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Dem governors begin lifting covid restrictions

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Gavin Newsom California Governor

A number of states across the United States are beginning to loosen their respective’ COVID-19 restrictions.

California on Monday announced that a regional stay-at-home order is being lifted, saying that there are “positive signs” about the spread of the coronavirus.

Back in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) instituted the first statewide shutdown. This most recent regional stay-at-home order was enacted back in early December.

RELATED: Companies linked to Gov. Newsom received nearly $3 million in PPP loans

“Nearly all” of the regions that were previously affected by a stay-at-home order will return to the Golden State’s tier system for COVID-19 restrictions in the most extreme “purple” tier, a release by the California Department of Public Health reported. “Most indoor businesses are closed” in that tier, but places of worship and many outdoor businesses are allowed to open, albeit with modifications, according to Fox News.

As the number coronavirus cases has been plateauing in New York State after the holiday travel season, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Monday that New Yorkers should expect to see some restrictions be lifted later this week, with the governor stating he expects to make an announcement in the middle of the week.

“From the increased celebrations we believe [coronavirus cases] went up […] we believe we’re seeing a flattening and reduction,”’ Cuomo said during a Monday press briefing. “When [cases] are down, open up the valve, allow more economic activity through the pipes.”

This comes after Cuomo reversed course earlier this month and said publicly that “we must reopen the economy.”

“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass,” he tweeted on January 11. “The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”

On Monday, public health officials in Illinois announced that indoor dining would return to four counties on Tuesday as new case numbers stagnate, according to WGN9 Chicago.

This also comes as teachers in Chicago public schools on Sunday voted against returning to in-person classes after the school district had voted in favor of resuming in-person learning.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) said that its members “chose safety” in its ongoing dispute with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), according to NBC News.

“We are not negotiating class size, benefits or staffing; we are bargaining for minimal risk of COVID-19 infection, and minimal risk of death,” the union said.

While not a U.S. state, starting this past Friday, the District of Columbia has allowed for the return of indoor dining in the nation’s capital, with them permitting 25% capacity for indoor restaurants and bars.

Last Wednesday after President Joe Biden was sworn in, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s (D) chief of staff, John Falcicchio, announced that the removal of certain barriers and fencing around the city after the high-security inauguration ceremony would correspond with the end of the “Inauguration Phase” of indoor dining.

“That aligns with the end of the Inauguration Pause on indoor dining which is set to expire on Friday, January 22, at 5 am,” Falcicchio tweeted. Restaurants will then be able to return to 25% indoor.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Economy

NY Lawmakers want to tax tech giants to get $500M to fund unemployment benefits for illegal migrants

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new york city

New York lawmakers are debating over a proposed Democratic initiative that would pave the way for a multibillion-dollar fund designed to provide unemployment benefits for illegal immigrants. Spearheaded by state Senator Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat, the proposal has ignited passionate discussions within the Senate Finance Committee, where it currently awaits further deliberation.

The Center Square reports the proposal would utilize a $500 million trust fund earmarked specifically to offer jobless benefits for individuals who find themselves ineligible for traditional unemployment payments and other public assistance programs. To finance this ambitious endeavor, proponents of the plan are advocating for the imposition of a novel tax targeting tech behemoths like Google and Amazon. This tax, aimed at digital advertising revenue, is projected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars to sustain the fund.

Ramos has alluded to her belief that migrants are a fundamental contribution to the state’s economy. Despite their authorization to work, payment of taxes, and active involvement in the labor force, undocumented immigrants face a glaring disparity—they are excluded from accessing vital safety nets like unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs.

In a social media post, Ramos cited the expiration of federal unemployment insurance for freelancers and the depletion of the Excluded Workers Fund. She argues vehemently for a safety net aligned with the evolving dynamics of the labor market, one that extends support to all workers, regardless of their immigration status.

The proposed fund, aptly named the Unemployment Bridge Program, outlines comprehensive eligibility criteria encompassing a spectrum of marginalized workers—from undocumented migrants to freelancers and individuals recently released from incarceration or immigrant detention. By establishing clear guidelines and procedures, the program endeavors to streamline the application process, ensuring equitable access to unemployment benefits for those in need.

The initiative comes in the wake of prolonged deliberations regarding jobless benefits for undocumented immigrants and nontraditional workers in New York. Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state previously allocated $2.1 billion to the Excluded Workers Fund, offering a lifeline to those excluded from conventional unemployment benefits.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 underscores a commitment to supporting asylum seekers, with significant allocations directed towards housing and legal assistance. The proposal has met with opposition from Republicans, who argue for prioritizing legal residents and taxpayers in the allocation of state resources. Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt contends that limited resources should be reserved exclusively for those who have contributed to the state’s tax base.

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