OFF PAGE ONE Saturday, July 27, 2019 Summit: Health services expected to see the biggest economic growth Continued from Page A1 looked at various industries in the region and projected where they would be through 2027. The department predicts that there will be 7,500 jobs added to the economy during that time, and nearly nine out of 10 of those jobs will come from the private sector. Health ser- vices was expected to see the biggest increase, followed by transportation, warehousing, and utilities. Other growth industries include construc- tion, manufacturing, and lei- sure and hospitality. “Is that growth outra- geous?” Rich said. “It’s actu- ally a little tame.” He then flipped to a slide that showed that many of the anticipated growth industries had shown more dramatic growth from 2007 to now than their future projections. Eastern Oregon has come a long way from the reces- sion, when unemployment peaked at 7.9% and more than a third of the region’s unemployed were without work long term. Unemploy- ment has now fallen to 5.1% and long-term unemploy- ment has been cut in half. With the economy recov- ered, representatives from the lumber and drone indus- try highlighted their fields. Lindsay Warness, the safety and environmen- tal manager for Woodgrain Millwork, a Fruitland, Idaho, wood products manufacturer that recently bought lum- ber mills in Pilot Rock and La Grande, said she thought Woodgrain could play a role in the projected growth in the manufacturing sector. “It’s dirty work, but there’s a lot of satisfaction and we get a lot done at the end of the day,” she said. Warness said the North- east Oregon timber industry has been hit hard by envi- ronmental regulations, losing 1,800 jobs since 1997. While the state’s employ- ment department didn’t anticipate much growth in the region’s tech indus- try, Ken Bisconer, the West Coast director of flight oper- ations for PAE ISR, a Vir- ginia-based defense con- tractor that tests its Resolute Eagle drone at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range, was optimistic that PAE and its growing work- force would prove the projec- tion wrong. Bisconer said most of the people he works worth are ex-military, but he’d like to recruit more people outside the armed forces by training students in high school and Blue Mountain Community College. “It’s a job you can hang your hat on,” he said. “It’s a retirement job.” Bisconer estimated that his employees contribute a total of $80,000 to $100,000 to Pendleton per month, and they could continue to do so as PAE prepares to bid on several nine- and 10-figure government contracts. One area of the Eastern Oregon economy that isn’t seeing growth is the number of young and middle-aged workers. “As a share of the work- force, we’re seeing a loss of the 45- to 54-year-olds in Eastern Oregon. That corre- sponds with changes in pop- ulation as well,” Rich said. “We’re seeing older age groups work longer, but we’re seeing a drop in the younger age groups.” While Rich said his pre- sentation just scratched the surface of the data at the employment department’s disposal, he made his pitch in front of an influential crowd. In addition to government officials and business lead- ers, the audience eventually swelled to include several legislators, the Oregon state treasurer, and former con- gressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Staff photo by Ben Lonergan Two campers participate in an acting and movement game during a breakout session Thursday morning. Camp: Residents welcome drama with open hearts Continued from Page A1 tion for this weekend’s per- formance. The plays give students the opportunity to work with fellow actors of different ages. Unlike other theater camps, Flagg says that she stresses the importance of giving every kid an import- ant role rather than having younger kids play parts of the scenery or rocks. “The teaching that I do in Pendleton teaches the importance of stepping up for themselves and taking risks,” Flagg said. “You need to be able to take the focus and give it to others; it is not theater just for the extrovert.” Youths attending the camp seem to resonate well with the teaching style that Flagg emphasizes. Many of the campers attend the camp year after year to learn new ideas and skills as well as work on their confidence on the stage. Maddie Thomp- son, 17, has been attend- ing the camp for nine years and credits it with much of her confidence and public speaking ability. “One of my first years here I was playing a lion and I couldn’t speak up, let alone be loud and roar on stage,” Thompson said. “The people here sup- ported me and allowed me to reach outside my com- fort zone and from there I have just skyrocketed to a leadership position where I can be comfortable yell- ing on stage and play- ing whatever character is necessary.” While Thompson is now part of the camp’s leader- ship structure in a newly founded “leadership ensem- ble” that helps to support younger campers, the same experiences are echoed by those in their first years at the camp. Kaitlyn Shaver, 8, showed up on the first day of camp with no prior the- ater experience. “When you experience that, it is like something that you want to know for the rest of your life,” said Shaver. “It was something that I heard about and just really wanted to try.” The groups of campers will put their theater skills on display Saturday during an original compilation of seven short acts entitled “The Forgiveness Plays” that were written, rehearsed and directed throughout the week of camp. East Oregonian A9 SNAP: In an attempt to close a loophole, thousands of Oregonians could lose benefits Continued from Page A1 tance to Needy Families program and SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. How many of those res- idents would no longer be eligible, however, is not known. State officials are try- ing to come up with an estimate, said Heather Miles, an operations and policy analyst for the Department of Human Service’s Self-Sufficiency Program. “We’re trying to work on county-level data as much as we can, because we know how important that’s going to be for local areas,” Miles said. The Agriculture Department said that the rule would close “a loop- hole” that enables people receiving only minimal benefits from the Tempo- rary Assistance for Needy Families program to be eligible automatically for food stamps without undergoing further checks on their income or assets. U.S. Secretary of Agri- culture Sonny Perdue called it a “loophole.” “Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a crit- ical safety net system, so those who need food assis- tance the most are the only ones who receive it.” Trump administration officials estimate 3.1 mil- lion people nationwide could lose benefits under SNAP. If the rule is adopted, those on TANF would have to apply separately for SNAP. The federal government estimates about 3 million peo- ple would not otherwise meet the requirements for SNAP. That would result in a net savings of about $9.4 billion over five years. According to DHS fig- ures as of 2017, around 911,000 people in Oregon were part of the SNAP pro- gram and almost 100,000 were receiving benefits through TANF. Eligibility is determined by factors including monthly income and number of dependent children. According to Oregon statistics, in June of this year about 15,100 Umatilla County residents received SNAP benefits — that’s about 18.7% of county residents. In Morrow County, about 2,600 residents received SNAP benefits during June — 21.9% of the county’s population. That’s the sev- enth-highest rate among Oregon’s 36 counties. SNAP benefits to Uma- tilla County residents totaled about $1.65 mil- lion during June 2019, and Morrow County residents received about $276,000, according to state records. Miles said the federal proposal would change the income eligibility thresh- old for Oregon residents from the current 185% of the federal poverty level, to 130%. An Oregon family of three currently qualifies for SNAP benefits if its monthly income is less than $3,288, Miles said. The proposed change would drop that limit, for a family of three, to $2,252 per month. The maximum monthly SNAP benefit is $505 for a family of three, Miles said. Although state offi- cials are still analyzing data to derive an estimate for how many Oregonians might lose SNAP benefits, Miles said it’s likely that counties with higher per- centages of older residents would be more affected, proportionally. That’s in part because the federal proposal would mean some SNAP recipi- ents, including elderly res- idents, would no longer be automatically eligible as they are now, Miles said. Oregon is one of 43 states that qualifies some residents for SNAP ben- efits, without requir- ing them to verify their income and expenses, for certain reasons, includ- ing if they also qualify for another federal program — Temporary Assis- tance for Needy Families (TANF). That’s known as a “cat- egorical eligibility,” Miles said. If the federal govern- ment stops allowing Ore- gon to use the categorical eligibility process, resi- dents would have to go through a longer process, which would be more expensive to the state, to apply for SNAP benefits, she said. According to state records, of the 15,101 Umatilla County residents who received SNAP ben- efits in June, 1,719 are older than 60 and 1,747 are younger than 5. The figures for Mor- row County are 253 recipi- ents older than 60, and 327 younger than 5. Power: Base wholesale rate will remain at $35.62 per megawatt-hour Continued from Page A1 be changes to your retail rate,” said Maryam Habibi, a public affairs specialist for BPA. Habibi said that retail rates are determined by local utilities, and while the average cost will remain flat, some products will experience a rate change. Flattening the base power rate was made pos- sible by reductions totaling $66 million in projected program costs. Last year, the BPA’s Inte- grative Program Review accrued $56 million in sav- ings, in part due to a $30 million annual reduction to Fish and Wildlife program expenses. The administration iden- tified another $10 million savings from the decom- missioning of nuclear proj- ects in Washington. There is an increasing chance, however, that the average rate could rise by 1.5% — below the rate of inflation — in the future due to a surcharge that AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File The Bonneville Power Administration, which provides wholesale power to Umatilla Electric Company, Hermiston Energy Ser- vices, Pacific Power and other area utilities, has reported that the average wholesale base power cost will remain flat for the 2020-21 fiscal year. will initiate if the BPA has less than 60 days worth of money for both its power and transmission lines. “When BPA makes a change in their rates, it becomes one of the many factors that go into figur- ing out our rates,” said Tom Gaunt, a spokesman for Pacific Power. “Any BPA rate (change) should not have any major effect on people who get their power from us.” Pacific Power rates are determined by state procedure. Starting Oct.1, with interim federal approval, BPA’s average transmission rate will increase by 3.6%, which was lower than ini- tial estimates. Earlier this week, the Seattle Times reported that BPA had raised its rates by 30% over the last nine years, and that some regional public utility executives are consider- ing other producers as con- tracts expire in 2028. “Through collabora- tion with our customers and partners throughout the region, we have worked hard to bend the cost curve and keep base power rates flat,” BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer said in a recent press release. Both Umatilla Electric Cooperative and Hermis- ton Energy Services were unavailable for comment prior to publication.