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Max Franz has fastest time in downhill training at Beaver Creek

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Max Franz has fastest time in downhill training at Beaver Creek

BEAVER CREEK — Max Franz of Austria was the fastest racer in a downhill training run Wednesday along the demanding Beaver Creek course.

Racing fifth overall, Franz’s time of 1 minute, 39.91 seconds wound up 0.40 seconds ahead of Matthieu Bailet of France. Adrian Smiseth Sejersted of Norway was 0.53 seconds behind.

The American contingent was in the field a day after it was announced one of their racers tested positive for the coronavirus and was ruled out for the four World Cup races this week at Beaver Creek. The other members of the U.S. team were retested and kept apart from fellow racers. The U.S. squad warmed up in a separate zone before the training run.

“We’ve been really safe. So it just goes to show that, yeah, we’re still living in this world and anyone can get it at any time,” said American racer Travis Ganong, who finished 1.77 seconds behind Franz’s time. “We’ve been so careful. We’re going to continue to be careful.”

The top American was Jared Goldberg, who was 1.65 seconds behind the time of Franz.

The Birds of Prey course will hold a super-G race Thursday. The event in Beaver Creek was canceled last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Several St. Louis-area school districts sued by Missouri AG over mask mandates

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Several St. Louis-area school districts sued by Missouri AG over mask mandates

ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed lawsuits against dozens of school districts across the state calling on them to stop enforcing mask mandates.

In total, 36 school districts were sued throughout Missouri. Twenty school districts are in the St. Louis area, including St. Louis Public Schools, Parkway, Francis Howell, Fort Zumalt, St. Charles, and more.

In the lawsuits, the attorney general and over 70 parents claim schools don’t have the authority to enforce the mandates, calling them unlawful and illegal.

“There’s a body of evidence that shows the psychological and social harms from the forced masking of kids,” said Schmitt. “So we’re taking them to court. We’re going to fight on behalf of parents and the ability for people, individuals and families to make these decisions themselves.”

Many of the schools dispute this, saying the power resides within the local school districts.

“It’s been a local control issue, schools boards, superintendents working to figure out how best to keep their doors open and work with communities, and now 22 months in we have somebody saying no that’s not your decision to make and that’s frustrating,” said Paul Ziegler, the CEO of Education Plus.

Roughly every ten minutes Friday, Schmitt’s Twitter announced another school district was being sued. His feed read like a laundry list of consequences, yet school representatives said they haven’t actually received the lawsuit yet and thus have no comment yet. This includes St. Louis Public Schools and a myriad of others.

One school district that did react publicly is the Francis Howell School District. The district released the following statement:

“As we’ve said all along, we have consulted with our legal counsel and are confident that our Board of Education has the authority to establish mask requirements and other mitigation measures. The Attorney General is not elected to make decisions for Francis Howell students and staff. That responsibility lies with our locally elected school board members, and the mitigation measures they have enacted helped keep our schools open for in-person learning, which we know is important for our students and families.

Our community and especially our elected officials should be celebrating and supporting schools during this challenging time, not suing them. The lawsuit filed by Schmitt is a waste of taxpayer money – on both sides. The claims are tenuous at best and this unnecessary lawsuit represents another attack on public education in Missouri. This latest action by AG Schmitt is disheartening, unfounded, and frankly, shameful.”

“You’re taking public funds to sue a public entity that will use public funds to respond to that lawsuit, frankly it’s a waste, we can do better,” said Ziegler.

For now, schools talk to their lawyers, awaiting the lawsuits to come.

In the meantime, as schools wait on the lawsuits to arrive, spokespeople said they will continue with their mask mandates as it stands. After getting their hands on the lawsuit, administrations will discuss with their lawyers what to do next.

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Missouri senators want to forgive overpaid unemployment benefits

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Missouri senators want to forgive overpaid unemployment benefits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Thousands of Missourians were overpaid unemployment benefits during the pandemic and now they are stuck paying some of them back. 

In the first three months of the pandemic around 600,000 Missourians filed for unemployment. The Department of Labor said it’s communicating to those who were overpaid, but the people on the other side say they spend hours on hold or never get through. 

“The way this has been handled since March of 2020 has been a disaster,” Sen. Doug Beck, D-St. Louis, said. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 46,000 Missourians have been overpaid unemployment benefits, which totals about $150,000,000. Over the summer, Gov. Mike Parson’s administration allowed the state’s department of labor to waive the federal portion. 

“We sent out mailings to folks who had overpayments on the federal portion,” legislative liaison for the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Benjamin Terrell told the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. “We sent letters to all of them and communicated with them and sent a form that they could fill out. If they filled it out and returned it to us, and they were eligible, then the collections on the federal portion were waived.”

He told the committee members; the state portion couldn’t be waived because there is no state statute which is where the legislation sponsored by Beck and Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, comes in. 

“It’s been frustrating for everybody and now what we are seeing is garnishments are happening still, we’re seeing that you don’t get the same person to deal with your case,” Beck said, “They go from person to person, and they get different answers.”

Hough said both his and Beck’s office fields dozens of calls about the overpayments, which is why their legislation would waive the requirement for Missourians to pay the state portion and to streamline the waiver process. 

Tom Chessman, a retired bus driver in the St. Louis area, told senators he paid back the state the overpayment, and then filled out the form. 

“About a month or so ago, they sent me a check covering all the money,” Chessman said, 

Chessman said back in October 2021, he received a letter from the department telling him what he owed back since he was overpaid. In December, he was given the money back. 
But he was lucky. 

“Others who have applied with the same criteria were denied,” Ben Ford, a retired Teamsters Union member, said. “At times, our drivers are being told different responses by different people they talk to at the same state office.”

He said some bus drivers are having their wages garnished to pay back the state portion. 

“Drivers are concerned if their home will have a lien placed by the state which occurred to one of our drivers,” Ford said. “Lottery winners held because of the unjust unemployment payback which happened to another one of our drivers. Will their tax refund be held by the state? Which is happening to some of our drivers.”

A similar bill to Hough and Beck’s was filed last year, but it didn’t make it across the finish line. This year, Beck said the state has plenty of money to let these people keep the overpayment. 

“The notices are not timely, so overall, I think this goes to the department’s handling of this problem that is no fault of the people filing for these benefits that were told in the beginning that they had them coming,” Beck said. 

St. Louis County Special School District Tracie Engelmeyer told the committees she owes back $6,600. 

“It’s just so inconsistent with everything that’s going on and how they were telling people different things,” Engelmeyer said. “Out of 225 of us, some of us are fine, some of us aren’t, some of them have been reversed.” 

She said her school district told her that bus drivers would qualify for unemployment benefits even though they are contracted. Engelmeyer then called the Department of Labor, who assured her she qualified for unemployment benefits. 

“She goes, you’ve been affected by no point of your own, she said, plus, you should get the $600 from the federal and I said okay,” Engelmeyer said to the committee, explaining her conversation with the department. Now, she’s one of the thousands trying to understand what she owes, and if she has to pay. 

“I’m just asking somehow, it gets fixed,” Engelmeyer said. 

Other lawmakers on the committee agree with the legislation. 

“I’m trying to figure out, why are we punishing them?,” Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis said. 

“The sake of consistency and sort of having a uniformed response a clear policy and doing the right thing and ensuring that people who had already experienced hard times aren’t forced to sacrificed even more,” Sen Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City said. “This is the right thing to do.”

Chairman of the committee, Sen. Dan Hegeman, said he believes the bill will be debated on the Senate floor but where it goes from there, he doesn’t know. 

“I think it’s great for us to bring that forth and have that discussion on the floor and committee,” Hegeman said.

In the first year of the pandemic, the state paid out more than $5 billion in unemployment. 

When contacted Friday the Department of Labor said as of Jan. 18, there were roughly 38,800 waivers filed and of that 13,200 were approved and 18,300 were denied. 

The department says some of the main reasons for denial are failure to provide information and providing inaccurate information. Another reason is failing to meet equity and good conscience standard, meaning the person stated that the repayment would not require them to give up money or change their actions/choices negatively or would not result in them not being able to provide basic needs.

A final reason could be they submitted the waiver too late. Once receiving the form, it must be filled out and returned within 30 days of the date of the notice. 

Hough’s legislation is Senate Bill 673 and Beck’s bill is Senate Bill 709.

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Meat Loaf’s band will play St. Louis show without frontman following his death

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Meat Loaf’s band will play St. Louis show without frontman following his death

ST. LOUIS — The entertainment world is mourning the loss of two legends. Rock superstar Meat Loaf and actor-comedian Louie Anderson both passed away this week.

They were two very different entertainers that spent some time in the Gateway City over the years. 

“We put together the Louie Anderson and Rosanne Barr tour, and we did 30 shows and became really close friends with Louie,” said producer Robin Tate.

From concerts to comedy specials taped in downtown St. Louis, like Louie Anderson’s 1992 performance at the former American Theatre, Tate remembers the show fondly. 

“We did ‘Louie in St. Louie,’ and because of our relationship with him, he wanted to do it at the American Theatre, which we were running at the time,” said Tate. “It was a great special, sold out and people loved it.  And if you go back and look at his specials.  At the end, he always said something loving and caring to the audience.” 

Also, one to care deeply for his audience, Meat Loaf, the Grammy-winning rock singer whose name is backstage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. 

“He played the Fox,” said Steve Litman of Steve Litman Presents and executive producer for Concerts Fabulous Fox Theatre.  “I actually booked him at the Fox three times in 1993, 1999, and 2003 was the last time. He always did an incredible show.”   

An upcoming concert will feature Meat Loaf’s band carrying on his hit songs with former season 13 American Idol winner Caleb Johnson. 

“We have a show coming up that’s actually been booked for quite a while with the Neverland Express which is Meat Loaf’s band and Caleb Johnson singing Meat Loaf’s role,” said Litman. “He’s going to do all the classic Meatloaf songs. So now everybody is excited and wants to pay tribute to the work the man did.” 

Both Litman and Tate saw firsthand the talent of Meat Loaf and Louie Anderson throughout the years. 

“It was great and we’re going to miss him,” said Litman. 

Like any loss with anyone passing away this is really tough because he was just the kindest guy in the world,” said Tate describing his friend Louie Anderson.  “He would give you the shirt off his back.” 

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