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Fix ACA (Long) or repeal it (JHB) ● USPS sabotage ● Congress flails

Monday, August 3, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Aug. 3 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 58,173 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 868) and 1,596 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 11)

► From the Seattle Times — Okanogan orchard worker under quarantine dies at farm labor camp — A 63-year-old guest worker in Okanogan County died Friday night while under quarantine at a farm labor camp, according to a statement released by his employer, Gebbers Farms.

► From the Seattle Times — Washington State Ferries grapples with mask requirements for passengers — Even as Gov. Jay Inslee orders private merchants to require masks indoors, Washington state’s own ferry crews lack the ability to conduct strict enforcement aboard ship… Peter Hart, regional director for the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific, which represents 900 ferry workers, said, “I don’t want our folks having to be COVID cops, because that’s not their bailiwick.” Well over 80% of passengers who leave their cars are masking, Hart estimates, based on field reports from the union’s coronavirus work group.

► From NBC News — Some workers sickened by COVID-19 face an extra challenge: Proving where they got it. — Across the United States, workers face wildly varying rules about whether COVID-19 is covered as a workplace injury. That leaves many workers with the formidable task of trying to prove they contracted the virus on the job.




► From the Seattle Times — As Washington state’s unemployment bureaucracy stalled, this Facebook group became a lifeline for jobless workers — Soon after joining the 15,700-plus member Facebook group, one of the largest focused on Washington’s overwhelmed unemployment system, Kendra Velasquez got more than just good advice. She also found an unexpected, surprisingly welcoming community that showed her she wasn’t the only person lost down a bureaucratic rabbit hole.

► From the Seattle Times — Proposed Virginia Mason-CHI Franciscan merger increases worry about Catholic limits on health care in Washington — The proposed merger of a well-regarded secular hospital system and a larger Roman Catholic system in Washington state has triggered new alarms about religious restrictions on patients’ access to care.

► From the Spokesman-Review — STA says it can navigate $126 million shortfall without stopping service expansion or projects — STA has been looking backward, at the coronavirus-related losses it has already incurred, and forward, at the staggering losses that will likely linger for years, and trying to figure out what it will all add up to.




► From the (Longview) Daily News — Health care may be decisive in congressional race — Health care and and health insurance likely will be a central issue in the upcoming election between Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Battle Ground) and her Democratic challenger Carolyn Long… While Long aims to revise the Affordable Care Act and pair it with a public option, Herrera Beutler has touted the number of times she’s voted to repeal the ACA. Long has criticized Herrera Beutler for refusing to condemn Trump’s effort to invalidate the ACA through the U.S. Supreme Court. “The Republicans in office tried to legislatively get rid of it. They were unsuccessful, and now they’re resorting to the courts,” Long said. “It’s reckless, it’s cruel, and it’s the opposite of what we should expect from public sector leaders during a time of a global pandemic.”

The Stand (July 23) — Got your ballot? Fill it out and mail it in! — Primary election ballots must be mailed by TOMORROW (Tuesday, Aug. 4). See the entire list of WSLC endorsements.




► From Mother Jones — Democracy depends on the Postal Service more than ever. Republicans won’t help fix it. — An important sticking point in negotiations over the next coronavirus relief package in Congress is funding for the US Postal Service, which will play a critical role in the November elections. As Democratic voters increasingly turn to voting by mail during the pandemic, Republicans reportedly do not want to spend the money to make sure those ballots are counted… Recently, Trump installed a loyal mega-donor, Louis DeJoy, as postmaster general. DeJoy has stopped overtime pay for clerks and mail carriers necessary for completing each day’s deliveries on time. The result of overlapping and preventable crises is that mail delivery is slowing, in some places considerably, just when American democracy is dependent on mail delivery happening on time.

Mail delivery failures are not hypothetical. “Neighborhoods across the Philadelphia region are experiencing significant delays in receiving their mail, with some residents going upwards of three weeks without packages and letters, leaving them without medication, paychecks, and bills,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday. The recent cutbacks, end of overtime, and staffing shortages are leaving piles of mail unattended. “According to local union leaders and carriers, mail is piling up in offices, unscanned and unsorted.” If things don’t change, thousands and perhaps millions of ballots could be in those piles. Pennsylvania is a swing state.

► From CNN — Trump fighting to make it harder for Democrats to vote by mail

EDITOR’S NOTE — Trump’s new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has personally contributed $122,500 to the Republican National Committee’s legal fund for fighting states’ vote-by-mail policies. Dozens of billionaires have also donated to the fund.

► From HuffPost — Watchdog calls for probe amid fears of ‘voter suppression tactics’ through Postal Service — A watchdog organization is calling for an investigation and hearings amid concerns about mail-in ballot “voter suppression tactics” by the Trump administration through the Postal Service.




► From the Washington Post — Congress flails as coronavirus ravages the nation and the economy stalls — Coronavirus cases are surging, the fragile economic recovery has stalled and millions of jobless Americans just lost emergency unemployment benefits. In response, Congress is doing what it does best: nothing at all. The crisis that forced lawmakers to act with unusual speed in March and April to pump an unprecedented $3 trillion into the economy has not abated. By some measures, after a brief leveling off in infections and some positive economic indicators, things have gotten worse. What has faded is the sense of bipartisan urgency that existed in the spring and propelled Congress to act with near unanimity.

► From the NY Times — The GOP’s stimulus disaster starts with the president (by James Downie) — While Democrats settled on their bill by mid-May, more than two months ago, Republicans dawdled right up to the deadline. The GOP’s sloth screams disinterest in the hard work of governing — and that disinterest starts at the top.

► From HuffPost — Study contradicts Mnuchin claim that lazy workers choose unemployment over jobs — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday was peddling his claim on TV that enhanced unemployment benefits encourage lazy American workers to sit at home. But a Yale University study found “no evidence” that enhanced benefits authorized by Congress decreased employment. In fact, people who were collecting enhanced benefits actually resumed working at a similar and even quicker rate than others who were not eligible for the extra aid once work was available, according to the study.

► From the Washington Post — As airline workers face steep job losses, unions call on Congress to extend $25 billion rescue package — As tens of thousands of workers in the airline industry stare down job losses starting Oct. 1, union leaders — with some support from company bosses — are pushing Congress to extend a multibillion-dollar federal aid program as part of the next coronavirus relief package.

The Stand (July 27) — Aviation unions urge extension of Payroll Support Program — The CARES Act Payroll Support Program (PSP) allocates grants to commercial airlines and airline contractors for the exclusive purpose of keeping employees on payroll with wages and benefits. It is set to expire on Sept. 30.  Click here to send a message to Congress to extend the CARES Act Payroll Support Program protecting hundreds of thousands of aviation workers.

► From Reuters — Europe cushions workforce as U.S. lifeline runs threadbare — While millions of U.S. workers thrown into unemployment by the coronavirus pandemic fret about feeding their families, the European approach has been to use state subsidies to keep workers on company payrolls with wages near regular levels even when they work part-time or not at all.

► From The Hill — Senate GOP divided over whether they’d fill Supreme Court vacancy — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made clear that he intends to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2020, despite holding the seat vacated by the death of late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia open during the 2016 presidential election.

► From the Washington Post — Trump didn’t like rulings on DACA. So he’s defying them. (editorial) — In separate cases, the Supreme Court and a federal appeals court have ruled that the Trump administration was unjustified in ending an Obama-era program that grants work permits and temporarily halts deportations for hundreds of thousands of “dreamers,” young undocumented immigrants who grew up in this country. Citing those rulings, a federal district court judge in July ordered the administration to restore the protections and benefits it tried to abolish when it rescinded the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in 2017. The administration has refused to comply. Instead, it has declined new applications for DACA, maintaining a three-year-old freeze. Homeland Security has launched a “comprehensive review” of the program that is a fig leaf obscuring the president’s intent to terminate a program that enjoys enormous bipartisan support.




► From The Hill — Fewer parents want full-time, in-person instruction for their children: Gallup — The percentage of parents who say they want full-time, in-person school for their children in the fall has fallen 20 points in recent months, although more still favor it than fully remote classes, according to Gallup.


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