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Congress approves a COVID relief bill of $900B sent to Trump

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Congress approves a COVID relief bill of $900B sent to Trump

Congress approved a $900 billion pandemic relief plan that would potentially provide corporations and individuals with long-sought cash and money to vaccinate a nation facing a frightening surge in cases and deaths from COVID-19.

As Capitol Hill prepared to close the books on the year, lawmakers addressed a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a huge package of bipartisan legislation. Monday night’s accepted bill went to President Donald Trump for his signature, which was supposed to take place in the coming days.

In a matter of hours, the relief bill, introduced on Monday afternoon, raced through the House and Senate. After the House approved the COVID-19 package by yet another lopsided vote, 359-53, the Senate cleared the huge package by a 92-6 vote. As lawmakers wrangled over the relief issue, the tallies were a bipartisan coda to months of partisanship and politicking, a logjam that split after President-elect Joe Biden urged his party to embrace a compromise with top Republicans that is smaller than many Democrats would have preferred.

The bill blends coronavirus-fighting grants for individuals and companies with financial relief. It will create a temporary additional jobless gain of $300 per week and a direct stimulus payment of $600 to most Americans, along with a new round of incentives for hard-hit firms, restaurants, and theaters, and money for schools, health care facilities, and eviction-facing tenants.

After months of battle, posturing, and post-election talks on Sunday, the 5,593-page law, by far the longest bill ever, came together, reining in a variety of Democratic demands as the end of the congressional session approached. Even if it was less than half the scale that Democrats expected in the fall, Biden was ready for a compromise to provide long-awaited relief to suffering people and a boost to the economy.

“Said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., a long-standing voice in the party’s old-school liberal wing, “This deal is not all I want, not by a long shot. “Before us, the choice is easy. It is about whether or not we are supporting families. It’s about whether or not we support small companies and restaurants. It’s about whether or not we raise (food stamp) incentives and improve anti-hunger programs. And whether or not we support those coping with work losses. This is not, to me, a difficult decision.

A one-week stopgap spending measure was also passed by Congress to avert a partial midnight government shutdown and allow Trump time to sign the sweeping legislation.

On CNBC Monday morning, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key negotiator, said direct payments will begin arriving in bank accounts next week.

When Biden took office, Democrats promised more assistance to come, but Republicans signaled a wait-and-see approach.

Via September, the measure will finance the government, wrapping up a year’s worth of action on annual spending bills into a single package that has never seen debate on the Senate committee or floor.

A tortured road accompanied the legislation. Until Election Day, Democrats played hardball, despite allegations that they tried to deny Trump a win that would help him prevail. Democrats denied that but after Trump’s defeat, their demands actually became more realistic, and as Biden made it clear that half a loaf was better than zero.

The final bill had ample similarity to a $1 trillion package put together in July by Republican senate leaders, a plan that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., scoffed at the time as way too little.

After blocking even more ambitious bills from hitting the Senate floor, majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took a victory lap. He said Biden’s realistic approach was important.

“McConnell told The Associated Press, “The president-elect saying we ought to do something now was helpful in pushing both Pelosi and Schumer into a better position. “Let’s take a peek at my impression of what’s next. Happy to decide that based on the needs we face in February and March.

Elected Vice President Kamala Harris, D-Calif., came to the Senate to cast her bill vote. She said, “The people of America need relief and I want to be able to do what I can to help them.”

The bill offers $600 for direct payments to people earning up to $75,000 annually and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000, with payments phased out for higher incomes. Similar to the last round of relief payments in the spring, an additional $600 payment will be made per dependent child.

“I expect that by the beginning of next week we will get the money out—$2,400 for a family of four,” Mnuchin said. “So much needed relief for the holidays just in time.”

Half the supplementary federal unemployment benefit given under the $1.8 billion CARES Act in March was the $300 a week incentive jobless benefit. That gain would be more generous and would be limited to 11 weeks rather than 16 weeks. Half the March payment was also the direct $600 stimulus payment.

During widespread lockdowns in the spring, the CARES Act was credited with preventing the economy from falling off a cliff, but Republicans running the Senate cited debt issues in pressing against Democratic demands.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a lifelong New Yorker who pushed hard for funding to support his city’s transportation systems, homeowners, theaters, and restaurants, said, “Whoever thinks this bill is enough has not heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of the small-business owner on the brink of ruin.”

Progress came after a bipartisan coalition of pragmatists and progressives formulated a $908 billion package that established a middle-ground position that was used as the basis for their negotiations by the top four Congressional leaders, the GOP and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate. On both sides, the legislators advised leaders to pull out of hardline positions.

“Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich, said: “At times we felt like we were in the woods because people on both sides of the aisle did not want to sacrifice in order to give the other side a victory. “And it was gross, frankly, to watch.”

With $284 billion, Republicans were most focused on reviving the Paycheck Insurance Program, which would fund the second round of PPP grants to extremely hard-hit firms. Set-asides for low-income and minority groups are won by Democrats.

$25 billion in rental aid, $15 billion for theaters and other live venues, $82 billion for local schools, colleges, and universities, and $10 billion for childcare are all included in the sweeping bill.

Six GOP senators voted against the bill: Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn, Texas’s Ted Cruz, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Florida’s Rick Scott, Utah’s Mike Lee, and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson.

As a condition of obtaining his signature, the governmentwide spending bill was likely to include a final $1.4 billion installment for Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. 696 billion dollars will be raised by the Pentagon. In an attempt to use bookkeeping maneuvers to squeeze $12.5 billion more for domestic services into the law, Democrats and Senate Republicans won.

The bill was an engine for much of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business, including a nearly 400-page water resource bill promising $10 billion for 46 flood control, environmental and coastal conservation programs by the Army Corps of Engineers. Another addition will be to prolong a batch of tax cuts that would soon expire, such as one for craft brewers, wineries, and distillers.

It would also carry several clean-energy provisions pursued by Democrats with Republican-favoured fossil fuel subsidies, $7 billion to expand internet access, $4 billion to help other nations vaccinate their citizens, $14 billion for cash-starved transportation networks, $1 billion for Amtrak, and $2 billion for airports and dealerships. The benefits of food stamps will be temporarily raised by 15 percent.

The previous record for the length of legislation was the 2,847-page tax reform bill of 1986, about half the size of Monday’s behemoth, the Senate Historical Office said.

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Missouri pro sports teams hope for deal on legalized gambling bill in 2022

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Missouri pro sports teams hope for deal on legalized gambling bill in 2022

ST. LOUIS- Professional sports teams in the state of Missouri, including the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis CITY SC are hopeful that legislation to legalize sports gambling in the state will get over the finish line in 2022, potentially negating the need to put a proposition before voters.

Our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report that Bill DeWitt III, along with representatives of other pro sports teams and their lobbyists were on hand in Jefferson City Wednesday, pressing their case for legislation that would add Missouri to the list of more than 30 states which have legalized gambling on sports in some form or another since 2018. Illinois joined the ranks in 2020.

The gambling industry publication Sportshandle.com reports that six pro sports franchises in the state have come to an agreement Wednesday to back legislation “that would allow for statewide mobile wagering tethered to existing gaming locations.” It was described as the first time that pro sports teams and gaming companies would be in “lockstep” to support the passage of a bill.

“All of the professional sports teams in Missouri support legislation that will allow wagering to occur in a responsible way in the appropriate setting,” DeWitt told the Post-Dispatch Thursday.

Previous efforts to legalize gambling on professional sports in Missouri have stalled in part because of the fight and proliferation of illegal gambling machines at convenience stores and gas stations across the state. “We have casinos in Missouri we have a lottery in Missouri but those are highly regulated endeavors these new black market gambling machines, so-called no chance or pre-reveal machines are illegal under Missouri law and we need to stop their proliferation,” Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said when machines found there were destroyed last fall.

A state lawmaker told FOX2 back in 2018 that the fight over regulating the machines was potentially a $90 million fight over money that could end up funding education in the state.

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Frigid morning ties season’s coldest temp, deep cold holds into Friday

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Frigid morning ties season’s coldest temp, deep cold holds into Friday

St. Louis Weather:

ST. LOUIS – As the St. Louis region awoke Thursday morning, temperatures were in the single digits. The official morning low temperature, which comes from Lambert Airport was 7, which ties the mark for coldest of the season. We also hit 7 back on Jan 7, 2022.

Morning low temperatures experienced on January 20, 2022

But it wasn’t just the thermometer reading. Northwest winds of 10 to 15 mph made it feel like the temperature was between -5 to -10 degrees.

Think this morning was cold? It could be even colder. The record low for January 20 is a full 25 degrees colder, -18 set in 1985.

Sunny skies but cold on Thursday with highs in the mid to upper teens. Temperatures overnight may be colder, forecasted Friday wake-up temperatures are around 6, but winds will be lighter, meaning the wind chill won’t be as cold. Winds swing to the south on Friday, and we’ll see temperature climb close to 30 in the afternoon.

1642725620 543 Frigid morning ties seasons coldest temp deep cold holds into
Forecast for early Friday (1/21/22) morning temperatures: Posted Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022

AAA is reminding drivers that bitter cold mornings like these also lead to crimes of opportunity in driveways and parking lots. Thieves often look for the exhaust of unattended vehicles that owners are warming up. Thieves can be off with your car in a matter of seconds. 

AAA recommends the following tips to avoid becoming an auto theft victim:

  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.
  • Start the engine and allow it to idle only for the time it takes you to fasten your seat belt. This ensures that lubricating oil gets to all of the engine’s vital parts. Driving the car normally and avoiding hard acceleration brings the engine to a warmer temperature faster, and also reduces wear and exhaust emissions.
  • Use anti-theft or automatic tracking devices. If your vehicle wasn’t equipped with an alarm or hidden tracking device when purchased, have one installed.
  • Never leave your keys in your vehicle, even at a gas station or at home.

As the temperatures drop, St. Louis County Warming Shelter Services are open. They are being provided at Salvation Army Family Haven at 10740 Page. Those in need of the services can call #211 or the Salvation Army directly at 314-423-7770.

Heat-Up St. Louis, Inc., is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity that focuses on helping area elderly and disabled people, and low-income families, with their delinquent heating bills in Missouri and Illinois in the St. Louis region. If you need help or would like to aid their cause, please visit heatupstlouis.org.

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Steep drop in Illinois COVID cases, hospitalizations but deaths remain high, data shows

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Steep drop in Illinois COVID cases, hospitalizations but deaths remain high, data shows

Illinois continues to see significant declines in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and the positivity rate.  In fact, more than 1,100 fewer people are hospitalized with COVID than were just one week ago.  

Thursday’s COVID numbers continue to show the omicron variant-fueled surge in Illinois is in retreat.  For the first time in weeks, no region in the Chicago-area is reporting fewer than 10% of its intensive care beds available. 

However, Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting the highest number of daily deaths in more than a year; and even the average number of daily deaths is higher than it’s been in a year, since before vaccines were widely available. This is not entirely unexpected since deaths typically lag behind infections by several weeks.

Here are today’s numbers:

  • 23,246 New Cases 
  • 6,258 Hospitalized (lowest since Jan 1)
  • 1,033 Intensive Care patients (lowest since Dec 29)
  • 198 Deaths (highest since Dec 5, 2020)

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