Rick Kelley

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Valley’s jobless rate improves in May but still in double-digits

The jobless tide in Texas began to turn in May, with 291,000 private sector positions added to help cut the state unemployment rate to 12.7 percent. The April number was 13.1 percent. In the Rio Grande Valley, the jobless rate in the Brownsville-Harlingen Metropolitan Statistical Area fell to 16.0 percent from 16.9 percent in April, which is still more than three times the rate of May 2019 which was 4.9 percent. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Council selects two for new state regional flood committee

Two Valley representatives have been selected for a new state agency which will play a regional role in flood planning based on river basins. Ron Mills, port director for the Willacy County Navigation District, and Martin Knecht, of South Texas College, were approved for the Regional Water Resource Advisory Committee by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council at its board meeting Wednesday. Last year, Texas lawmakers expanded the Texas Water Development Board’s mission to create the new advisory committee, known as RWRAC. Read the full story at themonitor.com

TWC to reinstate work search requirement

Texas Workforce Commission officials Tuesday announced job search requirements suspended temporarily during the COVID-19 crisis will be reinstated July 6. That means all unemployed Texans will have to file a work search document in order to continue receiving benefits. The first work search report claimants will be required to file will occur on July 19. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Census numbers slow as protests capture interest of the country

State statistics experts say the Census 2020 response is “trickling in” both nationally and in Texas as many Americans focus instead on urban protests and rioting. “There has not been a whole lot of movement in the country’s self-response rate or Texas’s self-response rate since last week,” Lila Valencia, senior demographer at the Texas Demographic Center, said a week ago in a webinar with Texas Counts. Read the full story at themonitor.com

As feral pigs continue their spread, destruction increases

In North America’s longstanding war against the depredations of feral hogs, it’s a 500-year-old fight with no end in sight. Last week officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, biologists, wildlife experts and others participated in what they called the 2020 Virtual Wild Pig Conference, a series of YouTube presentations where the experts discussed the latest developments in their fields. Dale Nolte is feral swine damage management program manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, known as APHIS. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Cleanup time: Road to Recycling tire drop-off is Saturday

HARLINGEN — The Valley’s tire-choked ditches, and some crowded garages, will get some relief Saturday with the annual Road to Recycling tire drop-off. This year marks the fourth straight that the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council has led the tire cleanup charge, taking in more than 100,000 worn-out tires and seeing they are disposed of properly. Around 45 counties and municipalities are partnering with the council for the tire recycling effort this year. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Riding out the storm

Predictable as it may be, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues to wash through the Rio Grande Valley, with Valley Metro’s bus service down 38.8 percent this April compared to last. Overall, the transit system composed of Valley Metro, Brownsville Metro, Island Metro and Metro McAllen was off 26.4 percent from a year ago. “This pandemic really took a toll on our ridership numbers,” Tom Logan, director of regional transit, said Thursday. “It’s well-justified, and I think the public were doing what they were told, which is shelter at home.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

April sales figures show some sectors fared better than others

Retail figures from April show the pain businesses suffered from the COVID-19 shutdowns was not spread evenly. Instead, it varied depending on the type of business and whether or not it had an online platform for sales. The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, analyzed U.S. Census Bureau numbers and found they were poor, dropping twice as much in April as they did in March. Overall retail sales for April were down 16.4%, the Census Bureau said. That follows a record-setting 8.3% month-over-month drop in March. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Many Valley cities show sharp drop in sales tax numbers

Some of the Valley’s biggest cities showed the first effects of COVID-19 depressing spending habits, with sharp downturns in monthly sales tax numbers for March. South Padre Island was down 31.33 percent for March compared to last year, Brownsville was down 8.61 percent, McAllen was off 7.96 percent and Harlingen was down 5.41 percent. Mercedes, heavily dependent on sales at its outlet mall, was down 29.20 percent for the month. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Council seeks business input for regional survey

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council is working to capture the moment with a survey of regional businesses and the challenges they face in reestablishing themselves post-COVID-19. The online Business Impact Survey can be accessed via the LRGVDC’s Facebook page. It consists of questions concerning the longevity of the business, the number of employees, a general wage structure and just how the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have impacted the business. “We’re trying to capture the loss of revenue and the employees who are being let go or furloughed,” said Blanca Davila, director of community and economic development for the Weslaco-based council. Read the full story at themonitor.com