45.
Washington Trust announces regular, special dividends
W.T.B. Financial Corporation of Spokane announced a regular quarterly cash dividend as well as a special dividend in November.
The parent to Washington Trust Bank paid a regular dividend of $1.85 per share on Dec. 10 and expected to pay a one-time special cash dividend of $2 per share on Dec. 17.
“We have just navigated our way through a very challenging time, and I couldn’t be more pleased with our performance. Over the last year, earnings accelerated to record levels and strong deposit growth helped drive total assets over the $10 billion mark. Returning capital to shareholders in the form of a special dividend reflects the Company’s strong financial performance and the gratitude we feel for the confidence our shareholders have placed in us,” said Peter F. Stanton, chairman of the board and CEO.
Don’t fall for gift card scam, IRS says
The Internal Revenue Service is urging taxpayers to avoid being scammed by fraudsters who offer to settle tax issues with gift cards.
The federal revenue agency won’t ask for – or accept – gift cards as payment for a tax bill.
The most common way scammers request gift cards is over the phone through a government impersonation scam. However, they also will request gift cards by sending a text message, email or through social media. The IRS generally mails bills to taxpayers who owe money. It does not call.
Scammers will attempt to instill fear in their targets with threats of penalties, jail and the loss of driver’s licenses, business licenses and more.
Lourdes Crisis Services has new phone number
Lourdes Crisis Services has a new phone number: 800-783-0544.
Lourdes Crisis Serices in Richland provides crisis and commitment services, behavioral health therapy and other services related to mental health.
Go to: YourLourdes.com.
Numerica named marquee sponsor of concert series
Music events and festivals held at Washington’s premier outdoor venue will now be part of the Numerica Concert Series at the Live Nation-owned and -operated Gorge Amphitheatre.
This is the result of a marquee sponsorship deal between the Spokane Valley-based credit union and Central Washington’s Gorge Amphitheatre.
The multi-year agreement allows Numerica to provide exclusive perks for its members, have charitable giving activities, and live out its mission of enhancing lives, fulfilling dreams and building communities.
Pasco Animal Shelter project unaffected by police raid
The city of Pasco says a raid at the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter in November won’t affect plans to build a new home beginning in spring 2022.
The Benton-Franklin Humane Society is operating the Tri-City Animal Shelter after Pasco police executed a warrant on Nov. 11 that led to seizing sick animals, terminating the contract with the nonprofit operator and enlisting the humane society to operate the facility.
The city said the search warrant was executed following an Oct. 26 unannounced inspection that included veterinary professionals and was based on information it received about conditions at the facility.
Julie Chambers, chief financial officer, is accused of embezzling $300,000 from the shelter. The city has also sued three shelter employees over bonuses they received.
The Pasco animal facility at 1312 S. 18th Ave. is operated by Pasco but jointly owned with the cities of Kennewick and Richland.
The humane society, which has a shelter in Kennewick, stepped in to oversee the shelter but is not the contracted operator.
Go to: bfhs.com.
Tri-City softball players medal in senior games
A Kennewick business owner has more softball medals to add to her trophy chest, and a Tri-City-based men’s softball team earned gold during the annual Huntsman World Senior Games.
Connie Wormington, 73, played on two different teams, earning medals on each.
Wormington and her husband Sandy own Just Roses Flowers and More flower shops in Kennewick and Pasco, as well as Columbia Wholesale, which supplies flowers to other shops, and Just Storage, a self-storage facility in Kennewick.
Wormington and the Fun Bunch team earned a silver in the 70-and-over division.
She didn’t have much time to celebrate her victory, as she had to dash across the fields to join the Seattle-based Wet Socks team, where they earned a gold in the 65-and-over division.
“It was incredible how well we played, like we’ve been playing together for so long,” she said.
The Tri-City Legends men’s softball team also earned a gold medal during the games in the 60-and-over division.
The games were Oct. 4-16 in St. George, Utah, attracting senior players from around the world in a variety of events.
Last year’s games were canceled because of the pandemic.
Wormington’s been playing softball since she was a girl. She played in high school and then during college in Nebraska.
IRS report is a must-read for true-crime fans
The Internal Revenue Service released its annual report on tax crimes, and it is a page-turner for those who love tales of wrongdoing.
The 2021 report tallies the 2,500 investigations representing more than $10 billion in tax and financial crimes, noting its work resulted in a conviction rate of nearly 90%.
Better than statistics, though, the 49-page report highlights intriguing cases from each IRS office, hundreds of glimpses at the crimes and misdeeds of the great and the not-so-great.
The Seattle Field Office, which covers Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam, shared some of its notorious cases.
One involves Dion L. Earl, a former Seattle college soccer star who’d already been convicted of several sex crimes and drew the IRS’s attention for filing fraudulent tax returns that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds, even after he was targeted for an audit. He was sentenced to a year in prison and to pay more than $1 million in fines and restitution.
Another case involved Eugene, Oregon, resident Susan Tranberg, who engaged in corporate malfeasance. As a Weyerhaeuser executive, she created a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme by creating a fake timber contract and submitting phony invoices to her employer. She got a six-year prison sentence.
Intrigued? Go to: bit.ly/CSIInternalRevenueService.
Learn to be a tasting room pro at WSU Tri-Cities
Washington State University Tri-Cities has launched a Wine Tasting Room Certificate, an online program to train tasting room employees about the wines and food they serve.
The certificate is offered through the WSU Tri-Cities Carson College of Business Office of Lifelong Learning.
The fee is $249 and covers the state wine industry, proper wine service, tastings, evaluation and food prep. Individual lessons cover how wine is made, styles of wine, types of grapes, unique aspects of the state’s wine and more.
“We worked closely with winery owners and tasting room managers to determine their needs and develop content that is specifically geared toward what wineries require for customer service,” said Joan Giese, director of lifelong learning.
Behavioral health treatment gets support from counties
The Benton and Franklin county commissions have both voted to raise local sales taxes to support a new Behavioral Health Fund to support the treatment of chemical dependency and support mental health services.
The program will support the therapeutic court program that hears criminal cases related to behavioral issues as well.
The fund is supported by a new 0.1% sales and use tax, which takes effect July 1, 2022.
McCurley sales benefit Meals on Wheels
McCurley Integrity Subaru selected Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels to benefit from donations made through Subaru of America’s annual “Share the Love” event.
For every new vehicle sold through Jan. 3, 2022, buyers can select a charity to receive $250, with McCurley adding an additional $50.
McCurley donated more than $32,000 to the local Meals on Wheels program from its 2020 event.
McCurley Integrity Subaru is at 9620 Sandifur Parkway, Pasco.
How to vacation in your own backyard
Visit Tri-Cities relaunched its website to showcase opportunities for area residents to vacation in their own backyards.
The newly launched site, VisitTri.Cities.com, offers information about local restaurants, wineries, attractions, events and more.
“Our vision is to inspire wanderlust,” said Michael Novakovich, president and CEO.
The site was developed by Tempest, a digital marketing agency focused on tourism.
Mid-Columbia Mastersingers has new director
Lori Fregin has joined Mid-Columbia Mastersingers as managing director.
She brings 35 years of nonprofit management with a background in health care and world relief. In her most recent post, she was director of Residence XII, a rehabilitation center for women.
Mid-Columbia Mastersingers is a nonprofit that offers a series of subscription concerts each year as well as special events and a youth choir for singers age 9-18. It conducts a summer camp each August. She joins a leadership team that includes Justin Raffa, artistic director, and Reginald Unterseher, associate conductor.
Upcoming performances include a Christmas concert on Dec. 19.
Go to: mcmastersingers.org for details.
Benton County awards $55K for historic preservation
Benton County is supporting museum upgrades, restoration of an antique fire engine and more through its 2022 historic preservation grants.
The county’s historic preservation grant program is funded through recording fees. Organizations apply for grants, which are vetted by a committee and finalized by the county’s elected board of commissioners. Grants totaling $55,500 were approved Nov. 16.
The recipients are: The Benton County Museum ($4,700, display room), Benton City Revitalization Organization ($7,834 for history kiosks), East Benton County Historical Society ($10,250 for remote museum access), Evergreen Cemetery ($1,500 for Benton City Cemetery preservation), Kennewick Historic Preservation Commission ($12,900 for a survey of east Kennewick homes), Kennewick Professional Firefighters Local 1296 ($6,500 to restore antique fire engine), Kiona-Benton Historical Society ($8,000 for film history of KiB area), Reach Museum ($2,500 for outdoor exhibit and learning area) and White Bluffs Quilt Museum ($1.721 for shelving).
WPS Policy Summit returns in January
The Washington Policy Center’s annual Policy Summit returns Jan. 5-6 as a virtual event.
The summit includes discussions on taxation, emergency powers, school choice, Covid-19 vaccine mandates. The agenda will be released in December.
Registration is free to WPC members and $25 for nonmembers. A schedule and link will be sent to participants.
Go to: washingtonpolicy.org.
IRS helps taxpayers avoid tax help scams
The Internal Revenue Service has published how-to video series to help taxpayers settle past due bills and avoid paying excessive fees to companies that say they can help solve tax issues.
“We encourage eligible taxpayers in real financial distress to consider looking into an Offer in Compromise to resolve their tax issues,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.
“People also need to use caution with the program. Some companies routinely overstate how they can help with this program and clear up people’s back taxes for pennies on the dollar. A quick visit to IRS.gov can provide important information to help people with this program.”
Go to: irsvideos.gov/OIC.