NC HAS A CRITICAL TEACHER SHORTAGE: A spokeswoman for the State Department of Public Instruction said the state's overall vacancy rate has actually held stable despite the pandemic, and it's expected to improve by the end of September. But the N.C. Association of Educators says statewide numbers don't tell the whole story. They say teachers are leaving the state or the profession due to low pay and lack of respect. The group held a news conference Friday with teachers, parents and students to discuss the chronic shortage of licensed, permanent teachers in classrooms. Phillip Gillis, a teacher and vice chair of the Person County School Board, said his county's vacancy rate is over 13%, which he called "alarming." When his district gets extra money from the county or state, it has to be spent on fixing crumbling buildings, not on teacher supplements, Gillis said. "We do all we can," he explained. "We work with our county commissioners, we work with our local government. We do what we can in Person County. We cannot compete with the tax base of larger counties and larger cities."
RALEIGH WILL GIVE VACCINATED EMPLOYEES $250 AND TWO EXTRA PAID DAYS OFF: Those who visit indoor spaces within the city of Raleigh will now need to wear a face mask to limit the spread of COVID-19, the mayor said in an announcement hours ahead of time. The mayor of North Carolina's second-largest city, Mary-Ann Baldwin, also said on Friday that city employees who are already fully vaccinated or get fully vaccinated by Sept. 17 will receive a $250 reward and two days of bonus leave. “The number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in our community and across the state at an alarming rate,” Baldwin said in a statement. “The idea that we can hope COVID-19 will just go away on its own is not a reality. It’s time to take responsible action and today we are taking an important step to make sure the people of this community, and those who visit us, remain healthy and safe.” Renewed masking requirements and further financial rewards for vaccinations are coming as the more contagious delta variant sweeps across the state, giving North Carolina its worst COVID-19 metrics in months. Whatever it takes.
MYERS PARK PAT HAS A FAT STOCK PORTFOLIO: Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, now running for the Republican nomination in the 2022 U.S. Senate race, reported at least $4 million in assets, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in stocks of several major energy and technology corporations, in a financial disclosure report filed Thursday. The former governor and Charlotte mayor reported jointly owning with his wife, Ann McCrory, the stocks of several major Fortune 500 companies, including between $50,001 and $100,000 in stocks of technology giants Apple, Microsoft and Intel; BlackRock, an asset management firm; Kinder Morgan, an energy company that oversees nearly 83,000 miles of gas pipelines across the country; and PepsiCo and Starbucks. McCrory also reported jointly owning stocks worth between $15,001 and $50,000 in many other major corporations including AT&T, pharmaceutical giants Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble, defense contractor Raytheon, Walmart, JP Morgan & Chase, and CVS, as well as Exxon Mobil and Chevron. The disclosure, a requirement for all Senate candidates, also shows that McCrory continues to receive between $250,001 and $500,000 in pension benefits from Duke Energy, where he worked for nearly three decades before leaving the company in 2008 to launch his first bid for governor. He also worked for Duke Energy while he was Mayor of Charlotte, a huge conflict of interest.
UNCLE JOE GIVES A 25% BOOST TO FOOD STAMP PAYMENTS: The Biden administration has approved the largest increase to food assistance benefits in the history of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in a move that will substantially retool the program to provide the targeted assistance advocates have long said is desperately needed by poor families. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce Monday morning that benefit amounts for the program, formerly known as food stamps, will rise an average of 25 percent above pre-pandemic levels. The increases are based on an update to the Thrifty Food Plan, the formula used to calculate benefits, which surveys the changing costs of various categories of food. First reported by the New York Times and confirmed by a spokeswoman at the USDA, average monthly benefits, which were $121 per person before the pandemic, will rise by $36 under the new rules. During the Trump administration, coronavirus relief bills did not expand SNAP for the 40 percent of recipients already receiving the maximum benefit. In January, Biden signed an executive order allowing states to increase SNAP emergency allotments, allowing an additional 12 million people to receive enhanced benefits. The changes to SNAP are permanent, aimed at addressing pandemic-related surge in hunger in America, when projections predicted 50 million people, including 17 million children, would be considered food insecure by the end of 2020. But, advocates say, the infusion of funding corrects benefits that fall far short of demonstrated need, a problem they say has existed for at least a decade.
AFGHAN PRESIDENT FLEES THE CAPITOL, TALIBAN MOVES INTO PALACE: Taliban fighters took control of Kabul on Sunday as the Afghan government collapsed, President Ashraf Ghani fled, and the long-dominant American presence appeared to be coming to an abrupt and chaotic end after nearly 20 years. The takeover of the sprawling capital city had been years in the making, but was ultimately accomplished in a single day. Insurgent fighters, fresh off their conquests in each of Afghanistan’s provincial hubs, faced little to no resistance as they entered the city through its major traffic arteries on Sunday morning. By evening, the Taliban were giving television interviews in the presidential palace, just hours after Ghani had departed Afghanistan. And the Pentagon was speeding an additional 1,000 troops to Kabul’s airport to assist with the withdrawal of U.S. personnel after the American flag was lowered from the embassy. U.S. personnel at the embassy in Afghanistan were being relocated to the airport to “ensure they can operate safely and securely” as the Taliban encircled Kabul, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC News on Sunday. Acting U.S. ambassador Ross Wilson was among those moved to the airport amid a frenzied rush for flights out of the country. Asked about comparisons to the United States’ departure from Vietnam in 1975, Blinken said on ABC News’s “This Week” that “this is manifestly not Saigon.” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid initially said in a statement that the group’s fighters had been instructed to stay at the entrance to Kabul, and not push further into the city with force. “We want to enter Kabul with peace, and talks are underway” with the government, he said. But later in the day, Taliban fighters could be seen freely roaming the streets. Mujahid later wrote on Twitter that Taliban fighters had entered the city to provide security.