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National Governors Association Questions Trump Administration on Funding, Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, who chairs the National Governors Association, raised questions of all state governors on how a COVID-19 vaccine would be distributed when it becomes available. Who would be in line first? Who pays for the extraordinary storage requirements (minus 80 degrees)? Who pays for the essential workers to administer the millions of doses when states are suffering deficits forcing layoffs among essential workers? The National Governors Association raised these questions in a letter to the Trump Administration© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The National Governors Association, chaired by New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, today sent a list of questions to the Trump Administration seeking clarity on how to most effectively distribute and administer a COVID-19 vaccine. The distribution and implementation of the vaccine is a massive undertaking that cannot be managed without significant logistical coordination, planning and financial assistance between states and the federal government. The list of questions — which were submitted from Republican and Democratic governors from around the country — covers funding for the administration of a vaccine, allocation and supply chain, and communication and information requirements.

“The National Governors Association, which I chair, sent a letter to the president of the United States last week. We asked to meet with the president to discuss how this is supposed to work between the federal government and the states,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are now releasing a compilation of questions from governors all across the country, Democratic and Republican, saying to the White House: how is this going to work? We need to answer these questions before the vaccine is available so that we are ready to go and no one is caught flat-footed when the time comes to vaccinate people.”

In his press briefing on COVID-19 in the state, Cuomo commented, “The 36 questions from the Governors sent to the White House basically are asking, ‘How does this work. We understand the concept but how does it work?’ Some of the questions: How will the vaccine be allocated to states? What formula is used – in other words, are you going to allocate it by infection rate? Are you going to allocate it by number of cases of COVID? Are you going to allocate it by population? Who determines how many each state gets – what’s the basis that you using.

“Is there a national strategy on the prioritization – in other words, the federal government going to say, ‘I think nursing homes should get it first. I think nurses should get it first. I think doctors should get it first. I think anybody over 70 should get it first.’ Is the federal government going to do that prioritization? Can they tell us if they’re going to condition the release of vaccines, right? The vaccines are controlled by the federal government. Are they going to turn around and say, ‘Well we won’t give you the vaccines, New York State, California unless you do X Y Z.’ And can we know that now? Is there multi-state coordination? On our own, during COVID we coordinated with the Northeastern states to New Jersey, Connecticut, et cetera. Is there a multi-state coordination piece here, or is everybody on their own? Am I my responsible for all of New York and there’s no connection to New Jersey and there’s no connection to Connecticut, there’s no connection to Pennsylvania?

“And who is going to pay to do this? New York State is already $50 billion in debt between state and local governments. And they have not passed legislation on the state and local relief. If the state has a deficit and the local governments have a deficit, we can’t fund essential workers. That’s who gets cut when you cut state and local governments. And now you’re going want undertake this vaccination program, which frankly requires more essential workers, not less? And they’re talking about a vaccine possibly in December. We’re here in October – this is just a few weeks to plan in this massive undertaking. Let’s learn the lessons from the past seven months. Otherwise, we’re going to relive the nightmares that we have lived through, right? Let’s not repeat the mistakes of March, April, May….

“We can’t go through that same confusion again. It’s not a question of knowing what to do. It’s a question of knowing how to do it. We know what we need to do. We need to control the virus, we need to take more tests, now we need to do vaccines. We know what we need to do. How do you do it? How do you do it – the devil’s in the details. How do you administer 40 million vaccines in the State of New York. That’s the trick. Everybody agrees with the concept. “Yes, vaccinate everyone.” Got it. How? How?

“And that’s the art form of government by the way and that’s what separates words from action and rhetoric from results and talk from competence – how do you do it? And that’s what we have to focus on now and that’s what the governors are saying to the federal government. Why? Because the way the federal government has structured it, the states are in charge of the doing. This person got to the COVID situation, he said, ‘It’s up to the Governors. It’s up to the states’. I don’t even know how that works by the way. It’s a nationwide problem. 50 states have it. But it’s not a federal response? The federal response is, ‘It’s up to you. You take charge, Governor. But I’m right behind you -go get ’em, tiger.’ Yeah, thank you very much. So again, I’m sure what the federal government is talking about is we’ll approve the vaccines, we’ll appropriate the vaccine, we then deliver them to the state. You figure out how to do it. Who pays? Insurance companies? What happens for the uninsured people? How do I keep dosages cold, – 80-degrees? Well, those are details. No. That’s the difference between life and death in a situation like this. And that’s where we have to get.”

Cuomo added, “The State will have a statewide vaccination plan. We will do it in concert with the federal government. The federal government is in charge of producing the actual vaccines and distributing the vaccines so the State’s position is we have to wait for the federal government to provide us the vaccines, what is the schedule, how many, etcetera…

“We believe there’s going to be questions about the safety of the vaccine, so we put together a special New York task force team of experts. I’m going to ask them to review any vaccine before I recommend it to the people of the state. I think that will give people added surety in the vaccine. But, we are coming up with a plan on many presumptions. We don’t really know how many doses we’re going to get. We don’t know what vaccine we’re going to get. We don’t know when we’re going to get it. So this is all preliminary. But, we would prioritize the vaccinations. The prioritization would be based on risk and essential workers would have a priority and people at risk would be prioritized and we’d set up a matrix on that regards, by that regards, and there’d be several phases to the administration of the actual doses. We’re working with our health care partners all across the state. This is going to be a massive undertaking, hospitals, urgent care facilities , primary care facilities, pharmacies, local departments of health, mobile units, mass vaccination sites.”

Here is the list of questions NGA gathered from the nation’s governors:   

Funding for Vaccine Administration  

  • Will there be funding allocated to states to assist with distribution of the vaccine and other vaccine efforts?  
  • Without additional state and local funding to implement COVID-19 vaccine plans, we will be hampered in what we can accomplish. When can we expect more definitive information about resources related to this response?   
  • What are the plans for any federal contracts and/or additional funding to support “boots on the ground” to vaccinate in tiers 2 and beyond?  
  • How will vaccine administration costs be covered for people who are uninsured?   
  • Will the federal government be setting guidelines around allowable vaccine administration costs for those with health insurance (whether that is state insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, or some other state funded health insurance)?   
  • How will funding/reimbursement for vaccines be handled?  
  • We understand that the vaccine will initially be provided at no cost, as was remdesivir. However, states now must pay for remdesivir on the commercial market. How long will the federal government commit to providing the vaccine to states cost-free?  

Allocation and Supply Chain  

  • How will the vaccine be allocated to states? What formula will be used?  
  • How will the vaccine be distributed? What mechanism will the federal government use?   
  • Can the administration provide more guidance on what prioritization requirements will be a condition of vaccine release and to what extent will states have latitude to guide these decisions?  
  • Are any further PREP Act changes anticipated beyond authorizations for pharmacists and interns to administer vaccine?  
  • How is CDC planning to manage vaccine distribution to Federal entities such as Federal Prisons, the VA and other Federal organizations? Will these entities receive a vaccine supply directly from the CDC or will states manage it?    
  • Similarly, when can states expect guidance from the federal government on the states’ responsibility to vaccinate federal employees (e.g., who is vaccinating National Guard, USPS employees, FBI, etc.  
  • How will tribal sovereignty be respected? The CDC sent a template asking how many vaccine doses need to be sent to each IHS/tribal health facility rather than asking states where each tribe wants their vaccine doses sent (which could be one of those facilities, a DOH public health office, a private provider that they’d like to contract with, etc.)  
  • What will be the national strategy for vaccine prioritization when supply is short?  
  • How will management of supplies (i.e. needles, syringes, alcohol pads, band aids, etc.) work?  
  • Will there be further guidance documents on handling ultra-cold vaccine (i.e. thawing, storage after thawing, reconstitution, etc.?  
  • We are aware of concerns that there is already a shortage of dry ice, which is being used to store the ultracold storage vaccines during the clinical trials.  
  • If that is true, does that shortage impact plans for shipping of ultracold storage vaccine using dry ice and containers that could store the vaccine for up to a week?   
  • If there is a shortage of dry ice, does this change the guidance to states to not purchase additional ultracold storage freezers?  
  • We also need guidance on redistribution of ultracold storage vaccines. If they will come in 1,000 dose shipments as indicated by the federal government, we likely will need to distribute them further in our rural areas.  What will the guidelines be to do that without compromising the vaccine?   
  • How long will the product be viable outside of the original packaging that the 1,000 doses will be shipped in? Can/will smaller volume packaging be provided in the shipment as well?   
  • What will the federal guidance be on sub-prioritization among the initial priority groups since there will not be enough vaccine at first for even healthcare workers as a group?   

Communication and Information Requirements  

  • There has been some indication that large pharmacy chains and possibly interstate healthcare systems will register directly with the federal government. We need the specific details since many of them are also reaching out to the states. This affects our targeted enrollment of these stakeholders to onboard as Covid-19 vaccine providers. When can we expect clarification on which stakeholders will contract directly with the federal government?  
  • Will there be coordinated multi-state process for monitoring vaccination effects (adverse effects, lack of immunity responses, etc) to ensure early warning signs are identified as quickly as possible?  
  • Will the federal government provide current/real time information about tribal nations enrolling with the CDC for direct shipments, versus enrolling through the state?   
  • Can the administration provide more information around long term care facilities? Specifically, are they planning to mandate vaccines in nursing homes through CMS? For example, will the use of vaccines be connected to continued Medicaid funding? If so, when would such requirements take effect?   
  • Is the federal government going to request that states report personally identifiable COVID vaccine data? We have concerns that this may create a lack of trust and discourage people from getting vaccinated.    
  • What is the state’s role in safety monitoring after people have been vaccinated?   
  • How many states are using VAMS as their Immunization Information System (IIS)?  
  • Will states share their micro-prioritization within Phase 1b?  
  • What communication/messaging materials have been developed?  
  • How will complex scientific data be messaged and shared publicly? What type of educational material, and in what languages, will be developed?  
  • What information will be shared publicly on each approved vaccine? How will transparency be ensured?   
  • CDC is planning to require reporting to the IIS within 24 hours of administration of the vaccine.  We know for flu vaccine there is a dramatic lag in data coming in – how will COVID-19 vaccine data reporting be any different?  

Cuomo, Whitmer Call for Congressional Investigation into Trump Administration’s Politicization of Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are calling for a Congressional oversight investigation into the Trump administration’s politicization of government functions that have impeded the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are  calling for a Congressional oversight investigation into the Trump administration’s politicization of government functions that have impeded the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, releasing this joint statement:

“It is an inarguable fact that the United States has had the worst response to the COVID-19 virus of any nation in the world. Nearly 7 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, and more than 200,000 Americans have been killed by it — both more than any other country. The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of this tragedy is the direct result of President Trump and the federal government’s deceit, political self-dealing, and incompetence. 

“Rather than turning to the advice and direction of public health experts and career public servants, President Trump instead put the health and security of the American people in the hands of political appointees whose first priority was securing the reelection of their benefactor, with predictably tragic results. 

“Last week’s revelation that the White House blocked a Department of Health and Human Services plan to utilize the U.S. Postal Service to ship five life-saving masks to every household in the country, free of charge, in April was heartbreaking. Imagine the lives that could have been saved if every household were provided masks at such a crucial time. 

“Even more dangerous, the nation learned last week that political appointees at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — over the strong objection of CDC scientists — published the indefensible guidance that said people without symptoms did not need to get tested for COVID. Coupled with the agency’s abrupt reversal earlier this week on guidance related to the airborne transmission of the virus, it’s increasingly clear that the President and his advisers are trying to undermine the credibility of experts whose facts run counter to the administration’s political agenda.

“As a country, we cannot allow this type of politically-motivated decision making to take root. Logic dictates that COVID won’t be the last public health challenge we will face, and we can’t afford to again respond by playing politics, instead of listening to the science and facts. Congress must immediately conduct an oversight investigation into the Trump administration’s response to this pandemic, including the actions at HHS and the USPS the public learned about over the past week. Especially in light of Bob Woodward’s reporting, the question of, “What did they know and when did they know it?” cannot be left to the history books to answer. Our future health and economic security depends on holding the Trump administration accountable today.”

Cuomo commented, “Governor Whitmer and I today called on Congress to immediately conduct an oversight investigation into the Trump administration’s response on this pandemic. How can you not tell the American people what you knew and when you knew it? Just ask Peter Navarro. You had a memo that said millions of Americans would be infected. Did you tell anyone? Who did you send it to? Did anyone send you back the memo with a question mark? You met with the President 180 times since that memo – did you ever mention to the President, ‘By the way, I had a concern here that millions of Americans might be infected.’ It just doesn’t pass the smell test. It can’t be true.”

NYS Governor Cuomo: ‘Trump is actively trying to kill New York City’

NY S Governor Andrew Cuomo: We lose more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. You know who did that? Donald Trump’s incompetence. And now they won’t provide federal funding to help repair the damage from the ambush they created…The federal government must provide a response; if they don’t provide a response the national economy will suffer for years…They don’t want to provide a response, why? Because they’re playing politics. They don’t want to help Democratic states. They don’t want to help Democratic cities. This is a war on cities: New York City, Portland, Chicago. These are the enemies from the president’s point of view.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo in his daily briefing in which noted that New York State’s COVID-19 infection rate has been below 1 percent for 32 straight days., laid out a searing attack on Donald Trump, charging that Trump is waging war on Democratic-lead cities.

“Trump is actively trying to kill New York City,” Cuomo declared. “It is personal. I think it’s psychological. He is trying to kill New York City…

“We lose more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. You know who did that? Donald Trump’s incompetence. And now they won’t provide federal funding to help repair the damage from the ambush they created…

“The federal government must provide a response; if they don’t provide a response the national economy will suffer for years. Every economist says that They don’t want to provide a response, why? Because they’re playing politics. They don’t want to help Democratic states. They don’t want to help Democratic cities.”

Cuomo put it into the context of Trump administration’s failure to take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which came into New York and the Northeast from Europe, not China, causing untold emotional and economic harm, and now doing everything possible to prevent the city and state from recovering economically.

Here are his highlighted remarks –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The good news is this: reopening is proceeding and our strategy is working. New Yorkers are doing a better job than any state in the United States of America— period— and I’m proud to be a New Yorker. The bad news is we have after-effects of COVID, social after-effects. We have economic issues. we have quality-of-life issues. We have increasing crime issues. We have habitability issues.  

I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get from people, especially in New York City, who are literally worried about the degradation of New York City— and much of it stems from the economic problems. And Washington is doing absolutely nothing. They’re going back and forth with gridlock. This was the last piece of legislation that they were supposed to pass to handle the aftermath of COVID and they haven’t done it. The Republican Senate doesn’t want to fund state and local governments and that’s the sticking point. Not to fund state and local governments, but to provide all the money that they did to businesses— but you’re not going to provide funding to state local governments, who basically support police, fire, hospitals and schools is just totally ludicrous to me. And it starts with the President.

There was a headline in the Daily News once: “Ford to City: Drop Dead,” and the city was outraged Ford wouldn’t provide financial resources. What Ford did pales in comparison to what Trump is doing; not only did he tell New York City to “drop dead,”

Trump is actively trying to kill New York City. It is personal. I think it’s psychological. He is trying to kill New York City.

He passed SALT, which was targeted just at New York City tax reform; it cost us $14 billion.

He’s refused to fund the extension of the Second Avenue Subway from 96th to 125th Street. Every prior administration has funded the Second Avenue Subway. It is always been a federal-state partnership. Only this President, a former New Yorker, refuses to fund the Second Avenue Subway— even after we opened it up to 96th Street and did an amazing turn-around on the construction project that everybody celebrated.

He won’t approve the AirTrain to LaGuardia. And you want to talk about really ironic, repugnant logic? You know why he won’t approve the AirTrain to LaGuardia? He says he has to do an Environmental Review statement. The same President who has lamented about the delay of Environmental Reviews and how they take so long, and how they stop development and how bad the SEQRA is and how the environmentalists are all full of baloney when it comes to ANWAR. Now he says, “I can’t approve the AirTrain from LaGuardia that’s been talked about for decades because I have to do an Environmental Review. Now Trump, as the environmental bureaucrat. How incredible is that? 

He won’t approve congestion pricing for the MTA. What does he have to do with congestion pricing? Nothing! It is just gratuitous. It is just gratuitous. There is no federal involvement with congestion pricing. Their approval is purely technical and it’s been over a year— we passed it in New York State. He won’t approve it.

He won’t rebuild the tunnels between New York and New Jersey that are dangerous. They’re Amtrak tunnels. Do you know who owns Amtrak? Who owns Amtrak? The federal government owns Amtrak. They’re his tunnels. They’re decaying. I went to the tunnel; I took a video of water seeping into the tunnel. I took a video of bricks crumbling. I sent them the video. He watched the video. Still, no money to fund the Amtrak tunnels.

This weekend, they stopped FEMA funding from cleaning schools and trains. “We want students to go back; we want schools to reopen.” But you don’t want to clean the schools? Students should go back to a dirty school? Is that what you want your child to do? Gratuitous and arbitrary, and now no federal funds for New York City and New York State post-COVID.  

Donald Trump caused the COVID outbreak in New York. That is a fact. It’s a fact that he admitted and the CDC admitted and Fauci admitted. “The China Virus, the China Virus, the China Virus.” It was not the China Virus; it was the European Virus that came to New York. They missed it. They missed it. The China Virus went to Europe. It got on a plane and went to Europe. They never even thought of the possibility and then 3 million Europeans got on a plane and came to New York and they brought the virus. January: they brought the virus. February: they brought the virus. March: they brought the virus. And in mid-March, the federal government does a travel ban from Europe. Mid-March. Too little too late, Mr. President. He caused the COVID outbreak in New York. Donald Trump and his incompetent CDC and his incompetent NIH and his incompetent Department of Homeland Security.  

Department of Homeland Security- “We’re going to protect the people of this nation “We’re not going let the immigrants come across the southern border; we’re going to create a wall” Why didn’t you stop the virus? The virus killed many more Americans than anything you were worried about on the southern border. This nation loses more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. Do you hear that point?

We lose more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. You know who did that? Donald Trump’s incompetence. And now they won’t provide federal funding to help repair the damage from the ambush they created. That’s where we are.

The federal government must provide a response; if they don’t provide a response the national economy will suffer for years. Every economist says that They don’t want to provide a response, why? Because they’re playing politics. They don’t want to help Democratic states. They don’t want to help Democratic cities.

This is a war on cities: New York City, Portland, Chicago. Right? These are the enemies from the president’s point of view. Look at his tweets. “These are the locations and the outposts of the enemies, so don’t provide them any funding even though we caused the COVID virus. It is an unsustainable position for the federal government.

Either this president will figure it out or the next president will figure it out. If Congress doesn’t figure it out, there will be mayhem in this country and there will be a different Congress in January. That is my political opinion. In the interim we have to be smart. We’ve gone through tough times before, New York, we had the fiscal crisis of the 70s; post 9/11 – I experienced it was a whole disruptive period – we went through the Great Recession, but we have to be smart we have to be smart we have to be financially smart and we’re going to have to come together and figure this out in the interim before we have a federal government that is sane and functional.  

The good news is, this is going to be a challenge, yes, but nothing like the challenge we just went through. COVID was the challenge of our lifetime. COVID was the challenge of our lifetime. I hope and pray. But compared to what we went through with COVID, dealing with the fiscal crisis is a mere bump and we’ll get through it, and we’ll get through it together because we’re New York Tough, Smart, United, Disciplined and most of all: Loving.

The number of new cases, percentage of tests that were positive and many other helpful data points are always available at forward.ny.gov.

As schools reopen and districts, local health departments, and labs begin reporting data to the NYS Dept. of Health, the COVID-19 Report Card will be live at: https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov/

Biden Offers “Make It Work” Checklist for Implementation and Oversight of the CARES Act

Joe Biden released a “Make It Work” checklist to provide the federal government with specific recommendations surrounding the implementation and oversight of the CARES Act, the recent stimulus package passed by Congress to ensure the economic relief and recovery effort works for families, workers, and small businesses. The checklist builds on Biden’s plan to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) released on March 12 and his emergency action plan for the economy released on March 26. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Absolutely none of the plans to mitigate against the twin crises posed by the coronavirus pandemic on Americans’ healthcare and the nation’s economy have come from Trump, but rather he has played catch up finally responding to the pleas and shaming from Congressional Democrats, who turned the trillion dollar slush fund for corporations into a $2.2 trillion relief bill, and from Governors and Mayors desperate for life-saving medical equipment and supplies. But his administration has proved woefully inadequate to implement. The $350 billion earmarked to rescue small businesses that is supposed to go into effect has no actual means; the billions in relief checks that are supposed to go to individuals are bogged down by a dysfunctional administration. While Trump has used the coronavirus pandemic to attack Democrats, and take advantage of the limited ability of Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to campaign by turning briefings into rallies and extort praise and adulation from desperate government officials, Biden has sought to point to the contrast his leadership would offer.

Joe Biden released a “Make It Work” checklist to provide the federal government with specific recommendations surrounding the implementation and oversight of the CARES Act, the recent stimulus package passed by Congress to ensure the economic relief and recovery effort works for families, workers, and small businesses. (Recall Trump’s signing statement which basically obviated the oversight the Democrats put into the Act.) The checklist builds on Biden’s plan to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) released on March 12 and his emergency action plan for the economy released on March 26. This is from the Biden campaign –Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com.

Implementation and Oversight of the CARES Act:
The Biden “Make It Work” Checklist

1. Making Americans who lose their jobs financially whole by ensuring that they get their unemployment insurance on time and in full. The CARES Act provides for the equivalent of full wage replacement for average American wage-earners. With millions of Americans making claims for lost jobs in a single week – nearly five times the previous record – getting workers their wage replacement checks fast has never been more important. Let’s be clear: even with new funds from the CARES Act, if the White House does not do everything in its power to help all of our states swiftly implement these new unemployment (UI) benefits, states will be even more overwhelmed. Our states will need help with staffing capacity, technology solutions, training for new claims processors, and best practices from other jurisdictions. This must happen immediately – before the crush of UI claims becomes even more overwhelming. Americans desperate for relief to pay the rent and keep food on the tables for their children will judge states’ performance on the number of UI claims successfully processed, the number of Americans paid as quickly as possible, and how quickly they receive relief – beginning this week. Biden would:

Establish a UI delivery team to help states solve any implementation problems they face. He would authorize that team to provide funds beyond the $1 billion appropriated to states to add staffing and server capacity.

Apply a financial version of the Defense Production Act to ensure that banks that have contracts with states deliver unemployment benefit payments to laid-off workers do so in a timely manner, and that they offer prompt electronic payment options.

Issue clear guidance about the broadest possible eligibility and communicate that guidance effectively so that all Americans understand what benefits they are entitled to.

Make clear that gig workers can get partial benefits when they are still working if their compensation and hours have been significantly reduced.

Work with Congress to extend the provisions for the duration of the crisis. Four months is not enough to provide families the aid they need throughout this economic crisis.

2. Get direct cash relief as quickly as possible to as many Americans as possible. The CARES Act provides for $1,200 per person and $500 per child in cash relief for millions of  working families. Biden would prioritize getting Americans the cash relief they are owed and making it easy to access the relief. The Trump administration is already failing at this by causing needless worry for millions of seniors and people with disabilities. Biden would do so by:

Delivering the payments electronically whenever possible and delivering pre-paid debit cards to those who don’t have bank accounts. Payments should not be delayed just so that President Trump can put his signature on a physical check.

Making payments automatic for millions who haven’t filed a tax return based on information the government already has– and streamlining filing for others. The Trump Administration has needlessly confused millions by first announcing that Social Security recipients and people with disabilities would have to file a tax return to receive their stimulus rebate, before reversing themselves. The reversal is welcome. The CARES Act clearly allows the Treasury Department to send cash relief payments automatically to millions of seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and others without burdening them with new paperwork during a pandemic. Treasury can send these payments using information that the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, and other agencies already possess to get payments to these people. From the start, Biden would have announced an automatic, clear, and simple process of getting stimulus payments to these individuals. And he would extend these same automatic payments to others, like veterans, who still would not get automatic payments under the Administration’s plan. For those who do need to file a new form, Biden would establish an immediate, streamlined cash relief application process to make sure the neediest Americans are being taken care of. There is no reason that most of these Americans cannot be paid within days of filing this paperwork with the right focus, the right process, and the right prioritization.

Expanding the CARES Act relief to dependents left out of the legislation. Democrats fought and won cash relief for most working families, but the legislation left out relief for dependents aged 17 and older, whether a high school student or an older relative living with a family. That is a huge hole in support for working families. As he pushes for relief to extend as long as is needed to pull us through this crisis, Biden would immediately ask Congress to correct this and give these families the support they deserve.

Preparing for additional payments. As the crisis continues, Biden would provide additional cash payments as necessary.

3. Keep as many people on payroll as possible by working with all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to make maximum use of “work-sharing” and “short-time compensation” programs. The Obama-Biden administration expanded an innovative form of “employment insurance,” called “work-sharing” or “short-time compensation.” Under these programs, when a business keeps its workers on payroll – but with reduced hours – federally-backed insurance will compensate those workers to make up for their reduced hours. Expanding short-time compensation has never been more important than today, when keeping workers on payrolls is an urgent national economic priority. Before this crisis, more than 20 states didn’t have programs to allow for short-time compensation, and they were often underutilized even in the states that did. The CARES Act provides for additional federal financing to expand work-sharing. To make that financing work, Biden would:

Direct the Department of Labor to ensure these programs are offered in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Provide resources and guidance for states to create a simple application for small businesses, as well as larger businesses, to take advantage of work-sharing. 

Direct the Department of Labor to issue guidance applying the $600 per week emergency boost in unemployment insurance under the CARES Act to work-sharing programs.

Work with Congress to allow, on an emergency basis, work-sharing programs to pay benefits when hours are reduced dramatically, but employees are still working part-time. 

4. Take the necessary steps to ensure that all small businesses can access relief fast, not just those with the right connections. The CARES Act includes a small business program to provide loans and funds to help small businesses survive this storm and keep their workers on their payroll. It also provides the same relief to small nonprofits, many of whom are needed more than ever in a national crisis. However, there is no assurance that all eligible small businesses will receive support — and the program relies on private banks’ willingness and ability to swiftly provide these government-backed loans. An approach that simply assumes major banks will do this in a fair, efficient, and comprehensive way is likely to result in too few loans being made, too slowly, and mostly to larger and more well-resourced businesses with established relationships and connections. To get loans out quickly to the millions of qualifying Main Street small businesses that need relief — especially in rural and urban communities and those owned by women and minorities — we need a network of financial institutions committed to and capable of efficiently extending credit to every small business and nonprofit in need of support. The rules must be clear and simple to give every eligible small business the confidence that relief is coming, and that they can plan for the future with that relief in mind. There are millions of struggling businesses that do not have time to wait. Success cannot be judged by incremental progress or splashy announcements – we need an effort to direct hundreds of thousands of loans to businesses, beginning this week. For Biden, this would be designated as a vital national priority. Immediately, he would:

Apply a financial version of the Defense Production Act, to make all banks prioritize the swift processing of small business loans, putting them at the front of the line as a national priority. Banks would have to process loan applications within a few working days from all small businesses seeking relief, including the mom-and-pop shops that need help the most and are frequently pushed to the back of the line and those in low-income and traditionally underbanked geographies.

Cut red tape: immediately use the authority in the CARES Act to set simple and clear eligibility criteria; a hyper-streamlined application process; and an expedited process for the smallest of businesses who are most likely to be left out.

Explore creative solutions like working with payroll processing companies to speed up disbursement, including a one-click process for accessing funds.

Produce a weekly dashboard to show which small businesses are accessing loans – to make sure that the program isn’t leaving out communities, minority- and women-owned businesses, or the smallest businesses – and whether they are maintaining payroll.

Make sure that the small business loan program is connected with the work-sharing strategy so that these initiatives are providing the maximum support towards keeping workers on payroll.

Halt evictions and foreclosures of small businesses, and work to provide forbearance on rent and mortgages to provide a lifeline as loans are being processed

Immediately reengage Congress to allow for small business loans that can keep workers on the payroll for far longer than eight weeks.

Immediately seek bipartisan agreement that additional resources will be available as needed to cover loans to eligible small businesses and nonprofits, so that there is not a race to exhaust the $350 billion that leaves some of the most deserving family and smaller-businesses out in the cold because they were not as well-connected or served well by banks.

5. Set clear rules on any industry support – they must help workers and communities, not bail out shareholders or financial industry creditors. The CARES Act gives the Treasury Secretary authority to provide financial assistance directly to large companies. While Democrats secured important protections against stock buybacks and executive compensation, Biden would set a higher bar to make sure that any industry bailout package helps workers and communities where the company operates – not the existing shareholders or creditors of some of the largest companies in the country. He would require that, in return for any financial assistance, large companies accept further conditions along the lines outlined by Senators Brown and Warren, including that they: 

Demonstrate they are prepared to actively participate in the public health effort, including production, distribution, and logistics capacity.

Agree to maintain payrolls at reasonable levels, for both full-time employees and contractors.

Allow taxpayers to share in the upside of any recovery, as was practiced during the last downturn, while ensuring existing shareholders and creditors share in any losses.

Agree to worker representation on their Board of Directors.

Commit to not transfer jobs out of the United States.

6. Establish strong oversight and transparency to police abuse and misappropriation by the Administration and the corporations who receive funds. In addition to enforcing strict conditions, Biden would ensure there are no sweetheart deals, no special favors, and no slush fund, and that corporations follow through on their hard commitments. This is a major concern given the track record of the Trump administration. In the CARES Act, Congress established a Special Inspector General to police the $500 billion in funding for large corporations and to make sure it is going to the right places for the right reasons. But last week, Trump’s White House announced that it intends to restrict the work of the Special Inspector General, in defiance of the bipartisan legislation and the will of the American people to have strong transparency and oversight. Biden would provide full freedom to the Special Inspector General to conduct oversight, meet regularly with him or her, and ensure he or she had all the resources required for effective oversight. That is what he did with the Inspector General under the Recovery Act, and the result was less than 0.2% fraud . 

7. Move much-needed funds for public health and emergency medical needs to hospitals, and local, state, and tribal governments. The CARES Act includes critical provisions to meet the needs of this public health emergency, including funding for cash-strapped hospitals. Biden would focus on getting those funds out the door, with a special focus on rural hospitals that were already financially constrained before COVID-19. He would also provide additional reimbursement plus-ups for Medicare providers who are risking their lives to treat patients. Finally, Biden would ensure that hospitals are not cutting the pay of doctors and nurses during this emergency, as some reports have indicated. The allocation of federal dollars should be conditioned on an explicit commitment to not cut back on wages or benefits of hospital-based health care workers. As funds are disbursed, Biden would work to ensure the administration is tracking what else hospitals need so that we can ensure that we incorporate that into future legislation and budgets. 

8. Ensure equitable allocation of recovery funds. There is a growing body of evidence that recovery funding after crises actually widens pre-existing racial disparities. For example, researchers at Rice University and the University of Pittsburgh found that “whites accumulate more wealth after natural disasters while residents of color accumulate less.” Federal leadership will be required to ensure that recovery from the pandemic helps everyone hurt in the crisis in a fair and equitable way, with a special focus on populations that have historically been left out or left behind. Jurisdictions that receive funding should be required to develop and report on metrics for addressing potential racial disparities, and the SBA and Treasury should similarly track lending to ensure that minority business owners – who have traditionally faced unequal access to credit and capital – are not treated unfairly.  And, the Trump Administration should suspend their public charge rule. Allowing immigration officials to make an individual’s ability to receive a visa or gain permanent residency contingent on their use of government services such as SNAP benefits or Medicaid, their household income, and other discriminatory criteria not only undermines America’s character as land of opportunity that is open and welcoming to all, but also may stop immigrants from getting help during this pandemic and pose broader issues for public health.

9. Establish a CARES Act Implementation Office with responsibility for ensuring (a) people understand and can effectively access all the relief to which they are entitled; and (b) states have all the capacities they need to get the money out as fast as possible. The CARES Act is hundreds of pages long. Big businesses have armies of lawyers to help them figure it out. But many small businesses and families won’t know what’s available to them like: who qualifies for mortgage forbearance? What do small businesses need to qualify not just for loans but for loan forgiveness? Biden would establish a team that would put together a plain-language, comprehensive guide to the benefits in the bill and who they are meant for — and a strategy to communicate to the American people. The Office would set up both online- and telephone-based customer service to answer questions. It would work with community leaders across the country who are on the front lines of this crisis. And, Biden would dedicate staff to every single state as action officers to assist states in accessing the CARES Act funds and disbursing them efficiently. 

10. Start working on the Fourth Package now. We already know that more will have to be done; potentially a massive amount more. Biden wouldn’t wait. He would bring together the leaders of Congress to design a fourth package that accomplishes three things: (a) fixes things that aren’t working in CARES Act implementation and fills in gaps that become apparent; (b) takes care of the people the CARES Act left out; and (c) does whatever it takes, spends whatever it takes, to help the American people and the American economy emerge from the other side of this stronger. He would also make sure the new package automatically extends relief as long as is needed to support families and communities through this crisis. In addition to provisions mentioned above, Biden would ask Congress to include in new legislation:

Any further resources and authority required to break down barriers to implementation, whether on small business, or unemployment insurance, or short-time compensation.

Additional provisions to meet needs not fully covered in the CARES Act, including:

Additional funds for states. As this crisis unfolds, states are going to get crushed under the weight of falling revenues combined with far higher emergency financial burdens. Cops and firefighters and teachers are going to be at risk of losing pay. Biden would make sure the federal government provides the relief that communities on the front lines need to put their full resources behind the public health response without forcing painful and damaging cuts to public services, education, and public safety, and to deal with extraordinary economic circumstances like helping with missed rent and other payments for those facing significant hardship.

Cost-free treatment for COVID-19, regardless of immigration status.

Student debt forgiveness through the duration of the crisis, with a minimum of $10,000.

Boosts to Social Security by $200 per month for seniors and persons with disabilities.

Paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for every worker, and making these benefits permanent.

An increase in SNAP benefits by 15 percent during the deepening recession, and temporarily provide low-income families with about $100 per month in extra nutritional support.

A rent freeze for qualifying individuals for the duration of the crisis

A halt to foreclosures and evictions as people get on their feet.

Key long-term investments, stronger public health systems, and automatic stabilizers so that in future crises the social safety net is there for Americans who need it.

Cuomo Pleads with CDC to Allow Coronavirus Testing in Private Labs to Better Monitor, Contain Spread

Governor Andrew Cuomo tours Northwell Labs with Dr. Dwayne Breining, the Executive Director, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state’s Health Commissioner, and Northwell Health’s CEO Michael J. Dowling © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Update: After tour of Northwell Labs, Governor Cuomo announced FDA approval for Northwell to test novel coronavirus: “After days of advocating the FDA and the federal government to expand testing capacity for the novel coronavirus in New York State and working with Northwell and Wadsworth to expedite the process, we just received word that Northwell Laboratories has been authorized to test under Wadsworth’s emergency use authorization. Manual testing of 75 to 80 samples per day will begin at Northwell immediately, but we still need automated testing approved so we can perform thousands per day.

“While this approval is a good first step, the FDA must increase the testing capacity for the State and private labs, because the more tests we run, the more positive people we will find and the better we can control and contain the virus. It’s one thing for the federal government not to have the testing capacity in place themselves – that was bad enough – but there’s no excuse for them not to be authorizing existing labs to do the work.” 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo took the Center for Disease Control and federal government to task for failing to authorize private laboratories to test for the coronavirus, and for failing to authorize automated testing which could increase exponentially the number of people tested.

Testing is critical to finding people infected with the coronavirus in order to contain the spread of the infection, he said during a tour of Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island, where as many as 1000 tests could be done a day using state-of-the-art automated testing devices which can analyze as many as 120 samples at one time.

Northwell’s laboratory is the most sophisticated lab in New York State and one of the most advanced in the nation. But  as yet, CDC  has not authorized private labs to do the tests, and has not authorized the automated testing systems that Northwell has, Cuomo said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, flanked by Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state’s Health Commissioner, and Northwell Health’s CEO Michael J. Dowling at Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island, urged CDC to allow private labs to test for coronavirus using automated systems to better monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“CDC has not authorized the use of this lab, which is just outrageous and ludicrous,” the Governor scolded. “CDC, wake up, let the state’s test. Let private labs test. Let’s increase as quickly as possible our testing capacity so we identify the positive people so we can isolate them and we’re successful in our containment.”

The state is “continuing to test people and are working with hospitals and local governments to give them the resources they need to contain the spread of this virus,” Governor Cuomo said. “We mobilized quickly but the federal government has been slow off the mark and they continue to be slow. That’s unacceptable – we need them to approve these private labs today so we can stay ahead of this evolving situation. Worse than the virus right now is the fear pandemic – and getting these additional facilities online will ensure we have more facts that will help keep people calm.”

The Northwell Lab on Long Island would be the first private lab in the state to handle coronavirus testing.

“This is an extraordinary facility,” the Governor said, flanked by his state Health Commissioner Howard A. Zucker, and Northwell Health CEO Michael J. Dowling.

“We are trying to contain spread of virus and to do that, we are testing as many as possible, to  find the positives and isolate them.” If the spread of infection is not contained, he warned, more disastrous measures, such as China and Italy have been forced to undertake – massive quarantines of millions of people – “would be very disruptive to society and the economy.”

Cuomo said that the level of fear surrounding coronavirus (the disease associated with the virus is COVID-19) is unwarranted. “There is more fear, anxiety than facts would justify. This isn’t Ebola, or SARS. This is a virus we have a lot of information on. Johns Hopkins has been tracking 100,000 cases and what happens.”

Most people who become infected will experience mild symptoms like a cold or flu and can recover at home. But for vulnerable populations – the elderly, people who have medical conditions – the disease is dangerous and can be deadly.

The best “weapon” against the disease is to reduce situations that create density.

Cuomo said he is speaking with business leaders across the state to encourage them to offer liberal sick leave so that people who are sick, who feel symptoms, stay home but are still paid; he also is encouraging businesses as well as state and local government offices,  to stagger workers in shifts if possible; and to allow work-at-home where feasible.

Individuals also have a role in keeping themselves safe, he said – wash hands frequently, don’t shake hands, just as in any flu season. He advises people who take mass transit to let a train pass if the cars are too packed, and to move to less crowded cars.  “Reduce density, proximity.”

The single best thing government can do is to test. “The more positives we identify, the more we can isolate to stop the spread.”

The Governor confirmed 16 additional cases of novel coronavirus in New York State since his last update yesterday, bringing the statewide total to 105 confirmed cases on Sunday morning. Of the new cases, 12 are in Westchester County, one in New York City in the Bronx, one in Nassau, one in Suffolk, and one in Ulster.

Of the 105 total individuals in New York State who tested positive for the virus, 82 are in Westchester; 12 are in New York City; five are in Nassau; one in Suffolk; two in Rockland; one in Ulster and two in Saratoga counties.

Cuomo criticized the CDC for being unprepared, even as the outbreak became clear in China by December (“It is delusional not to expect people to come from China”), and only recently allowing states to do their own testing. New York has the Wadsworth lab, but now is asking the CDC to authorize the state to utilize private labs, like Northwell Laboratories.

Technicians at the $60 million Northwell Laboratory on Long Island, the most sophisticated private lab in the state and one of the most advanced in the country. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Not to be using this laboratory, not to be using the other private labs around the state makes no sense whatsoever. Not to be using automated testing, which means rather than a person manually handling a test tube and a test, the machines we saw that handle 120 samples at a time place them in a machine, the machine runs the test. Of course you should be using that technology. And it’s one thing for the CDC not to have the testing capacity in place themselves, but that was bad enough. For the CDC not to be authorizing existing labs to do the work, there’s no excuse for that.” 

Cuomo also criticized the federal government for creating unnecessary confusion, which fuels fear. “The President of the United States says anyone who wants a test can have a test. Vice President of the United States says we don’t have the testing capacity. People say, how can you say both things? You can’t say both things. We don’t have the testing capacity that we need. Not everyone who wants a test can have a test.

“We have to prioritize the people who get the tests to fit our capacity, right. You can’t ask more people to come in and get tested until you know you have the capacity to test them. The number of people coming in for a test must equal the number of tests you can perform. That’s why in New York we have a standard protocol that’s in place all across the state, prioritizing who can get tested to fit our testing capacity. 

A state of the art machine like this at Northwell Labs, Long Island, automates the analysis of 120 test samples at one time, vastly increasing the capacity to test individuals suspected of carrying the coronavirus © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Once we increase our testing capacity and we can perform more tests, then we can change the prioritization of those people coming in for the tests. We have a statewide protocol because we don’t want people shopping tests. I don’t want someone from Nassau driving to Suffolk, driving to Manhattan, driving to Westchester because you have different rules on who can get a test. Everyone, everywhere in this state has the same rules, doesn’t matter where you go. Hopefully, the CDC acts responsibly and acts quickly and we raise the capacity, we bring a great facility like this online with the automated testing. We can then get testing per day to about 1000 tests. And then we can calibrate the prioritization to the capacity.”

The $60 million Northwell Laboratory on Long Island, is the most sophisticated private lab in the state and one of the most advanced in the country. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 The Governor also addressed price gouging, which is happening across the state and the nation, “symptomatic of fear.”

“It’s unethical, exploitative of fear and illegal,” he said. “To make a few extra bucks on hand sanitizer, they would jeopardize their license to do business. There is an increased penalty for price gouging.” He said that consumers can call a hot line, that state police  are investigating and the state Attorney General has the power to prosecute.

The state’s Division of Consumer Protection has created an online consumer complaint form, where New Yorkers can report suspected price gouging or concerns about improper delivery of quantity. (Consumers who wish to file a complaint can visit https://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/.)

Also, travel insurance companies and travel agents will offer New York residents and businesses the ability to purchase coverage when making travel plans that would allow them to cancel a trip for any reason, including for reasons related to COVID-19.

The Department of Financial Services issued guidance allowing travel agents and travel insurers to offer this type of coverage after DFS received consumer complaints that such polices were not available in New York State. This new action is designed to provide reassurance to New York businesses and residents who are seeking to make plans that may involve travel to locations that are not currently under travel advisories due to COVID-19.

Six global and national insurance companies have agreed to offer “cancel for any reason” coverage to travelers, including: Allianz, Nationwide, Starr Indemnity, Berkshire, Crum & Forster, and Zurich.

DFS also directed New York State travel insurance issuers to proactively reach out to individuals and businesses who bought their policies to let them know what is covered. (Read a copy of the DFS Insurance Guidance Letter)

Yesterday, the Governor announced that he declared a state of emergency to help New York more quickly and effectively contain the spread of the virus. The state of emergency declaration allows, among other things:

Expedited procurement of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and other essential resources

Allowing qualified professionals other than doctors and nurses to conduct testing

Expedited procurement of testing supplies and equipment

Expedited personnel onboarding

Expedited leasing of lab space

Allowing EMS personnel to transport patients to quarantine locations other than just hospitals

Providing clear basis for price gouging and enforcement investigation   

 “We do not want to have to do massive close downs, massive quarantines, and we don’t want members of the vulnerable population getting sick. That is why we are doing what we are doing,” Cuomo said.

“So in sum, CDC let’s move, authorize the State to authorize private labs, get this most sophisticated lab in the State, one of the most sophisticated labs in the country, get this lab to work. Why you wouldn’t makes absolutely no sense.

“And to New Yorkers, we understand the facts. Keep this in perspective. We don’t want a lot of people getting this virus. We don’t want to take more drastic measures. But, if you get the virus, you will get sick, you will recover, you most likely won’t even go to the hospital. And the only the people who we really have to worry about are the vulnerable populations – senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems.

“So keep it all in perspective. I know there’s a whole frenzy about it, the facts do not justify the frenzy, period. The biggest problem we have in this situation is fear, not the virus. The virus we can handle. It’s the fear. And the fear is just unwarranted.”

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Warren Releases Plan to Prevent, Contain, and Treat Infectious Disease Outbreaks at Home and Abroad

Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad. Diseases like Ebola virus, Zika virus and most recently, coronavirus demonstrate the real threat that outbreaks pose to our health and security. “The United States can be a leader in combating these problems. But to do so, we must invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we must  invest and partner with other countries to help build strong public health systems abroad.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Democratic candidates for president offer stark contrasts to the present occupant of the Oval Office. With a potential coronavirus pandemic creating global anxiety, Senator Elizabeth Warren has just released a detailed plan how she would prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad.

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad. Diseases like Ebola virus, Zika virus and most recently, coronavirus demonstrate the real threat that outbreaks pose to our health and security. The United States can be a leader in combating these problems. But to do so, we must invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we must  invest and partner with other countries to help build strong public health systems abroad.
 
By properly preparing, we will save lives, strengthen our relationships with allies, protect our interests, and help build resilience to outbreaks and pandemics around the world.
 
Warren’s Plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious disease outbreaks will:

Restore White House leadership on health security by designating a senior official to focus solely on this issue and fully funding domestic public health and preparedness at key HHS agencies, in contrast to President Trump’s decision to eliminate this White House role and massive proposed budget cuts to public health;  

Restore American leadership in the international community, reversing President Trump’s assault on the State Department and USAID;  

Invest in global health security and rejoin global efforts on climate change by changing how diseases emerge and spread, reverse President Trump’s proposed global health cuts and retreat from international climate efforts.  

Ensure evidence-based decisions and equity in response to outbreaks, relying on science to contain them and ensuring that all communities get the help they need to stay healthy.  

Preventing, Containing, and Treating Infectious Disease Outbreaks at Home and Abroad
 
In 2014, the world watched as Ebola spread throughout six countries in West Africa and eventually jumped oceans to reach the United StatesSpainItaly, and the U.K. As the outbreak spread, over 50 countries stepped up to help respond. The experience revealed a new global reality: to effectively beat infectious diseases, we need all hands on deck.
 
In 2015 the state of Indiana experienced an outbreak of HIV stemming from the ongoing opioid epidemic. In a county with a population of less than 25,000, over 200 people contracted the virus. Simultaneously, Zika virus was spreading throughout the U.S. and causing birth defects in children born to some infected pregnant women.
 
In 2019, the U.S. saw a rise in outbreaks of measles — a disease we had eliminated in 2000. And today, the 2018 Ebola outbreak continues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
 
Experts believe the world is due for another bout of pandemic influenzaThe latest threat comes from coronavirus, a respiratory condition in the same family of viruses as SARS that is spreading throughout China and just last week reached the United States. With well over 2,000 people infected and a rising death toll, China has restricted the movement of 56 million peopleThe world is watching closely to determine if this will be designated as our next global Public Health Emergency.
 
Instead of building capacity to combat these problems, Donald Trump has deprioritized global health security and risked putting us on heels in a crisis.
 
Trump has repeatedly tried to nickel and dime federal programs essential to health security, proposing billions of dollars in cuts so drastic that even leading a House Republican thought they would leave Americans vulnerable. Trump eliminated the key position that coordinates global health security across the many federal agencies that work to keep us safe. And his response to natural disasters that could lead to serious outbreaks, like hurricanes in Puerto Rico, has been basically non-existent.
 
On the global stage, his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement demonstrates reckless denial about the role of climate change in fueling epidemics. His foreign policy has damaged long-standing alliances with partners like the U.K. and France, who are critical partners in responding to global health crises.
 
Like so much else, Trump’s approach to keeping us safe from disease outbreaks is a mess. But when he’s gone, we can fix it.
 
We can invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we can help build strong public health systems abroad.  By taking these steps, we will save lives, strengthen our relationships with allies, protect our interests, and help build resilience to outbreaks and pandemics.
 
That’s why I have a plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious diseases — one that will help keep America safe and healthy. And as President, I will work across all levels of government here at home and with our many partners abroad to turn that plan into action.  
 
Preventing Transmission and Preparing for Outbreaks
The best way to beat a pandemic is to prevent it from starting in the first place. As President, I will work to build the foundations that help us catch infectious diseases before they spread.
 
Build strong public health systems at home and abroad. Combating infectious diseases requires building health infrastructure that enables us to handle epidemics whenever and wherever they strike. Diseases do not recognize borders — we need a global approach to a global problem. To build strong systems we must:  

Fund agencies that prevent and manage outbreaks. President Trump has repeatedly proposed billions in cuts to the agencies responsible for fighting and preventing pandemics, a devastating blow that would put lives at risk. Some of the deepest proposed cuts were to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which runs essential pandemic prevention and response programs. As President, I will fully fund this work, ensuring that key agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have the support they need to do their jobs.  

Prepare health departments, health care providers and hospitals, and other facilities and frontline staff. We must increase funding for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement that supports the critical work of health departments across the country to prepare for outbreaks, natural disasters, and more. Similarly, we must continue to support the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), which ensures we equip facilities and train staff on the front lines.

Fully fund the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). Designed to build capacity in nearly 50 countries, the GHSA funds work in partnership with other countries to strengthen their public health infrastructure and combat outbreaks before they start. And in a few short years, it is clear that investment has paid off. Under President Trump some of this work has ramped down, but we know that the ability to stop an outbreak requires consistent investment and support. As President, I’ll provide it.  

Reduce transmission of infectious diseases at home. By reducing the transmission of communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, we keep families healthy and safe and strengthen our health system’s ability to respond to global pandemics. That’s why I have a plan to invest $100 billion to end the opioid epidemic, and why I’ve committed to end the domestic HIV epidemic by 2025 and ensure that patients can afford drugs like PrEP and Hepatitis C treatments by acting on Day One of my presidency to lower drug prices.

Move to Medicare for All. When people can’t access basic health care, infectious diseases are more likely to spread and cause severe, lasting health effects — as we saw in the recent Indiana HIV outbreak. This is especially true in underserved communities, who can experience the effects of outbreaks more severely. Under Medicare for All, everyone will have high quality health care they can afford, removing financial barriers for patients who may be contagious and need to seek care. We all benefit when we stop the spread of infectious disease faster.

Fully fund critical existing global health work. U.S. investments in global health, including programs that combat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria help build capacity in countries around the world that enables them to better handle epidemics when they strike. As President, I will push to expand funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which funds vital services for individuals living with HIV or AIDS overseas and is a pillar of U.S. global health programs. I’ll also repeal the Trump administration’s heartless Global Gag Rule, which makes organizations that conduct or refer patients for abortion ineligible for global health funds — harming patients and reducing the capacity of other nations’ health systems. 

Fight climate change. A changing climate means infectious diseases will spread to new places, and it’s already happening. In 2016, the Zika virus threatened more of the U.S. because changing climates mean the mosquitos that carry it now thrive further and further north. And Lyme disease is expected to increase by 20% in the next decade due to climate change. West Nile is projected to more than double by 2050 due to warming, costing upwards of $1 billion annually. Our health depends on fighting climate change. And I have a lot of plans for that.  

Recommit to the Paris Agreement and invest in the Green Climate Fund. On Day One of my administration, I’ll commit the United States to rejoin the Paris Agreement, including meeting Obama era commitments to the Green Climate Fund — a critical funding stream to prevent the spread of climate fueled pandemics — and backfilling the contribution that the Trump administration neglected to deliver.

Recognize interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. When it comes to pandemics, we must think about how animal, human, and environmental factors interact. Last year the Trump administration shut down the Predict program to test animals for dangerous pathogens that could cross over to humans. As President, I would restore this essential work. And I will support new scientific research to help understand and predict the impact of warmer temperatures on disease emergence and transmission.  

Invest in CDC’s Climate and Health Program. This essential program invests in adaptation for the effects of climate change on our nation’s health, but it’s budget only allows for programs that cover roughly half our population. Rather than follow President Trump’s attempts to kill this program, I will expand it to cover every American so no community is left behind.  

Prioritize effective federal management. As President, I’ll take key steps to ensure that the agencies who handle outbreaks have clear leadership, responsibility, and support.  

Restore White House leadership position for health security. President Obama created this position in response to the Ebola epidemic. In 2018, the Trump administration eliminated it – and I demanded answers. As President, I will bring it back, with a formal senior lead in my White House who focuses solely on global health security and oversees this work across the entire federal government.

Rebuild the State Department and USAID. American security and health depend on robust diplomacy and development assistance, but the Trump administration has declared war on the State Department and USAID. We must reverse the trend of declining American diplomacy and development aid by creating a 21st century foreign service and corps of development specialists. My plan to rebuild the State Department ensures that we have the diplomats we need leading our engagement with the world to help effectively manage outbreaks.  

Build on CDC’s legacy as the world and domestic leader in public health. The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) holds our nation’s largest supply of medical countermeasures and medical supplies. Historically, CDC has managed the SNS because it has the public health expertise to stock the right medical countermeasures and ensure they get to communities who need them during an emergency.  In 2018, the Trump administration removed the SNS from CDC management in an ill-advised attempt to streamline response activities that could make it easier for drug companies to lobby for their products to be included. As President, I will move it back to optimize public health while ensuring coordination with other agencies.

Strengthen the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE). PHEMCE coordinates the federal government’s efforts to prepare for potential  chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, as well as from emerging infectious diseases. We must ensure the PHEMCE fully utilizes expertise from across agencies and reinvigorate its ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies.
 

Develop vaccines for infectious diseases. The United States should join it’s peer countries and invest in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a public/private global alliance focused on vaccine development, and actively participate in global coalitions working toward vaccine development. I have pushed CDC to prepare for pandemic influenza, which must include the development of a universal flu vaccine — a necessity if we want to effectively fight the next strain of pandemic influenza.
 
Containing Outbreaks and Ensuring Equity
Effectively containing infectious diseases requires effective coordination, flexible resources, clear data and communication, and the ability to move fast while not leaving anyone behind.
 
Ensure surge funding to handle the outbreak. Responding to pandemics costs money. And when it’s needed, it’s needed yesterday. In 2014, Congress did not provide funding to combat Ebola when it was out of control in West Africa, and waited until nearly 3 months after the first case occurred in the U.S. to appropriate additional funding. But epidemics don’t wait for Congress. To have a shot at getting ahead of the next big outbreak, we must appropriate and replenish funding for the Public Health Emergency Fund at HHS. This fund enables HHS to quickly respond to public health crises without waiting for supplemental appropriations from Congress.
 
Establish the Global Health Security Corps. Sometimes outbreaks occur in places experiencing intense conflict. And when health experts cannot enter those regions, outbreaks can grow exponentially. A bipartisan commission recently proposed creating a global health team that can handle these challenges — doctors, scientists, and aid workers with extensive security training who can go into conflict zones to do contact tracing, build trust in communities experiencing conflict, and work effectively with foreign governments at the local, regional, and national level. As president, I’ll launch this Global Health Security Corps to ensure that we can get the right expertise to the center of an outbreak before it becomes an epidemic.

Mitigate impact on underserved populations. Underserved and disadvantaged populations are hit harder by outbreaks. Adding insult to injury, vulnerable populations are often scapegoated for spreading disease. Outbreak responses must ensure that everyone can get the help they need. This requires constant effort on the front lines – but system-level solutions can help, too.  

Practice ethical and evidence-based infection control. My administration will work with state and local governments to ensure that disease surveillance and response is based on facts and science, not fear. We will also reject ill-informed, unscientific, and often counterproductive travel bans in favor of science-based efforts at isolation and quarantine. These efforts will be undertaken only when necessary, and we will provide strict protection of civil liberties for those involved, including the rejection of any unlawful detentions.
 

Leverage federal health care programs to respond to disasters. Studies have shown the clear connection between extreme weather events and outbreaks. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, for example, fatalities from bacterial Leptospirosis spiked, eventually leading to 26 deaths. In addition, despite the extensive damage to the islands infrastructure, the Trump administration waited months before delivering aid or assistance. I have committed to leverage federal programs to quickly tailor health care responses to specific environmental disasters or outbreaks in affected communities when they occur.  

Build equity protections into preparedness grant funding and government seeded innovations. I will instruct my administration to incorporate equity requirements into health preparedness and response programs to ensure all communities get the resources they need to stay healthy. I have also committed to improve environmental equity mapping via “a rigorous interagency effort to identify cumulative environmental health disparities and climate vulnerabilities and cross-reference that data with other indicators of socioeconomic health.” When the government helps fund development and clinical trials of medical countermeasures, we should be sure to negotiate a fair market price so that everyone can afford it.  

Provide aggressive dissemination of reliable information.  Communication is an essential element of effectively beating an outbreak. My administration will work with the private sector to promote the distribution of important factual information, to counter misinformation, and to ensure that critical facts are appropriately translated so communities can take the steps needed to stay healthy. The Trump administration banned CDC from using “evidence-based” or “policy-based,” as well as other terms, in official documents–unacceptable for an agency whose mission must be informed by science. In a Warren administration, science will once again be in charge at the CDC.
 
Uphold principles of open science and transparency. Sharing information about what is happening during an outbreak facilitates problem-solving. We must encourage sharing of specimens and data between researchers and public health officials, urge transparency from foreign governments, and increase support for data sharing platforms. During a public health emergency, publishers should not use paywalls to hide important data or force authors to keep data embargoed until publication. My administration will conduct a full-scale reassessment of the public health informatics supported by the federal government and modernize these systems, building on recent congressional investment. And I have already committed to improve interoperability of electronic health records, which will help providers all across this country see their patients’ medical histories and ensure that more patient data can be securely shared with critical public health databases, while ensuring that patient privacy is maintained.

Effectively partner with foreign governments and multilateral organizations. The U.S. cannot beat outbreaks alone. We must use all our tools, including diplomacy and international collaboration, to work through tough issues and partner with other countries. I’ll lead the world in promoting effective multilateral action, including through Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. And I’ll bolster our work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to continue reforms started after the 2014 Ebola outbreaks and improve the world’s ability to respond collectively to these crises.

Treating Emerging Infectious Diseases
It’s essential that we continue pushing for medical advances — both to treat those who contract diseases and vaccinate against those we can prevent. 
 
Invest in basic science. I have committed to invest $100 billion in the NIH — and $60 billion of that will fund basic science research. And when drug companies break the law, I’ll create a “swear jar” where companies will pay a portion of their profits from publicly-funded research back to the NIH. This funding will expand the research we need to develop vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases we know and novel diseases that have not yet emerged.
 
Invest and incentivize development of new medical countermeasures. To ensure we are able to effectively surge development during a pandemic, we must build and maintain strong infrastructure for medical countermeasure development. As President, I will ensure that small biotechnology innovators get ongoing support from Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and we will leverage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) expertise in manufacturing and clinical trials to help larger drug manufacturers bring these countermeasures to market at scale.  

Bring new treatments to patients. The $40 billion I’ve committed to invest in the NIH will fund the creation of the National Institute for Drug Development — a new institute that will work to bring that basic research of the rest of the NIH into reality for patients. And under Medicare for All, we will be able to better incentivize the private sector development of drugs for which the market is currently broken, like vaccines and antibiotics. Vaccines prevent outbreaks from starting, while antibiotics provide critical protection against infections, and we are in desperate need of new antibiotics to combat resistant infections.  

Enable surge support during outbreaks, especially for diagnostics. BARDA and FDA must be ready to surge at times of outbreak, when the need to quickly diagnose new cases is essential to containing an outbreak and properly treating patients. My Administration will work to provide this support and, when appropriate, use Emergency Use Authorizations to get new diagnostics into the hands of health care providers as soon as possible.

Prioritize therapies that work for all populations, especially kids. Therapies are often approved after being tested on populations that are not representative of the patient population. As a result, many therapies in the Strategic National Stockpile are not approved for kids, and some therapies do not work as effectively for racial minorities or women. As President, I will direct the FDA and BARDA to work with drug companies to develop pediatric medical countermeasures and increase the enrollment of underrepresented populations in clinical trials, ensuring that the treatments we develop work well for all of us.  

Ensure treatments can reach patients quickly. Time is critical when you’re combating infectious diseases. We must make sure that our system is ready to “turn on” at a moment’s notice. That means we must constantly evaluate our medical countermeasure stockpiles and prepare annual updated biological threat assessments. And during an outbreakwe must quickly distribute medical countermeasures, with proper protections for equitable distribution across communities.
 
Ensure safety of high security labs. My administration will not allow labs to generate novel viruses with epidemic or pandemic potential, or to perform field testing of such viruses and will closely monitor dual-use research on biological threats and update policies as needed. This knowledge is incredibly important to protect our health, but could be harmful if used as a weapon. And we must be vigilant about lab safety standards and avoid accidentally mailing anthrax or forgetting about smallpox specimens for 50 years.
 
Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment’s notice. When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.

Read Warren’s plan here

Vice President Joe Biden issued his own criticism of the Trump’s administration’s handling of a potential pandemic, in an op-ed in USA Today: Joe Biden: Trump is worst possible leader to deal with coronavirus outbreak citing the need for the President of the United States to cooperate with international partners to address this pandemic and prevent future ones. Biden writes that this is a moment that requires leadership — leadership that Trump is incapable of delivering — and lays out how his policies will be informed by science and reassert U.S. leadership on global health security. 

NYCLU, ACLU, BDS File Class Action Suit Challenging Trump Administration’s Indefinite Detention of Immigrants

2018 Womens March NYC: Protesting to stop raids on immigrant families, save DACA © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NEW YORK –The New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union and Brooklyn Defender Services filed a federal class action lawsuit today challenging the recent cessation of bond hearings for immigrant detainees and the Trump administration’s indefinite detention of immigrants.

The administration’s halting of bond hearings in New York follows a February Supreme Court decision in a case from California, Jennings v. Rodriguez, holding that a federal immigration statute does not entitle immigrants to bond hearings. In that case, the Supreme Court chose not to decide whether the U.S. Constitution independently requires bond hearings and instead sent the case back to the appeals court in California to address that question. In New York, however, the federal appeals court already recognized that the Constitution requires such hearings in a 2015 case, Lora v. Shanahan. Nonetheless, the federal government has stopped providing them to immigrant detainees in New York. Today’s lawsuit seeks to restore bond hearings and due process protections for jailed immigrant New Yorkers.

“In the pursuit of its anti-immigrant agenda the Trump regime seeks to do away with basic legal protections that are fundamental to any notion of justice,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Immigrants are entitled to due process, and bond hearings are a vital safeguard against the unjustified and prolonged imprisonment that the Trump regime seeks to impose on all immigrants. The New York Civil Liberties Union and our partners will fight to ensure immigrant New Yorkers can rely on the rule of law even under the Trump regime. ”

Hundreds of thousands of people both with and without lawful status are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each year. Immigration detention can last months or even years, as people fight their deportation cases through a slow and backlogged immigration court system. Bond hearings are an essential opportunity to demonstrate to a judge that incarceration is not necessary to ensure that someone returns to court. Without a hearing, immigrants, including asylum seekers and green card holders, may remain locked up indefinitely while they fight their cases.

“Without the opportunity to request release, our clients, including asylum seekers and long-time green card holders, are indefinitely detained and separated from their families, their jobs, and their communities in horrific detention centers,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services. “Indefinite detention is contrary to our most basic constitutional principles and we are proud to continue the fight for due process and justice for our clients and their communities.”

The lead plaintiff in the class action, Augustin Sajous, is a 60-year-old Haitian man who has lived in the US for 46 years, since he became a permanent resident as a child in the 1970s. He studied engineering, bought a house, and helped raise a family, but in recent years he has struggled with mental health issues, which led to bouts of homelessness. Mr. Sajous was arrested by ICE in September 2017 and is subject to deportation because of two 2015 misdemeanor convictions for bending MetroCards in order to use them with zero balance.

“The Supreme Court’s recent ruling does nothing to undermine the fact that the Constitution ensures that all people in the U.S. are entitled to due process protections,” said Jordan Wells, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We are taking action now to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers who are currently detained get a fair opportunity to secure their freedom.”

In addition to Wells, counsel on the case include NYCLU staff attorneys Robert Hodgson, Paige Austin, and Aadhithi Padmanabhan, associate legal director Christopher Dunn and paralegal Maria Rafael, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project staff attorney Michael Tan and deputy director Judy Rabinowitz, and BDS attorneys Andrea Saenz, Brooke Menschel, Zoey Jones and Bridget Kessler.

Trump/Sessions Anti-Immigrant Policy Requires Novel Theory of Constitution: Citizens Only

US Supreme Court Building, DC. The Trump/Sessions anti-immigration policy relies on a novel theory of the Constitution: that it does not apply to noncitizens © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The question that came to my mind as I listened to Natanya Briendel, director of the Westchester Division at the Pace Women’s Justice Center, speak at the monthly meeting of Reach Out America, a Long Island-based activist group, was how Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ roundups of undocumented immigrants rests on a concept that the Constitution – specifically due process – does not apply to non-citizens. Technically, then, any foreigner in the United States could be picked up and denied habeas corpus – the right to appear speedily in front of a judge, hear the charges and put up a defense.

She described situations where people are being rounded up based on an accusation, and if they are undocumented, immediately incarcerated and deported.  No warrant. No reasonable cause to justify a search. No right to legal counsel or even a hearing before a judge.

Even people who are claiming asylum based on escaping violence in their home country, are treated as if they were criminals.

The result has been sheer terror for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Why so many? Because Republicans going back to Reagan have refused to establish a workable immigration program; during Obama’s Administration, the House Republicans literally shoved a Comprehensive Immigration bill in the desk and never voted on it. Employers have benefited from having a pool of people who are abused, cheated, and treated like indentured servants.

Here in Long Island, we have an instance where just being Hispanic renders a high school student vulnerable to accusations of membership in the dreaded M-13 gang based on what colors you wear to school.

Donald Trump in his national security speech (really a rehash of his dystopian inaugural address), equates all immigrants as terrorists, regardless if they have lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for decades, describing the need to shut off refugees, cancel DACA, end the possibility of family members obtaining legal status. Even individuals currently serving in the military, who were promised citizenship at the end of their tour, will be subject to deportation.

Our strategy advances four vital national interests.  First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life.  This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders.  So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.  It calls for the construction of a wall on our southern border; ending chain migration and the horrible visa and lottery programs; closing loopholes that undermine enforcement; and strongly supporting our Border Patrol agents, ICE officers, and Homeland Security personnel.”

The callousness, the stupidity, the sheer contradiction of American values, principles, and law.

Meanwhile, 12,762 DACA recipients – 122 a day – have lost their protected status since September 5, when President Trump rescinded the executive order that protected immigrants who arrived here as children from deportation, who were raised in the United States which is the only country they know. Trump gave a deadline of March, but the Republican Congress has shown it doesn’t actually care. Trump has reneged on the “deal” he appeared to make with Schumer and Pelosi; Democrats have threatened to use the only leverage they have – shutting down government by refusing to reauthorize a budget resolution – but that is unlikely.

Immigrants are no longer welcome. That is, unless the immigrant can buy a visa by investing $500,000 in a Trump family real estate venture,  or a migrant imported to work at Mar-a-Lago (when there are tens of thousands of Puerto Rican hotel workers who lost their jobs after Maria and have sought refuge in Florida – why is he not hiring them? Answer: because they can register to vote in Florida. After all, Puerto Ricans are American citizens.)

“Critics say that if passed, the reform [of the H-2A agricultural visa program] could lead to millions of virtually indentured workers,” writes Simon Davis-Cohen in Truthout. (“Republicans Push Bill to Strip Migrant Workers of Their Few Rights, Undercut US Workers”)

On the other hand, the way Trump and Sessions are inflicting their might, it means that undocumented individuals are no longer protected by law – they can be physically abused by a spouse, cheated by an employer of their wages, have their children taken from them without recourse to seek custody. They have no way of protecting their civil rights, their human rights, because the courthouse has become a locus for them to be snatched up by immigration officers. They are fearful to report crimes; certainly to warn officials of any terror threats.

Here on Long Island – the very place where Trump gave a speech suggesting that police officers don’t have to be “so nice” when they stuff someone into their patrol car, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Monday, arguing that it lacks authority under state law to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Detainers ask local officers to hold immigrants after they would otherwise be released from custody. This suit seeks the release of Susai Francis, a resident of Long Island for 21 years, where he has raised two sons, who should have been released after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct but instead was being held for ICE in a Suffolk County jail.

“Not only should local law enforcement reject the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, but state law is also clear that local law enforcement can’t violate people’s rights in order to do ICE’s bidding,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The role of local law enforcement is to protect and serve all New Yorkers, and that is incompatible with the unlawful detention of our neighbors and family members at the behest of the Trump deportation machine.”

The day before Trump gave his national security speech calling again for a border wall and shutting down immigration, and offering not a crumb of possibility of the comprehensive immigration reform that should have been in place for 30 years so that people can get some legal status and not live in the shadows where they can be exploited, was United Nations International Migrants Day. Not a peep from the White House. Instead, the United States announced it would end participation in the UN process to develop a Global Compact on Migration (GCM) based on the claim that it would undermine “sovereignty”.

With civil war, ethnic conflict, gang violence, drought, famine, floods, wildfires and climate disasters, there are the largest number of refugees and displaced people in numbers not seen since World War II: 40 8 million displaced people worldwide as a result of conflict and violence at the end of 2015; an estimated 64 million are impacted by climate.

(Trump, in his national security speech, dismissed climate change as a national security threat, suggesting instead that increasing American energy production would be the counter balance.)

Immigrants are lumped together.  “You think the countries are giving us their best people? No. What kind of a system is that?”Trump said at a press conference. “They give us their worst people, they put them in a bin, but in his hand when he’s picking them is really the worst of the worst.”

Trump’s view – big on a wall stretching along the southern border, a travel ban which shuts down access from six Muslim majority nations (none of which have been responsible for terrorism in the US), reducing the number of refugees who will be accepted to a trickle (45,000) while threatening to throw out others (Haitians, Nicaraguans) – is to pull up the drawbridge, much like the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain or China’s Bamboo Curtain, and keep us equally isolated and ignorant, reciting the Trump mantra of America’s Greatness.

Combined with banning words and phrases at agencies, scrubbing reports and websites, spying on federal workers, Trump’s declaration is more ominous: “With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.

It is more: the disdain for civil rights for noncitizens within our borders means that the Trump Doctrine, which we now know is purely transactional, means that there is zero interest in upholding human rights.

“We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity.  We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause.  We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.”

Trump’s view, enabled by the Republican Congress, is so warped. But there is another way: reauthorize DACA with a path to citizenship; provide legal status (not citizenship) for people who came illegally but who have worked and made homes here and have no significant criminal record, particularly the parents of DACA recipients and American children; have vetting for travelers, but accept travelers; exercise moral responsibility in accepting refugees, helping resettle refugees, and contributing funds toward refugee communities. And participate in the world to reduce the causes for refugees, migrants and immigrants: help end the conflicts and violence that sets people on their precarious journey; address climate change that is resulting in communities being uninhabitable; and advance the quality of life in these countries.

None of these generators of the desperation that motivates people to uproot their lives and take a treacherous journey to a strange place are satisfied by Trump’s “national security strategy” which puts American First and to hell with the rest of the world.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

White House Messagers Sugar Coat Trump/Republican Tax Plan, Invoking ‘American Dream’

The US Treasury building is literally next door to the White House. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us,” to prove that the Republican tax cuts would pay for themselves and benefit middle class families, but never produced the analysis, beyond a single-page of hopeful assumptions. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

During a press call previewing Donald Trump’s “closing message to the American people” about the glories of the Republican tax plan supported by less than 25% of Americans, Trump’s leading “messagers” – the people charged with making the deal palatable – had to “research” the American Dream, as if they had never heard of the concept before:

“At the president’s direction, we did research into the concept of American Dream,” said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Tony Sayegh. “It is interesting what we found, where the concept came from and what it meant. And part was that in the United States, you were not destined to die in the same income class you were born into, children were not destined to have same quality of life that you had, people had the ability to rise. This was unique thing in world history. Most of the world, most of history, born in a certain class and died in that class, children were born and died in same economic class. America [brought the] idea of economic opportunity for all.”

But now, he said with dubious accuracy because this same criticism has arisen since the Reagan “Revolution”, if he in fact bothered to research, “for first time in American history, parents no longer think their children will be better off. …We will bring back the American spirit, that’s what president likes to talk about it. Consumer confidence is at all time high. That kind of optimism is at the core of the message.”

He asserted, “We’re nearing a historic moment in which we will decide the economic future of the nation. We have the power to reject [the notion]  that 2% growth is the new normal and the majority of Americans for first time in history will lose faith that next generation will do better…[We want an] economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy and well connected….Ultimately message will be that middle class will no longer just be getting by, finally have the opportunity to get ahead, and that’s what will Make America Great Again.”

When asked about the scores of economists and experts who have challenged the theory that the tax cuts to the wealthiest and corporations will trickle down to working people, that the cumulative impact of the tax plan will hurt working class and middle class Americans, upset the very mechanisms that promote the American Dream (education, health care, home ownership), that it will result in $1.5 trillion added to the national debt which will result in cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and that large majority of Americans oppose the tax plan, White House message strategy director Cliff Sims went on the attack:

”I encourage you to spend a little less time reading [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer’s talking points, and more time reading the plan [which has yet to be finalized or scored]. This plan offers a lot for the middle class…. [The plan] substantially increased child tax credit, $1000 now to $1600 or $2000; nearly doubles standard deduction so a married couple can take $24,000 tax free and more if they itemize; it lowers the tax rate so more income is taxed at lower rates… Quite frankly anyone who says otherwise is purposefully disingenuous or taking a partisan line that doesn’t meet the reality.”

Sayegh  added, “Analysis and studies. The Council of Economic Advisors reported a month ago clearly demonstrates what we are doing on corporate side helps workers, because workers absorb the greatest burden when corporate taxes are high… We know that through analysis, the average worker gets anywhere $4000-$9000.. after policies implemented – because there is a more productive and investment-friendly environment when corporations can compete with significantly lower rate. It is a benefit to hardworking Americans, the American worker.”

Asked where was the analysis that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said  “over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us,,” Sims said that Treasury “in very rare instances will ever release analysis of a bill that has not already been voted on and passed because as anyone who has followed process understands, there are two bills – House, Senate –there are  differences between them and a final bill will be voted on.”

Sayegh also pushed back against polling which shows the vast majority of Americans believe the tax plan substantially favors the wealthy over working people, pointing to rolling back the estate tax and eliminating the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), by which Trump in 2005, in the only 2 pages of his tax returns revealed to the public, shows that he would have saved $30 million in tax payments but for the AMT.

“We’ve poured through this from a lot of angles, political strategy and public opinion. It is abundantly clear that almost every poll nationally cited – CBS, Quinnipiac, Marist – is deliberately trying to shake and manipulate public opinion and not accurately reflect it. Quinnipiac uses a methodology where only 20% of respondents are Republican, 33% are Democrats, 38% are independents –a  preposterous formula. Negative of 12% between Democrats and Republicans is not close to reality – so does not reflect public opinion.”

Sims added “The more people learn about specifics, the more they love it. 61% to 21% supported it after learning we are doubling the standard deduction from $12 to $24K, 54% support only 14% oppose the child tax credit, 54% support only 18% oppose after being informed of basic provisions. Does anyone on the planet not believe Americans don’t want lower taxes, a fairer corporate tax rate that will create more jobs and higher wages? When polls get into specifics…support goes through the roof. When you have polls that try to manipulate, push questions, you get numbers you can put in Chiron or story to manipulate public opinion, but not reflect what Americans feel.”

Except that polling only specific, popular provisions (who doesn’t want higher standard deduction), does not put the whole picture into view: the higher premiums likely to come when the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act is eliminated; the personhood provision; drilling in the Arctic National Refuge; taxing graduate school fellowships as income; eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes and significantly limiting the mortgage interest deduction, and adding more than $1 trillion to the national debt, which will trigger cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, curtail investment and infrastructure spending.

And no one has asked where the $300 billion to pay for disaster relief just from the 2017 climate catastrophes will come from, or why the Republicans have refused to reauthorize CHIP, which provides access to health care for 9 million children and pregnant mothers.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan and others have said that the tax plan – precisely because it adds more than $1 trillion to the national debt – will be followed next year by cuts to “entitlements.”

And Trump, in his tax speech in St. Louis said:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history; healthcare, phenomenal healthcare. I know you don’t want this — welfare reform. Does anybody want welfare reform? (Applause.) And infrastructure. But welfare reform — I see it and I’ve talked to people. I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform…”

See also:

Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ Is Vision of New Reality in Trump’s America Where Money is Entitlement

Republican Tax Scam: They Don’t Care 85% Oppose. Here’s Why

Republican Tax Plan is Attack on Blue States; Fight Back by Holding Money ‘in Escrow’

Ready the Revolution: GOP Tax Plan Decimates Middle-Class, Gives Rise to New American Aristocracy

Trump Selling Tax Plan in Missouri, the Show Me State: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing — believe me.

Democrats Should Shut Down Government over Republican Tax Scam

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump, Republicans’ Dickens Vision of America: Where Money is Entitlement, ‘Please Sir, I’d Like Some More’

Long Islanders protesting for the 99% against foreclosures by banks too big to fail, bailed out by taxpayers. The Republican tax scam, combined with Trump deregulation and obliteration of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, sets up an even greater Recession and foreclosures. Seniors on Long Island, facing the inability to deduct state and local taxes and the likelihood of Republican cuts to Social Security and Medicare, will be forced out of their homes. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.

Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care.  800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.

The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.

Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”

You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.

It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.

Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.

This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)

Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.

Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)

You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.

“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.

“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.

The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.

Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”

“Please sir, I’d like some more.”

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