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White House Wants Congress to Send Checks to Americans as Part of Coronavirus Relief Package

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  • The Trump Administration clarified details surrounding an $850 billion stimulus package that it wants Congress to pass.
  • Namely, it is asking the Senate to propose legislation that would “[send] checks to Americans immediately.”
  • Several other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have suggested implementing emergency universal basic income measures.
  • The news comes as the House sends another bill to the Senate, this bill focusing on paid sick leave.

$850 Billion Trump Administration Bill

In a move shifting away from a push for payroll tax cuts, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday morning that he is asking Congress to immediately send checks to Americans.

The request is part of an $850 billion stimulus package the Administration is proposing. 

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a White House briefing. “And what we’ve heard from hardworking Americans, many companies have now shut down, whether it’s bars or restaurants. Americans need cash now and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean, now, in the next two weeks.”

In the briefing, Trump said he is choosing check over payroll tax cuts because those cuts would take several weeks to implement.

According to two White House officials, Trump’s plan would contain around $50 billion directed at the airline industry and more assistance for small businesses and their employees.

Mnuchin was expected to meet with Senate Republicans around lunch on Tuesday to present the specific details of the bill. 

Is the United States in a Recession?

The Trump Administration hopes the bill will curtail massive free falls in the stock market. On Monday, the Dow Jones plunged 3,000 points before slightly recovering, and Tuesday morning it fell below 20,000 points. 

Last week, Trump said the U.S. isn’t in a financial crisis. On Monday, after a reporter asked him if the U.S. is headed for a recession, he said, “We may be.”

Also, Tuesday morning, a chief economist for Morgan Stanley said, “Global recession in 2020 is now our base case. With Covid-19 spreading in Europe and the US after hitting Asia, the disruptions and dislocations in the economy and markets will trigger a [year over year] contraction in global growth in [the first half of 2020].”

In fact, the UCLA Anderson Forecast is already saying that the U.S. is now in a recession that will likely last until the end of September.

Emergency Universal Basic Income

The prospect of sending cash to Americans has been floated among several lawmakers in recent days, including Republicans Senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton. Both have voiced their support for such a move, calling on Congress to send checks to low-income and middle-class Americans.

Romney’s plan would be a one-time injection of $1,000 to Americans, while Cotton said he wants a monthly plan. According to Cotton, that would look something like giving $4,000 a month to a family of four, $1,000 if you’re a single adult, either through unemployment insurance or through a tax rebate.

Cotton said he’s proposing this because a bill in the House that’s now sitting in the Senate does not go far enough to provide economic relief.

“There are too many gaps in coverage for the smallest businesses and for medium-sized businesses, and I and a lot of other senators who I’ve spoken to over the weekend are worried that we’re not doing enough to get cash into the hands of affected workers and families quickly,” Cotton said.

The ideas the Trump Administration, Romney, and Cotton are proposing would be different forms of an emergency universal basic income. 

Andrew Yang, a previous Democratic presidential candidate who was known for his support of universal basic income, said of the idea, “I’m pumped about it actually.” 

On Friday, another Democrat, Representative Tusli Gabbard introduced a similar UBI measure in the House.

“An emergency Universal Basic Payment of $1,000 per month available to all Americans until the Department of Health and Human Services declares that the COVID–19 outbreak no longer presents a public health emergency,” she said in her proposal.

Some Democrats Have Different Ideas for a Relief Bill

So far, not everyone is on board. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to outline a Democratic proposal today as well. 

Notably, that bill would cost $750 billion.

It’s expected to expand unemployment insurance, provide money for schools, public transportation, expand Medicaid funding, expand more investments in health care, provide loan assistance, and halt evictions and foreclosures. Like Mnuchin, Schumer was also expected to present specific details about his plan Tuesday.

Democrats like Schumer are pushing for provisions like this because they say that tax cuts aren’t going to help people who’ve already lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.

Senate to Take Up House Bill

The Senate is expected to make a vote as soon as Tuesday regarding a bill that passed through the House on Monday. It will provide paid sick leave, free testing, boosted unemployment insurance, and food programs for children, the elderly, and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.

Asked by CNN what the Senate will do when it hold the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Pass it.” 

I think [Mnuchin’s] preference is we pass the House bill and move quickly to pass the third Coronavirus bill that deals with some of these issues about creating a mechanism to return money, to get liquidity into the hands of small businesses. I think they’d like to go big,” Senator Marco Rubio said Tuesday.

The House bill faced a potential snag Monday when Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert threatened to stall that process, but he later backed off. 

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The New York Times) (ABC News)

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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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