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The Wrap: Feeding AI, Medicaid Unwinding, College Quandary

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By Herald Staff

Get ‘The Wrap,’ our take on the news of the week, in your inbox every Tuesday. Sign up at https://bit.ly/HeraldNewsletters.

June 3-9

Feeding AI

It’s hard to turn around these days without reading about some new use for artificial intelligence. Universities, newsrooms, political campaigns and myriad other organizations are all talking about the transformation coming with the increasing use of AI.

A May report from Goldman Sachs said that AI is poised to drive a 160% rise in data center electricity demand. Amazon, Meta, Google and Microsoft all have pledged to power their data centers with renewables. They now see problems with those commitments. Natural gas may need to step into the gap.

The nuclear industry may also benefit from the rising demand coming from technology. On Wednesday, June 5, Jim Robb, the president of the North American Electrical Reliability Association, said the rapidly rising demand from data centers and the use of AI could draw investment to the nuclear industry, especially for the development of small, modular reactors.

A May study by the Electric Power Research Institute concluded that data center electricity demand could double by 2030 to consume 9% of all electricity generation. This is exactly the same time frame within which New Jersey expects 400,000 homes to convert to electricity for heating and cooling, five years before all new cars sold must be 100% electric, and 10 years before offshore wind is to provide 11,000 megawatts of electric power capacity.

A recent AI summit at Princeton University had Gov. Phil Murphy announcing new fellowships for entrepreneurs who will focus exclusively on AI-powered discovery.

A lot of things need to happen in unison if the electrification agenda is to achieve its goals.

Where we will be in the next decade with all of the goals and targets for energy transformation is getting less rather than more clear.

Medicaid Unwinding

Medicaid is the comprehensive health coverage program for roughly 80 million low-income Americans. The program is jointly financed by the states and the federal government but is administered by the states within broad federal rules.

Medicaid has long been a partisan issue, but a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found just over 71% of adults favored keeping the program as is, with that number split by party identification. 87% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans favored no change. The survey comes as states are completing the unwinding of Medicaid participation driven by continuous enrollment provisions during the pandemic.

The future of the Medicaid program could have significant impact on health-care services in Cape May County. Available data on maternity services in the county and hospitals in surrounding counties from 2018 to 2022 tells a story of heavy dependence on Medicaid.

Over that five-year period there were 1,353 births at Cape Regional Medical Center. Percentages of those giving birth while depending upon Medicaid coverage ranged from 66% in 2018 and 2019, to 70% in 2020 and 2021, to 68% in 2022. Maternity services at the center ended in September 2022.

In Atlantic County, the Shore Medical Center and AtlantiCare Mainland campus never hit 50% for use of Medicaid in those same years, but Inspira Vineland in Cumberland County was at 75% in 2022.

What the numbers suggest is that Medicaid is an important source of health coverage for many in South Jersey, especially in Cape May and Cumberland counties.

New Jersey’s Medicaid program, known as NJ Family Care, covers 2.2 million low-income residents of the Garden State and roughly 18,700 in 2023 in Cape May County – counting adults, children and the disabled. If that number holds in 2024, it would be about 24% of the county’s census-determined permanent population.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expects New Jersey to complete its unwinding-related renewals by July. Medicaid grew significantly under the pandemic; what the final numbers will be at the completion of the unwinding is unclear.

College Quandary

The working-age population that has some experience of college but no degree or credential is growing, according to an April report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. This population of under 65 working-age individuals has reached 36.8 million, up 3% from the year before. Higher education regularly generates more students who leave school without a degree or other credential than those who later return to finish one.

Reports indicate that those who do return are looking for the fastest way to a credential that will help in the workforce and help their prior investment pay off. The gap between those who leave and those who re-enroll is growing.

In New Jersey the “some college, no credential” category of people is just over 750,000. One year ago, in July 2023, New Jersey held its first statewide convening of the “Some College, No Degree” Student Engagement Initiative, whose goal is to convince more individuals to re-enroll.

That effort may run into stronger headwinds given the result of a Pew Research Center poll. Almost half of those surveyed said a college degree was worth it only if a student did not have to take out loans. Even among college graduates, only 32% said college is worth going into debt.

Happenings

The Stone Harbor Property Owners Association has renewed its call for a 10-year financial plan, citing concerns over the borough’s use of debt and budgetary management. Their recent letter highlights issues with the 2024 budget process and urges the borough to improve financial transparency and sustainability.

Barbara Wilde, owner of Willow Creek Winery, was featured in QVC’s “Over 50 and Fabulous” series for her inspiring story of creating dream businesses and empowering women.

Sergio Jimenez, 30, was arrested on May 29 for drug distribution and firearms offenses after police seized drugs, cash, and a handgun from his Villas residence. He faces multiple charges and was being held in the Cape May County Correctional Center pending court proceedings.

The Dennis Township Board of Education voted on May 30 to seek a $2.2 million referendum to help fund the 2024-2025 school year budget after residents criticized administrative expenditures. Complaints included cuts to staff hours and mental health services while raising administrative salaries.

Lower Township is reconsidering a bulkhead at Village Road beach access after resident concerns, ensuring the closure is temporary. Officials aim to balance pedestrian and emergency access, with plans to be discussed on June 17.

A juvenile suspect in the Memorial Day weekend stabbing of a 15-year-old on the Ocean City Boardwalk was arrested in Pleasantville on June 4. The suspect, charged with attempted murder and other offenses, is in juvenile detention pending court proceedings.

In New Jersey’s primary, Curtis Bashaw secured the Republican Senate nomination, setting up a contest against Rep. Andy Kim. Sen. Robert Menendez’s independent bid adds intrigue, while local races mostly had uncontested outcomes.

Ocean City’s 2024 budget nears the state cap, with a 7.5% tax rate hike, driven by inflation and increased personnel spending, alongside substantial new debt for projects like a public safety building renovation.

The fire on an Ocean City school bus has been deemed accidental, caused by the engine blowing, leading to oil igniting on the exhaust manifold. All students and the driver safely evacuated, and investigations by State Police are ongoing.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill amending the Open Public Records Act despite widespread opposition, sparking concerns about reduced government transparency. Critics fear the changes, especially in fee-shifting, could hinder access to government records and accountability.

Cape May City Manager Paul Dietrich addressed concerns about new state Department of Environmental Protection regulations at a City Council meeting, emphasizing opposition to proposed changes affecting flood hazard, stormwater, and coastal zone regulations.

Middle Township Committee opted for AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center as the township’s new EMS provider, starting Sept. 1, with a cost-effective contract, while Lower Township also chose AtlantiCare amidst changes in EMS services, aligning with AtlantiCare’s expansion plans.

Cape May prepares for a property revaluation as its assessed value falls below 85%, introducing a $250,000 bond ordinance for a digital tax map, clarifying the “special emergency” designation as state-mandated.

Cape May City Council introduced three bond ordinances totaling $13 million for capital improvements, funded through the general fund, water and sewer utility, and beach utility, with public hearings scheduled for July 2.

The Board of County Commissioners voted to terminate the 30-year lease with the Delaware River and Bay Authority for the Cape May County Airport, seeking independent control for future developments and revenue collection.

Gov. Phil Murphy visited North Wildwood for an update on a $17 million beach replenishment project, addressing concerns over erosion and highlighting the importance of beach protection for the local economy, while protesters voiced opposition to offshore wind farms.

Spout Off of the Week

Cape May County – How about we all do what we want a child to do. Don’t lie, cheat, steal, call people names and gossip. Be a good person and be good to one another.

Read more spouts at spoutoff.capemaycountyherald.com. 

Spout Off

Goshen – I think all of the police departments should promote by the amount of work the officers do. Not by taking a test. These promotions are given to the pets of the Chiefs, Mayors and Commissioners. This…

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Cape May – Curtis Bashaw, to say Andy Kim does not deserve a promotion and is not NJ is ridiculous. He was helping clean up from the insidious insurrection on Jan 6 while others were crying or trying to kiss…

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Cape May – Re: The Cape May "meltdown" (probably a tourist) on the French fries sold in our restaurants. I can fix that for you………………………Don't order French fries!! Cape May has…

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