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Biden, Harris, and others will support the benefits of the relief package.

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Biden, Harris, and others will support the benefits of the relief package.

Biden, Harris, and others will support the benefits of the relief package.

 

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses are opening an ambitious, cross-country tour this week to highlight the benefits of his $1.9 trillion plan to defeat the coronavirus and boost the economy.

The road show — dubbed the “Help is Here” tour by the White House — begins Monday with Harris heading to a COVID-19 vaccination site and a culinary academy in Las Vegas, and first lady Jill Biden touring a New Jersey elementary school.

The president will have more to say about the plan Monday at the White House, and he plans to visit a small business in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. He and Harris are slated to appear together in Atlanta on Friday.

Harris will meet with small-business owners in Denver on Tuesday. Wednesday sees Jill Biden in Concord, New Hampshire, and Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The stops at vaccination sites, businesses, schools and more are meant to educate the public about different aspects of the giant American Rescue Plan and how it will help people get to the other side of the pandemic.

Biden has said President Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden was vice president, failed to adequately educate the public about the benefits of its economic recovery plan. He said he wants to do a better sales job this time around on the details of his first big legislative victory.

One of the plan’s key features is direct payments of $1,400 for a single taxpayer, or $2,800 for a married couple filing their taxes jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent — for a total of $5,600 for a married couple with two children. The payments phase out for those with higher incomes.

An extension of federal unemployment benefits will continue through Sept. 6 at $300 a week. There’s $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $130 billion for K-12 schools and about $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing, among other measures.

Restaurants and bars that were forced to close or limit service will take advantage of a new multibillion-dollar grant program, and the plan also has tens of billions of dollars to help people who have fallen behind on their rent and mortgage payments.

The bill cleared Congress without any backing from Republicans, despite polling that found broad public support for the plan. Republicans believed that the bill was too costly. Last week, Biden signed it into law after Democrats provided the votes.

Harris is making her first domestic trip as vice president as part of the “Help Is Here” tour. She’ll be joined by her husband, the nation’s first “second gentlemen,” who will depart on Monday for separate events in Las Vegas and New Mexico.

Harris has presided over swearing-in ceremonies for members of Biden’s Cabinet since taking office. She’s stood beside the president during his speeches, made her own comments, spoken on the phone with various world leaders, and made appearances in the Washington area, including at the funeral of Washington power broker Vernon Jordan.

In her capacity as Senate president, Harris also cast three tie-breaking votes in the 50-50 Senate.

Jill Biden will be accompanied by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on a tour of Samuel Smith Elementary School in Burlington on Monday, where she will discuss how the initiative will benefit families and neighborhoods, as well as the measures taken to reopen the school.

Since taking office, the first lady has maintained a busy schedule focusing on education, service families, and cancer research. She and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona toured public schools in Connecticut and Pennsylvania that reopened after the pandemic earlier this month.

In between his stint teaching at Georgetown Law, Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer, has made a few appearances in the Washington area. He plans to visit a food relief agency in Las Vegas on Monday and take part in a listening session with its partners.

Cabinet secretaries will also be on the trip, in addition to the president, vice president, and their spouses. Hundreds of mayors and governors, including Republicans, have agreed to offer interviews to discuss the plan’s implications for their respective communities.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was scheduled to visit a UPS distribution center in Landover, Maryland, on Monday, which also distributes vaccines in the Washington area.

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Former St. Louis officer made $50K for unworked security hours

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Former St. Louis officer made $50K for unworked security hours

ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis Police officer hired to work security on his off-duty hours lied on his timesheets and bilked his employer and city taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars over a two-year period.

Officer Brad Stephens pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of mail fraud. He’ll be sentenced on March 11, 2022.

According to the plea agreement, Stephens had worked for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department since Oct. 2014. Beginning in 2015, he dedicated some of his off-duty time to working for City Wide Security, a private company that contracts with local businesses and organizations to provide security patrols in the Tower Grove South neighborhood.

Stephens filed false documentation regarding his hours worked. In 2018, Stephens falsely represented that he worked 93 days. In 2019, Stephens falsely claimed that he worked 76 days. All told, CWS received $50,000 from businesses and organizations in Tower Grove South for all the hours Stephens claimed to have worked.

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Broncos’ Mike Boone on backup running back duties: “Whenever they call my number, I’ll be there”

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Broncos’ Mike Boone on backup running back duties: “Whenever they call my number, I’ll be there”

Mike Boone’s first season in Denver certainly hasn’t gone the way the running back planned.

Signed to a two-year deal in the offseason with $2.6 million guaranteed for 2021, Boone suffered a severe quad injury during a joint preseason practice in Minnesota. He finally made his Broncos debut in Week 6, but mostly as an expensive special teams player for his first four games before finally getting a shot at tailback against Kansas City.

Coach Vic Fangio said Boone — playing behind rookie Javonte Williams on Sunday because of hip/shoulder injuries to Melvin Gordon — graded out solidly after rushing for 35 yards on four carries, along with a 19-yard catch.

“He hadn’t played in a live game since (Aug. 12) with Minnesota — he had no preseason action, no carries or catches in any of the games this year,” Fangio said. “Under those circumstances in an important (divisional) game like that, I think he played really well.”

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Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading at low levels in Boulder, wastewater data shows

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Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading at low levels in Boulder, wastewater data shows

The Boulder County resident who tested positive for the omicron variant of COVID-19 after traveling abroad likely isn’t the only person in the community who has it, and the public should keep taking precautions against the virus, state health officials said.

The delta variant still accounts for the vast majority of COVID-19 cases in Colorado. The state has confirmed two cases of the new omicron variant, both in people who had recently traveled to southern Africa, but a sampling of Boulder’s municipal wastewater system picked up some of the variant’s distinctive mutations, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Wastewater testing can’t pinpoint how many people may be infected, but the results suggest more than one person likely has omicron, Herlihy said. However, it doesn’t appear to be widespread in Boulder.

“There’s probably some low level of community transmission,” she said.

The first omicron infection in Colorado was confirmed in an Arapahoe County resident, but state officials have not reported any spread related to that case.

Herlihy urged people who develop COVID-19 symptoms or know they were exposed to get a PCR test, which looks for the virus’s genetic material. While at-home rapid tests are a good screening tool, the state can’t use them to track which variants are spreading in the community, she said.

“Our detection system only works if people get tested,” she said.

So far, omicron doesn’t appear to be causing more hospitalizations in South Africa — where it was first confirmed — than previous versions of SARS-CoV-2, which is “reassuring so far,” Herlihy said.

It does seem to be spreading more rapidly than the delta variant, but it’s not clear if that’s because it’s more contagious, or because it’s better at infecting people who are vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 infection via another variant. It’s possible both could be factors, but the world won’t know with certainty for a few weeks.

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