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Zach Conine Navigates Nevada's Finances Through COVID-19

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Zach Conine was elected Nevada state treasurer in November 2018. Today, he oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in investments for the state as well as several college savings plans.

Two years into the job, State Treasurer Zach Conine has seen the state’s finances go from boom to almost bust. 

When the economy was roaring along, state coffers were full.  

But in just two months since non-essential businesses were closed, the state has compiled a deficit of $400 to $700 million dollars.

Conine said it is too early to see know just how deep of a hole the state will be in and how long it will take the state to recover. However, he is optimistic.

“We’re going to be doing everything in our power to make sure that people know that Nevada is safe and open for business when it’s safe and open for business,” he said.

The State Treasurers Office oversees a variety of pieces of the state's financial puzzle.

“In our office, we’ve been spending most of our time looking at ways that we can learn from what happened in the Great Recession and avoid some of those overhangs coming out,’ he said.

Conine said his office is focusing on mortgages, rent and utility bills so when people get back to work they're not faced with large balloon payments.

His office is also trying to help businesses apply for Small Business Administration loans.

“One of the big misconceptions we’re trying to fight is people heard that the program was difficult, they heard that funds were out and so they stopped the application process,” he said.

Support comes from

Conine suggests business owners get in touch with a bank or credit union, fill out an application and get into the queue because there are funds available and more funds could be directed to the programs.

He does admit that some of the SBA loan programs are tough to access because of Nevada's service industry; however, he is grateful for any effort to help.

“I’m cautiously optimistic and appreciative of all efforts that are being spent to keep people employed, to help people get through to unemployment to put additional monies into state and local coffers,” Conine said.

One of the areas of the state investments that the State Treasurer oversees is school scholarship funds like the Millennium Scholarship and Kickstart program.

The Kickstart Program offers any child enrolled in public kindergarten $50 in a college savings account, known as a 529 account.

Conine said any problems with the state's budget will not impact it's ability to keep those programs alive because the money is from investors not from taxes.

“All of that funding comes from outside the state… we manage about $26 billion of college savings assets through the different 529 plans, the majority of that is not Nevadan’s money,” he said.

The investors sell products backed by the state of Nevada, and in exchange, give money to the state to set up scholarship funds

In a recent editorial for the Reno Gazette-Journal, Conine called for a 'new deal' for essential workers. 

“I think this crisis has helped us see that there are individuals living among us who are essential that I don’t think we’ve ever properly given the respect and the courtesy and the support to,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada.

He said that without grocery workers, truck drivers, health care workers and others we would be in a much different place, during this crisis.

Conine argues that investing in essential workers will reduce pressure on social safety nets, help get people back to work and encourage people to take the jobs society needs filled.

Guests

Zach Conine, treasurer, State of Nevada

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