Biden says Covid surge must be solved at state stage, vows full federal assist

United States President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and private sector CEOs in the South Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC on December 22, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

president Joe Biden on Monday pledged to support governors struggling with the Omicron variant of Covid-19, but admitted that states must take the lead in controlling the pandemic.

Shortly before a meeting with some of the country’s governors, Biden said: “There is no federal solution. This will be resolved at the state level. “

These comments constitute one of the Biden’s government’s most prominent admissions to date that it is in its efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The president may be concerned that federal initiatives to contain the virus cannot be effective without the help of states. The comments could also be an attempt to put additional pressure on governors to play a bigger role in fighting the disease.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for clarification.

After his remarks, Biden asked whether he supported revised recommendations for reduced quarantine times.

“I rely on my medical team. I get a recommendation, I follow it,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently launched theirs Recommendations for people who may have been exposed to the virus. Instead of the recommended standard 14-day quarantine, the CDC says suspected exposures should result in a 10 or seven day quarantine based on test results and symptoms.

The Omicron variant poses a multi-faceted threat to Biden, who advocates the federal government’s ability to contain the pandemic. The president on Monday reiterated some of the promises he made last week, including the federal government’s purchase of 500 million rapid coronavirus tests.

“My message to the governors is simple: if you need something, say something,” he said. “We’ll keep your back free as best we can.”

The government plans to distribute the tests to Americans for free, support more vaccination and testing centers, and deploy 1,000 military medics to increase hospital staff nationwide.

But the virus’ ability to mutate, spread, and occasionally result in positive cases in those who received a vaccine has made the government’s promise to slow the disease down difficult. The virus and vaccine have both blossomed into political football. Many Americans, especially those who support former President Donald Trump, refuse to get vaccinated.

Given the nationwide differences in attitudes towards the virus and public safety priorities, governors’ responses to the Biden government’s efforts have been mixed.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, an implementing regulation in. enact October prohibits all entities, including private companies, from from the imposition of Covid-19 vaccination obligations on employees or customers. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is considered a Republican presidential candidate in 2024, has been breaking away from federal public health guidelines and restricting mask and vaccine mandates in recent months.

The Biden government has been stressing for weeks that Americans should be extra careful during the 2021 holiday season to protect their families from the spread of the disease.

The president’s remarks came as Covid-19 cases spiked over the Christmas holiday weekend.

The highly contagious variant of Omicron has reported more coronavirus cases in a handful of states, including New Jersey and New York, in the past week than any other seven-day period during the pandemic.

While initial signs suggest the variant could cause milder symptoms, health experts are calling for strict public safety protocols, saying that the variant’s rapid spread could put strain on the US hospital system and lead to more deaths.

“Every day it goes up and up. The last weekly average was around 150,000 and it will likely go much higher,” said US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said “This Week” on the ABC show on Sunday.

On Wednesday, before the holiday weekend disrupted Covid trackers, the seven-day national average of new daily cases topped 176,000, a 44% increase over the past 14 days. The number of deaths also rose during this period from 1,103 to a seven-day average of 1,213.

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Federal court docket reinstates Biden administration’s enterprise vaccine mandate

United States President Joe Biden speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, USA on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A federal appeals court reinstated the Biden government’s vaccine and testing requirements for private companies, which include some 80 million American workers.

The Cincinnati 6th Court of Appeal’s ruling overturned a November restraining order that blocked the Labor Protection Agency’s rule that applies to companies with 100 or more employees.

In Friday’s ruling, the court found that OSHA “has demonstrated the pervasive danger that COVID-19 poses to workers – especially those who have not been vaccinated – in their workplaces.

The Justice Department argued last week that blocking the requests would do “enormous” damage to the public as hospitals prepare for an increase in Covid cases this winter and the heavily mutated Omicron variant gaining a foothold in more states.

“COVID-19 is spreading to workplaces and workers are being hospitalized and dying,” the Justice Department argued in a court file on Friday. “As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and a new variant has emerged, the threat to workers is persistent and overwhelming.”

The policy required companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated by Jan 4th or have a negative Covid test weekly to enter the workplace. Unvaccinated workers were required to wear masks indoors from December 5th.

Republican attorneys general, private companies, and industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, American Trucking Associations, and the National Federation of Independent Business sued for repeal of the policy. They argued that the requirements are unnecessary, place compliance costs on businesses, and exceed the powers of the federal government.

The Biden administration stopped implementing and enforcing the requirements last month to comply with an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th District in New Orleans. Judge Kurt D. Englehardt said in an opinion for a three-person committee that the requirements were “surprisingly too broad” and raised “serious constitutional concerns”.

The more than two dozen lawsuits filed against the vaccine and testing requirements were transferred to the Sixth Circuit last month after the Biden government launched a cross-district judicial process to randomly consolidate the case in a single court.

The Justice Department argued in its trial last week that the labor protection agency that developed the requirements acted within their emergency powers established by Congress. The Biden government rejected opponents who claimed workers were quitting because of the policy, saying the compliance costs were “modest”.

“The threat to people’s life and health also far outweighs petitioners’ suspicions about the number of workers who may quit instead of getting vaccinated or tested,” the Justice Department wrote on its file, arguing that many workers are who say they will stop completing in the end with vaccination orders.

OSHA, which oversees occupational safety for the Department of Labor, developed the vaccine and testing requirements under emergency powers that allow the agency to shorten the normal rulemaking process, which can take years. OSHA may issue an emergency workplace safety standard if the Secretary of Labor determines that a standard is required to protect workers from serious danger.

The White House has repeatedly argued that Covid poses a serious threat to workers, highlighting the appalling death toll from the pandemic and rising Covid infections in the United States

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Texas has spent $7B in federal cash to pay short-term well being care staff throughout COVID pandemic

AUSTIN — The state is trying to wind down an expensive, federally paid program of hiring nurses and other health care professionals to keep its hospitals from buckling under staffing pressures and burnout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the plan could be upended by any spike in COVID-19 cases prompted by gatherings over the upcoming holidays. Already, the state decided to keep up surge staffing at hospitals in El Paso and the Panhandle because of recent outbreaks.

After three huge waves of hospitalizations – in each of the past two summers and the big daddy of them all, last December and January – the state has spent nearly $7 billion of federal COVID-19 money for temporary nurses, respiratory therapists and some doctors to maintain operations at hospitals and “alternate care sites.”

The state set up the alternate care sites, mostly at nursing homes and convention centers, to free up hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

The decision to begin ramping down the “medical surge staffing” could be premature. Some public health officials worry that many Texans will mingle indoors and maskless during the upcoming holidays, among them unvaccinated state residents, creating a spike in both seasonal flu and COVID-19 that strains hospitals to capacity.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has told the three vendors who provide the hospitals with temporary caregivers that it plans to stop doing that in most parts of the state over the next month or so, said spokesman Chris Van Deusen.

“Of course, we’re always flexible about that,” he said. “If the situation changes, we’ll change the direction we’re headed.”

Critics of Gov. Greg Abbott’s management of the public health crisis say he’s used hospital staffing support when he should have used a full range of mitigation measures that are far less expensive, such as mask and vaccine mandates.

While the staffing expense is covered 100% by the federal government, the extravagant spending distorted the marketplace for nursing labor, which was already in short supply, said Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat and retired nurse who has studied the state’s response closely.

‘Burden on the hospitals’

Early in the pandemic, Abbott ordered hospitals to postpone elective surgeries, which choked off vital revenue streams, Howard said. But the Republican governor only hesitatingly embraced a statewide masking and distancing order, which he fully lifted in early March, she noted.

More recently, Abbott has stressed state provision – again, thanks to Uncle Sam – of COVID-19 treatments and infusion centers, where infected patients receive monoclonal antibodies that reduce the severity of symptoms.

“Those are great,” Howard said. “But again, though, rather than trying to do things to prevent it from happening in the first place, the interventions have been after the fact. And it’s really been a burden on the hospitals.”

Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze, noting that nearly 36 million shots have been administered to Texans, said Abbott has launched “innovative strategies” to combat the pandemic. She cited mobile vaccine clinics and a “Save Our Seniors” program he announced in March. Under the program, modeled on one in Corpus Christi given statewide attention by The Dallas Morning News, local first responders and other volunteers take shots to homebound seniors or set up central drive-through vaccine clinics.

“Governor Abbott has prioritized protecting the safety of Texans from COVID while also safeguarding their livelihoods and personal freedom,” Eze said in a written statement.

Abbott continues to work closely with state Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt and Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd “to get shots in arms and provide support to communities across the state,” she said.

“While the vaccine has proven effective at reducing the severity of COVID cases and slowing the spread of COVID, Governor Abbott also recognizes the right of Texans to refuse the shot, especially those who have acquired immunity, have health conditions, or other reasons to not take the shot.”

Many Texans, though, are still resistant to the shot. Only 59% of Texans age 5 or older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Flu prospects

So far this flu season, Texans haven’t been catching influenza at an alarming rate. Of the nearly 39,000 who’ve been tested since early October, just 0.35% tested positive. At the peak of the 2018-2019 flu season, in February 2019, about one quarter of specimens tested positive for flu, noted epidemiologist Diana Cervantes of the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center at Fort Worth.

Still, on Wednesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control issued an alert warning of a recent increase in flu viruses detected in recent weeks, especially among young adults. The federal agency said it “also is aware of influenza outbreaks in colleges and universities in several states.”

Flu seasons in which the particular strain noticed in the recent uptick – A(H3N2) – is predominant “were associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in persons aged 65 years and older,” the alert said.

The CDC urged all Americans six months old and older – if they haven’t already, and many haven’t – to get flu shots.

UNT’s Cervantes explained public health officials’ concern.

“As the COVID vaccine has become available, there are many fewer restrictions and prevention measures directed at COVID prevention such as mask usage, physical distancing this year – so we may likely see a more active flu season compared to last year,” she said.

She continued, “There is a possibility that due to the holidays and increased travel and general contact with others, we could see an increase in COVID cases and flu cases jointly and unfortunately there are always severe cases of both that can require hospitalization leading to dual stresses on our health care system.”

With COVID-19 vaccine widely available and “no new variant of concern” at this point, “I am hopeful we will not see a spike of COVID like we experienced last winter,” Cervantes said.

The surge staffing began in July 2020 with just more than 3,500 visiting health care workers helping Texas hospitals. Peak deployment came after last winter’s surge of cases, with almost 14,000 temporary nurses and other workers used during one week in early February. Last summer, the numbers dwindled. From mid-May to mid-August, no surge staffing was needed.

But then deployments kicked back up with the spike of cases caused by the delta variant. By early October, the department’s three private vendors were supplying nearly 7,800 health care professionals a week. As of Nov. 17, that had dropped to 3,176.

A demobilization ‘pause’

In recent weeks, the department told its three vendors supplying the nurses and other front-line workers – San Antonio-based nonprofit BCFS Health and Human Services, San Antonio-based Angel Staffing Inc. and Columbia, Md.-based Maxim Healthcare Group – that it planned to stop all hospital support in early December.

A flare-up of positive cases in El Paso and the Panhandle has forced the department to keep providing the surge staffing to those two regions, even as it hopes to be able to stop providing nurses and therapists to hospitals in most of the state, said Van Deusen, the state health department spokesman.

“We’ve paused sort of demobilizing staff out in El Paso, for example, because they’ve seen things really start to go up more,” he said. “But yes, that’s been the idea,” to end the program as more Texans are vaccinated and severe cases of the disease taper off.

On Tuesday, the hospital regions where coronavirus patients are taking up the highest percentage of available beds were El Paso (13.3%), Amarillo (11.8%) and Lubbock (9.9%), according to the department’s coronavirus dashboard. Of the four major metros, Dallas had the highest share of its hospital beds devoted to COVID-19 patients – 4.9%. There were 768 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in the Dallas trauma service area’s hospitals. Of them, 94 had been admitted in the previous 24 hours.

From just over a year ago, Dallas has zoomed to account for 28% of the surge staffing statewide, from under 10%. South Texas, which in October 2020 drew 35% of the temporary workers helping Texas hospitals, now is using only 11%. As a share of the statewide deployment, Houston has tapered off (to 21% of the total, from 25% a year earlier), while Austin and Central Texas account for nearly 10% of the statewide staffing help, up from about 1% a year earlier.

President Joe Biden recently said that 100% reimbursement of states’ coronavirus-related response efforts, such as the hospital staffing, would continue through April 1.

Van Deusen said that leaving aside considerations about federal reimbursements, the need for the surge staffing has diminished.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Texas have decreased dramatically from the delta variant-driven spike of confirmed cases in late summer. From nearly 14,000 in late August and early September, hospitalized patients have fallen to under 2,700 as of Tuesday.

“We had started ramping down earlier this month, with the idea that it would take probably four to six weeks to do that,” Van Deusen said.

‘Worth it to them’

Some of the health care workers, such as nurses, have commanded high prices to come work at Texas hospitals.

Howard said at one point, she was told by the state health department that nurses cost the state $100 an hour to $125 an hour. She said she didn’t know if that was the amount being paid to the vendor or the nurses. The online job site Indeed shows the average registered nurse in Texas commanding about $36 an hour, she noted.

Department officials and vendors have declined to discuss wages paid to the temporary hospital workers.

“You had nurses who left their jobs to become traveling nurses because they could make a heck of a lot more money,” said Howard, who said she’s heard from one of her staff members an anecdote about one who gambled on treating COVID-19 patients in order to get a piece of the American dream – a house.

“They knew that it was going to be short term, but it was worth it to them to leave where they were and go wherever they needed to be for the fairly short period of time and bring in an exorbitant salary,” Howard recounted.

“It allowed them to actually get a mortgage. That was out of out of sight for them before. They are now able to buy a house because of this, which is great for them. But the distortion in the market is that those very people who are leaving, now, the hospitals are having to find ways to increase what they pay in order to retain their nurses. They’re doing bonuses, they’re doing premium pay, they’re doing whatever they can do, to try to keep the nurses that they have.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has received Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment to help him fight COVID-19, said Saturday that he is wants to see antibody infusion centers opened across the state.

By far the biggest chunk of the nearly $6.9 billion spent since July 2020 has gone to BCFS – $5.3 billion, or 77%.

The state also processed invoices from Angel for $1.14 billion (17% of the total) and from Maxim, the former Medcall Medical Staffing, for $455 million (6%). Angel and Maxim are privately held, for-profit companies.

As of Nov. 15, BCFS had 1,945 medical personnel working in 235 Texas hospitals, said BCFS spokeswoman Evy Ramos. Except for about 300 respiratory therapists, they were all nurses, she said. None was a physician.

Of the $6.88 billion spent, just under $2.4 million was state funds, according to a spreadsheet of vendor payments obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

“The funds obligated are federal, FEMA and CARES Act dollars,” said state health department spokesman Doug Loveday, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020.

Another $8.7 million of the money went to alternate care sites.

None of the money spent yet has come from the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March, though state lawmakers last month approved spending up to $2 billion of the American Rescue Plan money on hospital surge staffing, COVID therapeutics and infusion centers.

Texas soon will have spent more than $5.1 billion to hire nurses and other frontline health-care workers at premium rates to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and deter the disease at group residential settings such as nursing homes. The effort will eat up nearly two-thirds of the $8.1 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Fund money the state has received. In February file photo, three nurses at Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital -- one a traveling nurse and two on-staff -- review an intubated COVID-19 patient’s oxygen levels.

Staff want Covid vaccinations beneath federal guidelines

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990 (ER) takes off from JFK Airport in Queens, New York on August 24, 2019.

Bruce Bennett | Getty Images

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue Airways informed her employees that due to their work as a government contractor, they will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as early as December 8 according to new federal regulations.

president Joe Biden announced last month comprehensive vaccine or regular testing requirements for employees of private companies with more than 100 employees in order to contain the spread of Covid.

In addition to the requirements for private companies, its administration issued stricter vaccination regulations for federal contractors. This includes accommodation only for employees who have been granted exemptions for medical or religious reasons. Big airlines say they fall into the federal contractor category because they transport government employees and offer other services like the emergency flights that helped bring Afghanistan Evacuated to the USA this summer.

Last week, the Biden administration said federal contractors must be vaccinated by December 8th at the latest. All three airlines said there will be a medical and religious exemption approval process.

“As a result, the federal vaccination mandate requires that all US-based American team members and certain international crew members be vaccinated without providing a regular test alternative,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom wrote in a press release the staff on late Friday.
“While we are still working on the details of the state requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated cannot work at American Airlines.”

Vacation trip

JetBlue announced to employees that “regardless of work at the facility, at a support center or at home – the government is required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to continue performing their role,” said JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes and COO Joanna Geraghty in a staff email that CNBC saw on Friday.

Geraghty told CNBC this week that the “vast majority” of its employees have been vaccinated, but said the exact percentage is not immediately clear.

JetBlue executives urged employees to get vaccinated before the busy year-end holiday season.

“Our clients rely on us to get them where they are going during the vacation and we need to be ready to fully comply with the mandate before the holiday peak begins and help end this pandemic,” they said.

Seattle-based Alaska, New York-based JetBlue, and Americans based in Fort Worth, Texas have not mandated vaccination for employees, but they have repeatedly encouraged employees to get vaccinated. Alaska has offered additional payment to those who share proof of vaccination with the company. American offered extra time and $ 50 to many of its vaccinated employees.

“Because our company does significant work for the federal government, we have determined that employees of Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, and McGee – all part of the Alaska Air Group – along with other major US airlines are covered by this federal immunization mandate,” Alaska said Thursday in a staff note. “This means that all of our employees, including certain contractors and suppliers, must be fully vaccinated or approved for reasonable precautions such as medical conditions or religious beliefs that prevent vaccination.”

CNBC saw a copy of the note. An Alaska Airlines spokeswoman told CNBC that a “substantial majority” of the airline’s approximately 22,000 employees were vaccinated, but she declined to give a percentage as employees were still uploading proof of vaccination.

Alaska is open from October 15th to May 1st.

The airlines’ approaches to vaccines have difference, but most did not issue mandates and instead used incentives such as extra pay or time off for employees to get admissions.

Some unions have also spoken out against making vaccines mandatory, such as: B. the pilots at American and Southwest Airlines. Both carriers previously said they expected the new federal vaccination regulations to apply to them. Southwest did not comment on this article.

The Allied Pilots Association, which represents the approximately 14,000 American pilots, wrote to the Biden administration and important legislators last week asking for alternatives to the mandate, such as regular Covid or antibody tests. The union said some of the American pilots were “reluctant to get vaccinated because of concerns about potential retirement side effects,” warning the mandate could create labor shortages and disrupt vacation travel.

After American staff announced on Friday, the APA told its members that the airline needed to negotiate with the union on the “implementation and implications of mandatory vaccination for our pilots”.

United’s mandate

United Airlines imposed the strictest mandate of any US airline, requiring their 67,000 US staff to be vaccinated by last Monday or face dismissal. More than 96% adhered to it, and by Thursday 320 employees were threatened to be laid off, up from 593 then the deadline has expired This week announced the Chicago-based airline.

Delta Airlines plans to add a $ 200 monthly occupational health insurance premium to unvaccinated employees beginning in November. Unvaccinated employees are now having weekly Covid tests, Delta said.

“As we continue to evaluate the government’s plan, Delta is proud to have developed a vaccination program that has already vaccinated 84% of its employees and is increasing every day,” the Atlanta-based airline said in a statement.

Delta has nearly 80,000 employees.

Georgia public faculties obtain federal cash

But long-term budget problems remain.

ATLANTA – A Federal budget agreement Washington could mean more spending on local schools in Metro Atlanta.

The state has steadily reduced its share of public school funding over the past 20 years – even if the costs have risen sharply.

School buses are a major turning point. According to the Georgia Budget Policy Institute, the state funded 54% of school travel in the 1990s. Today it’s 14%, according to the GBPI, although it now costs more to buy and operate school buses.

This money comes from money that is used for education.

“So fewer teachers, fewer resources for children in need because the state continues to undermine and underfund public education,” said Stephen Owens of the Georgia Budget Policy Institute.

Owens says the federal government will pour billions of new dollars into Georgia public schools. But in a state where Owens says class sizes have grown and technology has lagged for the past twenty years, federal funding is unlikely to fix chronic government underfunding of public education.

“Perhaps, instead of investing this money in human infrastructure like school counselors or additional teachers, (schools) would instead use that money only for one-time expenses, staff loyalty rewards, and changes to the school building,” Owens said. “If you hire additional people, you only have to fire them again as soon as the federal funds are used up.”

Owens says local taxpayers have picked up much of the loophole left by the state’s underfunding of public schools. He says if the state wanted smaller class sizes and better technology in public schools across Georgia, more government funding would go the best.

Pay elevate for house well being suppliers depends on federal cash and ‘compliance evaluations’

The state legislature voted this week to approve one complex plan That would increase the pay of frontline workers caring for older adults and people with disabilities.

The plan stems from a bill passed earlier this year that included guidance to the State Department of Health (HCPF) running Colorado’s Medicaid program for people on low incomes and people with disabilities. With Senate Act 21-286, called on state lawmakers to come up with a proposal on how federal pandemic aid money – sent to Colorado through the American Rescue Plan Act – could be used to expand and expand Medicaid’s home and community-based services to enhance.

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On Tuesday, lawmakers in the Joint Budget Committee voted 5-1 to adopt the department’s proposed plan, which would, among other things, increase pay for direct caregivers. Colorado’s direct care staff includes the home health workers, personal care assistants, and certified nursing assistants who provide home or community services to Medicaid patients in need of long-term care.

The HCPF’s plan aims to achieve the raise by using $ 262 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to increase the rates Medicaid pays to the health care providers who employ direct caregivers for home and community-based services. HCPF intends to conduct “financial compliance reviews” in accordance with the Plan documentto ensure that the additional funds are channeled through the providers to the workers themselves.

In a statement Tuesday, Governor Jared Polis’s office said the pay increase would allow a minimum wage of $ 15 for direct caregivers.

“Colorado has one of the fastest growing aging populations in the country, so it is important that we recruit and retain caregivers today and for years to come,” Polis, a Democrat, said in the statement. “In Colorado, we value our employees, so I fully support the transition to a minimum wage of $ 15 for nurses.”

As soon as the federal money has been used up, the legislature must intervene in the state budget if it wants to maintain the higher provider tariffs.

Rep. Kim Ransom, a Lone Tree Republican, was the only “no” vote on the voluminous proposal.

“I’m always concerned about the administrative burden,” she said before the vote, questioning the breakdown of overhead spending versus services.

But Ransom and others spoke out in favor of a workforce that, despite the difficult care work, earns historically close to the legal minimum wage.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced closings last year, direct care providers were hit. To balance the budget amid the pandemic recession, lawmakers cut fees for Medicaid providers by 1% in 2020 before increasing them by 2.5% in the 2021 legislature.

The average hourly wage for a domestic or personal hygiene helper was $ 13.50 in Colorado Springs, $ 13.96 in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area, and $ 14.32 in Fort Collins as of May 2020, the data said of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, nursing assistants were paid an average hourly wage of $ 15.53 in Colorado Springs, $ 16.25 in Fort Collins, and $ 17.32 in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood Metro.

The Denver minimum hourly wage is now $ 14.77 and will increase to $ 15.87 in January. Elsewhere in Colorado the minimum wage is $ 12.32.

A lot of cash, a number of want: Council will get an replace on federal rescue funds

The US $ 39 million bailout has risen to nearly $ 60 million, all of which must be spent by the end of 2024, county council finance committee members learned Tuesday.

And that’s an estimated $ 168 million in public transportation, housing, public health programs, and direct assistance to residents and businesses in the form of rental and utility benefits, unemployment, economic checks, coronavirus testing and response, and other forms of government assistance.

It’s a big change for a county that often struggles to keep up with its commitments, noted Puna Councilor Ashley Kierkiewicz.

“I see – that’s kind of money in a generation,” said Kierkiewicz. “We had to pinch pennies for so long and now there are tens of millions out there.”

Finance director Deanna Sako tried to dampen the council’s spending enthusiasm.

Spending, Sako said, has to fit into very specific categories to qualify for federal funds. The district has to submit its first quarterly report to the federal government next month.

The money can be used for public health and tackling negative economic effects, especially in underserved areas.

“We make sure that all of these things we want to do actually fit into the categories we have,” said Sako. “That was a challenge.”

For example, the county is not qualified to use federal stimulus money to make up for lost public sector revenue because the county’s general fund has not taken a hit from the rise in property values. This is bad news for the Department of Water Supply, which is trying to make up $ 2.9 million in lost revenue from unpaid water bills.

“The county as a whole is fine, but that doesn’t help the water supply ministry,” said Sako.

Much of the money will go to water, sewer and broadband infrastructure alongside childcare so that people can be kept busy, especially as the tourism sector recovers.

“We want to be deliberate and wise on this piece,” said Doug Adams, director of research and development, who is looking for the best way to connect critical broadband networks and create childcare facilities for children under five. There are 12,000 children in that age group on the island, but only 3,600 childcare places, he said.

“We’re looking for ways to get people back to work,” he said. “If you want to see economic development, we have to make sure that our children are cared for.”

Hilo Councilor Sue Lee Loy urged the administration to reach out to nonprofits on the island to put together larger funding and grant packages to help the community.

“Over time, we’ve given a little to a lot of people and not really seen the effects,” said Lee Loy. “The nonprofits in our community are doing so much and it would be helpful if we could align them with these goals.”

Jacksonville would possibly use federal restoration cash on waste assortment repair

The City of Jacksonville will seek to get its delayed yard waste collection back on track by using $ 4 million in federal funds to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the details of how the money will be used to strengthen the Waste collection would be used were not known to be completed.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is asking the city council to use a portion of the $ 171 million the city received this year from the American recovery plan that Congress approved earlier this year at the behest of President Joe Biden .

The council’s finance committee took the first step to allocate $ 4 million for waste collection services on Tuesday when it unanimously voted on a list of expenses to be met by American Recovery Plan funds sent to Jacksonville.

City council member Michael Boylan, who is among the council members who has been filing angry complaints from voters for months, said he hoped the Curry government would use the money quickly to improve waste collection.

“I hope Mr. Pappas is already planning how to spend this money,” Boylan said, referring to John Pappas, the public works director, whose division includes the solid waste division.

“We are working on several solutions,” Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Stephanie Burch told Boylan, “and once we have everything sorted out, these funds will be used.”

Corporations across the country have struggled to recruit waste collection staff, and this staff shortage has resulted in waste collection delays in Jacksonville and other cities and counties.

Garden trash has been piling up in Jacksonville for weeks, waiting for a truck and crew to pick it up from the curb. The city has logged thousands of complaints from local residents.

This is a developing story. Visit Jacksonville.com for updates.

RSS says federal cash will not be long-term answer for workers pay – Salisbury Put up

SALISBURY – Rowan-Salisbury Schools received an unprecedented amount of federal funding over the past year, but funding will only go so far as to keep the district’s staff competitive.

In total, the district raised $ 96.9 million in federal funds. The amount is spread across approximately $ 70.6 million in COVID-19 aid and a federal grant of $ 26.3 million granted in 2020 to advance renewal plans.

The district has some of the least competitive salaries for its employees when compared to comparable school districts. In June, Superintendent Tony Watlington collapsed where the district landed. Teachers, teaching assistants, caretakers and bus drivers are at the bottom of the lists in eight or nine districts.

The employees are roughly divided into certified and classified categories. Certified employees include faculties such as teachers and school principals. The classified employees include bus drivers, nutrition workers, maintenance and teacher assistants.

During the school committee meeting last week, Watlington briefly touched on the subject, noting that the district lags not only behind the more affluent surrounding districts in terms of pay for classified staff, but also behind comparable districts.

A bus driver for RSS starts at $ 12.07 per hour while a starting bus driver for Davidson County starts at $ 16.07 per hour. A salary study for classified employees is ongoing.

RSS chief finance officer Carol Herndon said it is rare for a salary study to return whose results show pay should stay the same. It is likely that the district will need to implement the study in a phased manner rather than implementing its recommendations in a single year, Herndon said.

Chief Operational Officer Anthony Vann said the district is struggling to recruit and hold classified positions under its umbrella. He said there were several reasons. Pay is one. Another is the high level of competition from private companies and other school districts for people with the skills RSS is looking for. The COVID-19 pandemic also contributes to this.

While demand fluctuates, Vann cited the example of around 50 vacancies in a workforce of 200 nutritionists. Central Office nutritionists and other RSS staff work in cafeteria lines in schools, much like staff who stand in as substitute teachers to make up for lengthy teacher absences.

Vann said he has lost several very skilled employees to the surrounding counties and sees companies in the city offering signing rewards.

“It makes it difficult to keep qualified staff unless you can compete with them,” said Vann.

Where the county will find the funding for the raise is still open, but there are a few options.

Why not the federal money?

Some of the federal aid money will go into the pockets of the faculty and staff, but it will not provide the county with a solution to long-term funding goals for the people who work there for two reasons: used to pay staff, and it will run out of money too .

The aid money is divided into three parts based on the primary and secondary school emergency fund. The district received $ 4.7 million from the CARES bill in the early days of the pandemic, which has already been issued. The remaining federal aid came in two installments, a package of $ 20.3 million in the final months of President Trump’s administration and $ 45.6 million under the US bailout plan passed earlier this year.

All three aid packages came with slightly different rules. The last two packages, which make up the bulk of the funding, were not issued. The use of the latter packages must pass a three-step test to either prevent, reduce or respond to COVID-19.

Currently, the district is trying to shift some of its funds to pay grants to employees taking on additional duties due to COVID-19, but the state has consistently declined districts to use the money to largely pay the salaries or bonuses. In the meantime, the $ 20.3 million must be spent by the end of September 2023 and the $ 45.6 million the following year.

Herndon said it was dangerous to try to fund permanent bonuses with volatile cash because the district could not sustain increases after the grants expired.

“Our goal is to find sustainable funding,” said Herndon, adding that the district is in the process of setting a price for the implementation of the wage study.

The district will spend more than $ 30 million in aid on repairing and upgrading HVAC systems in its schools. This will achieve a long-term capital goal by removing this funding from the capital requirement list of more than $ 200 million in the district’s facilities.

These expenses are acceptable as they improve the air quality in the buildings. When all work is complete, every school in the district will have HVAC systems with fresh air exchangers.

The $ 26.3 million grant is different. Its express purpose is to give teachers incentives to advance the work of the district on its special renewal status.

Earlier this year, the district announced its first grant incentive program, which will provide $ 585,000 in signing and retention bonuses at 13 schools. The district management has discussed creating an incentive payment with the subsidy at their schools in need, in order to also attract teachers.

Where does the district find money?

North Carolina is one of the few states that has left the funding of its public schools to the total grace of the state and local governments.

School systems in NC have no authority to collect taxes or generate income of their own accord, except through grants and private donations. The overwhelming majority of the district’s $ 207.6 million budget for this fiscal year comes from a combination of federal, state and local funds awarded directly by these institutions.

Most of the money comes from the state. One possibility is for the state to pass one of the proposed budgets currently circulating in the legislature. The budget could include either a $ 13 or $ 15 minimum wage for civil servants, with the state government assuming the state-funded portion of the increase. But a budget passed by the legislature that could come at the end of this month would also apply nationwide.

The second place to find funding is through the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. That year, the commissioners cut nearly $ 500,000 from current expenses for the district, while the local portion of salary and welfare expenses increased by $ 416,000. Local funding is $ 38.8 million.

“One of the things our county needs to sell to businesses and potential citizens is quality schools,” Herndon said, adding that it requires quality staff and competitive wages.

Herndon said RSS should meet with the commissioners in person to have a conversation so that district officials can understand the district’s needs. Letters sent to district officials each year may lack the emotion and passion behind the district’s work.

The district has introduced itself to commissioners in the past, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made this meeting difficult.

The county also provides almost all of the capital funding for the county. Small purchases of equipment such as furniture could be made, but local money is used to build schools.

The final way to find money is to exercise some financial discretion. Renewal gives the district more government funding flexibility than the average district, making it easier to keep track of the district’s spending.

Herndon cited as an example of buying curriculum materials and analyzing whether that product gives the district what it wants. If not, RSS could test competing products or free up that money for other initiatives.

“If we are serious about offering competitive wages to our employees, we need to look very carefully at what we are currently funding,” said Herndon.

Inexperienced Lake Township Votes to Maintain Federal COVID-19 Reduction Cash

In May, members of the Green Lake Township Board in Grand Traverse County voted to distribute a portion of their federal COVID-19 aid to township workers, including elected officials.

During a community meeting on Monday, the board voted four to three to put the funds on hold.

Members plan to review where the money is going and make sure it is in line with federal guidelines.

The federal government says the aid money can be used for infrastructure, lost revenue, personal protection and equipment, and staff, as well as the salaries of elected officials.

However, the state says the money cannot go to elected officials.

Marvin Radtke, the Green Lake Township overseer, says the COVID-19 aid money should be based solely on federal guidelines as it is federal money.

Radtke says he and the community clerk invested more than 1,000 hours of overtime to protect the community during the pandemic.

“I was down in the playground and wiped things off according to the instructions of the executive,” said Radtke. “Whenever someone touched the playground equipment, they had to be wiped off.”

A community member who volunteered during the November election says Judy Kramer, Green Lake community secretary, made sure everyone was safe during the election.

“Judy Kramer took such care to keep us healthy. She made sure we had the personal protective equipment we needed, ”said Linda Pepper, a resident of Green Lake Township. “I don’t mind going ahead and rewarding someone who goes far and higher. You kept everyone sane; that is a huge achievement.

The church now plans to hold a series of meetings to get an idea of ​​where people want the funds to go.