Archives October 2021

States and cities slow to spend federal pandemic money

As Congress considered a massive COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. pleaded for “immediate action” on billions of dollars targeted to shore up their finances and revive their communities.

Now that they’ve received it, local officials are taking their time before actually spending the windfall.

As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states hadn’t spent a penny from the American Rescue Plan championed by Democrats and President Joe Biden, according to an Associated Press review of the first financial reports due under the law. States had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5%, according to the AP analysis.

Many state and local governments reported they were still working on plans for their share of the $350 billion, which can be spent on a wide array of programs.

Though Biden signed the law in March, the Treasury Department didn’t release the money and spending guidelines until May. By then, some state legislatures already had wrapped up their budget work for the next year, leaving governors with no authority to spend the new money. Some states waited several more months to ask the federal government for their share.

Source: AP News

Russia hits record number of daily COVID-19 deaths

On Sunday, Russia reported a record daily death toll from COVID-19, the fifth time in a week that deaths have hit a new high. The national coronavirus task force said 890 deaths were recorded over the past day, exceeding the 887 reported on Friday.

The task force also said the number of new infections in the past day was the second-highest of the year at 25,769. Overall, Russia, a nation of 146 million people, has Europe’s highest death toll from the pandemic, nearly 210,000 people. Yet despite the country’s persistent rise in daily deaths and new cases, Russian officials say there are no plans to impose a lockdown. Mask-wearing regulations are in place but are loosely enforced.

Source: AP News

Biden’s approval slumps after a slew of crises: AP-NORC poll

President Joe Biden’s popularity has slumped after a slew of challenges in recent weeks at home and abroad for the leader who pledged to bring the country together and restore competence in government, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Fifty percent now say they approve of Biden, while 49% disapprove. Fifty-four percent approved in August, and 59% did in July. The results come as Americans process the harried and deadly evacuation from Afghanistan, mounted border patrol agents charging at Haitian refugees, the unshakable threat of the coronavirus with its delta variant and the legislative drama of Biden trying to negotiate his economic, infrastructure and tax policies through Congress.

Since July, Biden’s approval rating has dipped slightly among Democrats (from 92% to 85%) and among independents who don’t lean toward either party (from 62% to 38%). Just 11% of Republicans approve of the president, which is similar to July.

Approval also dipped somewhat among both white Americans (49% to 42%) and Black Americans (86% to 64%).

In follow-up interviews, some of those who had mixed feelings about Biden’s performance still saw him as preferable to former President Donald Trump. They said that Biden was dealing with a pandemic that began under the former president, an Afghanistan withdrawal negotiated on Trump’s behalf and an economy that tilted in favor of corporations and the wealthy because of Trump’s tax cuts.

“Trump had a lot to do with what’s going on now,” said Acarla Strickland, 41, a health care worker from Atlanta who voted for Biden yet now feels lukewarm about him.

Source: AP News

A 41-year-old female teacher from Annapolis High arrested for sex offense charges against 17-year-old boy

A 41-year-old Annapolis High School special education teacher, Jennifer Arnold, was arrested Friday and charged with multiple sex offense charges against a 17-year-old boy.

An investigation started after “Anne Arundel Police and Department of Social Services were notified in reference to a possible sex offense involving a schoolteacher” on July 6, according to the news release.

Arnold was banned from the school after they were notified while an investigation ensued. 

The 17-year-old, who now resides out of the state, was interviewed later that month and disclosed information on the sexual contact between him and Arnold. 

The investigation resulted in charging Arnold with the sex abuse of a minor, third-degree sex offense, and fourth-degree sex offense involving a person in the position of authority, according to the release. 

Authorities do not believe any of the sexual encounters occurred at the school. Arnold was taken without incident. 

Source: WBAL

Justice Kavanaugh tests positive for COVID, has no symptoms

Justice Brett Kavanaugh tested positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, the Supreme Court said Friday. The court said the 54-year-old justice has no symptoms.

It’s the first time the court has reported that a sitting justice has tested positive for the virus, although Amy Coney Barrett had COVID-19 last year before she joined the high court.

Kavanaugh was the only one of the nine justices to skip Friday’s ceremonial swearing-in for Barrett, an event that itself was delayed nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

All the justices were tested in advance of the ceremony. They also had been tested before they met in private on Monday to discuss adding additional cases to their docket. All were negative then, the court said.

It’s unclear whether Kavanaugh will attend the opening of the court’s new term Monday, when the justices will return to the courtroom to hear arguments after an 18-month absence because of the pandemic. Oral arguments scheduled for October, November and December will be in the courtroom but those sessions will not be open to the public. Attorneys who argue before the court will have to have a negative COVID test to participate in person and wear a mask when not arguing. The public will continue to be able to listen to live broadcasts of the arguments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people without symptoms self-isolate for 10 days after a positive COVID test. Kavanaugh took his test and was informed of the results on Thursday, the court said.

Justice Kavanaugh’s wife Ashley and daughters, all of whom are fully vaccinated, tested negative for the virus, the court said. Kavanaugh took part Wednesday in an annual three-mile run for charity in Washington that included other judges, elected officials, government workers and reporters. The court did not say how he might have come into contact with the virus.

Source: Newsbreak

Democrats still struggling to save Biden $3.5T measure

espite a long night of frantic negotiations, Democrats were unable to reach an immediate deal to salvage President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion government overhaul, forcing leaders to call off promised votes on a related public works bill. Action is to resume Friday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had pushed the House into an evening session and top White House advisers huddled for talks at the Capitol as the Democratic leaders worked late Thursday to negotiate a scaled-back plan that centrist holdouts would accept. Biden had cleared his schedule for calls with lawmakers but it appeared no deal was within reach, particularly with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Manchin refused to budge, the West Virginia centrist holding fast to his earlier declaration that he was willing to meet the president less than halfway — $1.5 trillion.

“I don’t see a deal tonight. I really don’t,” Manchin told reporters as he left the Capitol.

Deeply at odds, the president and his party are facing a potentially embarrassing setback — if not politically devastating collapse of the whole enterprise — if they cannot resolve the standoff over Biden’s big vision.

Source: AP News

4-for-4: Braves sweep Phillies to win their 4th straight NL East division

The National League East division pennant will stay in Atlanta. The Braves swept their rival Philadelphia Phillies Thursday night to claim their fourth straight NL East title.

The Braves have now won 21 division titles, which is the most in MLB history. Atlanta will face the NL Central champions Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division Series.

Thursday’s home sweep of the Phillies is poetic considering how the Braves began the season getting swept in Philadelphia.

Now the Braves will look to build some momentum as they close out the season against the Mets at home.

Atlanta will have a few days to prepare for the Brewers. The NLDS begins on Friday Oct. 8 with Games 1 and 2 in Milwaukee. Atlanta will host Games 3 and 4 on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12.


Biden signs bill to avert partial government shutdown

With only hours to spare, President Joe Biden on Thursday evening signed legislation that would avoid a partial federal shutdown and keep the government funded through Dec. 3. Congress had passed the bill earlier Thursday.

The back-to-back votes by the Senate and then the House averted one crisis, but delays on another continue as the political parties dig in on a dispute over how to raise the government’s borrowing cap before the United States risks a potentially catastrophic default.

The House approved the short-term funding measure by a 254-175 vote not long after Senate passage in a 65-35 vote. A large majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against it. The legislation was needed to keep the government running once the current budget year ended at midnight Thursday. Passage will buy lawmakers more time to craft the spending measures that will fund federal agencies and the programs they administer.

“There’s so much more to do,” Biden said in a statement after the signing. “But the passage of this bill reminds us that bipartisan work is possible and it gives us time to pass longer-term funding to keep our government running and delivering for the American people.”

The work to keep the government open and running served as the backdrop during a chaotic day for Democrats as they struggled to get Biden’s top domestic priorities over the finish line, including a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill at risk of stalling in the House.

“It is a glimmer of hope as we go through many, many other activities,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

With their energy focused on Biden’s agenda, Democrats backed down from a showdown over the debt limit in the government funding bill, deciding to uncouple the borrowing ceiling at the insistence of Republicans. If that cap is not raised by Oct. 18, the U.S. probably will face a financial crisis and economic recession, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

Republicans say Democrats have the votes to raise the debt limit on their own, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is insisting they do so.

The short-term spending legislation will also provide about $28.6 billion in disaster relief for those recovering from Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters. Some $10 billion of that money will help farmers cover crop losses from drought, wildfires and hurricanes. An additional $6.3 billion will help support the resettlement of Afghanistan evacuees from the 20-year war between the U.S. and the Taliban.

“This is a good outcome, one I’m happy we are getting done,” Schumer said. “With so many things to take care of in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to grind to a halt.”

Once the government is funded, albeit temporarily, Democrats will turn their full attention to the need to raise the limit on federal borrowing, which now stands at $28.4 trillion.

Source: WBAL