Second stimulus check: news summary for 16 January

Stimulus checks: live updates

Headlines

- US President-elect Joe Biden outlines new stimulus proposal including additional $1,400 stimulus check payments (full report)

- Biden on his American Rescue Plan: “There is real pain overwhelming the real economy.”

- Donald Trump impeached for 'inciting' US Capitol riot in historic second charge

- Federal unemployment benefits increased to $400 and extended until September

- Federal minimum wage would increase to $15 per hour under new proposal

- Rehearsal for Biden's inauguration postponed due to security concerns

- Sen. Bernie Sanders named new Chairman of Senate Budget Committee, giving greater influence over federal spending

- National Guard mobilises across US ahead on Inauguration Day

Further reading:

Joe B

Biden plans 'roughly a dozen' Day One executive actions -aide

US President-elect Joe Biden will cap a busy day of inauguration pageantry by using the powers of his new office to push policy changes on housing, student loans, climate change and immigration, a top aide said.

Biden, who campaigned on a raft of promises to undo President Donald Trump’s legacy even before the novel coronavirus pandemic walloped the nation, will unveil “roughly a dozen” previously promised executive actions on Wednesday,

incoming Biden chief of staff Ron Klain said in a memo distributed to reporters.

The actions to be taken on Wednesday include rejoining the Paris climate accords, reversing a travel ban on several majority Muslim countries, extending a pause on federal student loan payments, halting evictions and foreclosures, as well as mandating masks in inter-state travel and on federal property.

All of the measures were previously announced. Most of the measures are a reversal of policies Trump pursued and do not require congressional action. But Biden will also unveil a long-expected immigration proposal that would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants that does require congressional action.

vaccine

US vaccine supplies strain to meet wider eligibility, second doses

Scattered shortages of covid-19 vaccines persisted this weekend under pressure from growing demand, as previously inoculated Americans returned for their required second shots and millions of newly eligible people scrambled to get their first.

The supply gaps, coming as the US vaccination effort enters its second month, prompted some healthcare systems to suspend appointments for first-time vaccine seekers and one New York healthcare system to cancel a slew of existing ones.

"As eligibility increases, you just increase demand, but we're not able to increase supply," Northwell Health spokesman Joe Kemp told Reuters by telephone.

Northwell, New York's largest healthcare provider, offers appointments only as it gets more vaccine, and only after allocating doses to people scheduled for their second shots, Kemp said.

A country on alert

With reports of possible "armed protests" between 16 and 20 January in all 50 states and DC, authorities have beefed up security measures around the nation. In Washington DC a "Green Zone" and  "Red Zone" have been established to limit access to the President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. 

A path to citizenship 

Immigration has been a thorny issue to tackle with everyone agreeing that something needs to be done to fix the system. As part of the legislation President-elect Joe Biden will introduce on his first day in office is a plan to create a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States.

Long term impact of covid-19 

Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall has treated thousands of covid-19 patients since the onset of the pandemic. The X-rays from her patients show heavy lung scarring, even the vast majority of those who were asymptomatic, worse than a smoker’s lung. She says that the long-term damage the disease causes to the lungs far outweighs any worries of the long-term impact of the vaccine.  

The health consequences from the covid-19 pandemic will be felt for years after the pandemic with the disease possibly becoming a pre-existing condition. President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his American Rescue Plan on Thursday with a provision to increase subsidies that could significantly increase enrollment in Obamacare which protects the right to healthcare despite pre-existing conditions. 

Historic swearing-in 

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, will swear in Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman vice president and the first Black American and the first South Asian American to hold the office.

Girl Scouts want out of Trump Tower 

Since the insurrection at the Capitol building last week businesses have been distancing themselves from President Trump and his affiliated businesses. In the latest example the New York City chapter of the Girl Scouts organization wants to end its current lease contract at Trump Building on Wall Street. The group still has eight years left on their contract and may not find it so easy to cancel the lease early. 

Third stimulus payment coming?

President-elect Joe Biden presented his American Rescue Plan on Thursday which includes a new round of direct payments to top up the $600 payments to $2000.

Biden unveils "Day One" executive actions

Biden unveils "Day One" executive actions

AP: In his first hours as president, Joe Biden plans to take executive action to roll back some of the most controversial decisions of his predecessor and to address the raging coronavirus pandemic, his incoming chief of staff said Saturday.

The opening salvo would herald a 10-day blitz of executive actions as Biden seeks to act swiftly to redirect the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency without waiting for Congress.

On Wednesday, following his inauguration, Biden will end Trump’s restriction on immigration to the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel.

Those are among roughly a dozen actions Biden will take on his first day in the White House, his incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, said in a memo to senior staff.

Other actions include extending the pause on student loan payments and actions meant to prevent evictions and foreclosures for those struggling during the pandemic.

IRS to begin processing 2020 tax return 12 Feb.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced in a statement Friday that they would begin accepting and processing 2020 tax returns on Friday, February 12.

The agency hopes the late start time for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to carry out additional programming and testing of IRS systems following tax law changes in December which resulted in the second round of covid-19 stimulus checks.

They say the programming work is to ensure their systems run smoothly and that opening filing season without proper programming in place could lead to delays in getting refunds sent out.

In order to speed refunds during the pandemic, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need.

Tech giants teaming up to create covid-19 vaccine "passports"

With coronavirus vaccines now rolling out across the United States, businesses and schools are considering how, and what it will take, to safely resume in-person operations.

Some of the country's biggest tech firms and health care organisations have joined together to help facilitate that return to "normal." The group, called the Vaccine Credential Initiative, wants to ensure that everyone has access to a secure, digital record of their covid-19 vaccination — like a digital vaccine passport — that can be stored in people's smartphones.

The records could be used for everything from airline travel to entering concert venues.

 

The coalition comprises a broad range of health care and tech leaders including Microsoft (MSFT), Salesforce (CRM), Oracle (ORCL), Cerner (CERN), Cigna's (CI) Evernorth, health care software firm Epic and the Mayo Clinic, among others.

The announcement Thursday comes amid a rocky start to the covid-19 vaccine rollout. Of the 30.6 million doses of vaccines that have been distributed to US hospitals, health centers and pharmacies, only about 10.6 million people had received at least their first dose as of Friday morning, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Joe Biden emphasises administration's grounding in science

As covid-19 survival / stimulus checks become a reality, and a new strain of the coronavirus continues to ravage the US and stump researchers, Joe Biden today held a virtual presentation introducing members of his new science team.

Alabama Senator: Joe Biden inauguration should be delayed until covid-19 over

Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has suggested delaying the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden until the covid-19 pandemic is under better control—a move that would violate the U.S. Constitution.

Tuberville told CBS42 on Wednesday that he wasn't in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump, pointing to how little time he had left in office. The interview took place before the House formally impeached the president.

"Well, we have the worst pandemic in my lifetime, and we're worrying about impeaching a guy that only going to be there seven more days. Makes no sense to me," Tuberville said.

CEO of Parler has gone into hiding

Shockwaves of violence online are still being felt following the storming of the Capitol 10 days ago, and as Trump packs his bags to leave the White House leaving Joe Biden to pursue his agenda on stimulus checks and much more.

The chief executive officer of Parler LLC says he’s gone into hiding after receiving death threats, according to Bloomberg.

John Matze Jr.’s social media platform was briefly the new home to conservative supporters of Donald Trump who flocked to it after Twitter banned the president. But Parler went dark Sunday after Apple Inc. and Google removed it from their their app stores and Amazon.com Inc. pulled the plug on its web-hosting service, citing violent content that the e-commerce giant says played into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Health care plans included in Biden Stimulus "America Rescue Plan"

Tucked into President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan is a one-sentence provision that could drive billions in federal subsidies to help people afford to buy health insurance.

The proposal would do two things: make upper-middle-income Americans newly eligible for premium subsidies on Obamacare marketplaces, and increase the financial help that already goes to lower-income enrollees.

Taken together, some experts expect these changes to drive more sign-ups for Healthcare.gov plans after they fell in the Trump era.

The New York Times comment that the move, tackling the affordability problem inherent in the Affordable Care Act, reveals that Biden and his new Democratic-majority Congress are serious about their healthcare reform promises.

Global child mortality down in 2020: but why?

Time reports that experts are trying to find out. Since the global pandemic began, one of the grimmer features of daily life has been watching the coronavirus death count tick up and up as the months have gone by. With so much unnecessary death in 2020, it’s surprising that in many countries, at least according to preliminary numbers, there was one significant group that actually saw its death rates fall: children.

Biden defends why those who kept jobs during pandemic receive stimulus

President-elect Joe Biden made a case for sending stimulus payments to all Americans who are eligible – including those who have kept their jobs through the coronavirus pandemic, say CNBC.

One of the biggest arguments against the proposed total $2,000 stimulus payments is that they aren’t concentrated enough – some argue that money should be focused more on those who need it most, including the unemployed.

In a speech Thursday night detailing his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the president-elect said sending the payments to all eligible Americans, even those that are still employed, is important in boosting a U.S. economy that’s been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chase

Large US banks reported on 15 January 2021, a mixed fourth quarter to conclude a turbulent year, but expressed optimism about 2021 thanks to the coronavirus vaccine and additional fiscal stimulus.

JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo all modestly lowered their reserves set aside earlier in the pandemic when coronavirus shutdowns prompted the banks to establish huge provisions in case of a wave of defaults due to a much sharper economic downturn.

(Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

"$2,000 means $2,000"

"$2,000 does not mean $1,400"

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. to the Washington Post

Stimulus effect

As investor Jonathan Tepper points out, the effect of the stimulus checks could well have been part of the small trader call buying exceeding 9% of total NYSE volume last week, for the first time.

Philanthropy via stimulus

Talking of charitable gestures...

As well as being a federal holiday, Martin Luther King Day is also known as a day of service when Americans are encouraged to volunteer with charitable organisations to help their communities.

In King’s honour the third Monday in January is “a day on, not a day off” and millions carry out philanthropic acts in King’s memory.

Read more about the upcoming holiday and why your new check could come in handy:

Don't need your stimulus? Here's an idea

On the back of the previous post, this story coming out of West Virginia seems rather pertinent.

In a time when so many are struggling, one man has taken it upon himself to pass along an incredible act of charity. Shannon Harshbarger donated both of his stimulus checks to a food bank that has created 25,700 meals for people in need.

Checks and balances

Despite plenty of support from across the nation on the checks that have been issued and the additonal ones to come, some people are not happy with the across-the-board approach.

In his tweet earlier, Matt suggests a much-more targeted approach should be taken to aid those who are truly struggling financially through this pandemic.

Others have argued that even those who don't need the money to survive will likely spend their extra payments on goods and services, thus helping the economy as a whole.

Biden's $1,400 stimulus check & American Rescue Plan

President-elect Joe Biden has now unveiled the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus economic-aid proposal that includes a $1,400 stimulus check.

Read more:

Republicans opposing Biden's $1.9 trillion economic rescue package

Congressional Republicans have balked at Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion relief package, arguing that it is wasteful and could cause more damage than good to the economy. Several Republicans are also against plans to more than double the current federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"A $15 minimum wage is a nonstarter for most Republicans even during a growing economy," Brian Riedl, a conservative budget expert at the Manhattan Institute, told Business Insider. "Republicans would have a hard time doing that even for President Trump, and there's no real incentive to give a $15 wage to a President Biden".

Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush pushing for $2,000 check

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) says Dems should pass $2,000 ON TOP OF the $600 from December, rather than add $1,400 to get $600 to $2,000. She told the Washington Post this weekend, "$2,000 means $2,000. $2,000 does not mean $1,400".

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) tweeted yesterday: "$1,400 ≠ $2,000".

Seven out of 10 think Trump was partly responsible for Capitol riot

Nine in 10 Americans oppose the 6 January attack on the US Capitol, seven in 10 think that Donald Trump was partly responsible for it and a majority in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll – 56% – favors efforts in Congress to bar him from holding elected office ever again.

Fifty-four percent in the national survey also believe that Trump should be charged criminally with inciting a riot for having encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol. And even more, 66%, say he has behaved irresponsibly, more broadly, in his statements and actions since the election.

EIP Cards will arrive in a white envelope with US Treasury seal

Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Cards are being sent in a white envelope that prominently displays the US Department of the Treasury logo with red text: "Not a bill or an advertisement. Important information about your Economic Impact Payment". The EIP Card bears the VISA brand name in the top right-hand corner and the issuing bank name, MetaBank on the reverse.

Biden names Lander as Office of Science and Technology Policy chief

US president-elect Joe Biden has chosen decorated geneticist Eric Lander as presidential science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). In what would be a first for this position, if Lander is confirmed by the US Senate, he will serve as a member of Biden’s cabinet.

Lawmakers involved in Capitol attack could be prosecuted - Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned that lawmakers who were involved in last week's attack on the US Capitol storming could be prosecuted if they are found to have “aided and abetted” the violent attack in which five people died. “Justice is called for as we address insurrection perpetrated against the Capitol last week,” Pelosi said. “If it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution for that.”

Covid-19 immunity could last five months, study finds

Patients who have recovered from Covid-19 infection could remain immune for at least five months, but those with immunity may still be able carry the virus in their nose and throat and therefore have a risk of transmitting it to others, according to a recent study by Public Health England (PHE). The SIREN study found that antibodies from past infection provide 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months which means that those who contracted the disease during the first wave may now be vulnerable to catching it again. 

PHE’s SIREN (SARS-CoV-2 Immunity and Reinfection EvaluatioN) study has performed regular antibody and PCR testing on 20,787 healthcare workers, including frontline clinical staff and those in non-clinical roles, from 102 NHS trusts since the study commenced in June. 6,614 of these participants tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies upon recruitment.

Pelosi cheers Biden-Harris vaccine plan

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the Biden-Harris vaccine plan which she says is a step in the right direction following the Trump administration's "disastrous vaccine distribution failure".

In a press release, Pelosi said: “The Biden-Harris Administration’s plan takes a giant leap forward to take our nation from vaccine to vaccination, so that we can crush the coronavirus – and do so in an equitable, effective way.  With this plan, President-elect Biden is sending a powerful message to the American people: Help Is On the Way.

“The Biden-Harris vaccine plan is a 180-degree reversal from the disastrous vaccine distribution failure of the Trump Administration.  Instead of the Trump Administration’s abandoning of state and local governments, the Biden plan works hand-in-hand with our partners to immediately stop the accelerating spread of the virus, including by:

Getting more people vaccinated: encouraging states to allow more people to be vaccinated including individuals 65 and older as well as frontline workers and ensuring equity throughout the vaccination process to reach those in hard-to-reach, marginalized communities.

Creating more vaccination sites: creating new federally-supported community vaccination centers, fully reimbursing state deployment of the National Guard to support vaccination, launching mobile vaccination clinics and partnerships to reach under-served and high-risk communities, and making vaccines available in pharmacies.

Increasing supply and distribution: ensuring a robust vaccine supply and spur manufacturing, providing actionable data on vaccine allocation timelines and delivery, and increasing vaccine availability while maintaining a commitment to the two-dose schedule.

Mobilizing more personnel to get shots in arms: surging the public health workforce to support the vaccination effort and mobilizing public health jobs program to support COVID-19 response, all in a culturally competent way.

Ensuring that the American people have the information and confidence to get vaccinated: launching a federally led and locally focused public education campaign.

“The Democratic House stands ready to work with the Biden-Harris Administration to immediately launch this plan.  As the vaccine is being made widely available, we must work to crush the virus with the testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing and social distancing that are essential to preventing tens of thousands of needless deaths in the coming months.”

IRS warn of stimulus payment scams

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not contact individuals by sending a text message asking for bank account details in order to make an Economic Impact Payment deposit..

Police recall being attacked by pro-Trump mob at Capitol storming

Washington D.C. police officer Michael Fanone recalled being shot by a stun gun  and thrashed with metal pipes by pro-Trump supporters in the US Capitol hallway which he was guarding when it was attacked on 6 January. Rioters stripped him of  his radio, police badge and ammunition and one shouted, “Kill him with his own gun.” Fanone told CNN, “At that point, it was just self-preservation - I was thinking, how do I survive this situation? A lot of people have asked me my thoughts on the individuals in the crowd that tried to offer some assistance. I say, ‘Thank you ― but f*** you for being there".

Azar tells Trump Capitol attack could tarnish legacy

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told President Donald Trump in a letter this week that the attack on the Capitol could tarnish the legacy of the administration.

In the letter, dated 12 January, Azar cited what he called the administration's successes, including the rapid development of coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics, which he said saved 'hundreds of thousands or even millions of American lives.'

But, Azar, who will remain on the job until President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on 20 January, voiced concern that last week's mob siege of the Capitol building and Trump's unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud 'threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this administration.' 'The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power,' Azar wrote in his formal resignation letter.

Hello and welcome 

​​​​​​Hello and welcome as we begin our live blog this Saturday morning, 16 January. We'll be bringing you all the latest news and reaction from the US related to the coronavirus, politics, Joe Biden's inauguration and stimulus checks throughout the day.

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