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Reporter asks Fauci how ‘free’ it feels to be with Biden administration

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During a Thursday afternoon White House press briefing, one reporter broke away from asking about the current state of the virus and vaccines and instead got rather chummy with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President in President Joe Biden‘s administration, asking him “how free” Fauci feels now that he doesn’t work for former President Donald Trump. Fauci replied, saying it’s “somewhat of a liberating feeling.”

“You joked a couple times today already about the difference […] that you feel in being kind of the spokesperson for this issue in this administration versus the previous one. Can you talk a little bit about how free, how much different, do you feel less constrained?” the reporter asked Fauci, then interrupting himself to find his words.

“For so many times, you stood up behind the podium with Donald Trump standing behind you—that was a different feeling, I’m sure, than it is today,” the reporter continued. “Can you talk a little bit about how you feel kind of released from what you had been doing for the last year?”

“You said that I was joking about it. I was very serious,” Fauci replied, then letting out a laugh and the reporter started laughing too.

After the laughter died down, Fauci said that it “was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that—that really was uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact.”

“I can tell you I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president and so it was really something that you didn’t feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it. The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence [is], what the science is and know that’s it—let the science speak. It is somewhat a liberating feeling.”

Before the reporter’s time with Fauci ran out, he asked the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases one more question.

“You were basically banished for a few months there for a while. Do you feel like you’re back now?” he asked.

Fauci chuckled and replied: “I think so.” The room then broke out into laughter.

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 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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