NC'S UNEMPLOYED WILL SEE DELAY IN NEWLY EXTENDED BENEFITS: State and federal officials started that conversation Monday as the federal government worked up the fine print on a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus bill that President Donald Trump signed into law Sunday. His signature, delayed several days as the president threatened a veto, came a day after previous federal unemployment extensions expired. Now comes a rollout for the new program, then people get their 11-week extensions and the $300-a-week boost included in the bill. "The N.C. Division of Employment Security is reviewing the new unemployment provisions of the federal COVID-19 relief bill and preparing to reprogram its system to process claims for the additional benefits," agency spokeswoman Kerry McComber said via email. "These benefits cannot be paid until official guidance is received and the benefits system is reprogrammed." The division told claimants earlier on Monday that it didn't expect all of that guidance to come until next month.
POSTAL DELAYS FOR BALLOTS WEREN'T AS BAD AS WE THOUGHT: North Carolina’s last-minute decision to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots attracted political controversy and led to a nationally watched lawsuit during the 2020 elections. But the small number of votes that were counted after Election Day ultimately didn’t play much of a role in the outcome of the election. The state’s deadline extension led to 2,626 ballots coming in as many as nine days after Election Day, of which 2,197 were counted, according to The News & Observer’s analysis of state data. For the roughly 430 ballots that didn’t get counted, about half were due to failure to meet the deadline rules — although it’s unclear how many were a result of Post Office delays versus procrastinating voters. Stein and the elections board won the case against the GOP lawmakers just five days before the election. The U.S. Supreme Court, despite now having a conservative majority, voted 5-3 against the Republican attempts to stop the deadline extension.
HOSPITALS ARE REACHING MAX CAPACITY OF COVID PATIENTS, STAFFS ARE OVERWHELMED: Coronavirus cases are on the rise throughout North Carolina, and area hospitals are running out of space. Monday saw a new record high for people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals statewide, at 3,192. It also saw Johnston County Health reach maximum capacity in both of its Clayton and Smithfield hospitals. "There just aren't enough nurses to go around and take care of all the patients," said Johnston Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rodney McCaskill. Despite the rise in patients, the number of employee stays the same. "I think, if you asked me the question that keep me up at night, [it] is about our staff. If you can imagine the patients there working with, and for, they work so hard and tirelessly every day and then you have to get up and come back in the next day," said Tom Williams, the CEO and president Johnston Health.
BIDEN TRANSITION TEAM IS BEING HAMPERED ON NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES: President-elect Joe Biden on Monday accused President Trump and his political appointees of obstructing the transition of power to his incoming administration, particularly in the national security sphere, an escalation in tone after reports of isolated difficulties in the transition process last week. Biden specifically called out the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department as agencies where his transition team had encountered “roadblocks” from political leadership. “Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said of the resistance his team was facing. He warned that such delays could allow enemies of the United States to take advantage of vulnerabilities, citing a recent massive cybersecurity breach that compromised several U.S. agencies. He has been met with remarkable resistance from Trump, who has refused to concede the election and has continued attempting to overturn the results. Trump blocked any transition efforts outright for more than two weeks before relenting, at least initially. He has declined to say whether he will attend Biden’s inauguration, and the incoming team planning the event assumes he will not. Meanwhile, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris attended a virtual briefing with 15 national security and foreign policy advisers, including several would-be Cabinet nominees. In comments that followed, Biden said the advisers told him that many of the agencies critical to national security have sustained “enormous damage” during the Trump administration. “Many of them have been hollowed out in personnel, capacity and in morale, in the policy processes that have atrophied or have been sidelined, in the disrepair of our alliances . . . in the general disengagement from the world,” Biden said. “And all of that makes it harder for our government to protect the American people, to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.”
U.S. HOUSE PASSES $2,000 STIMULUS CHECKS BILL, SENATE REPUBLICANS ON THE SPOT: The House voted on Monday evening to increase the size of individual stimulus checks to $2,000 from $600, endorsing a measure demanded by President Trump and daring Senate Republicans to either approve the heftier sum or defy the president, whose demands for bigger checks nearly scuttled the entire stimulus package. The vote, which just reached the two-thirds majority needed to pass the House, came a day after Mr. Trump finally signed off on a $900 billion pandemic relief package he initially denounced as a “disgrace” and refused to sign, unexpectedly demanding that lawmakers more than triple the direct payments. “The president of the United States has put this forth as something that he wants to see and part of his signing the legislation yesterday,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said. “I hope that view will be shared by the Republicans in the Senate, because we will pass this bill today.” The legislation, which passed by a vote of 275-134, was supported by 44 Republican members. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on Monday after the vote that he would attempt to quickly pass the bill on the Senate floor on Tuesday, using a procedural tactic that allows lawmakers to advance legislation unless another senator objects. “Every Senate Democrat is for this much-needed increase in emergency financial relief, which can be approved tomorrow if no Republican blocks it,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “There is no good reason for Senate Republicans to stand in the way.”