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Apple Pledges $2.5 Billion to Help CA’s Housing Crisis

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  • Apple has pledged $2.5 billion to help address California’s housing crisis, which will be used to build affordable housing and aid first-time home buyers, among other things. 
  • Other major tech companies like Google and Facebook have made their own contributions to this cause, though Apple’s is the largest. 
  • The state’s housing crisis has led to massive issues due to the increasing prices of property in the state. Residents are being priced out of the Bay Area, with many saying that the presence of tech companies is behind this.
  • Housing demand is another facet of the issue, as the state is not building enough affordable housing for its population.

Apple Pledges $2.5 Billion

Apple has become the latest tech giant to pledge money to aid the housing crisis in California, offering $2.5 billion to the cause. 

Their plan will give $1 billion to an affordable housing investment, which they say will be the first of its kind in California. The fund will allow the state and others to open a line of credit for new housing for very low-to-moderate-income residents. Another $1 billion will go to a first-time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund, which will help with downpayment assistance and provide more opportunities to buy for people like service personnel, school employees and veterans. 

Apple will also give $300 million in Apple-owned land in San Jose to make available for affordable housing. The rest will go to a Bay Area housing fund and means to support vulnerable populations. Currently, the company anticipates it will take two years for this plan to be utilized.

California’s housing crisis is not a new issue, and many have pointed to tech companies for pricing long-time residents out of now expensive areas. In the company’s statement, CEO Tim Cook said the company feels a responsibility to make sure Silicon Valley can continue to be a home for its residents.

“Before the world knew the name Silicon Valley, and long before we carried technology in our pockets, Apple called this region home, and we feel a profound civic responsibility to ensure it remains a vibrant place where people can live, have a family and contribute to the community,” Cook said. “Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride. When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution.”

Apple is not the first major tech company to contribute to this ongoing issue, though it has offered the largest sum to it thus far. In October, Facebook committed $1 billion to address the housing crisis in California. In June, Google also pledged a $ billion to build homes in the Bay Area. Over in Seattle, which is experiencing a similar problem, Microsoft pledged $500 million for affordable housing

California Governor Gavin Newsom applauded Apple for taking this recent step and encouraged more companies to follow suit

“This unparalleled financial commitment to affordable housing, and the innovative strategies at the heart of this initiative, are proof that Apple is serious about solving this issue,” Newsom said in Apple’s statement. “I hope other companies follow their lead.”

Housing Crisis In California

Finding housing in California has become increasingly difficult due to both cost and demand.  According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, California has the second-highest housing wage in the country. In order to afford a 2-bedroom rental home, renters would need to earn an hourly wage of $34.69. If someone were making the state’s minimum wage, which is $12 per hour, they would need to work 116 hours a week to afford that same space.

On the demand side of the issue, homes are also not being added at the rate of the state’s growing population. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s 2016 report on California’s housing gap, “Since 2005, California has added 308 units for every 1,000 new inhabitants.” To put that number in perspective, New York added 549 houses in the same timeframe.

Tech Companies’ Role in the Crisis and What is Being Done

Apple addressed some of these issues in their press release, noting that in the Bay Area, homeownership is at a seven-year low. They also stated that just between April and June of this year, 30,000 people moved out of San Francisco. The company pointed towards residents being priced out as a potential cause. 

This idea of residents being priced out is where tech companies come in as a cause of the housing crisis. With so many major tech headquarters calling California’s Bay Area and neighboring areas home, prices there go up. Not just tech moguls live in Silicon Valley, however, and these increasing prices are impossible for low and middle-income residents to afford.

In a 2018 report, CNN spoke to Karen Chapple, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who researches governance, planning, and development of U.S. cities. She told them that having these wide income gaps causes a “mismatch” when it comes to housing. 

“We have high tech jobs which generate a lot of service jobs: hair-cutting salons, nail salons and masseuses, yoga studios and dog care,” Chapple told the outlet. “High-end jobs and low-end jobs [are] created at the same time, but you have a housing market that is really only producing for folks at the high end of the scale. There is a mismatch.”

Housing crises do not just lead to residents moving, but also a homelessness problem throughout the state. San Jose alone has said their homeless population has increased by 40 percent in just two years. 

Tech companies are not the only ones trying to find answers to the problem. In October, Governor Newsom signed legislation that will cap annual rent hikes throughout the state. It caps rent increases, in most cases, at five percent plus inflation for the next decade.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hill)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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