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Fed Says Lawmakers Need to Do More as Unemployment Numbers Grow

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  • The government reported that nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number to more than 36 million. That does not include the nearly 10 million who have exited the workforce entirely.
  • Meanwhile, people all over the country have been unable to get unemployment benefits because systems are so bogged down.
  • Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the downturn was “without modern precedent,” and warned it could create long-lasting damage if lawmakers do not provide more financial help.
  • While Democrats have proposed a new $3 trillion stimulus package, Republicans and President Trump have said it is too soon after the last stimulus bill.

Unemployment Numbers Rise

The Labor Department reported on Thursday that nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of claims in the last two months to more than 36 million.

While the weekly count has been decreasing steadily since late March, the number of people out of work is actually a lot higher than what is reflected in those reports. 

Last week, the Labor Department said that the actual unemployment rate for April may have been close to 20%, due to issues with the ways workers are classified. Their official count clocked it at just under 15%.

That is because the official unemployment rate only looks at the active labor force— the number of people working compared with the number of people who are looking for work or who have been “temporarily” laid off and expect to get their job back.

But that does not account for individuals who have exited the workforce altogether, like people who stopped working because they do not feel safe or those who are not actively searching for work because the job market is bad right now.

According to the Labor Department’s jobs report for April, 9.5 million people who were working in March had left the workforce by May. That’s nearly 10 million people who are not being counted in updated unemployment numbers, and if they were included, it would put the current count at 46 million.

Issues With Unemployment Systems

Even for the people who are still in the workforce and who are still trying to get unemployment benefits, there are still a ton of problems.

Numerous states have huge backlogs of unemployment claims, and people all over the country have reported that they have been unable to even reach their state agencies because the systems are so bogged down. 

As of last week, 20 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have not paid out any benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that Congress passed as part of the stimulus bill to help freelancers, self-employed people, and other workers who normally would not be eligible for state unemployment benefits.

According to a poll for The New York Times conducted earlier this month by SurveyMonkey, more than half of the people who applied for unemployment benefits in recent weeks were unsuccessful.

In some states where people have been approved for those benefits, actually getting them has also been a slow process. In Florida, for example, less than half of all people with certified unemployment claims have actually started receiving benefits.

Jerome Powell’s Warning

Unfortunately, these are not problems that are simply going to start going away as more and more states begin to ease restrictions.

While more reopening means more rehiring and more people going back to work, most economists believe that it will take years to get the joblessness rate back to where it was before the pandemic.

As a result, many experts and officials say that the government needs to do more to help people and prop up the economy, like Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who gave an incredibly stark warning about the state of the economy during a teleconference Wednesday.

“The scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since the second world war,” he said.

Powell also warned that the current downturn could create serious and long-lasting damage to the economy if lawmakers do not provide more financial aid to address joblessness and prevent widespread bankruptcies.

Powell specifically said that he is worried about a domino effect situation with joblessness and spending. For example, if more and more consumers keep losing jobs, they spend less. That hurts restaurants, gyms, retail stores, and other businesses, which could force them to close, thus losing even more jobs.

While Powell applauded Congress and President Donald Trump for passing the nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill, he still said it is absolutely necessary that they do more.

“The recovery may take some time to gather momentum,” he said. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”

Debate Over New Stimulus Bill

Powell’s remarks came just one day days after House Democrats proposed a $3 trillion stimulus package aimed at providing more relief to struggling Americans.

Among other things, the proposal includes another round of stimulus checks, a large chunk of aid to states and municipalities, and more money for the Paycheck Protection Program.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) immediately said the legislation was dead on arrival.

While Senate Republicans generally do agree that another stimulus package will be needed, they also think it is too soon after the last bill. They say the government should wait to see the economic benefits from all the states that have begun reopening. 

That is also something that has been echoed by President Trump, who recently has said he expects to see a dramatic economic rebound as more restrictions are lifted.

However, it is currently unclear how big of an impact these reopenings have had on joblessness, at least so far. According to Labor Department data, even some states that rushed to open back up like Florida and Georgia still saw an increase in unemployment claims from last week.

There are also other issues that reopenings could cause when it comes to unemployment benefits, like the fact that some states are now taking a hardline approach to who gets benefits.

For example, Nebraska’s Labor Department posted a notice online saying failure to return to work “could be considered fraud” and potentially disqualify people from receiving benefits.

In South Carolina, workers are not eligible for unemployment if they do not work because they are isolating or have children to look after while schools are closed.

Those kinds of policies create more hurdles for people who desperately need help. It also puts some workers in a situation where they are forced to either stay home and not make money or work in potentially unsafe conditions.

That on its own is likely to put further strain on the economy, but it also risks more spread, which many experts have warned could undo all of the progress made and hurt the economy even more in the long run. 

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

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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