Cash sales – Vivenavalmoral Sun, 23 Jan 2022 02:15:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cash sales – Vivenavalmoral 32 32 North Carolina payday loans are available to all Mon, 20 Dec 2021 07:44:33 +0000 North Carolina is justly famous for its varied scenery. Its west region is home to breathtaking Mountains located in Smoky National Park. The people of North Carolina are diverse as well. Many immigrants have sought employment as well as housing within the. The residents include physicians, tobacco producers, and developers of technology, and full-time military personnel. […]]]>

North Carolina is justly famous for its varied scenery. Its west region is home to breathtaking Mountains located in Smoky National Park.

The people of North Carolina are diverse as well. Many immigrants have sought employment as well as housing within the. The residents include physicians, tobacco producers, and developers of technology, and full-time military personnel. Whatever the profession the person is in, Greenday in NC with their payday loans is a great option for those who face financial difficulties or who aren’t able to pay the cost.

If you’re a fervent Tarheel and require an additional helper, look through the following details to learn more about how payday loans can assist your situation. Information is power and we’re ready to assist you in becoming financially secure.

Why do the North Carolinians get payday loans?

The reasons people require payday loans could be as varied as those who need the loans. In the Appalachian region of the US there is a shortage of jobs and wages are low. A payday loan is a good way to bridge the gap between one check as well as the next.

In the Piedmont region in North Carolina, once thriving factories for textiles and furniture have been shut down since workers are moved to southern regions. Factory workers with high-end expertise who earned their living, are now forced to search for the right job. Payday loans can aid in budgeting once you’ve gotten a different job.

The east coast and in the southeast, the military is an integral part in the local community. In Camp Lejeune and around Fort Bragg military and marines might have to extend their earnings to an extent. If you’re new to the state after having completed your PCS, and require cash advances or payday loan, a payday loan can help you establish an ideal family.

What distinguishes GreendayOnline unique?

The goal of our company is to improve the stigma associated with payday loans, as in cash advances and other options for short-term loan. It is our belief that all kinds of people are entitled to those financial options that could assist them in tackling unexpected expenses, even if they do not have impressive credit scores. Unfortunately, the image payday lenders carry across North Carolina has been marred by lenders who aren’t reliable and who target those with poor financial standing.

In the event that you’ve made an conscious decision to obtain an advance loan to pay for your payday, you’ll be in a position to do so with confidence knowing that GreendayOnline will assist you to get it done in the most secure manner feasible. Be aware that we aren’t a payday loan service. Instead, we connect you with the right payday loan directly from lenders within North Carolina to suit your needs, and help you make an informed and no of commitment decision that’s the best for you and your family.

What is the process of a loan? How does the process work?

If you submit the application to payday loans through this site the process of applying is secure and safe. Our encrypted 128-bit connection sends your request to our partners without risk of being intercepted by any untrusted organisations.

We are extremely proud of our simple, straightforward process for applying. A majority of applicants are granted approval when they meet these requirements:

  • Checking accounts that are well-maintained
  • HTML0 Is your identity permanent resident or citizen of the United States
  • Do you aged 18 or older
  • Have been in an employment for at most 1 months
  • can provide an email address that is functional and a phone number

The kinds of lenders available

Cash advances for payday and loans in North Carolina only online. You are able to fill out on the internet to apply for loans, if the lender offers one.

In addition, there are companies solely online, such as GreendayOnline. We offer a wide range of beneficial options:

  • HTML0 Through our speedy service, most loans will be accessible within a single working day.
  • Credits can be placed into your banking account with the institution.
  • HTML0A majority of banks are willing to working with people who have bad credit.
  • HTML0 All you need complete is to fill in an easy web-based form.

We do not lend you money, but we use your data to connect you to one of our lenders (assuming you’re eligible for credit). Direct lenders who partner with us adhere to Online Lenders Association best practices. This option online is convenient since you don’t have to travel outside of your home to stand in queue and wait around for the business to begin. Applications are handled on secure servers throughout the seven days throughout the day.

Get cash today

In dire need of an urgent loan as quickly that you are able, complete our online application in a few minutes. Then, begin the process, and check whether you’re connected with an institution that offers loans. If you aren’t happy with the terms or rates provided and don’t feel you’re under any obligation to get this loan. This is an opportunity for everyone involved that allows you to determine whether you’re eligible, and also what the conditions of the loan are comparable to.

Frequently Asked Questions

Payday loans can help me build my credit score?

Payday loans don’t report to credit bureaus, so they have no impact on your credit score or rating. If you do not pay the loan back, and it’s then transferred for collection, then it might have to be disclosed to credit agencies. This could affect your credit score negatively.

What is an over-roll?

A roll-over can be described as a type of payday loan that’s renewed instead of being due to be paid back. Most of the time when you’re in the position to pay the loan as the due date gets closer, the lender may offer an extension to pay of the charges. The loan is renewed for a different time. The fees you pay are not counted in the total amount of the loan. Some lenders do not permit rollovers, so it is recommended to investigate the rules prior to deciding which lender to choose.

How do I have to be aware of for cash advances?

A majority of lending institutions demand:

  • HTML0 An ID that proves that you are to be at a minimum threshold of 18.
  • Credit union accounts that’s active, or a bank account, or an account that has the prepay card
  • Examining the earnings earned through the job or from a different sources

Which things should I think about before submitting an application for a payday loan online?

Before taking out an online credit from one of the lender make sure you have a strategy in place for how you will repay the loan. Be aware of how much it costs you to pay the loan. Add up all the charges and interest that you’ll have to pay. Find the contact information of the lender via the web. Be sure to have an address that is street, email address along with a telephone number. The information you provide is required in the event you need to terminate the access of your bank account using electronic methods or need additional legal assistance.

What policy does the lending institution have regarding privacy?

If you are planning to get cash advances, you need to submit sensitive information on the internet. Look over the options available to the lender’s opt-out and make sure that your personal data is secure and safe. If you cannot locate the privacy statement on their website , it is an indication for fraudulent activity. Look for another lender.

How do I proceed if in a position to not pay my loans?

Ask the lender to provide an additional repayment plan. This lets you repay the loan in smaller installments over a longer period of time. You can also ask to ask for the loan to be renewed or roll over. If you’re not making progress on payday loans, you should seek for an expert in your neighborhood. If you’re in the military consult the JAG office located in the area you live in. (JAG) bureau or go to the Financial readiness department of your unit.

Protecting & Connecting Workers – North Carolina Justice Center Mon, 20 Dec 2021 07:21:10 +0000 It’s the best way for North Carolina to rebuild and move forward Rebuilding from COVID-19 presents an opportunity to shore up our economic defenses and lift up communities that previously were left in harm’s way. Helping people overcome the barriers to rejoining the labor force is the quickest way to speed our collective economic recovery, […]]]>

It’s the best way for North Carolina to rebuild and move forward

Rebuilding from COVID-19 presents an opportunity to shore up our economic defenses and lift up communities that previously were left in harm’s way. Helping people overcome the barriers to rejoining the labor force is the quickest way to speed our collective economic recovery, and doing it right will put us on a path to a more resilient post-COVID economy. While not exhaustive, this report addresses some of the critical areas where helping workers will boost our economy in both the short and long run.

Creating access to affordable child care:

  • Lack of child care presents the primary barrier to employment for around 70,000 Black, 45,00 Hispanic, and 125,000 white North Carolinians.
  • In North Carolina, women are 10 times more likely than men to name caring for a child who was not in school or child care as the main reason they aren’t working.
  • Around 100,000 people with incomes below $35,000 want to work but cannot because they have lacked child care in recent months.

Ensuring affordable transportation:

  • An estimated 50,000 North Carolinians experience a lack of transportation as the primary barrier to their ability to work.
  • The price of a used vehicle has increased by over 40 percent compared with 2020.
  • Roughly 105,000 white households lacked access to a vehicle in 2017, a figure almost identical to the number of Black households facing the same problem.

Protecting workers on the job:

  • More than 100,000 North Carolinians would be willing to enter the labor force if they felt secure from contracting or passing on COVID-19.
  • Universal access to paid sick leave could have averted thousands of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina per week during some periods of the pandemic.

Connecting workers to the digital world:

  • Lack of access to broadband internet and home computers perpetuates racial economic inequalities.
  • Roughly 45 percent of North Carolina households with incomes below $20,000 do not have a broadband internet subscription at home.
  • Lack of broadband access is not just a rural problem. Nearly 830,000 residents of rural counties and 730,000 residents of urban and suburban counties lack access to broadband internet.

Connecting workers to new careers:

  • Around 165,000 North Carolinians retired in recent months, increasing the need to train younger workers for the jobs they are leaving behind.
  • The occupations with the greatest labor shortage require extensive training and specialized skills.
  • The mismatch between workers’ existing skills and the needs of employers is greatest in many rural counties.

COVID-19 — a storm that teaches

Years ago, a traveling salesman was stuck outside in a thunderstorm, miles from the nearest town. At the next house he came to, a man was standing in the door watching the rain pour. The salesman walked up and asked whether he might be able to stay the night while the storm passed.

“Well,” the man replied, “the only place I’ve got is in the kitchen, and the roof leaks so bad in there you’d get just as wet as staying out here.”

Taken aback, the salesman asked, “Why don’t you fix the roof?”

“Are you crazy?” the man replied. “It’s raining out here!”

“Of course, I don’t mean now,” the frustrated salesman retorted. “Why don’t you fix it when it isn’t raining?”

“Because then it isn’t leaking.”

There’s some wisdom in that old country yarn about where North Carolina was when COVID-19 arrived. Our state government is like the roof in the story. We have been through the longest period of uninterrupted economic growth in generations, but leaders allowed our shared home to fall into disrepair. As soon as the storm started, it became even more painfully evident how years of neglect had left our public institutions unable to cope with a crisis.

We also have allowed an economic order to evolve that left far too many families with little or no shelter of their own to fall back on. Big corporations and the ultra-rich did just fine in the wake of the Great Recession, but most families and working people in North Carolina didn’t have the savings to survive without work or income when the pandemic closed businesses across the state. Like the traveling salesman, millions of North Carolinians were left out in the storm with little shelter in sight. Federal aid did provide vital assistance, but the lack of infrastructure to support families in crisis here in North Carolina has created needless financial pain and delayed the pace of our recovery.

Our lack of a robust safety net is now hampering North Carolina’s recovery from the pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people who would like to work still face barriers in returning to work, preventing businesses that are trying to hire from staffing up as quickly as they would like.

Whether we’re talking about building a roof or building our economy, the lesson is the same: Build for the bad times when it isn’t raining.

States with better safety nets have bounced back faster

COVID-19 set off an instructive, if unwanted, experiment. The massive loss of jobs in the early weeks of the pandemic created an unprecedented spike in Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims nationwide. Different experiences across states underscore the economic importance of supporting people financially when they lose jobs through no fault of their own. States with more generous Unemployment Insurance programs generally experienced milder employment declines and quicker recoveries during the first months of the pandemic.[1] In states with less adequate UI benefits, a stronger negative feedback cycle was created as the loss of income depressed consumer spending and prevented businesses from hiring again.

Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians can be reconnected with the labor force

Even in the best of times, there’s no perfect way to capture the full range of barriers that can stand between a willing worker and a job, and the shock of COVID-19 makes that challenge even worse. It’s also difficult to truly identify the most common reasons for a person to leave the workforce; often a crisis in one part of a person’s life leads to accumulating challenges that frustrate their ability to find a job. For people experiencing poverty, something like a car breakdown can quickly lead to losing a job, being unable to pay rent, going hungry, running up credit card bills, and a domino effect of negative outcomes that would never happen to someone with more financial resources.

Although there are complex reasons a person may be unable to find work, there are some common issues that have been tracked during COVID-19. Surveys by the U.S. Census estimate that around 250,000 North Carolinians experience a lack of child care as the most dramatic impediment to working, 100,000 residents are concerned about contracting or spreading COVID-19, and 50,000 are prevented from working primarily because they lack transportation or provide care for an elderly person. Again, each of these statistics almost certainly undercounts the impact of these barriers because many North Carolinians experience multiple obstacles, but the survey asked for the primary reason they were unable to work.

Here’s the good news — these are problems that can be fixed. States such as Vermont, Oklahoma, and Washington have experimented with a range of supports, including enhanced access to affordable child care and direct financial incentives for returning to work.[2] Helping people overcome barriers to employment isn’t rocket science; it’s simply a question of devoting resources to solving the problem. With employers across our state clamoring for more workers, helping people overcome the barriers preventing them from working is the best way to boost our economy.

Census effort to assess hardship

This report relies heavily (but not exclusively) on a set of surveys conducted throughout the pandemic by the U.S. Census. The Household Pulse Survey is an effort to assess the hardship created by COVID-19 and provides a unique window into the barriers preventing people from working. Like any survey, this tool is not perfect. First, it can only estimate the number of North Carolinians who experience different barriers to work. To make the estimates more reliable, all of the analysis presented here is based on the average of surveys conducted between April 4, 2021, and July 5, 2021. Second, the survey wording asks people to identify the primary reason they are not able to work in a given week. Because people often experience more than one barrier, the estimates are almost certainly undercounted. Finally, some barriers are not included in the survey, like a lack of housing or food, so there is no way to incorporate the full range of challenges that prevent people from working. Nevertheless, the Household Pulse tool does provide a useful picture of why many North Carolinians have struggled to stay connected to the labor market throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Solving child-care barriers

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the connection between child care, employment, and gender equity into sharp relief. Yet the availability of affordable and high quality child care has always been a key support for working parents — and specifically mothers — of young children. Women’s participation in the labor force has grown by 70 percent since 1950, but women have continued to take on most of the care work in their families.[3] Nationwide, mothers who have no difficulty finding a child-care program that works for their family are significantly more likely to be employed.[4] Public spending on child-care subsidies, which help cover the costs of licensed child care for families with low incomes, is associated with higher employment rates among low-income mothers.[5]

Child care doesn’t just support parents’ employment overall; it also affects their ability to work sufficient hours, seek promotions, and build skills. A recent report from the NC Early Childhood Foundation found that before the pandemic, about 1 in 3 parents of a child under 5 reduced their work hours due to child-care problems, while 1 in 5 parents turned down a promotion.[6] One in 5 parents of young children also reported dropping out of a college or training program due to child-care problems, highlighting the importance of accessible child care for parents to advance in their careers.[7] One survey from 2016 found that about 63,000 parents in North Carolina quit a job, didn’t take a job, or greatly changed their job because of child-care problems.[8] With low-wage workers increasingly working non-standard and unpredictable hours, finding reliable formal child care can be an even greater challenge. In North Carolina, nearly 3 out of 5 children under 6 years old with working parents in low-income families have parents who work non-standard hours at least some of the time.[9]

Currently, North Carolina doesn’t ensure that families have access to child-care options that support high quality employment and career advancement for parents of young kids. While an estimated 226,000 children ages 0-5 are eligible for publicly funded child-care assistance, only an estimated 17 percent receive assistance.[10] In many parts of the state, particularly rural areas, there simply aren’t sufficient openings in licensed-child care providers to serve all young children: An estimated 44 percent of the state’s children under 6 live in these “child care deserts.”[11]

Unpaid care responsibilities include elder care

In addition to people who are not working because they are caring for children, about 54,000 North Carolinians, nearly two-thirds of them women, report that the primary reason they aren’t working is that they are caring for an elderly person. As more members of the baby boomer generation age into needing care, these responsibilities will only increase and put more workers in the role of “sandwich” caregivers who care for both their children and parents.

The pandemic has highlighted the connections between child care and parents’ work

Licensed child-care providers in North Carolina are an essential business, and many providers continued to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit under intense stress and disruption. While many providers closed temporarily following the emergency declarations, in July 2021 the number of open providers across the state was about 90 percent of the number in February 2020. But even providers that have stayed in business continue to face periodic closures as they adopt and adjust safety protocols and deal with unstable enrollment. For parents, widespread school closures meant greater child care demands than ever, while job loss, income instability, and uncertain and uneven availability made access to child care incredibly challenging for many families.

Statewide, 8 percent of people who weren’t working said that caring for a child who wasn’t in child care or school was their primary reason, based on surveys conducted from April 15 to July 5, 2021. This is a total of at least 250,000 people who need greater access to affordable child care to connect to the labor market — the true number is likely much higher, as child care is a factor in the ability to work even for people who don’t select it as the primary reason.

Addressing child care can boost racial and gender employment equity in North Carolina

Women have continued to do a majority of child care labor during the pandemic, as COVID-19 has reinforced long-standing patterns of inequity. In North Carolina, women are 10 times more likely than men to name caring for a child who was not in school or child care as the main reason they aren’t working. Increased access to affordable child care would have reduced this barrier for approximately 235,000 women and many more people for whom child-care needs may be secondary barriers to work. The disproportionate child care responsibilities that women have taken on have contributed to what economists are calling the first “female recession” in the United States.[12] Figure 2 shows that in North Carolina, women are 93 percent of the people who name caring for a child as the main reason they aren’t working.

Availability and cost barriers fall more heavily on workers of color in North Carolina than their white colleagues. U.S. Census surveys conducted between April 15 and
July 5 indicate that lack of child care presents the primary barrier to employment for around 70,000 Black, 45,00 Hispanic, and 125,000 white North Carolinians, as shown in Figure 3.

While the sheer number of white workers who would benefit from increased access to affordable child care is larger than either Black or Hispanic workers, eliminating this barrier would make North Carolina far more equitable. While 70 percent of North Carolina’s population is white, white potential workers make up less than 50 percent of the people who report child care as the largest barrier to work. Conversely, Black and Hispanic workers account for a larger share of the people who are prevented from working because of child care than their overall representation in North Carolina’s population. Helping everyone — Black, brown, and white — is the best way to create a more equitable economy.

Increasing access to affordable child care would also provide a vital boost to North Carolina families with the lowest incomes. Figure 4 shows that about 3 in 5 people who weren’t working due to child care have household incomes under $35,000. Around 100,000 people with incomes below $35,000 want to work but cannot because they have lacked child care in recent months, compared to less than 40,000 who earn between $35,000 and $100,000.

To support working parents, invest in early childhood educators

A key part of the equation for getting families the high quality child care they need is public investment in compensation for child-care workers. North Carolina’s child-care workers earn on average less than $11 per hour, often with no benefits, for their extremely valuable and challenging work. The result is that licensed child-care programs struggle to hire and retain staff and that even as program enrollment increases, staffing is a limiting factor in how many children programs can serve.

Solving transportation barriers

Solving transportation barriers could go a long way toward speeding the recovery and making North Carolina more economically resilient. Tens of thousands of North Carolinians currently cannot work because they lack reliable transportation, a trend that has been exacerbated by COVID-19 but certainly did not start with the onset of the pandemic.

The rising cost of living in many of North Carolina’s growing cities has pushed low-wage workers farther away from where jobs exist. Nationwide, the average one-way commute time has grown every year since the Great Recession[13] and this trend has not spared North Carolina. The average one-way commute time in both Raleigh and Charlotte is now more than 27 minutes and is significantly higher for many low-wage workers who cannot afford to live near the bustling job centers. As the average commute grows, access to reliable transportation becomes increasingly critical.

Addressing transportation needs can reconnect many to labor market

Solving transportation barriers could reconnect tens of thousands of North Carolinians to the labor market. U.S. Census surveys conducted between April 15 and July 5, 2021, indicate an estimated 50,000 North Carolinians experience a lack of transportation as the primary barrier to their ability to work. While this figure is impressive enough, it doesn’t fully capture the benefits of increasing transportation equity. Many people who want to work face multiple barriers, often rooted in the same underlying economic reality, so transportation poses a challenge for far more North Carolinians than would have been captured by this survey alone.

Experiment worth replicating: fare-free transit

If necessity is the mother of invention, COVID-19 could leave behind an unexpected positive descendant. As the pandemic created enormous financial hardship and a public health risk in passing paper money, many municipalities experimented with waiving public transit fares. Raleigh is one place where this experiment is playing out, demonstrating the potential benefits of making this kind of policy permanent. As David Meeker, a fare-free advocate and brewery owner, observed, “You are giving every person who can’t afford a car $50 a month. That’s 600 bucks a year, and for a lot of people, that’s a month’s rent.”[14]

Exploding cost of used vehicles is hampering the recovery

Families who lost jobs and income during COVID-19 face a particular challenge if they need a car to get back to work. Along with many basic necessities like food, used vehicle prices have jumped dramatically during the pandemic. After trending down for most of the past decade, the inflation-adjusted cost of a used vehicle in the United States has exploded in the past few months.

The average used vehicle cost almost one-third more in June 2021 than a decade ago. While government policies like eviction moratoria have helped many families that lost income during the pandemic, relatively little support has been made available for people who could not afford car payments during COVID-19 but need transportation to rejoin the labor market.

Addressing vehicle access would boost equity, help people of all races

Like many structural roots of poverty, lack of vehicle access creates a harmful feedback loop that captures people of color at higher rates. Census data indicate that Black households are more likely than any other racial group to lack access to a vehicle, a rate that is more than three times higher than white households. While the gap is not as wide across the board, addressing the lack of vehicle access would play an important role in creating a more equitable economic landscape in North Carolina.

While a larger share of households of color would benefit from reducing barriers to vehicle access, there are nearly as many white households who face this barrier to economic opportunity. Roughly 105,000 white households lacked access to a vehicle in 2017, a figure almost identical to the number of Black households facing the same problem, each making up around 45 percent of the total statewide.

Ensuring safe workplaces and practices

Protecting workers and building a sustainable economic engine go hand in hand. The experience of COVID-19 has provided a tragic reminder of what happens when workers are forced into dangerous working conditions. But it also can show us a path to a better future.

A variety of workplaces with lax protections have fueled the COVID-19 outbreak, with significant cases and deaths associated with workplaces like meat-packing plants and independent living facilities.[15] We still do not have a full accounting of how many COVID clusters were driven by workplace exposure, particularly in industries where a significant portion of the working people are part of communities where undocumented status is common. Farmworker camps, for example, continue to experience significant COVID-19 infections, but the documented cases almost certainly understate the severity of the problem because people may not seek treatment.

The past year of the pandemic has been all too full of avoidable tragedy; some lessons can shape a more worker-friendly, humane, and resilient economy going forward.

Paid sick days have kept people safe and limited the spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 has dramatically demonstrated the life-saving importance of paid sick days. Millions of North Carolinians are forced — by company practice and financial necessity — to continue working when they are sick or have a family member who is. Throughout COVID-19, working North Carolinians have raised the alarm about visibly ill coworkers coming to work. Many people were essentially forced to go to work when they were sick or had been exposed by caring for an ill family member because they could not afford to lose even a few shifts worth of income or because they were threatened with being fired if they did not show up.

Workers who gained access to paid sick leave from the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) were less likely to get sick, which in turn helped to reduce community spread during many phases of the pandemic. Analysis of COVID cases for workers who gained paid sick leave protections from the FFCRA indicates “roughly one prevented case per day per 1,300 workers who had newly gained the option to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave.”[16]

The health and welfare benefits could have been even further-reaching if the FFCRA had covered every worker in North Carolina. Exemptions in the FFCRA for large employers, first responders, and some other businesses kept more than 3 million North Carolinians — disproportionately workers of color — in frontline industries, from the protections of paid sick leave.[17] Given the demonstrated impact of paid sick days in preventing spread, universal access to paid sick leave could have averted thousands of cases in North Carolina per week during some periods of the pandemic.

Paid sick days would boost gender equity

Expanding access to paid sick leave would particularly benefit female workers and the family members they care for. Like child care, elder care, and other forms of largely unpaid caregiving, women are much more likely to provide care for family members who get COVID-19 or to get sick themselves.

Surveys conducted between mid-April and early July 2021 indicated that an average of roughly 40,000 women in North Carolina were unable to work each week because either they had COVID-19 or were caring for someone who was fighting to recover from the disease. With fewer than 15,000 men reporting the same experience, women made up approximately 70 percent of the North Carolinians who were either sick or caring for a loved one.

Safe workplaces are key to economic resilience

Robust workplace safety regulations and oversight are the foundation for viable economies. The experience of COVID-19 provides a dramatic new demonstration of how protecting workers protects our collective economic fortunes.

Surveys conducted between April 2021 and July 2021 indicate more than 100,000 North Carolinians would be willing to enter the labor force if they felt secure from contracting or passing on COVID-19.[18] The unfortunate reality is the North Carolina Department of Labor has not developed robust regulations and oversight to ensure that people feel comfortable returning to their places of employment, particularly in many frontline industries, like customer service, that require interacting with significant numbers of people each day. Now with the Delta variant driving a resurgent wave of infections, we’re being reminded again that protecting working people is good for the economy and failing to do so makes our recovery less sustainable.

COVID-19 a ‘black elephant’ event

Some workforce experts see COVID-19 as a “black elephant” event — the combination of a black swan event (something rare or unforeseen with dire consequences) and the elephant in the room (a problem everyone knows about but doesn’t want to talk about). The pandemic was not predicted, but by accelerating shifts in the labor market that make it hard for people to move between jobs, the pandemic has worsened a problem we already had.

Digital connections

High-speed internet is now an essential utility, and the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed just how necessary equitable internet access is for an equitable economy. While the shift to remote schooling for millions of secondary and college students have made home internet and computer access crucial for education, digital inclusion is also closely connected to employment and labor markets.

People now need to use the internet to apply to most jobs, and high-speed internet at home means people are better able to search for jobs, contact potential employers, and create professional documents like resumes.[19] Having a computer — rather than only a smartphone — is often important as well, as many online applications are challenging, if not impossible, to complete on a smartphone.[20] Internet and computer access also supports people in building digital skills that are increasingly important for working in a wide variety of industries.[21]

Broadband internet access can support local economic development and job creation by attracting businesses, allowing them to reach more customers, and connecting them with resources.[22] By making remote work feasible, it can also draw new residents to rural areas.[23] Broadband availability is associated with higher employment rates, particularly in rural areas.[24]

Increase access to broadband internet to support equitable employment

Currently, access to broadband internet both reflects and reinforces racial and economic inequity in North Carolina.   shows that Black, Hispanic, and Native American people are the least likely to have broadband internet at home, while Black and Native American North Carolinians in particular are less likely to have home computers.

These patterns are also evident when looking at who was able to work remotely during the pandemic. Figure 9: Barriers to broadband internet access contributed to lower teleworking for people of color shows that 23 percent of white people were more likely to report that someone in their home was teleworking. This likely reflects both access to the internet and devices, as well as occupational segregation, which means that Black and Hispanic workers are more likely to be employed in frontline jobs that cannot be done remotely. (Due to the smaller sample size of this survey, data on teleworking is not available for other groups.)

Broadband internet access is frequently discussed as primarily a rural issue related to challenges with infrastructure. Getting infrastructure to rural communities is an important goal, and a much larger percentage of rural North Carolinians lack broadband internet when compared with residents in urban and suburban areas. But many people with low incomes, regardless of where they live, don’t have broadband service at home, highlighting the importance not only of expanding infrastructure but also of ensuring that service is affordable. Figure 10 shows that in-home broadband internet follows an income gradient: the higher the household income, the greater percentage of households that have service.

Figure 11: Lack of access and nature of work prevented low-wage workers from teleworking shows that the opposite holds true for teleworking during the pandemic. Higher household income is associated with a greater likelihood of adults teleworking. (The income categories are slightly different in these figures because they come from different surveys.) These differences in teleworking likely reflect a combination of access to broadband internet and computers as well as the nature of lower-wage work.

The role of affordability means that many North Carolinians outside rural areas don’t have broadband internet service at home even if they live in places that are served by broadband infrastructure, and they also face employment barriers caused by lack of access.

Figure 13 shows that the number of North Carolinians in urban and suburban counties without broadband internet service is comparable to the number in rural counties. (This analysis likely underestimates the portion of North Carolinians without internet service living in urban and suburban locations because county-level categories don’t account for urbanized areas within predominantly rural counties.)

Preparing people for new careers

Supporting people trying to recover from the COVID-19 recession has the potential to shift the longer-term trajectory for working North Carolinians. Expanding investments in the training and the services people need to access those opportunities, like transportation and child care, can open up new career options and put our entire economy on a firmer footing.

One of our central challenges right now is a mismatch between the experience many unemployed workers have and the skills needed for the jobs that employers are trying to fill. COVID-19 has certainly exacerbated this issue, but it predated the pandemic. Even among graduates of public post-secondary institutions in North Carolina, only
4 out of 5 had the skills and credentials that match available jobs.[25] North Carolina has a particular gap between the supply and demand for middle-skill jobs, which require more training than high school but less than a 4-year degree.[26] Jobs that required some post-high school skills training but not a 4-year degree accounted for more than half of the positions in North Carolina, but only 44 percent of workers fall into this skill level category.

It has gotten harder for people to move between jobs over the last few decades. Sophisticated workplace technologies take more specialized training, most of the best paying jobs require at least a four-year degree, and many cannot be accessed without post-graduate study. Beyond the skills, the increasing cost of living in many of the job centers of North Carolina creates barriers, particularly for low-income people trying to access better paying careers.

Growing barriers to occupational mobility pose a particular problem for younger workers whose earnings generally benefit the most from job-to-job mobility.[27] Income gains are often the greatest when people move from one industry to another, but widening differences in the required skills have made many of these kinds of shifts more difficult. This trend is not unique to North Carolina, but occupational mobility lagged behind many neighboring states in the wake of the Great Recession.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased pressures that already were making it harder for many workers to access the best paying careers. Many companies have increased investments in automation and digitization while searching for ways to maintain productivity with less in-person work. Many industries that experienced disruptions in their supply chains, from automotive manufacturing to toilet paper, are also investing in more dynamic and flexible supply chains. All of this has increased the demand for highly skilled positions in fields like data science, logistics, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence.[28] Accessing these kinds of opportunities will require many of the people who have lost jobs during the pandemic to complete significant retraining, which workers cannot do quickly while also trying to survive financially.

Increased retirements accelerate a challenge

Even before COVID-19 arrived, the retirement of the baby boomer generation represented one of the most consequential transitions rippling through the fabric of the U.S. economy. Businesses in many industries already fretted about how they were going to replace seasoned workers, particularly in trades that have long struggled to attract younger workers such as the specialized sectors of manufacturing and construction.

Surveys conducted in the past few months indicate a significant wave of retirements, likely fueled by COVID-19. Comparing surveys conducted last year and in the past few months, around 165,000 more North Carolinians reported being retired, a jump of more than 10 percent. Understandably, a lot of people who already were contemplating retirement decided that putting their well-being at risk by continuing to work during a global pandemic just wasn’t worth it.

Years of underinvestment in workforce training have made it difficult for people to gain the skills needed for many of the jobs that baby boomers are leaving behind. The uptick in retirements means we’re confronting overlapping challenges: recovering from the immediate shock of COVID-19 and coping with a whole generation of working people leaving the labor force.

Labor shortage concentrated in specialized, higher-wage occupations

As our state struggles to regain its economic footing, many employers have had difficulties finding employees. This kind of challenge is expected in the wake of a serious economic shock — let alone during an ongoing global pandemic — yet much of the discussion of our current labor “shortage” doesn’t consider the situation’s complexity. First of all, more people were working in June 2021 than before the pandemic, so there is no shortage of North Carolinians willing to work. While employers across industries are legitimately having difficulty filling positions, much of this is rooted in mismatches between the skills that unemployed people possess and the jobs being advertised.

Data maintained by the NC Department of Commerce shows only a handful of occupations where there are substantially more jobs available than candidates currently looking. Even more importantly, the occupations with the greatest shortage of workers tend to require extensive training and specialized skills but often pay good wages. Unlocking North Carolina’s economic potential requires helping people gain the skills needed to enter careers like engineering, sciences, health care, and management — sectors where employers face the largest challenges filling positions. Increasing equity by investing in people who face barriers to these kinds of careers is also key to fueling North Carolina’s economic growth.

Investing in the workforce can level the economic playing field

Supporting people who need training to access new careers offers potential for many communities that have been greatly impacted by economic downturns in recent decades. The level of alignment between the credentials held by college graduates and the skills required by jobs on offer is lower in many rural counties that never recovered from the Great Recession.

To be clear, this is not purely a rural-urban divide. These data only capture the differences in skill alignment for college graduates, so the level of disconnect between the skills that people currently have and the requirements of well-paying job opportunities is significantly larger than this one picture would imply. Regardless of where people live, substantially more investment in the workforce can support both people looking for a career that pays a living wage and employers desperate to find skilled workers.

Rebuilding on higher ground

COVID-19 was unforeseen, but its impact has been entirely predictable. While most of us didn’t ring in 2020 anticipating that we’d soon be facing a generational crisis, the way this pandemic has played out shouldn’t be a surprise. Like so many natural disasters, COVID-19 rushed to the cracks in our social infrastructure and created the deepest flood for people living in the lowest economic ground. If there’s a silver lining to this particular storm, it is that our deeply rooted economic weaknesses have been revealed for everyone to see.

We have the power to do better. Rebuilding from COVID-19 presents an opportunity to shore up our economic defenses and lift up communities that previously have been left in harm’s way. Helping people overcome the barriers to rejoining the labor force is the quickest way to speed our collective economic recovery, and doing it right will put us on a path to a more resilient post-COVID economy. The things we need to do right now to help people rejoin the labor force — assistance with child care, transportation, safe working conditions, training for a new career, and meeting other basic needs — are not just valuable during a pandemic; they are the foundations of a strong economy. We have the opportunity to rebuild on higher ground; now we have to muster the will to do it.

About this publication

  • Patrick McHugh, Budget & Tax Center Research Manager, is a co-author of this report. Prior to joining the Budget & Tax Center, Patrick served as a Fiscal Analyst for the N.C. General Assembly. Patrick has worked on a range of economic issues, including labor force dynamics, disaster recovery, sustainable development, and workforce development.
  • Logan Harris, Budget & Tax Center Senior Public Policy Analyst, is a co-author of this report. Logan has conducted mixed-methods research and supported advocacy campaigns on a range of policy issues, including economic security, housing, and the criminal legal system, with a focus on how policy change can support public health and well-being.
  • Emma Cohn, Budget & Tax Center Intern, is a co-author of this report. Emma is currently an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Public Policies and Global Studies.
  • Christopher Chaves, Budget & Tax Center Intern, is a co-author of this report. Christopher is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, majoring in Math and Economics.
  • Alexandra Sirota, Budget & Tax Center Director, contributed to this report. Before joining the Budget & Tax Center, Alexandra coordinated research on child well-being and policy analysis on family economic security at Action for Children NC. She has a broad range of experience at nonprofit organizations and government agencies in the United States and abroad.
  • Suzy Khachaturyan, Budget & Tax Center Policy Analyst, contributed to this report. Suzy’s previous roles include providing social work services at a free, student-run medical clinic; informing early work of UNC’s NGACO; coordinating and conducting gynecologic cancer research; teaching math and science as a Peace Corps Volunteer; and serving as a volunteer navigator to assist consumers seeking health insurance through the ACA Marketplace during open enrollment.
  • Andrea Dreier, N.C. Justice Center Communications Specialist, is the primary editor of this report. Prior to joining the NC Justice Center, she spent three years at MiracleFeet, an international health organization in Chapel Hill. In addition to her time in global health, Andrea has also worked in public and academic libraries and LGBTQ advocacy.
  • Mel Umbarger, Budget & Tax Center Senior Communications Specialist, did the cover and design style for this print report. Prior to joining the Budget & Tax Center, Mel was a newspaper journalist for 15 years in North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, where she served as an editor, multimedia and page designer, and copy editor in various jobs.
  • Whitney Cork, Freelance Editor and Designer, did the copy editing and layout for this print report. Prior to her communications freelance work for a variety of companies and nonprofits, Whitney was a journalist for 25 years at the Greensboro News & Record.

[1]                 Alexander W. Bartik et al., “Measuring the Labor Market at the Onset of the COVID-19 Crisis,” Working Paper, Working Paper Series (National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2020),

[2]                 National Governors Association, “State Solutions for Supporting the Return to Work and Filling Open Jobs,” National Governors Association (blog), May 28, 2021,

[3]                 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Labor Force Participation Rate – Women [LNS11300002],” FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, January 1, 1948),

[4]                 Leila Schochet, “The Child Care Crisis Is Keeping Women Out of the Workforce” (Center for American Progress, March 28, 2019),

[5]                 Kimberly Burgess, Nina Chien, and Maria Enchautegui, “The Effects of Child Care Subsidies on Maternal Labor Force Participation in the United States,” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Issue Brief (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016),

[6]                 Clive R Belfield, “Early Education in the Time of COVID-19: An Economic Analysis for North Carolina” (North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation, December 15, 2020),

[7]                 Ibid.

[8]                 Leila Schochet and Rasheed Malik, “2 Million Parents Forced to Make Career Sacrifices Due to Problems with Child Care,” Center for American Progress, September 13, 2017,

[9]                 Julia R. Henly and Gina Adams, “Insights on Access to Quality Child Care for Families with Nontraditional Work Schedules” (Washington, DC: Urban Institute, October 8, 2018),

[10]               Logan Harris, “NC Needs to Invest in Child Care Assistance If We Want to Get People Back to Work,” The Progressive Pulse (blog), May 14, 2021,

[11]               “Early Learning Factsheet 2019: North Carolina” (Center for American Progress, 2019),

[12]               Carranza Chabeli, “America’s First Female Recession,” The 19th (blog), August 2, 2020,

[13]               Charlynn Burd, Michael Burrows, and Brian McKenzie, “Travel Time to Work in the United States: 2019” (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.),

[14]               Jake Blumgart, “NC: Raleigh Pushes for Permanent Fare-Free Transit,” Mass Transit (blog), July 21, 2021,

[15]               NC Department of Health and Human Services. “COVID-19 Clusters in North Carolina,” 2021.

[16]               Stefan Pichler, Katherine Wen, and Nicolas R. Ziebarth, “COVID-19 Emergency Sick Leave Has Helped Flatten the Curve in the United States,” Health Affairs 39, no. 12 (December 1, 2020): 2197–2204,

[17]               Allan Freyer, “Sick: Millions of North Carolina Workers Left out of Paid Sick Days Protections as COVID-19 Spreads” (North Carolina Justice Center, 2020),

[18]               Analysis of U.S. Census. Household Pulse. Average of survey responses collected April 4-July 5, 2021

[19]               “2020 Job Seeker Nation Survey: When Change Is the Only Constant” (Jobvite, 2020),; Aaron Smith, “Lack of Broadband Can Be a Key Obstacle, Especially for Job Seekers,” Pew Research Center (blog), December 29, 2015,

[20]               Aaron Rieke et al., “Essential Work: Analyzing the Hiring Technologies of Large Hourly Employers” (Upturn, May 2021),

[21]               Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, “The New Landscape of Digital Literacy” (National Skills Coalition, May 2020),

[22]               Zoe Willingham and Areeba Haider, “Rural Broadband Investments Promote an Inclusive Economy,” Rural America (Center for American Progress, July 12, 2021),

[23]               Ibid.

[24]               Hilal Atasoy, “The Effects of Broadband Internet Expansion on Labor Market Outcomes,” ILR Review 66, no. 2 (April 1, 2013): 315–45,

[25]               “North Carolina Labor Market Alignment,” MyFutureNC – ncImpact, accessed July 21, 2021,

[26]               National Skills Coalition, “Skills Mismatch: Lack of Access to Skills Training Hurts North Carolina’s Businesses,” accessed July 15, 2021,

[27]               Damien Azzopardi et al., “The Decline in Labour Mobility in the United States: Insights from New Administrative Data,” December 18, 2020,

[28]               Matthew Sigelman et al., “After the Storm: The Jobs and Skills that Will Drive the Post-Pandemic Recovery” (Burning Glass Technologies, 2021),

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Biden pledged to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt. Here’s what he’s done so far Mon, 20 Dec 2021 07:21:06 +0000 Your browser does not support the audio element. President Biden walks to Marine One outside the White House on Dec. 2. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images When President-elect Joe Biden was asked whether student loan cancellation figured into his economic recovery plan, he declared, “It should be done immediately.” “[Student debt is] holding people up,” […]]]>

President Biden walks to Marine One outside the White House on Dec. 2.

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

When President-elect Joe Biden was asked whether student loan cancellation figured into his economic recovery plan, he declared, “It should be done immediately.”

“[Student debt is] holding people up,” Biden said on Nov. 16, 2020. “They’re in real trouble. They’re having to make choices between paying their student loan and paying the rent.”

On the campaign trail, Biden had pledged to cancel at least $10,000 of student debt per person.

One year later, while Biden has provided hundreds of thousands of borrowers with debt relief, that $10,000 promise remains unfulfilled. Here’s a look at why — and what he has done.

Biden has focused on preexisting forgiveness programs

The Biden administration’s approach to student loan relief began with improving, extending or expanding a handful of programs that were already on the books.

“We’re working really hard to get students the relief that they’re entitled to” through these preexisting programs, Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal told NPR on Friday.

While it’s not loan forgiveness, Biden extended the pandemic pause on federal student loan payments; that pause is now slated to lift in February. His other actions essentially keep promises the U.S. government had already made to borrowers — rather than make new ones. For example:

  • Total and permanent disability discharge: In August, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced that the department would erase the federal student debts of thousands of borrowers with permanent disabilities. A 2019 NPR investigation found that, even though eligible borrowers have been legally entitled to a full discharge of their loans, the process was so complicated that fewer than half were able to shed their debts. The latest data from the Education Department suggests that these changes will help at least 370,000 borrowers drop more than $6.5 billion in student debts.
  • Borrower defense and closed-school discharge: The Biden administration has dramatically expanded efforts to help students who have been defrauded by for-profit colleges and/or whose schools have been forced to close. Defrauded students who previously filed “borrower defense” claims but were given only partial relief under Trump administration rules will now see the rest of their federal student loans discharged.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): The program meant to forgive borrowers’ debts after 10 years of public service and steady loan payments has been notoriously stingy, with complex rules and serial mismanagement pushing out many eligible borrowers. In October, though, the department used its expanded pandemic authority to retroactively loosen those rules and give borrowers credit for disqualified loan payments. According to the department, the overhaul has already forgiven $2 billion in debts.

Through these efforts, the Education Department says it has discharged or is in the process of discharging roughly $12.7 billion in student debt, affecting more than 638,000 borrowers.

While these moves were cheered by borrowers and advocates, they were not without controversy. The top Republican on the House Education Committee, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, decried the department’s PSLF waiver, calling it “an abuse of executive authority” and “too significant of an issue” to act without Congress.

Broader loan forgiveness would be even more controversial.

In February, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., responded to some Democrats’ demand that Biden forgive as much as $50,000 in student debt per borrower by calling it “incredibly, fundamentally unfair” to students who have already repaid their debts.

Foxx agrees, telling NPR that borrowers have a responsibility to repay their student debts: “It’s no different than having taken out a loan for a car that you then find you can’t pay back or taking out a loan for a home that you can no longer pay for — or you choose not to pay for.”

Many critics of broad loan forgiveness agree that the cost of college is out of control but insist that canceling student debts would simply address a symptom of the problem, not its cause.

“In fact, Democrats’ ‘solution’ is likely to make things worse,” Thune said on the Senate floor.

“What incentive will colleges have to restrain tuition growth if they think they can rely on the federal government to subsidize their students’ tuition fees through loan forgiveness?”

Advocates and borrowers aren’t satisfied with Biden’s actions so far

While many Republicans have resisted calls for debt cancellation, many Democrats and advocates for student loan relief are growing restless. To them, Biden’s $12.7 billion in debt relief so far is a rounding error, considering that nearly 46 million Americans have $1.6 trillion in federal student loans. And he campaigned on doing more — again, $10,000 per borrower.

“That was a pretty clear promise that he made during the campaign,” says Persis Yu, policy director at the Student Borrower Protection Center. “And certainly, that is a promise that I think many borrowers are right now waiting for him to fulfill.”

Yu also says keeping that promise would make a huge difference, especially for borrowers already in default. “Roughly 16 million borrowers would have their entire debts extinguished, and that amounts to roughly two-thirds of the borrowers who are in default.”

“Crumbs’ worth of action.” That’s how Jalil Mustaffa Bishop describes the Biden administration’s efforts thus far. The assistant professor at Villanova University studies inequities in higher education.

In June, borrower advocates erected signs in front of the White House calling on President Biden to cancel student debt.
In June, borrower advocates erected signs in front of the White House calling on President Biden to cancel student debt.

Paul Morigi / Getty Images

Mustaffa Bishop says the student loan system badly needs an overhaul, especially “for groups that historically have been marginalized and had to experience generations of different types of debt traps,” from sharecropping to subprime mortgages to payday lending. Student loans are no different.

Mustaffa Bishop co-authored a recent survey of nearly 1,300 Black borrowers. The report, “Jim Crow Debt,” produced in partnership with the Education Trust, unpacks how pervasive racial inequities, including widespread wealth disparities and persistent workplace discrimination, have left many people of color drowning in student debt.

A 2019 report from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University found that “Twenty years after starting college, the median debt of White borrowing students has been reduced by 94 percent — with almost half holding no student debt — whereas Black borrowers at the median still owe 95 percent of their cumulative borrowing total.”

Two-thirds of respondents to Mustaffa Bishop’s survey said, in hindsight, they regretted having taken out student loans.

“The student debt crisis is a racial and economic justice issue and we must finally begin to address it as such,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., in a statement roughly one year ago. “Broad-based student debt cancellation is precisely the kind of bold, high-impact policy that the broad and diverse coalition that elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris expect them to deliver.”

There are two ways to cancel student loans

To understand why Biden hasn’t pushed for broad student loan forgiveness, it helps to understand how he could, using one of two doors: 1) Congress or 2) executive action.

Door No. 1 is less controversial, to be sure, but keying it open requires bipartisan support or, at least, unwavering support from Democrats. Loan cancellation appears to have neither.

Consider this: Among the proposals that have been dropped from Biden’s Build Back Better agenda is his pitch for free community college. It’s hard to imagine Democrats would abandon that, at a cost of roughly $45 billion, but still support spending at least $370 billion on student loan forgiveness.

So this door is likely locked — and maybe boarded up from the inside.

That leaves Door No. 2.

Much has been written about the president’s authority — through his education secretary — to simply cancel the debts of millions of borrowers. Here’s an NPR primer from nearly two years ago.

But Biden doesn’t seem eager to try this door. For one thing, he says, it’s not certain that canceling student loans with the stroke of his pen would hold up in court, admitting in a February 2021 town hall that “I don’t think I have the authority” to cancel $50,000 per borrower.

And Biden is not alone in his skepticism.

“The president can’t do it,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking to the media in July. “That’s not even a discussion.”

Whether Pelosi’s conclusion was driven by facts or political expediency (read: giving Biden cover for not keeping a campaign promise), Biden has resisted acting unilaterally.

There’s also the matter of cost. Again, forgiving $10,000 per borrower would come with about a $370 billion price tag, according to the Brookings Institution. Forgiving $50,000 per borrower could cost about $1 trillion.

“Why should taxpayers — 70% of whom didn’t go to college — pay back loans for people who have an obligation they haven’t fulfilled?” Foxx asks. (In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that “From 2010 to 2019, the percentage of people age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher jumped from 29.9% to 36.0%.”)

Foxx thinks this popularity question is a big reason behind Biden’s hesitancy to act.

“I do think the president maybe understands that broad loan forgiveness is not popular in this country, which is why, I think, he has not gone the route of doing what some in his party want to do.”

But polling suggests broad loan forgiveness would be popular, if done with some nuance. For example, a Grinnell College poll conducted in March found that 27% of respondents supported forgiving all student debt and an additional 39% supported forgiveness “for those in need.” In other polling — from Vox/Data for Progress and the Harris Poll — a majority of respondents supported broad, if limited, forgiveness.

Instead of acting unilaterally, though, this year Biden asked the Education and Justice departments to explore his legal options. The results are still TBD, more than six months later.

Since then, the White House has gone largely quiet on loan cancellation. Some advocates — and many Democrats — worry that, for whatever reason, the administration is intentionally dragging its feet. Not so, said Kvaal, the education undersecretary, in his interview with NPR.

“Legal authority is not an on-off switch. You need to think about the standards that would be applied, the rationale that we can muster,” Kvaal explained. “We are looking very carefully with the White House and the Department of Justice at whether we can cancel loans across the board for everyone, and that’s something where deliberations are still continuing.”

Time may be running out

There’s an argument to be made that Biden is running out of time to broadly cancel student debts. Democrats’ majorities in Congress are likely to shrink next year, if not melt into minorities.

What’s more, the Education Department has said it will require that federal student loan payments, paused during the pandemic, resume as early as Jan. 31.

Imagine millions of borrowers navigating a repayment system they haven’t used in more than a year and a half. Many will need to speak with their loan servicing company to change repayment options. And two of those companies, which serve roughly 15 million borrowers, are right now transitioning out of the federal student loan business all together.

NPR has spoken with more than a dozen student loan experts, including a handful inside the department, who all say they expect this return to repayment to be … difficult.

If broad-based student loan forgiveness is going to happen, it makes all the sense in the world to do it before Jan. 31. Biden’s campaign pledge would mean millions of borrowers would have their debts erased, allowing them to avoid this difficult, potentially disastrous payment restart.

That doesn’t mean Biden has to keep his $10,000 loan forgiveness pledge by then. It just means, if he doesn’t, it’s hard to imagine broad forgiveness happening anytime soon, if at all.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

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First Edition: Dec. 16, 2021 Mon, 20 Dec 2021 07:21:03 +0000 Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations. KHN: After ‘Truly Appalling’ Death Toll In Nursing Homes, California Rethinks Their Funding About 1 in 8 Californians who have died of covid lived in a nursing home. They were among the state’s most frail residents: nearly 9,400 mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles whom Californians […]]]>

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Nurses In Crisis Over Covid Dig In For Better Work Conditions

Nurses and health care workers across the country are finding strength in numbers and with labor actions not seen in years. In California, which has a strong union tradition, Kaiser Permanente management misjudged workplace tensions during the covid-19 crisis and risked a walkout of thousands when union nurses balked at signing a four-year contract that would have slashed pay for new hires. In Colorado, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Massachusetts, nurses have been embroiled in union battles over staffing and work conditions. (Spolar, Kreidler and Bichell, 12/16)

Covid Shots For Kids Are Scarce — And Demand Is Mixed — In Rural Montana 

When children ages 5 to 11 were approved for Pfizer’s lower-dose pediatric covid-19 vaccine in November, Annie Edwards was eager to get her daughter Hannah, then 5, the shot because of underlying health conditions she has stemming from her premature birth. “She was on a ventilator for the first month of her life. Throughout this whole covid ordeal, I just keep thinking of those memories,” Edwards said. (Bolton, 12/16)

Omicron Thrives In Airways, Not Lungs; New Data On Asymptomatic Cases 

Major differences in how efficiently Omicron and other variants of the coronavirus multiply may help predict Omicron’s effects, researchers said on Wednesday. Compared to the earlier Delta variant, Omicron multiplies itself 70 times more quickly in tissues that line airway passages, which may facilitate person-to-person spread, they said. But in lung tissues, Omicron replicates 10 times more slowly than the original version of the coronavirus, which might contribute to less-severe illness. (Lapid, 12/16)

What Makes Omicron Spread So Quickly? A New Study Offers A Tantalizing Clue

Why is omicron such a superspreading variant? Preliminary data, published online Wednesday, gives us the first look at how omicron may behave inside the respiratory tract — and the data offers a tantalizing clue as to why this heavily mutated variant is spreading so fast and even outcompeting delta. The omicron variant multiplies about 70 times faster inside human respiratory tract tissue than the delta variant does, scientists at the University of Hong Kong report. The variant reaches also higher levels in the tissue, compared to delta, 48 hours after infection. (Doucleff, 12/15)

Moderna Vaccine No Match For Omicron Except With Booster, Study Finds

There’s more mixed news about the power of vaccines to protect people against the omicron variant — this time about the Moderna vaccine. A preliminary study made public Wednesday studied blood samples in the lab from 30 people who had gotten two Moderna shots, and it found that the antibodies in their blood are at least about 50 times less effective at neutralizing the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Previous research had indicated the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is also less protective against omicron. (Stein, 12/15)

The Hill:
Study Suggests Antibodies From Two Moderna Doses Less Effective At Neutralizing Omicron

A preprint study published Wednesday indicated that the antibodies in blood samples from recipients of two Moderna doses were less effective at neutralizing the omicron variant, suggesting an increased risk of symptomatic breakthrough cases. … They found these antibodies in two-dose Moderna recipients were at least 50 times less effective at neutralizing the omicron strain, which “could lead to an increased risk of symptomatic breakthrough infections.” (Coleman, 12/15)

COVID MRNA Vaccines Lose Strength Against Delta Over Time

Two new studies highlight waning mRNA COVID-19 efficacy against infection against the Delta (B1617.2) variant, with one showing that two doses of the Moderna vaccine were highly effective against all variants but that protection against Delta fell over time since vaccination. The other reveals a precipitous drop in mRNA vaccine effectiveness after the emergence of Delta among an older group of US veterans. (Van Beusekom, 12/15)

The Washington Post:
CDC Advisers To Weigh Limits On Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Because Of Continued Blood Clot Issues 

Vaccine advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are meeting Thursday to weigh possible limits on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of continued blood clot issues, mostly in young and middle-aged women, according to clinicians familiar with the agenda. … The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will be presented with new data that appears to show the rate of the clots in people who received the Johnson & Johnson shot has increased since April, although the problem is still rare. There have been about nine deaths related to the issue, according to a federal official familiar with the situation. (Sun and McGinley, 12/15)

NBC News:
Fauci Pushes For Universal Coronavirus Vaccine

The scientific quest for a universal coronavirus vaccine received a boost Wednesday, as three top federal researchers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, outlined a path to develop new vaccines that could tackle a variety of ailments including Covid-19, some common colds and future viruses. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Fauci and two colleagues said the virus that causes Covid-19 is unlikely to be eliminated, and current vaccines are too limited to prevent the emergence of new variants. Other coronaviruses are also likely to spill over from animals to become future pandemic threats, they wrote. (Bush, 12/15)

NBC News:
White House Unveils Plan To Replace Every Lead Pipe In The U.S.

President Joe Biden promised his infrastructure proposal would replace every lead pipe in the country. Now the White House says it has a plan to deliver, despite a significant funding gap. The administration’s plan for lead pipes and paints, which Vice President Kamala Harris will detail in a speech Thursday, illustrates how officials are hoping to cobble together enough money to meet Biden’s goal through sources like the infrastructure law, Covid relief funding and the president’s stalled Build Back Better bill. (Lederman, 12/16)

The Hill:
Biden Administration Releases Plan For Tackling Lead Pipes 

The plan, announced Thursday in a fact sheet, notes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will “begin to develop” new regulations for lead and copper pipes. But, in the meantime, a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday, a twice-delayed Trump rule concerning lead pipes will be allowed to take effect.  (Frazin, 12/16)

The FDA May Be Poised To Ease Access To Abortion Pills

Before the pandemic, doctors like Nisha Verma could only prescribe abortion pills to patients who came to her clinic in person. But at least for now, the Biden Administration is allowing patients to get the pills by mail. “I think that makes it much more accessible for people where they don’t actually have to physically come into a clinic, they don’t have to expose themselves to COVID, they can do this all from the comfort of their home,” said Verma, an OBGYN and abortion provider based in Washington, D.C. (McCammon, 12/15)

‘Quite Hopeful’: Abortion Pill Decision Could Reshape Reproductive Health War

As the Supreme Court weighs the fate of Roe v. Wade, the Food and Drug Administration is set to open a new phase in the abortion wars this week, when it issues a key decision on how doctors can dispense pills to end an early pregnancy. Regulators are due to decide Thursday whether to uphold, revise or scrap longstanding restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone — a review triggered by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the rules in court. Loosening the rules, which have already been suspended due to the pandemic, would allow any doctor to prescribe the drugs online and send them by mail, allowing patients to terminate a pregnancy at home even if justices strike down or cut back Roe v. Wade. (Ollstein and Tahir, 12/15)

The Hill:
Democratic Talks With Manchin Show Signs Of Melting Down 

Democratic negotiations with centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) over President Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending bill are close to melting down as Manchin appears to be backing out of an earlier deal with the White House to extend the child tax credit for one year. Manchin is now floating the idea of extending the child tax credit for multiple years so that the cost of a proposal that is likely to be extended by Congress in the future is fully reflected in the Build Back Better bill, which is now officially projected to cost roughly $2 trillion over 10 years. (Bolton, 12/15)

The New York Times:
Manchin Balks On Social Policy Bill; Democrats May Punt To 2022 

Democrats privately conceded on Wednesday that they were all but certain to delay consideration of President Biden’s $2.2 trillion social policy bill in the Senate until 2022, missing a self-imposed Christmas deadline as negotiations with a key centrist holdout, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, sputtered. Private talks this week between Mr. Biden and Mr. Manchin, who is pushing to curtail the scope of the package and shrink its price tag, have failed to resolve crucial differences, according to White House officials and congressional aides. And leading Democrats have yet to complete work on the complex social safety net, climate and tax package. (Cochrane and Tankersley, 12/15)

The Hill:
Court Reinstates Health Worker Coronavirus Vaccine Mandate In Half Of US 

A federal appeals court on Wednesday effectively revived a Biden administration vaccine mandate for health workers at hospitals that receive federal funding in roughly half of the U.S. The procedural ruling by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit temporarily scaled back a nationwide injunction put in place by a Louisiana-based federal judge late last month. (Kruzel, 12/15)

The Washington Post:
Biden’s Vaccine Policy For Private Companies To Be Reviewed By Three-Judge Panel 

A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected requests to initially review the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine or testing requirements for large private companies with a full complement of judges and will instead handle the case with the usual three-judge panel. The decision divided the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and drew sharp dissents from a pair of judges who used the opportunity to express deep concerns about the legality of the administration’s policy, which is set to take effect Jan. 4. (Marimow, 12/15)

Navy Starts Kicking Out Sailors For Refusing Covid Vaccine As Republicans Rage Over Mandate 

The Navy has begun kicking out sailors who refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine, but it won’t slap dishonorable discharges on anyone for their decision to ignore a direct order. Overall, 5,731 active-duty sailors remain unvaccinated, and at this point Navy officials say they believe most of those will likely continue to refuse the order, weeks after the Nov. 28 deadline for full vaccination. (McLeary and Forgey, 12/15)

The Washington Post:
Vaccine Mandate: Republican Governors In Five States Object To National Guard Requirement 

Five Republican governors have asked the Pentagon to withdraw its requirement for all National Guard members to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, expanding the front of GOP resistance to President Biden’s directives that the federal workforce and government contractors be immunized. Governors from Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, Mississippi and Nebraska on Tuesday signed a joint letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin saying they agree he has authority to impose requirements on service members under federal control. That includes National Guard troops — ordinarily under the state command — when they are mobilized for duty beyond their borders, such as overseas deployments. (Horton, 12/15)

New California Rules End Distinction For Vaccinated Workers

Workplace regulators are poised on Thursday to extend California’s coronavirus pandemic regulations into next year with some revisions that business groups say could worsen the labor shortage. The main change to the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s revised temporary rule is that it would erase current distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. Both would be barred from the workplace if they come in close contact with someone with the virus. (Thompson, 12/16)

Biden COVID Official: “No Need To Lock Down,” Even As Cases Surge 

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday that there will be “no need” to shut down the U.S. economy “in any way,” adding that the country has the tools necessary to fight the Omicron variant. There is an increase of coronavirus cases, driven by the Delta variant, across the country, and CDC director Rochelle Walensky has said that the number of Omicron cases is “likely to rise.” (Gonzalez, 12/15)

The Boston Globe:
Omicron Is Spreading Faster Than Labs’ Ability To Track It

New evidence suggests that the Omicron variant may be charging across New England and the rest of the country at a breakneck pace, threatening to push legions of additional patients into hospitals already overwhelmed with patients sick from the Delta variant, the flu, and other illnesses. Boston on Wednesday reported three new cases in young adults, who had mild symptoms. And researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which does the lion’s share of COVID testing in the state, told the Globe they have reported about 15 Omicron cases to Massachusetts and federal public health agencies. But the Baker administration has so far reported only a single Omicron infection in the state, and declined to answer questions from the Globe about cases linked to the new variant. (Freyer and Andersen, 12/15)

The Atlantic:
What To Do When You Get An Omicron Breakthrough Infection

If only the official guidance were this straightforward. Rebecca Wurtz, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told me that people are perplexed “partly because, I think, the guidance is confusing.” The CDC’s guidelines are limited: Isolate if you’ve either tested positive in the past 10 days or are experiencing symptoms, and end your isolation after 10 days only if you’ve gone 24 hours with no fever (without the use of Tylenol or other anti-fever drugs) and your other symptoms are improving—not counting the loss of taste and smell, which could take a couple of weeks to return. “They’re unclear as they’re stated, and they’re a little too complicated in any case,” Wurtz said. (When I reached out to the CDC for comment on its guidance on breakthroughs, a spokesperson pointed me back to the recommendations on the agency’s website.) (Tayag, 12/15)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Non-Vaccinated In Wisconsin Dying At Rate 12x Greater Than Vaccinated

On Wednesday, the state Department of Health Services released data surrounding illness after vaccination compared to illness in those not yet fully vaccinated and it showed, again, the strong protection provided by the vaccines. Throughout November, people not fully vaccinated died from COVID-19 at a rate 12 times higher than people who were fully vaccinated, according to the DHS. (Bentley, 12/15) 

COVID Patients Overwhelm Hospitals In Colorado Yet Again

Harold Burch lives in a home with a spectacular view in Paonia, a rural part of Colorado’s Western Slope. But that’s been little consolation to Burch, 60, as he’s battled a cascade of health problems during the pandemic. “It’s been a real rodeo,” Burch says. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs and lately it’s been mostly just downers.” Burch has battled chronic osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and had two major intestinal surgeries. One specialist he was seeing left her practice last year. Another wouldn’t accept his insurance. Then, Nov. 1, he started experiencing major stomach pain. (Daley, 12/15)

The Washington Post:
Hospitals Are Still Limiting Visitors Due To Covid. Here’s What You Need To Know.

Nearly two years into the pandemic, keeping up with visitor restrictions is one more stressor for already anxious friends and family of hospital patients. In addition to limiting visitors, some hospitals have shortened visiting hours, restricted visitors to one for a patient’s entire stay, and closed lobbies and other public places. (Some loosen certain restrictions if a patient is in hospice care.) Some hospitals also require all visitors to be vaccinated. (Haupt, 12/15)

Roll Call:
Burnout Among Pharmacists Slows COVID-19 Booster Shots 

Facing a shortage of pharmacists, drugstores nationwide are urging people to make appointments for COVID-19 shots rather than walking up — even as the Biden administration promotes vaccination as the key to ending the pandemic and relies on pharmacies as the main supplier. Between flu season and the rush for COVID-19 vaccines, both neighborhood and chain pharmacies in some places are experiencing a crush of demand. A tight labor market could pose an extra obstacle to vaccination as infections tick up. (Kopp and Cohen, 12/15)

CBS News:
COVID-19 Again Upending College Life As Campuses Shut Down

Multiple schools around the country this week have abruptly announced that students would finish out their semesters remotely, given alarming COVID-19 positivity rates within their communities. Although many students were invited back to campuses in the fall, the Omicron variant is sending them home early. On Wednesday, New York University announced that a “considerable acceleration” in new COVID-19 cases in the area would effectively shutter its campus before winter break begins on December 22. The surge is taking place despite 99% of NYU’s in-person students and full-time faculty members being vaccinated.  (Cerullo, 12/15)

Albuquerque Journal:
Colleges Go Back To Drawing Board — Again — To Fight COVID

Facing rising infections and a new COVID-19 variant, colleges across the U.S. have once again been thwarted in seeking a move to normalcy and are starting to require booster shots, extend mask mandates, limit social gatherings and, in some cases, revert to online classes. The threat of the omicron variant comes as a gut punch to schools that were hoping to relax safety measures this spring. Now, many are telling students to prepare for another term of masking, testing and, if cases get bad, limits around social life. (Binkley, 12/15)

HHS Forecast Shows Omicron Stretching U.S. Covid Testing Supply

Biden administration health officials are privately warning Covid-19 test makers and laboratories that demand for tests could double or even triple over the next two months as cases surge across the country, five people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO. Internal modeling developed by the Health and Human Services Department’s Testing and Diagnostic Working Group projects that the nation’s supply could be stretched by the need to conduct 3 to 5 million tests per day by late January or early February — a sharp increase from current daily levels of more than 1.6 million. (Lim and Cancryn, 12/15)

Chicago Schools Giving COVID Test Kits To Hard-Hit Areas 

The Chicago Public Schools will distribute about 150,000 take-home COVID-19 test kits Friday to 309 schools in communities hit hard by the pandemic, the district announced. “In Chicago, we are in a wicked post-Thanksgiving COVID surge — 929 daily cases on average here in the city of Chicago. As the city goes, so goes CPS,” Dr. Kenneth Fox, CPS’ chief health officer, said at Wednesday’s monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting. “When cases surge in the city, so, too, do they surge at CPS.” (12/16)

CBS News:
Why Does It Still Take So Long To Get A COVID-19 PCR Test Result? 

New COVID-19 restrictions for international travel and other activities are fueling consumer demand for highly accurate polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests with rapid turnaround times. Some clinics can deliver a PCR test result within hours, which these days can be as essential as a plane ticket for air travel. The downside? It will likely cost you hundreds of dollars. (Cerullo, 12/15)

The Wall Street Journal:
CDC’s Early Covid-19 Test Hampered By Design Flaw, Contamination 

A design flaw and contamination caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s initial batch of Covid-19 tests to fail, an investigation by the agency concluded, adding to the understanding of a major misstep in the early U.S. response to the pandemic. In February of 2020, public-health laboratories reported errors with the PCR test that the CDC designed to identify the virus that causes Covid-19. That left the U.S. partly blind to Covid-19’s early spread. (Abbott, 12/15)

Asymptomatic COVID-19 Infections Common, Finds Global Review Of Studies

asymptomatic (symptom-free) COVID-19 among nearly 30 million people was 0.25% among those undergoing screening and 40.50% among those with a confirmed case. On Feb 4, 2021, researchers from Peking University in Beijing reviewed 95 studies from around the world involving 29,776,306 people, 11,516 of whom had asymptomatic infections at screening. Of 19,884 patients with confirmed infections; 11,069 were asymptomatic. Twenty-one studies were published in June 2020 or before, and 74 were published after. (12/15)

AP Source: NFL Plans Changes To COVID-19 Protocols 

The NFL is planning “significant changes” to its COVID-19 protocols amid the worst three-day stretch for the league during the pandemic, a person familiar with the plans told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details haven’t been finalized, said the league and the NFL Players Association are discussing three main areas: testing protocols; return to play guidelines to allow asymptomatic players who’ve tested positive to return sooner; and encouraging booster shots. (Maaddi and Dixon, 12/16)

What Living With Endemic Covid Will Look Like In 2022 And Future

Almost two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, an end might finally be in sight. Experts say that Covid will likely lose its “pandemic” status sometime in 2022, due largely to rising global vaccination rates and developments of antiviral Covid pills that could become more widespread next year. Instead, the virus will likely become “endemic,” eventually fading in severity and folding into the backdrop of regular, everyday life. Various strains of influenza have followed a similar pattern over the past century or more, from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to the swine flu pandemic in 2009. (Stieg, 12/15)

Modern Healthcare:
COVID-19 Relief Led To Nearly 10% Jump In 2020 Health Spending

U.S. healthcare spending rose 9.7% to $4.1 trillion last year, primarily due to federal COVID-19 relief spending, the actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported Wednesday. The jump marks the largest growth in health expenditures since 2002 and spending was more than 5% higher than during 2019. Much of the increase came from federal spending related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the Provider Relief Fund and Paycheck Protection Program loans, according to a report the CMS Office of the Actuary published in Health Affairs. (Goldman, 12/15)

Health Spending Growth More Than Doubled In First Year Of Pandemic

The rate of growth in U.S. health care spending more than doubled in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving the medical system accounting for just less than a fifth of the U.S. economy at the end of 2020, according to a federal report released Wednesday. Spending on health care rose 9.7 percent last year, up from 4.3 percent increase in 2019 — the fastest year-over-year jump since 2002, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ office of the actuary. Nearly the entire increase came from the burst of federal spending as the government mobilized to contain the spread of the virus. (Levy, 12/15)

Modern Healthcare:
OSHA’s COVID-19 Prevention Standard Could Lapse Within Days

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has less than a week to extend its emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 prevention for healthcare facilities but hasn’t yet moved to make the policy permanent, and stakeholders aren’t sure what happens next. Emergency temporary standards from OSHA are supposed to be finalized within six months of their release. Policies stay in effect until replaced by a final action, an OSHA spokesperson wrote in an email. The spokesperson wouldn’t say whether failing to extend the current standard would count as a final action. The standard is set to expire Dec. 21 unless OSHA issues a final rule. (Goldman, 12/15)

Modern Healthcare:
Hospitals Rattled By HR Company Ransomware Attack

Healthcare systems are struggling to manage timekeeping and employee pay following a ransomware attack on one of the country’s largest human resources management companies. The Dec. 11 cybersecurity incident affected Ultimate Kronos Group, whose services are used by thousands of organizations, municipal governments, university systems and hospitals. So far, the company has determined that the attack specifically impacts those using the Kronos Private Cloud, which houses banking and scheduling solutions as well as healthcare extensions, said Bob Hughes, UKG executive vice president, in a blog post on Monday. (Devereaux, 12/15)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Morehouse School Of Medicine Delays $6,300 COVID Grants To Students

Morehouse School of Medicine administrators say the $6,300 grants it would give students this week will be delayed as federal education department officials review the plans. The school’s president, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, announced the delay in a letter Tuesday to students. The letter also says some students, such as those who don’t have children and aren’t caregivers for their own parents, may receive $4,800 instead of $6,300. The 754-student school, located near downtown Atlanta, said earlier this month it planned to provide grants from federal coronavirus aid to help students with ongoing pandemic costs such as child care, health care, housing and transportation. (Stirgus, 12/15)

Modern Healthcare:
Cigna Drops Livongo As Preferred Digital Health Tool

One of the largest health services businesses in the U.S. dropped Livongo from preferred status in its digital formulary Wednesday, with the move coming as the digital health startup’s ongoing merger with telehealth provider Teladoc Health reportedly hits bumps in the road. Cigna’s $98.6 billion Evernorth, which houses its Express Scripts pharmacy benefit manager, prioritized rival Omada Health over Livongo for chronic disease management in its annual formulary review of digital health apps and therapeutics. (Tepper, 12/15)

Amazon Elevates Former Prime Boss Neil Lindsay To Run Health Efforts

Amazon’s former Prime boss has been moved to a role overseeing the company’s health efforts. Neil Lindsay last month was elevated to senior vice president of health and brand within Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, according to his LinkedIn profile and people familiar with the move. (Palmer and Coombs, 12/15)

Bowing To Pressure, J.P. Morgan Says Health Care Conference Will Be Virtual

The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, biotech’s biggest annual conference, will be virtual, the bank said Wednesday, bowing to pressure from big-name drug companies that balked at an in-person meeting amid escalating cases of Covid-19. “The health and safety of our clients and employees is of the utmost importance, and given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we have made this decision,” J.P. Morgan said in an email to registered attendees, obtained by STAT. “We were not only hopeful to meet in-person but also understand how much this conference means to the San Francisco community, which we fully support.” (Garde and Feuerstein, 12/15)

Houston Chronicle:
Breast Cancer Breakthrough At Houston Methodist Could Double Patients’ Odds Of Responding To Treatment

On Dec. 15, a research team led by Chang published a study in the journal “Science Translational Medicine,” describing how a combination of chemotherapy and a drug typically used to treat cardiac failure is able to regress tumor growth of triple negative breast cancer and prevent the cancer from spreading. “This is an effective way of cutting short drug development and getting it into patients as quickly as possible,” Chang said in a statement from the hospital. “This process has taken us less than five years and saved billions of dollars, giving us the opportunity to provide this new therapy faster for our patients.” (Peyton, 12/15)

USA Today:
EPA Sees Increased Health Risk In PFOA, Other Cancer-Causing Chemicals

After his father died in 2013 from a cancer that started in his kidney, Michael Hickey was troubled by more than his grief. John Hickey was 70, never smoked and rarely drank. He did work a night shift at a Saint-Gobain textile plant in their hometown of Hoosick Falls, New York. The plant historically produced fabrics coated with a Teflon-like substance, similar to nonstick pans and other products. When a local schoolteacher also died from cancer shortly afterward, Hickey’s suspicions skyrocketed. “We seemed to have a ton of this cancer, and I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. (Bagenstose, 12/16)

UK COVID Cases Hit Record; Top Doctor Warns Of Worse To Come 

The U.K. recorded the highest number of confirmed new COVID-19 infections Wednesday since the pandemic began, and England’s chief medical officer warned the situation is likely to get worse as the omicron variant drives a new wave of illness during the Christmas holidays. Professor Chris Whitty described the current situation as two epidemics in one — with omicron infections rising rapidly even as the country continues to grapple with the older delta variant, which is still causing a large number of infections. Public health officials expect omicron to become the dominant variant across the U.K. within days. Omicron already accounts for a majority of cases in London. (Kirka and Lawless, 12/15)

Beijing Olympic Athletes And Their Garbage Face Restrictions

Beijing Winter Olympics organizers say measures to prevent cross-infections between athletes and the outside world are being extended to holding their garbage inside the bubble dividing the two. Officials said on Thursday that a team of special workers will be deployed to collect and transfer garbage inside the bubble to prevent the risk of coronavirus leaking out into the outside world. The Beijing Games begin Feb. 4. (12/16)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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Editorial Roundup: U.S. – Mon, 20 Dec 2021 07:20:59 +0000 Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad: Dec. 14 The Guardian on China’s Winter Olympics and treatment of Uyghurs: The financial crisis of 2008 was the moment which cemented both China’s rise and its growing confidence as the west faltered. But the Olympics held in Beijing a few months earlier was the […]]]>

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Dec. 14

The Guardian on China’s Winter Olympics and treatment of Uyghurs:

The financial crisis of 2008 was the moment which cemented both China’s rise and its growing confidence as the west faltered. But the Olympics held in Beijing a few months earlier was the global symbol of its ascendancy: a coming-out party which proclaimed its return to the forefront of political and economic power, greeted with genuine international enthusiasm, despite the misgivings of dissidents.

Fewer will celebrate the Winter Games due to kick off in Beijing in February. Last week, the UK and Canada joined the US and Australia in announcing a diplomatic boycott, and New Zealand has said it will not send anyone of ministerial level – to the wrath of China, which warned that countries will “pay a price” for the decision. (France will participate as usual, with Emmanuel Macron describing the boycott as “insignificant”, and much of Europe remains undecided). Concern for tennis champion and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai, since she alleged that a former senior leader had coerced her into sex, have magnified attention to China’s human rights record – and to the International Olympic Committee’s keenness to reassure the world that there is nothing to worry about, a repeated pattern.

But the primary issue is the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, up to a million of whom have been held in camps. Last week, an unofficial British-based inquiry’s report described the torture and rape of detainees and concluded that the treatment of Uyghurs constitutes genocide – the deliberate attempt to destroy all or part of the ethnic group. The inquiry’s chair, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, stressed that there was no evidence of mass killing, with his finding based instead on the suppression of births, including through forced birth control, sterilisation, hysterectomies and abortions; he argued that the “vast apparatus of state repression could not exist if a plan was not authorised at the highest levels.” (Human rights groups say they have yet to document the intent required for a genocide finding, but have evidence of crimes against humanity.)

Since the US had already stated that genocide is taking place, it was always hard to see how it could send an official delegation. Others have been clear in condemning grotesque abuses in Xinjiang. Staging the Olympics is always a statement by a government: in a country where dissent is not tolerated, and where a nationalist story of triumph is increasingly central to the party’s legitimacy, it is a propaganda event designed to elicit global applause for a domestic audience. It is no surprise that China, which dismisses genocide claims as “absurd”, portrays all concerns as the “politicisation of sports”, using human rights merely as a pretext. It is domestically useful to depict the boycott as another malign attempt to hurt China; but it is likely that the leadership also believes it, refusing to recognise that the primary cause of growing hostility abroad is not US hegemonic anxiety, but Beijing’s oppression of the Uyghurs and the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms at home, and its increasingly aggressive approach internationally.

Nor is the IOC’s willingness to play along unexpected. It is, however, reprehensible. Asked about the treatment of Uyghurs last week, IOC member Dick Pound told a German broadcaster that – despite satellite images, leaked documents, eyewitness testimony and campaigners’ briefings – “I don’t know enough of the facts.” He cast doubt on extensive reporting of abuses and suggested that an independent review might be helpful. The UN human rights chief has been asking to visit the region for three years without success.

The IOC believes its battered reputation is shielded by its incantation of the mantras of friendship and respect, and the global love of sport. But many countries have rightly thought again about offering their support to this event. Sponsors should now do the same.



Dec. 14

The Chicago Tribune on where were Amazon brass in wake of tornado?

At 5:45 a.m. Saturday morning, a press conference was held in downstate Edwardsville. The deeply sad purpose was to update the public on what happened the previous night when a EF-3 tornado had rolled through that community and partially collapsed a warehouse belonging to Amazon. At least six people died.

Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford was there, so was Edwardsville Police Chief Michael Fillback and other local officials. So, in fact, was Gov. J.B. Pritzker, despite the early hour and the location of Edwardsville, which is far closer to St. Louis than Springfield or Chicago. Pritzker still got himself there to praise emergency workers and to try to comfort some of the afflicted.

You know who was not at that press conference? Anyone from Amazon.

Stunning, given that the company owned the warehouse where people died.

Worse yet, the absence of Amazon in front of the cameras that morning allowed confusion to grow over precisely how many people had died. The authorities said they didn’t know how many people were gone because Amazon didn’t know how many people had been in the warehouse during the incident.

That uncertainty, the officials said, was compounded by at least two other factors: a shift change was in progress and Amazon’s operation is only partially staffed by Amazon workers, the remainder being either employees of other entities or independent contractors.

Only hours later did Amazon finally put out a statement from a spokesman that was so anodyne as to be insulting to those victims: “We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the storm. We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on scene. We’re continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in the area.”

Thoughts and prayers? Please. Anything but that cliche. And when families and “partners” are in pain, they show up for each other. And who is the “we,” exactly? Without a face or a name, this was meaningless language.

It got worse. Early Saturday, Jeff Bezos, still the executive chairman and public face of Amazon despite handing over the CEO reins to Andy Jassy last summer, was tweeting Saturday morning about the pleasures of his fun space venture, seemingly oblivious to what had happened the night before to regular folks trying to survive on terra firma. Only after he received intense pressure for the omission, did Bezos put out an expression of sympathy.

He, Jassy, or a top lieutenant, should have been at that microphone at 5:45 a.m., or at least on Zoom, answering real questions and attending to the pain of the good people of Edwardsville. Amazon was not, of course, responsible for the tornado, but people still died because they were in that warehouse, working for Amazon.

The absence did not go unnoticed, nor, later in the day, did the disparity between Amazon being fully able to get a package to your door in minutes and yet not being entirely sure how many people had been killed in its own warehouse.

“The company with one of the most sophisticated logistics systems in the world can’t say how many employees are still unaccounted for nearly 24 hours after the tornado hit its warehouse?” tweeted the Springfield NPR-affiliate reporter Hannah Meisel.

Apparently, it could not. We share Meisel’s amazement. And we don’t think that “thoughts and prayers” did the job.

Those of us who work on this page have been around long enough to remember CEOs and company presidents who understood that in a time of crisis, Chief Executive Officer must stand for Chief Emergency Officer. We recall watching airline CEOs at crash sites, even as the rubble was still smoldering; we remember jackets replaced by reflective clothing following previous heartland tornadoes; weekends with families abandoned in service of the message that any employer who does not tend to workers, or their grieving family members, in a time of crisis is not a company for which anyone should either want to work or conduct business.

And we’re well aware of what they used to teach in business school: Act immediately, show empathy, do the right thing fast. And take care of your people.

But tech companies, as a group, have not exactly kept up that tradition as they have risen in wealth and power. They hide behind the new ease of anonymity, avoiding the costs of human contact. We suspect that it took Pritzker’s staffers a lot of effort to figure out exactly who their boss could call at Amazon so he could say that he had done so. Was there anybody even there? Was the spokesman really an algorithm?

This abnegation of traditional channels of expressing corporate responsibility is not in the company’s interests, as it further fosters the image of these entities as giant, impersonal traders in human work-lives, exploiting the gig economy for their own purposes, hiding their humanity behind their technology and refusing to play the role that American business has always played. There are exceptions, of course, and Amazon faced real difficulties here, but the perception certainly did not improve this past weekend. Big bosses hid.

This event happened in an ordinary downstate community in our state, in the same kind of logistics warehouse that Amazon has been building all over the nation. We suspect executives don’t often venture to the likes of Edwardsville, space apparently being preferable to messy events like tornadoes on the prairie.

This page often has taken government officials to task for falling down on the job. In this case, the government was there doing the best it could, all through the night Friday and on Saturday morning. It was a business that fell down on surely its most important job: to immediately show that it cared for human life right here on earth.



Dec. 14

The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer on top Trump aide, Mark Meadows, and obstruction:

Here’s a question that might make Sen. Richard Burr smile: When will the N.C. Republican Party censure Mark Meadows?

The answer, of course, is never. But that won’t hide the embarrassment that Meadows is for his party or for the state he represented in Congress for seven years. He left Congress in March of 2020 to become President Trump’s White House chief of staff.

The North Carolina Republican Party’s Central Committee voted unanimously to censure Burr for voting to convict Trump on the impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection. History may record that vote as Burr’s finest hour. Meanwhile, Meadows is emerging as a disgrace during a dangerous hour for U.S. democracy. Documents obtained by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol show Meadows participated in Trump’s effort to throw out the result of a free and fair presidential election.

Meadows made a deal to cooperate with the congressional probe, but now is refusing to sit for a deposition, citing executive privilege. He also has sued to block the committee’s subpoenas against him as “overly broad and unduly burdensome.” He had turned over thousands of pages of documents to the committee, but is withholding some 1,000 text messages. The House panel voted Monday to recommend contempt charges.

In advance of the recommendation, the committee released a report Sunday that contained new details of Meadows’s actions related to attempts to overturn the election results. The report said Meadows “received text messages and emails regarding apparent efforts to encourage Republican legislators in certain States to send alternate slates of electors to Congress, a plan which one Member of Congress acknowledged was ‘highly controversial’ and to which Mr. Meadows responded, ‘I love it.’”

It’s also known that Meadows was on the phone when Trump pressured Georgia’s top election official to “find” enough votes to reverse Trump’s Georgia loss. He also sought to have the Justice Department question the integrity of the election.

The Jan. 6 committee wants to hear about those machinations. Crucially, it wants Meadows’s version of what Trump was doing as the Capitol was under assault and how he responded to calls for help from Capitol security officials and members of Congress.

All this comes after Meadows’s history as a Tea Party firebrand and founding member of the obstructionist House Freedom Caucus. He played a key role in shutting down the federal government in 2013 in an effort to end funding for the Affordable Care Act.

In his new book, “The Chief’s Chief,” Meadows delivers a mostly air-brushed version of his time in the White House, but he does reveal that Trump tested positive for COVID three days before a presidential debate with Joe Biden, but Trump went anyway. Meadows, who said a subsequent test of the former president came back negative, did not disclose the positive test, putting others, including the 77-year-old future president, at risk. Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 three days after the event.

For North Carolina, Meadows is more than a figure in a Washington drama. He is the embodiment of how the state’s turn to extreme gerrymandering has opened the way for reactionary and incompetent candidates to represent the state in Congress. Before Meadows, the 11th District was represented by a conservative Democrat, Heath Shuler, who retired after the district was redrawn to heavily favor Republicans. Now the district is represented by Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who has found a way to be more extreme and embarrassing than Meadows.

It has long been clear that Meadows is a Trump sycophant. Now the question is whether his eagerness to please included breaking the law. The Jan. 6 committee needs to take a hard line with the former chief of staff who never drew a line for Trump.



Dec. 12

The Houston Chronicle on locking up parents who don’t lock up guns:

In memory of four Michigan teenagers who won’t be spending time with their families this Christmas and in sympathy with six other teenagers and a high school teacher traumatized for life, we offer a modest proposal:

Any parent or guardian who refuses to secure guns in the home, arguing that a locked and unloaded gun denies them quick access to thwart a home invasion or other mortal threat, should be required to implement an alternative strategy. We propose designating an adult in the household to keep vigil just inside the front door every night, a loaded pistol, rifle or shotgun lying across their lap, ready in an instant to blow away those dangerous would-be intruders they fear so much. Parents, of course, could trade off, each taking four-hour shifts sitting guard or alternating night shifts.

We’re being facetious — sort of — but our proposal is no more absurd than keeping loaded, unsecured guns around the house, accessible to curious toddlers and troubled teens alike. Those kids or other family members who live in the house every day are the ones far more likely to get shot than any hypothetical intruder.

We offer another proposal, not so modest: Perhaps it’s time for those parents who refuse to lock up their guns to find themselves locked up instead.

The shooter at a high school in Oxford Township, Mich., on Nov. 30 was a 15-year-old sophomore, authorities said. He fired more than 30 rounds, randomly it seems, at students and teachers.

He not only had access to a loaded weapon but was allegedly abetted by his parents. Authorities say his father bought him the 9mm Sig Sauer SP2022 on Black Friday as a Christmas present. His mother took him target shooting, and after a teacher observed him searching for ammunition on his phone, the mother texted her child, “LOL, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.” The parents kept the loaded pistol in an unlocked drawer in their bedroom.

Despite behavior at school so worrisome that school officials called the parents into a meeting, the parents refused to take their son home when asked to do so. A couple of hours later, authorities said he emerged from a bathroom and began firing.

“If the incident yesterday with four children being murdered and multiple kids being injured is not enough to revisit our gun laws, I don’t know what is,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said. She charged the shooter as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes.

Then the prosecutor took an extra step. She charged the shooter’s parents with involuntary manslaughter, because, she said, they should have known their son was a danger to the school. The parents, who fled to Detroit after the massacre, have pleaded not guilty. They face up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors are often reluctant to charge parents whose children commit mass murder, in part because the parents have a constitutional right to own a firearm. A growing number of states, including Texas, have Child Access Prevention laws that generally require gun owners to safely store guns and keep them out of the hands of minors. In Texas, a person can be held criminally liable, albeit for a Class C misdemeanor, if he or she doesn’t take reasonable steps to secure a firearm or leaves it loaded somewhere a child is likely to access it. The violation becomes a Class A misdemeanor, carrying up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, if a child uses the gun to injure or kill someone, including himself.

McDonald, the Michigan prosecutor, said she had no choice but to charge the parents. “I am in no way saying that an active shooter situation should always result in a criminal prosecution against parents, but the facts of this case are so egregious,” she said.

“I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as a prosecutor. I’m angry as a person that lives in this county. I’m angry,” she added. “There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent.”

Would that we all get angry at parents of children who live in homes with unsecured firearms.

Guns, just behind car crashes, are the second-leading cause of death for American children, according to the Giffords Law Center. Each year, more than 8,000 kids are killed or seriously injured by guns. An estimated 70 percent to 90 percent of guns used in youth suicides, unintentional shootings among children and by school shooters under age 18 are acquired from the homes of relatives or friends, according to the center.

Failing to secure weapons in the home also feeds an epidemic of gun thefts in this country. Stolen guns are likely to be diverted underground, a prime market for criminals.

Most gun owners we know, including members of the National Rifle Association, are hyper-careful about keeping guns in the home secure. They know the danger to their children and other family members. They also know that it’s surpassingly rare for an individual to need a weapon so quickly that a gun safe, lockbox, gun case, trigger lock or cable lock would put them in mortal danger. Far more dangerous, and likely, is an unintentional shooting or suicide.

James Densley and Jillian Peterson, professors of criminal justice writing recently in the Los Angeles Times, suggested that the Oxford Township school tragedy could be a catalyst for reviewing laws and filling in loopholes regarding safe gun storage. We would like to think so too, since many of the reforms that would make a difference are surpassingly simple.

For example, negligently leaving a loaded gun in the reach of a child who uses it to shoot himself or someone else should be a felony in this state, not just a misdemeanor.

As in Michigan, prosecutors should consider charging irresponsible gun owners under other statutes not directly related to gun storage. Texas also needs to get Child Protective Services involved much more quickly when law enforcement finds unsecured guns in the home.

According to the Giffords Law Center, only 13 states have any sort of safe storage requirements. Texas does not. Surely we can agree that we need such requirements.

In light of the continued proliferation of guns in this state — not to mention the rise of homemade “ghost guns” — and the lax oversight for which this state is notorious, we also encourage a more robust public information campaign for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s “Keep ‘Em Safe Texas” initiative. It’s a program designed to inform gun owners about safe gun storage. House Bill 1 during the past legislative session provided $500,000 for the biennium to keep the program going.

What happened in Michigan is a reminder, yet again, that guns brought into the home to protect our children are actually killing them, as if Texans — after Santa Fe, after El Paso, after Sutherland Springs — needed a reminder. With those Michigan children uppermost in our minds, surely we can take modest steps to keep our own children safe. The Second Amendment shouldn’t protect outrageous irresponsibility and deadly negligence.



Dec. 8

The Minneapolis Star Tribune on NCAA rules allowing college athletes to make money:

The rules that until recently governed what college athletes may and may not do to earn money seemed absurd on their face.

An Associated Press story out of West Virginia, for example, tells of a football player who made money on the side as a folksinger — but could not do so under his own name. His solution was to perform under a stage name, Lucky Bill. Presumably, he could have worked at a Starbucks under his true name, Will Ulmer.

The difference is that work as a barista could not have been construed as profiting from his own name, image or likeness. Before the rules were changed on July 1, any profit from said name, image or likeness belonged to others, not to him.

The new rules are a long-needed improvement. At last, college athletes will be able to profit from their own celebrity through endorsement deals or other business arrangements. A few will be able to make a lot of money; some, a modest amount, and most will get practically (or literally) nothing. But the new rules are a giant step toward equity — we might even say toward justice.

The NCAA had tried for years to keep student athletes from getting the compensation they deserved. The hope-filled young athletes were allowed scholarships and stipends that paid for tuition or living expenses, but that’s it. There was plenty of money being made — stadiums full of it — but it went to the broadcast networks, the coaches, the colleges, even to the NCAA itself. The athletes were hobbled by the official narrative that their motivation had nothing to do with money.

Of course, some of them were pursuing professional careers in their chosen sports, but that goal is an elusive dream for all but a tiny minority — 2%, according to the NCAA. For the other 98%, their fame at present is about all they’re going to get. If they are able to leverage their celebrity into a lucrative side hustle — or even a lasting career — it’s perverse to argue that they shouldn’t be allowed to do it.

An article in Sunday’s Star Tribune noted a few local success stories. Paige Bueckers, who honed her basketball skills at Hopkins High in Minnetonka, has signed an endorsement deal with StockX as a star player for the University of Connecticut. Olympic medalist and retiring University of Minnesota wrestler Gable Steveson has signed on to a pro career with the WWE. The rule change made it possible for him to engage in promoting WWE events and his own future status as one of its personalities.

On a more modest scale, Gopher basketball player Parker Fox has licensed his name for use on a local restaurant’s tater tots. He told the Star Tribune that, through various ventures, he’s made about $10,000 off his name since July. That amount may not be in the same league with Bueckers and Steveson, but it’s a solid paycheck for a college student. His comments suggest a realistic view of his prospects:

“One day the basketball is going to stop bouncing,” he said, “and I’ve got to have a little money in my bank account.” He is working on his master’s degree in sports management.

Meanwhile, Bueckers has suffered a leg fracture that will keep her off the court for as long as two months. Her injury is a reminder that college athletes (all athletes, really) subject their bodies to stresses and strains that may shorten their careers as competitors.

So if a line of athletic shoes or tater tots can help student athletes secure their future, we’re all for it. When they couldn’t — that was exploitation.



Dec. 14

The Wall Street Journal on Pfizer breakthrough with antiviral pills:

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Tuesday hailed his company’s antiviral pill Paxlovid as a “game changer” after final trial data showed it reduced risk of hospitalization among high-risk groups by nearly 90%.

An antiviral pill that prevents serious illness, to be taken soon after people develop symptoms, has long been understood as a path to easing the pandemic. Alas, the National Institutes of Health and Biden Administration were slow to invest in oral treatments, which is one reason the pills have taken longer to develop than have vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.

Vaccines are enormously beneficial, but many people won’t get vaccinated. And as we’ve discovered, vaccine protection against infection wanes with time and against some Covid variants. This leaves older people and those with certain health conditions at higher risk for severe illness.

Monoclonal antibodies have been helpful, but they’re also susceptible to mutations. German researchers said Tuesday that Eli Lilly and Regeneron monoclonals lost most of their effectiveness in lab tests against Covid’s Omicron variant. Monoclonals have also been rationed because they’re difficult to produce. Administered by infusion, they occupy scarce healthcare staff when needed to treat hospitalized patients during Covid surges.

Enter Paxlovid, which was found to reduce hospitalization or death by 88% in high-risk groups when taken within five days of symptom onset. The antiviral inhibits the machinery the virus uses to replicate so it’s less likely to be dodged by new variants. Pfizer says the drug blocked Omicron in lab tests.

Once the FDA approves Paxlovid, Americans who test positive for Covid could request that their doctor prescribe Paxlovid like Tamiflu when they get the flu. About 1,300 Americans a day are currently dying of Covid, so making Paxlovid widely available could save tens of thousands of lives this winter.

The Biden Administration last month ordered 10 million courses at a cost of $5.3 billion. While the pills are relatively inexpensive to produce, their cost of $530 per treatment rewards Pfizer’s innovation and is a pittance given their apparent effectiveness. Pfizer has signed a voluntary licensing agreement with the United Nations-backed nonprofit Medicines Patent Pool for distribution around the world.

Pfizer has submitted data for emergency use authorization, and the FDA has every reason to approve it as quickly as possible. Individuals who received the drug showed no worse side effects than those who got the placebo, so there don’t appear to be safety concerns.

As manufacturing and supply ramp up, the government may recommend that Paxlovid be prescribed only for those at higher Covid risk. But Pfizer’s preliminary trial data showed that younger, healthy people who got the pill experienced a 70% decline in hospitalization. They would benefit from broader authorization.

Pfizer’s study also showed a 10-fold reduction in viral load, which suggests it could substantially reduce transmission. Once Paxlovid becomes widely available, government travel restrictions and mandates will be even more unnecessary. Perhaps even President Biden will then thank Pfizer.


Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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2021: Somehow even worse than 2020! It’s the best and worst of Arkansas Mon, 20 Dec 2021 07:20:56 +0000 My sweet summer child, do you recall those waning days of 2020? A year of unfathomable death counts and self-imposed house arrest, online grocery orders and incessant Zoom calls, was finally, blessedly winding down. Admit it, you expected better of 2021. We all did. The end of our suffering was in sight, a box on […]]]>

My sweet summer child, do you recall those waning days of 2020? A year of unfathomable death counts and self-imposed house arrest, online grocery orders and incessant Zoom calls, was finally, blessedly winding down. Admit it, you expected better of 2021. We all did. The end of our suffering was in sight, a box on a calendar we could check off, then start fresh. We were so innocent then!

Having clawed and shrieked our way through 2021, we now know things can always get worse. At least in 2020 we were nestled snug in our houses. Scared shitless, sure, but with a shred of hope in our hearts.

Kicking off as it did with a bona fide coup attempt and spiraling from there into a culture war waged against defenseless transgender children, science believers and the jobless, 2021 wrung it out of us. We chronicle the low points here, not to depress you, but to bond through communal trauma. Sure, our pipes froze, our escape hatch bridge to all points east cracked, our elected leaders tried to kill us with conspiracy theories and cattle dewormer. If you’re reading this, congratulations. Your enemies have failed.

In a rundown of best and worst, there must be some bests, and we were able to find a few. Heroes emerge in the darkest days. Dogtown’s own ShadowVision stepped forward, armed with katanas and excellent arch support, carless but ready to walk however many miles it took to end the reign of the Little Rock slasher.

And don’t forget that other hero of 2021, the possum who spent the quarantine era nestled in the rafters of the White Water Tavern but shook off his torpor and crashed down into the midst of the party when it was time for the world to open back up again. Here’s hoping we all burst into 2022 like the White Water party possum, rested, wide-eyed and ready for the next act.

Worst campaign kickoff

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a former flack for President Donald Trump and daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, announced her candidacy for Arkansas governor with a clownish video in which she promised to fight socialism, cancel culture and the “radical left.” She’s stayed on message since then, firing shots in the national culture war while paying little to no attention to Arkansas.

Worst attack on democracy

A shameful number of Arkansans made their way to D.C. on Jan. 6 to thwart the peaceful transition of power. Among them were teachers, state police officers and Peter Stager of Conway, who was caught on camera beating a fallen police officer with an American flag on a pole.

Best Civil War cosplay

As rioters breached the Capitol doors on Jan. 6 and National Guard backups remained tied down in red tape, Rep. Bruce Westerman assumed the fetal position. After plucking a sword from a display of Civil War paraphernalia, Westerman made himself a hidey hole in the men’s room, reportedly crouching on a toilet seat to keep his feet hidden from the bloodthirsty mob.

Worst Foghorn Leghorn impression

Just days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican from Rogers, made a scene when Capitol Police asked him to pass through a metal detector to get to the floor of the House. Womack told Capitol Police not to touch him and yelled, “You are creating a problem you do not understand the ramifications of.”

Worst way to go on the lam

After propping his feet on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk during the Jan. 6 insurrection, Richard “Bigo” Barnett of Gravette was swiftly identified by the FBI after memorializing the break-in with a photo on social media and multiple online video confessions. Barnett later showed reporters a piece of Pelosi’s mail he’d swiped, saying he’d left a quarter on her desk “because I’m not a thief.”

Worst legal argument

Barnett also left a note on Pelosi’s desk that reportedly said “Hey Nancy Bigo was here bitch.” But Joseph McBride, Barnett’s lawyer, said that the word Barnett actually used was “biatd.” “Instead of writing the accusatory ‘You bitch’ as the government falsely states, it only says ‘biatd’ and without the word ‘you,’ “ McBride wrote in a legal filing in April. “On information and belief, the ‘d’ was meant to be two letters, ‘c’ and ‘h’ with the ‘c’ connected to an ‘h’ to spell the word ‘biatch,’ which is a slang and less offensive word for ‘bitch.’ ”

Best meme (and best catfish)

When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders attended the Biden inauguration in frumpy winter gear and with a surly posture suggesting he’d rather be anywhere else, the internet took note. Memes of Bernie in his signature brown mittens started popping up all over the country — in a New York subway, aboard the Millennium Falcon, at a bus stop next to Forrest Gump. The Sanders mitten meme tour even made it to Little Rock, where he stopped off at Lassis Inn.

Worst money for nothing

Former Arkansas U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, the governor’s brother, gambled that a $10,000 payment to a D.C. lobbyist might buy his son, disgraced former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, a presidential pardon in the final hours of the Trump presidency. No dice. Jeremy Hutchinson’s guilty pleas for bribery and tax evasion stand.

Worst lost and found

West Memphis officials contacted the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the FBI, local law enforcement, the State Police and the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management after discovering an item that had been reported stolen. The 95-pound yellow plastic trunk contained a Troxler Electronic Laboratories Model 3411-B soil moisture and density gauge, infused with highly radioactive Cesium 137 and Americium 241.

Best partisan payday 

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge hired former Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb to supervise her office’s redistricting efforts to the tune of a $150,000 salary. His relevant job experience? In 2020, Webb earned a $20,000 commission for helping to fight off a bid to make redistricting nonpartisan. A bumper sticker once seen around Benton, Webb’s hometown, said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a Webb,” a reference to his reputation as an ambulance-chasing estate lawyer. Max Brantley, on the Arkansas Blog, offered a new tagline: “Where there’s a dole, there’s Doyle.”

Best architectural reveal

As part of its $142 million rebranding and renovation, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts — neé the Arkansas Arts Center — nodded to the building’s history by uncovering and spotlighting its original 1937 Art Deco facade.

Best drag queen

Woe to the producers of RuPaul’s “Drag Race,” who, after witnessing Symone’s blinding brilliance, had to put on a poker face that’d make Lady Gaga proud and manufacture an element of suspense for the TV viewers at home — despite the Arkansas native’s early and steady status as a favorite for the crown. And win she did. Symone the Ebony Enchantress, born Reggie Gavin and raised in Conway, got her start hosting drag shows at Sway and Discovery here in Little Rock (christened #glitterrock), and as a member of the gay street gang/party collective House of Avalon, developed a drag persona that veered nimbly between comedy and conviction and pop culture and utter grace. Symone’s since been a face for Vogue and Savage Fenty X and Skyy Vodka, graced the covers of Interview and Paper and Out magazines, walked the red carpet at the Met Gala, moderated a panel for Madonna’s “Madame X” documentary series, and generally become the toast of the forward-thinking fashion world. Cheers!

Best dump

Snowpocalypse brought 20 inches of snow to Central Arkansas in February, providing job security for plumbers and some prime sledding runs for the rest of us. But that weeklong white-out wasn’t as fun as it should have been. Snow days, it seems, are a thing of the past. Preparations that schools made for pandemic-related shutdowns weighed many students down with enough online assignments to keep them busy for the duration.

Worst discovery

A pipe at the Museum of Discovery that froze and burst during the winter storm caused extensive flooding damage to galleries, theaters and offices and led to the death of a blue-tongued skink. The $7 million in damages shuttered the museum to visitors for six months.

Worst looking a gift horse in the mouth

Following the mailout of economic stimulus payments from the U.S. Treasury, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office fielded several dozen calls from citizens concerned they might be victims of a scam. After looking into it, Rutledge’s office determined the payments were legit and advised Arkansans not to toss those $1,200 debit cards.

Worst cancel culture

Only women can be shamed for abortion, according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman, the breakout villain of 2021. Columnist Debra Hale-Shelton was fired for pondering in prose whether there are other Trump progeny or aborted pregnancies out there that we don’t know about. “Vile and vulgar,” Hussman declared of Hale-Shelton’s musings on the pussy-grabber-in-chief, whom his paper had endorsed in 2016.

Best new word of 2021

Stonks. More specifically, Gamestonks. Remember those? January was a confusing and exhilarating time for amateur finance bros to buy stocks of seemingly declining companies like GameStop, BlackBerry and AMC and drive up their value. Part of the appeal for the bros was to stick it to hedge funds and other institutional investors who had taken short positions in them, investing in a way that they would profit if the stocks’ value declined. Kevin Kelley, the celebrated former Pulaski Academy football coach, was among the stonkers. “If you just say, ‘Hey, let’s go buy this stock,’ nobody’s going to do it,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “But if you say, ‘Hey, let’s go screw the hedge funds,’ a lot of people think that’s a fun idea.” But on Jan. 28, Robinhood, E-Trade and other online stock brokers halted trading on the stonks. That led Kelley and his son to file a class-action lawsuit against the companies. Kelley said he was teaching his son, newly graduated from college and about to be married, the ins and outs of stock trading.

Best cat lady

Representatives for the estate of Neva Nell McCormick celebrated in February a $1 million donation to the Animal Care and Adoption Center of Texarkana. The wife of a local chiropractor, McCormick died in 2020 at age 91. She left her entire estate to animal-related charities, but only the gift to the Texarkana animal shelter was made public. During her life, McCormick cared for as many as 40 cats at a time and even bought them their own house, the Texarkana Gazette reported.

Worst smoke

In late February, pork fat that dripped on coals in a pit behind the Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Mariana caused a fire that severely damaged the legendary Marianna restaurant. In business and owned by the same family since the 1910s, Jones is considered one of the oldest Black-owned restaurants in the country. The James Beard Foundation named it an American Classic in 2012.

Best rising from the ashes

Following the fire, online fundraisers generated $87,000 for Jones, and Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice chipped in a $25,000 emergency grant. James Harold Jones, 76, owner and pitmaster, repaired the diner, installed a new metal building and reopened in May.

Best ‘get out of jail free card’ for white people

Despite outcry from across the political spectrum, Arkansas lawmakers passed a “stand your ground” law that allows anyone to kill if he or she feels threatened, even if they could have simply walked away instead. Similar laws led to an increase in homicides in other states, and people of color are significantly more likely to be murdered by people using “stand your ground” laws as a defense.

Best later-in-life rebellion 

Jim Hendren, the governor’s nephew and member of Arkansas Republican royalty, disowned his birthright and announced he was becoming an independent. Sure, it might be the end of his political career, but it sure is fun to watch.

Worst covering his tracks

Police arrested Artez Wright, 31, after following his footprints in the snow away from a cellular repair store that had been broken into. Wright was charged with felony possession of ecstasy along with commercial burglary. He was treated for hypothermia at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock before being transferred to Pulaski County Jail.

Best raptor redux

A barred owl survived an early February morning collision with an 18-wheeler on Frazier Pike. Little Rock Police transported the owl to the Little Rock Zoo, which in turn shipped the bird to Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas in El Paso. Rodney Paul, director of the rehab facility, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that 95% of the birds that come to his facility have been struck by vehicles. The owl was eventually released to the wild.

Best thanks for nothing

Sen. Tom Cotton, who supposedly represents Arkansas, sponsored legislation with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) that would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour. Arkansas’s existing minimum wage is $11.

Worst bang for buck

The city of Little Rock paid some $13,600 to produce a virtual broadcast of Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s State of the City address in March. The 46-minute video was an advertisement of sorts for Scott and his vision of Little Rock and the initial pitch for a sales tax increase that voters would soundly reject in September. The first half of the presentation was a political convention-style production, with schoolchildren reciting the pledge of allegiance and local musicians performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on a rooftop somewhere in Little Rock. As of November, the event had been streamed on YouTube fewer than 900 times.

Best pastry as protest

Mark April 8 as the day the donuts went up on Kavanaugh and the curvy girls had their say. The sweet little protest came in response to fat-shaming and anti-vax social media posts by Tulips dress shop owner Emily Hay Brown. “It was just a bash on body images and I think women bash themselves enough,” organizer Sharon Boehm-Hussman said. So she brought donuts and donut-themed accessories, situated herself across from Brown’s dress shop and threw a delicious party.

Worst debtors’ prisons

Failure to pay rent in Arkansas remains a crime that can land you in jail, further ensuring your inability to pay rent. Lawmakers declined to support efforts by state Rep. Nicole Clowney (D-Fayetteville) to revoke an antiquated law that lets landlords file criminal charges and jail time for tenants who fall even one day behind on rent and don’t vacate within 10 days. The legislature’s failure to act means Arkansas remains the only state in the country where late rent payments can put you behind bars.

Best Hogs

After a lot of lean years, University of Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman appears to have the Hogs pointed in the right direction. In his second year, he led the team to a 25-7 record and its first trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite 8 since 1995, where the Hogs lost to Baylor, the eventual champs.

Best ‘It wasn’t me’ defense

A hearing for a man charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm briefly went off the rails when investigators revealed that the defendant, Tommy Windell Wright, and his identical twin brother, Tony Windell Wright, both had criminal records and had for years used each other’s names. Tommy Wright’s lawyer claimed the arrest was a case of mistaken identity, but he was ultimately convicted.

Worst shooting scene

Marlon Marbley, 21, was charged in the March 7 shooting death of a 32-year-old woman outside a North Little Rock Chuck E. Cheese where Marbley’s 2-year-old son was having his birthday party.

Worst assault on civic participation

An Arkansas dad speaking up for the rights of transgender children got handcuffed and marched out of a legislative committee hearing after talking beyond his allotted 2 minutes. Countless others committed the same crime before him, had their mics cut and that was that. But Chris Attig’s heartfelt advocacy for vulnerable children cast legislators in quite a bad light, and committee Chair Rep. Jack Ladyman (R-Jonesboro) retaliated with force. Attig was booked at the county facility, charged with disorderly conduct.

Worst day in the park

An argument between two men in Little Rock’s Boyle Park in March led to gunfire and 10-year-old Ja’Aliyah Hughes was killed in the crossfire. “She will be missed with her infamous TikToks, sister dance-offs and laughter,” read part of her obituary. “Her joy knew no boundaries and she will forever be cherished.” Eric Hall, 17, of Little Rock and Ladarius Burnette, 18, of North Little Rock were arrested, each charged with capital murder in Ja’Aliyah’s death.

Worst public servant

A Bentonville fire captain attacked an Asian man outside Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs on March 13. Bentonville Fire Department Capt. Benjamin Snodgrass, 44, approached Liem Nguyen and reportedly asked if he knew he was in America and began pushing him. The two men ended up on the ground and when officers arrived on the scene they found Nguyen with a ripped shirt and a red mark under his left eye. Snodgrass had previously called 911 and told the dispatcher, “They’re probably fucking pumping gases like no one’s business.” His attorney later argued that he was drugged, but Snodgrass, who resigned from the fire department, was ultimately found guilty of battery and public intoxication and forced to spend two months in jail.

Worst ‘Christian’

Pushing through unconstitutional laws to hurt children and help no one, all while pretending to be good church-going folk, was a favorite pastime of the Arkansas Legislature in 2021. Rep. Jim Wooten (R-Beebe) displayed satanic levels of hatred in his heart by shrugging off reports that lawmakers’ cruel attacks on transgender adolescents was driving some of them toward suicide. It’s their own sin that’s the problem, Wooten said of the suffering children. “Don’t make me feel guilty because you made a choice to follow a different path. …. Don’t put a guilt trip on me.”

Best glimpse into the future

Prepare to welcome our new furry overlords. Having driven transgender Arkansas youths to suicidal ideation, Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) turned her attention to her next target: students identifying as animals. “When we have students in school now that don’t identify as a boy or a girl but as a cat, as a furry, we have issues,” Bentley warned.

Worst cocktails

Daniel Joseph Harvey, wanted on a battery charge for trying to stab a Madison County sheriff’s deputy and throwing a Molotov cocktail at him, took the same deputy on a chase through downtown Huntsville in April, throwing more Molotov cocktails at him and threatening him with knives, according to police. The chase included a deputy using a stun gun on Harvey to no effect, Harvey side-swiping a police vehicle and Harvey stopping outside Granny’s Kitchen in downtown Huntsville and attempting to light a Molotov cocktail. It ended with Harvey stopping outside his home and trying to stab his machete into the ground. He was arrested without force and charged with multiple crimes, including attempted murder.

Best Onion cameos

The hits kept coming for Arkansas in April, when The Onion turned its sights on us multiple times (we absolutely deserved it). Rep. French Hill’s voracious dependence on NRA blood money even as the bodies keep hitting the ground earned a headline. So did state senators’ bizarre and monstrous obsession with passing new laws aimed at ruining the lives of vulnerable transgender youths. Haha?

Worst bonfire

Arkansas’s premature lifting of mask mandates in restaurants was cause for celebration at the Fort Smith Brewing Company, where owners invited patrons to come burn masks even as COVID-19 continued to rage.

Worst slumlords

Passing laws to ensure rental properties won’t kill people proved too difficult in Arkansas where, conveniently enough, the legislature counts loads of landlords in its ranks. Despite pleas from public health experts, firemen and a mother whose son died because his rented apartment lacked a simple carbon monoxide detector, legislators resisted the push to change Arkansas’s status as the only state without a minimum habitability law. Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs), a landlord herself (of course), blamed renters who found themselves besieged by vermin. “I hate roaches,” she said, but “they only come when they’re invited.” Lawmakers eventually settled on a compromise version that fails to even require smoke alarms.

Worst Santa impersonation

Elliot Stewart, 36, was arrested in a fatal stabbing in Forrest City. Police say Stewart fled from the crime scene and hid in the chimney of a nearby house. He was arrested there after the owner of the home called police to report a stranger stuck in the flue.

Worst injudicious 

Former House Speaker Davy Carter posted a video on Twitter of Circuit Judge Brad Karren of Bentonville throwing down his cane as if to advance on Carter in a heated discussion that ensued after Karren found Carter’s son’s truck parked in his parking space near the Benton County Courthouse. A sign on the entrance to the lot reads “Benton County employee parking only, 7 am to 5 pm,” but another sign in front of the spot where Carter’s son parked said “reserved parking 24/7.” “I walked out and saw a very angry man with a gun on his hip and a cane berating my son and wife because my son parked in ‘his’ parking spot,” Carter tweeted. “It was beyond berating, and, like any dad or husband, immediately caught my attention.”

Worst crooks in the books, worst hacks in the stacks

In May, the Arkansas State Library sent out a bulletin to libraries across the state, advising them to be vigilant over their holdings of six Dr. Seuss books that were recently removed from publication by the author’s estate because of racist images, because now that the books are no longer being published they’re more valuable and may be targets of theft.

Best itinerary change

California state government wants nothing to do with Arkansas, and has banned employees from coming here on official business. The ban came in response to the 2021 wave of cruel new state laws targeting transgender youth.

Best superhero

When a serial slasher terrorized midtown Little Rock, North Little Rock’s mysterious hero ShadowVision pledged his aid. A quiet presence in Dogtown for nearly a decade, ShadowVision vowed to bring his crime-stopping prowess over the river. It was a big commitment, considering he lacked the super spiderwebs, sporty cars and invisible jets his cohorts use for transportation, and had to schlepp on foot.

Best 50 Cent special

Rapper 50 Cent posted up at Little Rock’s Warehouse Liquor on a Thursday in May to promote his Branson cognac brand and meet the fans. He was in town for a show that night at the Empire club.

Worst oops

A contractor discovered a crack in the Interstate 40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge between West Memphis and Memphis that officials determined could lead to the collapse of the 3.3-mile span. The bridge was closed for 81 days to allow for repairs. The Arkansas Department of Transportation initially pinned the blame for missing the crack on one bridge inspector, but a federal assessment released in November suggested broader departmental failings. The department also admitted that the crack had been visible at least since 2016. The Arkansas Nonprofit News Network published a photo that seemed to show the crack in 2014.

Best graffiti

An anonymous group of artistic activists calling themselves INDECLINE commandeered a billboard at the Roosevelt Road exit along Interstate 30, altering a self-care suggestion from a Christian group and replacing it with their own. “Stressed Out?,” was the original message, directing people to an evangelical website espousing conservative dress, homeschooling and large families. Stealth artists painted over the url with the word “MASTURBATE.”

Best way to alienate your customers 

The River Market nightspot Cannibal & Craft posted a new dress code that banned as “unacceptable attire” such things as baggy jeans, gold chains, backward hats and gang/club-affiliated colors. The new rules were so poorly received that other Cannibal & Craft locations distanced themselves on social media, and the Little Rock nightclub quickly backed down.

Best F.U.

Arkansas supervillain Walter Hussman reared his trademark pinhead again, using his status as a major donor to dissuade the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from hiring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah Jones to a tenured professorship. After months of negotiations Jones finally walked, taking her superstardom to Howard University, where her fundraising cachet quickly matched the $25 million Hussman used to buy influence at UNC.

Worst caveat emptor

If Tractor Supply is your pharmacy of choice, please rethink it. The ag store took to posting signs online and in the aisles asking customers to stop using the veterinary dewormer Ivermectin as a prophylactic for COVID-19. While Ivermectin formulated for human use is sometimes used to combat head lice, scabies and other parasites, taking the medicine as it’s formulated for livestock can cause severe injury or death, all while doing nothing to stave off coronavirus. The warnings didn’t take, and calls to poison control about Ivermectin overdoses surged in 2021.

Worst thanks for nothing, Asa

Governor Hutchinson ended the state’s participation in the $300 weekly supplemental federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 Arkansans two months early. Hutchinson, like a number of other Republican governors, said the extra money was keeping people from seeking work.

Worst traffic stop

Lonoke County Deputy Michael Davis shot and killed 17-year-old Hunter Brittain in June during a traffic stop. Brittain was walking toward Davis with something in his hand. It turned out to be a container of antifreeze to block a wheel so his vehicle wouldn’t roll. He and a friend were test-driving it after a transmission problem. Davis, who did not have his bodycam on as he shot Brittain in the arm and neck, lost his job and faces a charge of manslaughter.

Best release

Six and a half years after the state took control of the Little Rock School District, the Arkansas State Board of Education voted to return full authority of the district to the locally elected Little Rock School District Board. Though the practical effects of the transfer were negligible, symbolically the move surely helped to garner support from voters for a millage extension in November.

Worst cruel and unusual punishment

Inmates in the Washington County jail who fell ill with COVID-19 were offered only livestock dewormer for treatment. While it’s widely embraced by conspiracy theorists as a pandemic miracle cure,  there is no scientific proof that Ivermectin is helpful at all in combating coronavirus infection.

Best bank statement surprise

Parents got a welcome surprise when direct deposits for child tax credits started hitting their accounts. Biden’s historic tax relief for families is credited with keeping millions of American children out of poverty.

Best courthouse celebration

We still get chilly bumps thinking about the day the good guys won at the federal courthouse in Little Rock. Advocates successfully pushed back on a new state law prohibiting transgender youths from accessing gender-affirming medical care, and won a stay, meaning the law is stalled out, at least for now. A gleeful and glamorous pack of transgender youths, their loving families, supporters and their clever legal team gathered out front afterward for the most life-affirming group photo of the year.

Worst spoiled Phish

Arkansas got a rare sighting of Sarah Huckabee Sanders in July when she showed up, maskless of course, to a Phish concert at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers.

Worst death wish

Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) told KNWA, Fox Channel 24, he would support a mask mandate only when 30% of Arkansans diagnosed with COVID-19 were dying. At the time, the in-state death count was 6,000, far fewer than the 120,000 deaths it would have taken to reach Garner’s threshold to do even the bare minimum.

Best you had it coming

Fence straddler extraordinaire Governor Hutchinson could never seem to land his messaging about COVID-19. Telling constituents to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and get vaccinated, while at the same time paying lip service to the Republican talking point that government entities (like the CDC) are not to be trusted, left people across the political spectrum alienated and irritated. A crowd in Siloam Springs showed up for Hutchinson’s traveling town hall to heckle and call him a liar for claiming vaccines could reduce hospitalizations and save lives.

Best self own

East End School District leaders ripped out a yearbook spread that included accurate information about George Floyd’s death at the hands of police, the establishment of Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., and the police shootings of Jacob Blake, Daunte Wright and Breonna Taylor. The Bigelow High yearbook adviser quit her job over the censorship, and the national Student Press Law Center put the school on blast. “Arkansas news sites, NPR and the Associated Press all covered the censorship, often featuring a copy of the torn out pages,” the Student Press Law Center said on its website. “That means far more people have seen the yearbook spread than would have if school officials had never intervened.”

Worst jerk

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox pulled the plug on an audio feed of a hearing on the state law banning mask requirements in schools after someone who signed on to listen displayed an animated GIF of a man masturbating as his Zoom profile image. When court officials logged on to try to hide the offending GIF, the first thing one of them said was, “How do we get him off?”

Best ball hogs

A week after a new rule took effect allowing college athletes to accept sponsorships, Wright’s BBQ in Fayetteville started signing on UA student athletes on the football and women’s basketball teams. What exactly those sponsorships entail remains a mystery, but we suspect athletes lucky enough to sign on with Wright’s aren’t missing any meals.

Worst unarmed but still dangerous

Brian Dale Reams was arrested on charges of harassment following reports from multiple women in Conway that he’d followed them around stores and asked to touch their feet. The fact that Reams has no arms made the crimes even weirder, but it also narrowed down the suspect list.

Worst moment we knew we were screwed

A Fort Smith-area nurse, undergoing cancer treatment, told the Wall Street Journal she would not get the coronavirus vaccine, even after her unvaccinated father and stepmother died of the disease.

Best business opportunity

“I’m a hustler, I’m a legit entrepreneur, I sell things.” So said Little Rock businessman Richard Johnson on a PSA from the Arkansas Department of Health encouraging people to get COVID-19 vaccines. “If you live the type of lifestyle I live, you’re out here in the streets, you’re hustling, you’re an entrepreneur like me, why not do it safely?” Johnson asked. The internet erupted with Tyrone Biggums-themed jokes about what exactly it was that Johnson sells. But the joke was on them, because Johnson capitalized on his 5 minutes of fame to elevate his clothing line, Borgata, and launch a new endeavor with

Best Kool-Aid Man impression

A sweaty and disheveled Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) burst into the Old Supreme Court room to accuse lawmakers there of meeting in secret. Education Chair Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) ended the official meeting after only a minute or two, and the video live feed was cut then. But a number of legislators stayed on to hear from constituents who had traveled to the Capitol to weigh in on masks in schools. It was a kindness Garner could not abide.

Worst reward for candor

Joey King, president of Lyon College, resigned in August following a community furor over comments he made in a Chronicle of Higher Education article about white supremacists in Arkansas and a Donald Trump rally. King insisted he was misquoted about the rally. He said he imposed a lockdown for the small number of students still on campus last year because of Trump rallies promised in other places in Arkansas, rather than a rally in Batesville itself. But he didn’t disavow saying that the college’s home of Batesville, while a good community, was surrounded by  an “angry, disenfranchised” population with “a large white-supremacist population.”

Best possum nap

We all pretty much checked out from March 2020 until this summer, and so did a possum who made himself cozy in the rafters of the White Water Tavern during the popular music venue’s coronavirus-imposed hiatus. The possum made a memorable reentry on Aug. 27, when he dropped from the ceiling and onto a table just before a Dylan Earl/Willi Carlisle concert.

Worst PPE

During an August special legislative session, a number of lawmakers spoke against requiring children to wear masks in schools. Their concerns included the debunked claim that masks restrict oxygen to the brain while poisoning children with carbon dioxide, and the marginally accurate claim that said masks sometimes have poop on them. (Newsflash: Everything kids touch might/probably does have poop on it. Go wash your hands. Right now.)

Worst waste of time

Calling Arkansas lawmakers back for an extraordinary session proved to be a total bust. Worried about spiking COVID-19 numbers just as the academic year was about to begin, the governor had hoped lawmakers would walk back a ban on mask mandates in schools. What a sucker! Instead, legislators treated doctors and other experts like dirt during the session, and doubled down on their debunked, QAnon-inspired arguments that mask mandates in schools equal child abuse.

Worst wig out

White men in Afro wigs aren’t funny. Just ask Nick Genty, a news director at KATV who lost his job after on-air personalities Chris May and Barry Brandt donned Black Afro wigs to celebrate a return to temperatures in the 70s.

Best last night on the town

On the evening of June 25, Connie Hamzy — better known as “Sweet Sweet Connie” of Grand Funk Railroad lyric fame — paid a visit to the Old State House Museum for the opening of “Play It Loud: Concerts at Barton Coliseum.” She posed for photos next to a framed 45 of “We’re an American Band,” the song that cemented her nickname and groupie status for rock fans everywhere. She drank chardonnay on ice and sported a mint-condition Highwaymen T-shirt. The house band got word she was in attendance and launched into a rendition of the Grand Funk tune as she swayed appreciatively in her lawnchair. It would be one of her last shindigs; Hamzy died Aug. 21 at age 66 after a brief illness.

Worst wild goose chase

Nearly 20 years after birders from across the country descended on Cotton Plant and Brinkley to investigate reported sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called off the search. These large and regal creatures, once common in hardwood bottomland until hunters and loggers decimated their habitat, hadn’t been spotted in the U.S. since 1944 until an ornithologist thought he spied one while kayaking in eastern Arkansas in 2004. Nobody was ever able to secure proof, though. Now, the scarlet-crested, prehistoric-looking creature so striking it was nicknamed the Lord God Bird is headed for the extinction list.

Best lunch date

The rumors were true. With zero fanfare but mountains of goodwill, singer Lizzo did indeed send lunch to nurses and housekeeping staff at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to thank them for their work through the pandemic.

Best welcome

Governor Hutchinson offered a genuine welcome to refugees after the United States withdrew from Afghanistan. Nearly 100 Afghans whose connections to the American effort put them in danger are now safely living in Arkansas.

Best city board diss track

In the course of complaining about the majority of his colleagues on the Little Rock Board of Directors voting for an ordinance aimed at removing Mayor Frank Scott Jr. from the board’s redistricting process, At-Large Director Antwan Phillips referenced pugnacious ’90s-era NBA basketball player Anthony Mason and an famous internet clip of Allen Iverson talking about practice and paraphrased a Jay-Z lyric: “What I’m about to see may not be politically correct and it may offend my political connects.”

Best seeing double

The North Little Rock School District’s Seventh Street Elementary School has nine sets of identical twins enrolled this year.

Best delayed justice

Rolf Kaestel, 70, imprisoned for 40 years for robbing a Fort Smith taco stand for $264 with a toy gun, was finally released from prison. The Arkansas Parole Board had recommended clemency for Kaestel three times. Governor Hutchinson, who once refused it, commuted Kaestel’s sentence on the last try. Kaestel appeared in Arkansas filmmaker Kelly Duda’s 2005 documentary “Factor 8” about an Arkansas prison blood bank scandal. Soon after appearing on camera, state prison officials transferred Kaestel to Utah, where he was imprisoned since.

Best streak ended

The University of Arkansas football team defeated the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff 45-3 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock on Oct. 23. It was the Razorbacks’ first in-state matchup in 77 years. The ban on in-state competition was instituted in the mid-1940s under Athletic Director John Barnhill. The Razorbacks also announced a game against Arkansas State University at War Memorial in 2025.

Worst wig out, part 2 

At-Large Little Rock City Director Joan Adcock was attacked outside the Wright Avenue Alert Center. A drunk woman tried to grab a food container from Adcock’s hand, then tried to grab Adcock’s hair, saying, “Give me that wig. I want it.”

Best windfall

An anonymous donor blew KUAR/KLRE’s $150,000 fall fundraising goal out of the water with a gift of $1.5 million. This boon to the public radio stations at the University of Arkansas Little Rock is the largest donation it’s ever received.

Best defense of Little Debbie’s virtue

Sheriff’s deputies in Johnson County took great offense during a traffic stop when they found 100 grams of methamphetamine stashed inside a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies box. A man and woman from Oklahoma were arrested, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office took to social media to warn others against committing the same offense. “As cops, we can’t begin to tell you how much that upset us!” they said on Facebook. “Snack food is our life.”

Best third time’s a charm

Voters approved a Little Rock School District millage extension that will generate an estimated $300 million, which will go toward building a new K-8 school in the former site of McClellan High School, a new West Little Rock high school and other projects. Voters had previously turned down two other millage proposals, but those came while the district was still under state control.

Best halftime show

The Razorbacks scored the most points but The Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South owned the field. The game may have been historic, but all anyone will remember from that game between Arkansas and UAPB is having their faces blown off at halftime by the 240-piece marching band known as M4, which accompanies Pine Bluff’s Division 1 (Football Championship Subdivision) Golden Lions.

Worst keyboard warriors

On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 7, word circulated that Cody Jinks would take a detour from his big-venue tour to play a solo acoustic pop-up show at the White Water Tavern, donating all proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House. Not to be swayed by the fact that Jinks was fundraising for a good cause, hundreds of Jinks’ anti-vax fans responded to the surprise announcement on Facebook with vitriol over the venue’s vaccination card requirements for admission, urging Jinks to “Help us take freedom back” and “Don’t be Isbell for the love of God!” Also: “Travis Tritt isn’t allowing that BS and I agree. Welcome to communism.”

Best honky tonk swan song

Nov. 13 was the night the lights went out at Jimmy Doyle’s Country Club, ending a half-century of fiddle bravado, pedal steel and cigarette smoke. The hulking honky tonk that sat just off Interstate 40 in North Little Rock with the words “LIVE COUNTRY & WESTERN MUSIC” painted on its brick exterior, closed with a final hootenanny from the house musicians in the Arkansas River Bottom Band — Michael Heavner, Bruce Hearon, Joseph Logue, Ritchie Varnell and Freddie Martin. As for the prospects of Jimmy Doyle Brewer’s second act, don’t expect him to ride off into the sunset just yet. “This isn’t the end of something,” a post on the Club’s Facebook page said. “This is a new beginning for The Doyle’s, to continue their work in all things country music in Arkansas! Just watch and see.”

Worst on the nose

Bradley Rowland, a former Henderson State University chemistry professor, who pleaded guilty in November to charges related to manufacturing methamphetamine in a school laboratory, praised the television show “Breaking Bad,” about a high school chemistry teacher turned meth cook, in a 2014 interview with the school newspaper. “I thought it was a great show,” Rowland said. “It was spot-on and accurate when it came to the science, and it has gotten a younger, newer generation interested in chemistry. I feel like it was a wonderful recruiting tool.”

Worst money for nothing II

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced in November that the state was suing a Virginia-based medical supply company that UAMS and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration in 2020 paid $10.9 million for gowns, face shields and ventilators they never received. While it’s not usual practice for UAMS to pay for goods before receiving them, normal practices went out the window during the early days of the pandemic, as hospitals and health care providers scrambled for scarce supplies and manufacturers and distributors held all the cards, and it became common to have to pay upfront. The money was supposed to be held in escrow, but the escrow agents didn’t return it when the good weren’t delivered. The state sued them, too.

Worst plague that never ends

Remember this time last year when we were planning a coronavirus-free 2021? That hope appeared to be coming true in the early spring, with vaccines widely available and new case and hospitalization numbers dropping. But then the much more contagious delta variant came along and wreaked all kinds of havoc in the summer, at one point nearly filling all the ICU beds in the state. A fall drop in hospitalizations and vaccine authorization for young kids again provided hope, but at press time, the numbers were again headed in a worrisome direction.

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Sea turtle musical, Rosa Parks, sandhill crane rescued: News from around our 50 states Mon, 20 Dec 2021 07:20:52 +0000 Alabama Montgomery:The latest tribute to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, a memorial piece set just outside the Rosa Parks Museum in a spot where a fountain was located, will be officially revealed at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday during Rosa Parks Day, which kicks off a week of Montgomery Bus Boycott anniversary events. A public viewing begins […]]]>


Montgomery:The latest tribute to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, a memorial piece set just outside the Rosa Parks Museum in a spot where a fountain was located, will be officially revealed at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday during Rosa Parks Day, which kicks off a week of Montgomery Bus Boycott anniversary events. A public viewing begins at 1 p.m. This memorial work of black steel spires in a “V” shape with an outline of Parks’ face was created by Montgomery artist Ian Mangum. “The museum hopes that this piece will help elevate Mangum’s work and provide visitors a new way to interact with history and Rosa Parks’ legacy,” said Madeline Burkhardt, the museum’s adult education coordinator and curator. It’s identical to a piece Mangum made a year ago for Maxwell Air Force Base, where he works as an assistant logistic superintendent. The Maxwell one was designed, built and installed in under three months. It’s across from the building Parks worked at on the base, next to the elementary and middle school. Col. Eries Mentzer, commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing, had the idea to create it.


Alaska state Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, talking to House Sergeant at Arms Michaela Bradner, announced plans to run for governor, joining a field that includes Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Juneau: Rep. Christopher Kurka, a conservative freshman state legislator, said he plans to run for governor, joining a field that includes Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Kurka, a Wasilla Republican, announced his plans in a video on social media in which he levied criticisms at Dunleavy. “The dirty little secret of Juneau and Washington, D.C. is that while most conservative officials talk tough about Republican ideals, very few have the intestinal fortitude, moral compass or even the intent to take the principled stand necessary to accomplish any real change,” he said. A message seeking comment about the Republican challenger was sent to Dunleavy’s campaign. Bill Walker, an independent and former governor; former state Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat; and Libertarian William “Billy” Toien are among those who also have said they plan to run. Voters last year approved a new elections process that would end party primaries and institute ranked choice voting in general elections. The top four vote-getters in the primary would advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

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Federal pandemic unemployment benefits will end Sept. 4 in North Carolina, affecting more than 150,000 unemployed people. Mon, 20 Dec 2021 05:15:04 +0000 As we approach Labor Day and celebrate the contributions of workers to our country and our communities, the expiration of Federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) looms on the horizon. Without federal action, the September 4 deadline will mean millions of unemployed across the country and more than 150,000 North Carolina workers struggling to return to work […]]]>

As we approach Labor Day and celebrate the contributions of workers to our country and our communities, the expiration of Federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) looms on the horizon. Without federal action, the September 4 deadline will mean millions of unemployed across the country and more than 150,000 North Carolina workers struggling to return to work will either receive $ 300 less per week or become ineligible for essential wage replacement provided by federal programs to help meet the needs of their families.

The week ending September 4, 2021 is the last week payable for the following federal benefit programs:

  • Federal Unemployment Compensation in the Event of a Pandemic (FPUC) provides an additional weekly payment of $ 300. North Carolina‘s average weekly benefit amount of $ 230 is among the lowest in the country. The weekly supplement of $ 300 is provided to workers receiving NC, PEUC and PUA benefits.
  • Assistance in the event of an unemployment pandemic (PUA) provides benefits to workers who are generally not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, such as the self-employed, and who cannot work as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Assistance allowance in the event of an unemployment pandemic (PEUC) provides additional weeks of benefits after a worker exhausted North Carolina state benefits, which currently only last 13 weeks. The vast majority of states offer 26 weeks of benefits.
  • Unemployment benefit for mixed employees (MEUC) provides a weekly supplement of $ 100 to workers with self-employment income and W-2 employment.

Workers in North Carolina want to work. As COVID-19 infections continue to rise across North Carolina, workers face public health issues and ongoing care challenges. The expiration of federal unemployment assistance this Labor Day weekend highlights the bigger problem that many states, including North Carolina, do not have unemployment insurance programs that support adequately workers who are struggling to get back on their feet.

North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system is one of the worst in the country. Due to political decisions made in 2013, only 9.1% of unemployed North Carolina workers were receiving unemployment insurance benefits before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The loss of $ 300 per week will bring the unemployed back to the average weekly state benefit amount of $ 230, an amount that will make it harder for people as they try to keep their housing and cover other basic expenses. . Thousands more will see their benefits cease altogether, making it nearly impossible to make ends meet. The loss of federal programs disproportionately harm black workers and workers of color as well as women and people with disabilities, as noted by the National Employment Law Project in their analysis of the important role federal programs have played in addressing disparate experiences of job loss and to compensate for low replacement wages in states with large black populations.

The drastic reduction in the incomes of millions of people, who will then have less to spend in grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses, will cause economic hardship for millions of families and slow down the state’s recovery. The economy is made up of workers, families and communities who pay their bills, buy goods and services, and take care of their families — and that is only afloat at the moment because millions of Americans who have lost their jobs are receiving unemployment insurance benefits. North Carolina has particularly benefited from federal programs, with 80% of UI revenue coming from federal pandemic unemployment programs.

The North Carolina federal delegation is expected to support the expansion of federal unemployment insurance programs and link their termination to key public health and economic measures that signal additional support is no longer needed. In addition, the North Carolina federal delegation should urge state leaders to make changes to state unemployment insurance to reduce the vulnerability of the state’s economy to any change in federal policy and to ensure that adequate wage replacement is available.

If Congress does not act, our elected leaders will no doubt be called upon by their constituents to help with the loss of UI. Here are some programs with which workers and their families can find help for their family’s needs after losing their unemployment benefits:

  1. Food stamps and other aids: Income-services
  2. Rental assistance:
  3. Preventing foreclosure:
  4. Legal services:

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Impact of US bailout on North Carolina – North Carolina Justice Center Mon, 20 Dec 2021 05:15:04 +0000 The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed into law in March 2021, enacted transformational change and is widely considered the most sweeping anti-poverty legislation in a generation, estimated at reduce child poverty by more than half and reduce the gap in poverty rates by race and ethnicity. The law includes dozens of provisions, some of […]]]>

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed into law in March 2021, enacted transformational change and is widely considered the most sweeping anti-poverty legislation in a generation, estimated at reduce child poverty by more than half and reduce the gap in poverty rates by race and ethnicity.

The law includes dozens of provisions, some of which would be directly available to families, including expanded tax credits for working families and families with children, housing assistance, increased food assistance benefits and other essential supports to help families stay afloat while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. It also includes substantial investments in support systems, including supports for community health centers and schools as well as flexible funds for state and local governments to make investments based on the needs they identify in their communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The table below includes many, but not all, of the funding streams included in the U.S. bailout, including its overall goal by area, name of funding stream, allocation, or estimated allocation for Carolina of the North or other eligible recipients, and information on where to find additional information.

Payday loans bill draws criticism :: Mon, 20 Dec 2021 05:15:04 +0000 By Mark Binker and Laura Leslie Raleigh, North Carolina – North Carolina lenders could once cons give out small, short-term loans, known as payday loans, under a bill introduced by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. Lawmakers banned payday loans in 2001, and a 2005 court case pushed the last elements of the industry out of state. […]]]>

– North Carolina lenders could once cons give out small, short-term loans, known as payday loans, under a bill introduced by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph.

Lawmakers banned payday loans in 2001, and a 2005 court case pushed the last elements of the industry out of state.

Tillman said Thursday there were problems with the old payroll system, but he said it was necessary for people to get short-term credit based on their income.

“We have people who have problems from time to time, good people who have jobs,” he said. “I met people in my neighborhood who needed it.”

The classic example, he said, is of a person who needs money to fix their car but doesn’t have a credit card.

Tillman’s bill would cap the amount borrowed at $500 and limit the interest rate to 15%. That’s less than previous sessions’ payday loan bills, but still equates to an annual percentage rate of 300% for a loan paid off in two weeks, consumer advocates say.

Tillman’s bill drew criticism from consumer advocates and Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who said the payday industry should not be allowed to gain a foothold in the state.

“Payday loans are like needing a lifeline and having an anvil thrown at you,” Cooper said. “We’ve seen it in North Carolina – really high interest. People tend to go into debt on a treadmill that they’re having a hard time getting out of.

“When you unleash this industry on consumers in North Carolina, a lot of people are going to suffer.”

After fighting payday lenders for years, he says, he’s not surprised they’re trying to come back.

“There’s a lot of money to be made with people struggling with this business,” he said.

Consumer advocates have also criticized the measure, which is tentatively set to be heard in committee next week or the week after.

“The way the loans are designed, it’s very difficult to pay them back. So not only are you paying an incredible amount to have these loans, but you also have a very high expectation or risk of being trapped in these loans for for a long time, paying these very high interest rates,” said Al Ripley, director of the Consumer and Housing Project at the left-leaning NC Justice Center.

“These loans are especially dangerous for seniors,” said Helen Savage of AARP in North Carolina. “The high costs of predatory lending pose serious risks for all of us, but especially for older North Carolina residents on fixed incomes.”

Tillman acknowledged that there were problems with the old payday loan system. Borrowers could get into trouble when they couldn’t meet the terms of their first loan and took out a second loan to pay it off. This triggered a cycle of indebtedness that many struggled to escape.

Senate Bill 89, he said, would require borrowers to repay their payday loan before taking out another one and create a monitoring system to ensure that someone could not go to a lender to repay one another.

“Reversal is what has killed people in the past,” Tillman said, adding that the bill will likely be revised.

For example, he said he hasn’t decided whether the banking commissioner or some other state body should oversee the industry.

“If we are called upon to regulate it, we will,” said Acting Banking Commissioner Ray Grace.

His office played a role in the lawsuit that shut down the industry here in 2005, but he said it was not his role to argue one way or the other.

“It’s up to the General Assembly to determine what’s best for the people of the state,” Grace said.

His office’s only concern would be to ensure that the rules for regulating the industry were clear and that there were sufficient funds to provide oversight.

Payday lenders said legalizing their industry again would help people with poor credit.

“This helps ensure that during difficult economic times, North Carolina residents have access to reasonable and properly regulated financial options,” Jamie Fulmer, senior vice president of Advance America, said in a statement. “In recent years, consumers’ borrowing choices have narrowed, but their need for credit has not diminished.”

Ripley said there are plenty of less predatory options.

“We’ve done very well in North Carolina for over 10 years without a payday loan,” he said. “In fact, I would say borrowers are much better off without this product.”

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, said the paydays bill was one of many banking pieces of legislation she knows people want to pass through the House.

A House Companion to Tillman’s bill has yet to be introduced, and Samuelson said there are other non-traditional lending products businesses could seek to legalize. However, she said, there are other bills dealing with mortgage interest and a cleanup of state banking law regulations that will take precedence.

“Those are the structural things that we have to do,” she said. When asked if the payday loans bill would be completed, she replied “we’ll see”.

In a press release on the measure, Cooper noted that the bill would not provide payday loans to military families.

“Congress already banned payday loans to military personnel in 2007 to protect service members from these predatory loans,” he said.