Monday News: Budget buster


TRUMP'S $400 UNEMPLOYMENT BOOST REQUIRES 25% FROM STATE COFFERS: Trump announced an executive order Saturday that extends additional unemployment payments of up to $400 a week to help cushion the economic fallout of the pandemic. But under Trump's plan, the $400 a week requires a state to commit to providing $100. Many states are already facing budget crunches caused by the pandemic. Asked at a news conference how many governors had signed on to participate, Trump answered: “If they don't, they don't. That's up to them.” A clarifying statement from the White House said the “funds will be available for those who qualify by, among other things, receiving $100/week of existing assistance and certify that they have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.” Several advocacy groups that follow the issue, though, said it's clear the way the executive order is structured that the federal money will be contingent on states making a 25 percent contribution.

CHERIE BERRY'S LABOR DEPT. FAILS TO ENFORCE ANTI-RETALIATION LAW: When the labor department rejected his complaint four days later, even before investigators could learn of the recording, Maughmer filed a broader suit in Wake County Superior Court. The suit claims that the agency, under fifth-term Republican Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, has failed to adequately enforce the state law, the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA). The 1992 law was designed to shield workers from reprisals if they point out workplace dangers or threaten to saddle their employers with work-related medical costs. After receipt of more than 10,000 complaints under the law since Berry took office, neither the Labor Department nor the state attorney general’s office that often represents the agency had brought a single retaliation case on behalf of a worker, officials of the two agencies said. Van Kampen called the outcome “outrageous” and said it “shows that Cherie Berry’s labor department is nothing more than a firewall to protect business.” “We are barreling through a pandemic where workers are as vulnerable to being wrongfully terminated by their employers, as they are to be stricken by the virus,” he said. “North Carolinians need a labor department that vigorously enforces our state’s anti-retaliation laws.”

OVER HALF OF NC STUDENTS WILL NOT GO TO CLASS AT START OF SCHOOL YEAR: The districts resuming with all distance learning include the five largest in the state as well as an assortment of mid-sized and small districts across rural and urban divides. In total, more than 800,000 of the 1.4 million students attending district schools will start without in-person instruction. Thousands more charter school students will also be spending school days at home. Other districts -- like Davidson, Buncombe, and Jackson -- have asked students to come to school, for a few weeks of in-person orientations before shirting to distance learning. After Gov. Roy Cooper laid out reopening plan in mid-July, many districts initially announced they would open under a Plan B, hybrid learning model -- with students splitting time between classrooms and distance learning. Yet in the intervening weeks, many rolled back their plans to bring students back. Graham County Schools, like most Western North Carolina districts, plans to begin the year with students in classrooms. In a recent district survey, 75% of families said they intended to send their children back to school, with the rest choosing the district’s virtual academy. The Clay County School Board stated the district will consider switch to a fully remote Plan C learning model when positive COVID-19 rates hit 5% of a school or the wider county. One half of one percent of Clay County residents have tested positive so far.

97,000 U.S. CHILDREN TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS IN LAST TWO WEEKS OF JULY: The number of coronavirus cases reported to date in the United States topped 5 million on Sunday, meaning that more than a million cases have been reported in the past 17 days alone. The tally has doubled since late June and now accounts for approximately a quarter of all cases reported worldwide. More than 97,000 U.S. children tested positive for the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. That number represents more than a quarter of the total number of children diagnosed nationwide since March. Six students and three teachers at Georgia’s North Paulding High School, where viral photos showed hallways packed with maskless students, have tested positive for the coronavirus. The school is temporarily returning to virtual instruction. Florida will no longer require restaurant workers who test positive for covid-19 to provide documentation showing that they’ve recovered before they can return to work. The new policy was formalized by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday but began getting attention over the weekend after it was highlighted by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and other local news outlets. The state had previously required workers to test negative twice and show the results to their employers, a rule that had been in place since March. Now, under the new rules, it’s up to restaurants to come up with their own screening protocols for deciding when it’s safe for employees to return to work.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION COURTS TAIWAN, CHINA SENDS FIGHTER JETS: The United States’ top health official lauded Taiwan’s democracy and its response to the coronavirus. Taiwan’s president hailed the island’s growing economic and public health ties with the United States. Yet just offstage from this show of bonhomie on Monday between Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, and President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan was the looming force of China. Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory and underlined its opposition to official exchanges like Mr. Azar’s visit by sending two fighter jets toward the island just before the talks. To Beijing, the visit is considered yet another provocation from the United States at the most volatile time in the bilateral relationship in decades. The ruling Communist Party sees the interactions between Taiwan and Washington as a challenge to its sovereignty and in defiance of its threats to unify the island with the mainland by force. To the Trump administration, Mr. Azar’s visit is a chance to take a jab at China, which has sought to spin the coronavirus crisis as a testament to the strength of its authoritarian system. It is a way for Washington to show that it backs Taiwan in the face of increasing efforts by China to keep the island off the international stage. To critics of the Trump administration, the timing and highly publicized nature of Mr. Azar’s visit reflect the government’s desire to distract from its own failed response to the virus. The United States passed a grim milestone over the weekend, with five million known cases — by far the most of any country — as well as more than 162,000 deaths from the coronavirus, according to a New York Times database. Mr. Azar’s visit adds to concerns about a new Cold War between the United States and China. Tensions have surged between the two powers over geopolitics, human rights, trade and technology. In the past month, there have been fresh clashes over consulates, journalists’ visas and Chinese social networking apps.