News In Brief
July 6, 2020
- Federal regulators will vote in July on whether to make "988" the number to reach a suicide prevention hotline. The Federal Communications Commission says phone service providers will have until July 2022 to implement the new number, if the measure is approved in July, as expected. Once it's in place, people will be able to dial 988 to seek help, like how you can call 911 for an emergency. Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK (8255), which routes calls to about 170 crisis centers. That 800 number will remain in place, but having the shorter number makes it easier for people to call and is expected to lead to an increase in calls to the hotline. Suicide-prevention experts have said that the three-digit number will be a breakthrough that helps people in crisis. One aspect of designating a three-digit number for the hotline, just like 911 for emergencies, is that it removes stigma for seeking help in a mental-health emergency, they say. The government's action comes as suicide rates have increased across the U.S. over the past two decades. The coronavirus pandemic has put even more strain on the nation's mental health care system, and experts have been concerned about the impact as the virus and its aftershocks may deepen people's levels of anxiety and depression.
- The 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo,originally scheduled for Nov. 13-16 in New Orleans, will transition to a fullyvirtual format given the ongoing health and safety concerns related to theCOVID-19 pandemic. In recent surveys designed to look at member and association staffinterest in traveling to New Orleans for an in-person conference, more thantwo-thirds of respondents reported that they'd be unwilling to do so. Theycited safety concerns, including their desire to avoid crowds and theunlikelihood of a vaccine being available by November. NAR will announcedetails, including registration information, in the coming weeks. The virtualformat will allow the association's full governance processes to proceednormally during the conference, which will also include educational speakers,energizing livestreamed content, networking opportunities, and an industry expo.
- The number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rebounded a record 44.3% in May after a record-breaking decline the previous month, as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic sidelined both buyers and sellers. Pending home sales are continuing to increase. "This has been a spectacular recovery for contract signings, and goes to show the resiliency of American consumers and their evergreen desire for homeownership," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. The National Association of Realtors said that its index of pending sales rose to 99.6 in May, the highest month-over-month gain in the index since its inception in January 2001. The pending home sales index plunged 21.8% from March to April to a level of 69.
- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the single-director structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is unconstitutional. With this decision, the bureau's director can no longer be removed from the position only for cause but instead will serve at the discretion of the president at will. For REALTORS®, the most notable outcome is that the decision does not invalidate the CFPB as a whole and ensures the bureau will operate with a director who serves at the will of the president moving forward. Late last year, the National Association of REALTORS® submitted an amicus curiae brief, along with the National Association of Home Builders and the Mortgage Bankers Association, calling for the Supreme Court to cause the least possible disruption to the nation's housing and real estate markets with this ruling. The announcement is in line with NAR's advocacy and should result in minimal disruption to the role of the CFPB and its past and future actions.
- Washington state now faces a projected $8.8 billion state budget shortfall through 2023. About half of that shortfall hits the state's current, 2019-21 $53.3 billion operating budget. A spending document that reaches all facets and regions of Washington, it funds schools, state parks, public-health programs, prisons and social services, like foster care and mental health. In the coming months, lawmakers are expected to make adjustments to the budget in a special legislative session. As lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee confront the bleak numbers, they wrestle with hard choices. The state's emergency reserves won't cover even the current budget's shortfall. Democrats are talking up new taxes as a way to avoid deep cuts while rebalancing Washington's regressive tax system, which depends heavily on the sales tax. Some have urged new taxes on capital gains or on large employers, or the elimination of some business tax breaks. Republicans fear new taxes, which they argue will burden businesses at the very time employers need relief. And, they say that by making more cuts now, early on, they can reduce damage to programs that help Washington's most vulnerable in the coming months and years. While the pandemic hit hard and suddenly, lawmakers aren't likely to take as drastic a response. Their immediate concern is to plug the $4.5 billion hole in the current two-year budget. The state's roughly $3 billion in reserves will get them a good distance toward that goal. The harder decisions will likely come in January, when lawmakers return for their scheduled session to write a new two-year budget. They face a projected $4.3 billion shortfall for that spending blueprint.
- Washington's population has topped 7.6 million, with growth coming mostly from those moving to the state. Latest numbers show the state has grown by 109,800 residents over the past year, a 1.5% increase. Population growth has remained concentrated in the five of the state's largest metropolitan counties: Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane. The top 10 cities for population growth are:Seattle, Vancouver, Redmond, Bellevue, Tacoma, Pasco, Kirkland, Richland, Laceyand Spokane. Seattle's population increased by 13,800 people to 761,100.