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Los Angeles Can Re-Open Public Schools, Grades TK-6 For In-Class Instruction This Week, Say Public Health Officials - Deadline

Los Angeles Can Re-Open Public Schools, Grades TK-6 For In-Class Instruction This Week, Say Public Health Officials - Deadline


Los Angeles Can Re-Open Public Schools, Grades TK-6 For In-Class Instruction This Week, Say Public Health Officials - Deadline

Posted: 15 Feb 2021 07:52 PM PST

Late Monday evening Los Angeles County health officials announced some long-awaited good news. In a statement, they said the region had reached the required threshold of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 to allow students back into classrooms.

The issue has been a contentious one throughout the pandemic with many parents wondering why private schools were allowed to reopen and, if there had been no pattern of outbreaks at area schools, why public schools were not allowed to follow.

Teacher's unions have repeatedly expressed concern for their members, who were not among the Phase 1a group of workers prioritized by Governor Gavin Newsom. Newsom has since included them in the state's next grouping.

The governor said last week that he does not expect to have all teachers vaccinated soon — or even by the end of the school year. Newsom does, however, think schools can be reopened despite that.

"We can safely do that before every single person is vaccinated," he said.

California Department of Public Health data from January 1- February 1 confirmed 87 outbreaks in open CA schools. Of those, 42 were in primary schools, 33 in secondary and 12 in colleges. An outbreak is defined as the infection of three or more people at one time.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday that the district has done its part in comprehensively ensuring that every campus is safe, including:

-Retrofitted 80 million square feet of space of school buildings to make sure air is properly filtered

-Cleaned and sanitized every room in every school

-Provided masks and PPE

-Reconfigured classrooms and facilities to maintain social distance;

-Created a school-based COVID-19 testing and contact tracing program.

The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control released new guidelines for children in schools just last week.

Beutner also announced that the LAUSD's first school-based COVID-19 vaccination center would open Wednesday at Roybal Learning Center at 1200 Colton St. near downtown Los Angeles. Moderna vaccines will be administered by LAUSD school nurses and other licensed health care professionals.

Microsoft, Anthem and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center are joining the effort, and LAUSD's vaccination effort will use a system built with Microsoft, including registration and scheduling, tracking vaccines in stock and contact tracing.

Beutner said officials were working to open as many school-based sites as possible.

The health department's entire Monday evening statement reads as follows:

The state permits elementary schools to reopen as soon as we reach an adjusted case rate of 25 per 100,000. We are informing Los Angeles County schools tonight via an emailed letter that we expect to announce we have reached this threshold effective Tuesday, February 16.

This encouraging news means that dozens of elementary schools will be permitted to reopen for in-class instruction for students grades TK-6 as early as this week.

All schools wishing to reopen must submit plans to the County Department of Public Health and the California Department of Public Health certifying that they have implemented a full range of safety measures to permit a safe reopening.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer will release additional information Tuesday afternoon at a media briefing at 2:00 p.m. This is an encouraging milestone and we look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure safety for students, teachers and staff returning to schools.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Why personal debt looks healthy despite California’s worst year for jobs - The Mercury News

Posted: 16 Feb 2021 07:00 AM PST

On paper, the Golden State appears to have escaped 2020 without a personal debt crisis.

Despite an unprecedented 2.4 million jobs lost in the spring, Californians joined fellow Americans in paying down interest-heavy debt such as credit card bills while acquiring wealth-building loans by taking out mortgages. In California, new mortgages jumped 10% even as real estate prices soared, suggesting an unexpected resistance to the prolonged pandemic.

Economists across the country aren't seeing tell-tale signs of financial hardship in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's reports on consumer debt, in sharp contrast to the Great Recession's devastating spikes in defaulted debt, bankruptcies and foreclosures. This time, they're seeing near-record lows.

But looks can be deceiving.

The large gains of well-off Californians may cloak the experiences of suffering segments in debt records not easily broken down by race, income or geography. Plus, millions of Californians suffering job losses have accumulated crippling debt that goes uncounted in national measures: unpaid rent, utility bills, borrowed money from loved ones and, in some cases, predatory loans.

"Once the dust settles, this is going to be a story of inequality," said Matthew Harding, professor of Economics and Statistics at UC Irvine.

Economic downtowns usually trigger high levels of debt distress.

After the 2008 crisis, credit card debt spiked. So did the share of U.S. borrowers late on repayments. By late 2009, roughly 12% of American household debt was delinquent, the highest rate ever recorded.

Yet that's not happening now, despite the U.S. losing more jobs in 2020 than were lost throughout the Great Recession.

Just 3.4% of Americans' personal debt was delinquent by late September. California, one of the states hit hardest by Great Recession delinquencies, now has among the lowest rates, according to an interview with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

In another twist, U.S. credit card debt — considered an unhealthy form of debt because it doesn't build wealth — dropped by $76 billion last spring, the steepest decline in the feds' data.

That's a sign Americans are spending less due to travel restrictions, business closures and lost income. It's also due to active debt repayments. About half of Californians who received the latest round of stimulus checks reported mostly using them to pay off outstanding debt, according to January Census Bureau surveys.

How could a disease dubbed the "inequality virus" not generate alarming signs of household debt?

It may just be on hold. Federal cash infusions helped many pull through the year. California lawmakers barred evictions through June and Newsom banned water and electricity shutoffs during the pandemic.

"If the protections were extended permanently, then the data would align with reality," said Taylor Nelms, senior director of research at Filene Research Institute, a nationwide think tank working with hundreds of credit unions.

An estimated 1.6 million California households are late on water payments. Estimates for the number late on rent range from 90,000 to 700,000.

Another reason why debt levels appear deceptively healthy is deepening inequality.

"When we worry about the averages, we miss a lot," said Harding of UC Irvine.

For example, people with credit scores above 760, who tend to make more money, account for 85% of the national boom in new mortgage debt, while the mortgage balance among borrowers with scores below 620 declined.

For the mostly immigrant clients of the Mission Economic Development Agency, this is "probably the largest wealth stripping event of our lifetime," said Ernesto Martinez, director of the nonprofit's asset-building programs like financial coaching and job training. His team now scrambles to help clients hold on to "whatever little wealth" they had saved.

The federal reserve's data also fails to measure some of the most distressing forms of debt, often affecting those who have gone months without assistance because they're undocumented or had unemployment benefits frozen or delayed.

It doesn't include mounting utilities and rental debt, nor the 14% of Californians who told the Census Bureau they borrowed money from loved ones in January.

It excludes people who turn to predatory financial services because they have limited or poor credit history.

San Diego, CA. February 6, 2021 —The pandemic wiped out Erica Wood's business, and she took out a title loan on her car to stay afloat. Her dog Lucy keeps her calm.(Photo by Peggy Peattie for CalMatters) 

Until recently, Erica Wood of San Diego had mostly dealt in cash, leaving the 44-year-old pharmacology researcher-turned-small-business-owner with little credit history.

The pandemic wiped out Wood's booming mobile piercing business. Late on May's rent, she turned to an online loan agency to take out a $4,000 title loan at a 400.87% annual interest rate, with her 2015 Lincoln MKZ as collateral. The pandemic's end still seemed near; Wood figured she'd pay back the loan soon.

But the interest grew faster than she could repay it. Wood cashed out her 401K, refinanced the loan, sold stocks and a prized classic truck. Two months late on repaying the title loan, she still owes about $4,300.

Though Wood's financial crisis doesn't show up in national debt statistics, her boyfriend's relative success might soon. An electrician, his annual income increased from about $55,000 to over $80,000, as business boomed.

"He wants to buy a house now because the mortgage rates are so great," Wood said. "But I'm freaking out."

This article is part of the California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.

Highlights of COVID-19 relief bill progressing in House - Long Island Business News

Posted: 16 Feb 2021 12:55 PM PST

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Democratic-led effort to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package has passed its latest challenge with House committees advancing measures that will soon be combined into a single bill expected to clear the full House by the end of February.

Democrats beat back hundreds of amendments from Republicans who have raised concerns that the spending is vastly more than necessary and designed to advance policy priorities that go beyond helping Americans get through the pandemic. Democrats and President Joe Biden counter that a robust aid package is necessary to prevent a long and painful recovery from the pandemic.

Their goal is to have COVID-19 relief approved by mid-March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires.

A look at some highlights of the legislation moving through the House:

MORE CHECKS

The legislation provides a rebate that amounts to $1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $2,800 for a married couple that files jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent. Individuals earning up to $75,000 would get the full amount as would married couples with incomes up to $150,000.

The size of the check would shrink for those making slightly more with a hard cut-off at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married couples.

Some Republicans want to cut the size of the rebate as well as the pool of Americans eligible for it, but Biden has insisted on $1,400 checks, saying "that's what the American people were promised." The new round of checks will cost the government an estimated $422 billion.

BIGGER TAX BREAK FOR HOUSEHOLDS WITH KIDS

Under current law, most taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax bill by up to $2,000 per child. The package moving through the House would increase the tax break to $3,000 for every child age 6 to 17 and $3,600 for every child under the age of 6.

The legislation also calls for the payments to be delivered monthly instead of in one lump sum. If the secretary of the Treasury determines that isn't feasible, then the payments are to be made as frequently as possible.

Also, families would get the full credit regardless of how little they make in a year, even just a few hundred dollars, leading to criticism that the changes would serve as a disincentive to work. Add in the $1,400 per individual checks and other items in the proposal, and the legislation would reduce the number of children living in poverty by more than half, according to an analysis from the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University.

AID TO STATES AND CITIES

The legislation would send $350 billion to state and local governments and tribal governments. While Republicans in Congress have largely objected to this initiative, Biden's push has some GOP support among governors and mayors.

Many communities have taken hits to their tax base as millions of people have lost their jobs and as people stay home and avoid restaurants and stores to prevent getting COVID-19. Many areas have also seen expenses rise as they work to treat the sick and ramp up vaccinations.

But the impact varies from state to state and from town to town. Critics say the funding is not appropriately targeted and is far more than necessary with billions of dollars allocated last spring to states and communities still unspent.

AID TO SCHOOLS

The bill calls for $130 billion in additional help to schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The money would be used to reduce class sizes and modify classrooms to enhance social distancing, install ventilation systems and purchase personal protective equipment. The money could also be used to increase the hiring of nurses, counselors and to provide summer school.

Spending for colleges and universities would be boosted by $40 billion, with the money used to defray an institution's pandemic-related expenses and to provide emergency aid to students to cover expenses such as food and housing and computer equipment.

AID TO BUSINESSES

The bill provides another round of relief for airlines and eligible contractors, $15 billion, so long as they refrain from furloughing workers or cutting pay through September. It's the third round of support for airlines.

A new program for restaurants and bars hurt by the pandemic would receive $25 billion. The grants provide up to $10 million per entity with a limit of $5 million per physical location. The grants can be used to cover payroll, rent, utilities and other operational expenses.

The bill also provides another $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a tiny fraction of what was allocated in previous legislation. The loans are designed to help borrowers meet their payroll and operating costs and can potentially be forgiven.

AID TO THE UNEMPLOYED

Expanded unemployment benefits from the federal government would be extended, with an increase from $300 a week to $400 a week. That's on top of what beneficiaries are getting through their state unemployment insurance program.

RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE

The bill would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by June 2025 and then adjust it to increase at the same rate as median hourly wages.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected several positives and negatives that would occur if the minimum wage hike makes it over the finish line. On the plus side, about 900,000 people would be lifted out of poverty once the $15 hourly wage is fully in place. Some 17 million people making below the new minimum wage would see a pay raise. On the negative, about 1.4 million jobs would be lost as employers look for ways to offset their higher personnel costs.

It's unclear if the wage hike will make it through the Senate due to opposition among a handful of Democrats and possible procedural hurdles.

Big West Tournament being held at Las Vegas fight venue seems appropriate - OCRegister

Posted: 16 Feb 2021 02:11 PM PST

The Big West Conference postseason basketball tournaments will be played at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas next month, a venue that feels more appropriate with each passing week. The arena that has hosted so many memorable championship boxing events will showcase a men's tournament on March 9-13 that figures to be a knockdown, drag-out fight.

UC Santa Barbara currently sits atop the standings at 8-2, but the Gauchos were swept by UC Irvine to open conference play and have not yet played Cal State Bakersfield or UC Riverside.

Two-time defending regular-season champion UC Irvine is in second place at 7-3, Bakersfield is next at 8-4 and UCR is 5-3 after a two-game split with UCI last weekend.

Furthermore, this is indeed a season in which it seems just about any team has the ability to rise up and win three games in three days (seeds 7-10 would need to win four games in five days in the new format).

UCI head coach Russ Turner agrees the tournament title and the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament that comes with it is up for grabs.

"Yeah, I think there's a bunch of teams that all believe they have a chance to win and do," he said. "Like conference tournaments always are, you're going to have to be playing well, you're going to have to get some lucky breaks and you're going to have to do it over the course of several days to win."

Turner believes it would be ill-advised for his or any of the teams near the top of the standings to think the teams further down the table don't have what it takes to cut down the nets.

"Yeah, I think trying to talk about four teams would be a mistake," Turner said. "UC Davis should have beaten Santa Barbara in the game they lost in overtime (89-86 on Jan. 30), Long Beach State did beat Bakersfield (90-89 on Jan. 1) and obviously is a talented team that's had nothing but bad breaks relative to COVID-19 this year."

Turner went on to note that Hawaii (7-7, 5-7) split with his team, went to overtime with UCSB once and also split with UC Riverside.

"So to try to suggest that there's clarity on where any of the teams stand, I think is probably incorrect," Turner said. "I know that we can beat all of them and I also know that all of them can probably beat us."

UCR coach Mike Magpayo suggested it's especially difficult to get a gauge on this season's tournament participants because of the pandemic. His team's two-game series against Cal State Fullerton (5-6, 4-6), Long Beach State (3-7, 2-4) and UC Davis (6-6, 3-3) were all canceled and won't be rescheduled, so those teams are a bit of a mystery to the Highlanders as Magpayo's team is to them.

Moreover, he noted that except for his team's early-season pause, none of the top four teams in the standings have had to pause their programs because of positive COVID-19 tests. This, too, has figured into the overall equation.

"The top four teams haven't had pauses, except for us. We had one in December," Magpayo said. "I think that's been a huge factor for teams. We came out of the pause playing Hawaii and it did take us some time to get our feet under us.

"That's a huge part of it. These next three, four weeks, you don't want a pause. If you pause, you're kind of (at a disadvantage)."

Some teams have four conference games remaining, some have six. UCR plays at UC San Diego this Friday and Saturday, but conference newcomer UCSD won't be eligible to play for the conference title until 2025, so games against the Tritons don't count in the conference standings.

BIG-GAME COLLIN WELP

UC Riverside won Friday's game over UCI, 86-65, with the Highlanders shooting 52.5% from the field, including a 53.8% mark from 3-point range (14 for 26). The Anteaters won Saturday's rematch, 73-67, with junior forward Collin Welp having a tremendous game with 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting and 13 rebounds.

"Yeah, he was outstanding," Turner said. "Not just as an offensive player, not just as a rebounder, but I thought his defense was excellent, I thought his leadership was excellent and I thought the tone that he set for our team was really competitive."

THIS AND THAT

The Long Beach State women suffered their first conference losses of the season on Friday and Saturday when UC Davis came into the Walter Pyramid and handed them decisive defeats of 67-52 and 67-50, respectively. Long Beach (11-3, 10-2) is now in second place in the conference behind UC Davis (7-1, 6-0) with UC Irvine (9-6, 7-2) in third. LBSU is scheduled to face Cal Poly (9-7, 5-5) on Friday and Saturday in San Luis Obispo. Tip-off is 2 p.m. for both games. … The UC Irvine women will play host to Cal State Fullerton on Friday and Saturday with both games starting at 4 p.m. Anteaters freshman point guard Kayla Williams is third in the conference in scoring (16 ppg). … Senior guard Keilanei Cooper of UC Riverside (7-7, 5-5) is fourth in scoring (15.6 ppg).

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