Afghans use Citizen-style public security app to dodge violence in Kabul

As the Taliban enforces their draconian rule in Kabul, city residents are turning to a crowdsourced public safety app to evade violence, checkpoints and other threats.

The app called “That’s right“Gives iPhone and Android users real-time updates on emergencies in the 4.4 million city that fell to the Taliban last week. It bears a strong resemblance to Citizen, the controversial public safety app popular in US cities like New York and Los Angeles, which also sends security alerts to nearby users.

Ehtesab – which means “accountability” in Dari and Pashto – was first introduced in March 2020, but has grown in importance during the Taliban’s resurgence. The app’s fact checkers scour social media and user-submitted reports to review emergencies and then send notifications to users who are nearby, 26-year-old founder and CEO Sara Wahedi told The Post.

Wahedi said usage increased in recent weeks when the Taliban captured Kabul. Ehtesab’s 20 employees, many of whom are women, have made every effort to keep the app running while working from home to avoid possible Taliban crackdown.

“We are focusing on the immediate capacity we have, which is to continue our work in crisis mode,” said Wahedi. “I just hope the app won’t shut down.”

Ehtesab’s founder and CEO Sara Wahedi fled Afghanistan earlier this summer.

On Monday, Ehtesab issued warnings on a Fatal shots at the gate of Kabul airport and traffic jams.

In order not to attract the Taliban’s attention, Ehtesab refrains from referring directly to the Taliban in his security warnings. Instead of explicitly writing that militants are threatening people at a roadblock, the app can instead warn drivers that there is a checkpoint in a certain area that will lead to a traffic jam, which can be presented as a non-political traffic report.

As a businesswoman who worked for the former US-backed Afghan government for two years, Wahedi himself would be a potential target for Taliban retaliation. She left Afghanistan for Canada earlier this summer when the Taliban rose and moved to New York City over the weekend to do a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University.

Like the US Citizen app, Ehtesab provides emergency alerts across

“I didn’t want to be stuck in Afghanistan,” said Wahedi. “I feel guilty that my friends and family are still there.”

Wahedi said she does not know if she will ever be allowed to return and is doing her best to help the rest of the Ehtesab staff leave the country. All pictures of female employees have been removed from the app’s website and social media channels to avoid reprisals by the Taliban.

The founder said the Citizen public safety app was a “great inspiration” for her and said she hopes to work with someone in the New York-based public safety app to make Ehtesab better.

Ehtesab is available for iOS and

But while Citizen collects most of its emergency reports by hiring employees to eavesdrop on 911 scanners for specific districts or neighborhoods, Kabul lacks a similarly centralized system. Instead, Ehtesab hires employees to search social media for reports of particular emergencies in Kabul. One worker reports explosions, another reports power outages and a third reports the situation at the airport, Wahedi said.

Ehtesab and Citizen also differ in terms of visual language and sound.

“Citizen is black and dark and red and yellow and emergency colors. When you look at that, you have that kind of fear, ”said Wahedi. “I didn’t mean to fetishize security.”

In contrast, Ehtesab uses more cheerful colors like white and blue, which Wahedi says are supposed to be more calming and calming.

Citizen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Wahedi, Ehtesab has grown solely through word of mouth in recent weeks. In the future, she wants to find out how to expand the service to more Kabul residents without attracting the Taliban’s attention.

“There may be a point where Ehtesab is an app that everyone downloads, but what if the Taliban check and search people’s phones to see if they have downloaded the app?” She said. “It will take some time to figure out how we can do this without endangering the lives of our users.”

An employee from Ehtesab only takes care of the situation at Kabul

Report: Utah Board Misused Public Cash on Fossil Gas Tasks, Didn’t Fund Rural Neighborhood Wants

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Clean Infrastructure Coalition publishes a report Today it is revealed that the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund board has allocated more than $ 109 million in public funds to projects to promote or expand fossil fuel extraction in violation of federal mineral leasing law.

The report also documents that needed infrastructure projects in rural communities are not being funded while Utah leaders are using federal leases and royalties to help the fossil fuel industry, including a planned oil railroad and oil refinery.

“Utahns are deeply damaged by drought, forest fires, smoke and extreme weather exacerbated by fossil fuels,” said Deeda Seed of the Center for Biodiversity. “It is outrageous that Utah leaders are using public money to subsidize the fossil fuel industry that is causing this climate crisis. That has to end now. We need to invest in sustainable, resilient infrastructure for all communities in Utah. “

Oil, gas, and coal companies pay the federal government the right to develop federally owned minerals on public land and pay royalties for any minerals they mine. Congress intended to use this money to help rural communities facing rapid growth and infrastructure problems due to fossil fuel extraction.

Utah is responsible for distributing the money to the affected communities. However, today’s report noted that much of that administered by the governor-appointed Permanent Community Impact Fund Board has been used to enable fossil fuel extraction. Meanwhile, millions of dollars in community projects identified by rural communities have not been funded, including water and sanitation services, recreation centers, road improvements, and public safety equipment.

“I have stayed out of politics since I left office, but I cannot remain silent when I witness the misconduct of the elected and appointed people who represent the people of Utah,” said the former Salt Lake City mayor and State MP Jackie Biskupski at a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol. “I respectfully urge the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management to conduct a thorough investigation of state mineral lease spending in the state of Utah since 2009 and to take the necessary steps to ensure that local Utah communities receive these funds for their community- and infrastructure projects. “

Today’s report reinforces the findings of a 2020 report from Utah’s Office of the Legislative Auditor General, who raised serious concerns about the Community Impact Board, including the board’s failure to properly fund economic development projects. Despite the findings and recommendations of the audit, the board of directors continued to abuse public funds.

“We call on the legislature and the Utah Community Impact Board to adopt the recommendations set out in the report, including a motion to ban the use of CIB public funds on projects designed to promote or facilitate the extraction of fossil fuels, in accordance with federal law. “Said Carly Ferro, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Utah Chapter. “The Sierra Club will continue to hold regulators and industry accountable for ensuring that polluters are given priority over people. We must continue to invest in communities, people and the environment, and only together can we achieve what is possible. “

“The misuse of money by the Community Impact Fund Board, which is legally intended to help communities affected by the dirty fossil fuel industry, is reprehensible and illegal,” said Jonny Vasic, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “These funds should be used to help local communities deal with the impact of the mining industry, not to duplicate a polluting industry that affects people’s health and contributes to climate change.”

Utah Clean Infrastructure partners include the Center for Biological Diversity, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, Rural Utah Project, Utah Physicians for a Health Environment, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Living Rivers, Utah Environmental Caucus, No Coal In Oakland, No Coal In Richmond and the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah).

Cash from opioid settlements should go to fortify public well being

S.States, counties, cities and tribes have launched thousands of legal proceedings to hold drug industry players accountable for their role in starting the opioid epidemic.

These lawsuits came as nearly 500,000 Americans have died from prescription and illegal opioid overdoses in the past two decades. Many more have suffered non-fatal overdoses, and an estimated 20 million Americans Struggle with substance use disorders.

Between 2006 and 2014, drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies flooded every corner of the country with more than 100 billion pain relievers. My home state was Illinois 2.7 billion pills sent, with Hardin County in southern Illinois inundated with enough opioids to provide nearly three months of supply to each resident. Some West Virginia and Kentucky counties were oversupplied almost twice as much.


Major players in the pharmaceutical industry have misled patients and providers about the risks of opioids, illegally promoting these addicting products, and ruthlessly distributing unjustified amounts of them.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made the problem worse, with a record 93,000 Americans fatal overdose in 2020. Proponents call it a perfect storm: addiction that thrives in the shadow of isolation, cutbacks in services, economic stress, trauma, and racial injustice.


In March, Congress passed President Biden American rescue plan, which sent nearly $ 4 billion in addiction and mental health treatment grants to communities across the country. It also included a provision that I made $ 1 billion through the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps to address the shortage of healthcare professionals such as addiction and mental health specialists. But more needs to be done.

Last month, a bipartisan group of attorneys general announced the framework of a Dispute resolution Johnson & Johnson and the country’s three largest drug distributors – Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson – where the companies would pay a total of $ 26 billion over 18 years to settle the lawsuits. The work is still ongoing, but I applaud the Attorneys General for their extensive work to get to this stage.

Legal proceedings against several other key industry stakeholders who are yet to be held accountable for their roles continue. These include the Sackler family of Purdue Pharma and OxyContin Infamy who are trying to develop a legal plan to evade liability by bankruptcy court.

When a groundbreaking master agreement was reached in 1998 due to another public health scourge – tobacco – cigarette manufacturers provided an estimated $ 246 billion in compensation to states.

Unfortunately, most of those billions of dollars were diverted from public health to roads, bridges, stadiums and other government projects. The country missed its moment to strengthen public health.

If opioid settlements are achieved, we must learn from the missed opportunity with tobacco. This means that the funds from opioid settlements will be devoted to building the public health systems our country needs to respond to the opioid crisis and prevent future addictions. This includes providing resources for inpatient and community treatment and recovery services; Expanding access to drug-assisted treatment, naloxone, and other harm reduction strategies; and strengthening the country’s behavioral health capacities.

Funds from opioid settlements should also be focused on underlying structural problems, including childhood trauma; the need to improve education and address the stigma associated with addiction; Investing in mental health and supportive housing; and better monitoring of pharmaceutical industry practices.

The opioid epidemic was not caused by an infectious virus. It started with making business decisions to increase profits. Far too many families have suffered from corporate greed and misconduct. As legal efforts continue to seek accountability, we must heed the lesson from the Tobacco Settlement and help our communities heal.

Dick Durbin, the senior United States Senator from Illinois, has been a Democratic Senator since 2005 and is now the Senate majority whip and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Much less college students means empty dorms, much less cash at Pennsylvania’s public universities – WPXI

PITTSBURGH – University officials at eight of the state’s 14 public universities are trying to find a way to deal with falling enrollments, less money, and whole wings and floors of dorm buildings.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education continues to finalize the details of the merger between a number of the state’s universities as the fall semester rapidly approaches. According to our partners at, the system’s Chancellor Dan Greenstein proposed that $ 12.5 million be allocated this year to pay off dorm building debt. A review of state records found that more than $ 1 billion in dormitory debt remained in 13 out of 14 public universities.

Some schools have done better than others since the turn of the millennium. At Indiana University Pennsylvania officials began a massive dormitory construction and overhaul project from 2006 to 2010, priced at $ 250 million. By 2019, the occupancy rate in IUP’s dormitories had dropped to 68%.

Edinboro University officials embarked on a $ 115 million project to build dormitories and restaurants shortly after the IUD. The occupancy rate fell to 42% by 2019.

In the entire university system, roughly one in five beds was empty.

It is a problem that PSSHE is working to combat, as it is slated to create two new massive institutions by autumn 2022. There are 11 aging buildings slated to be demolished across multiple campuses in the system.

Wooden County Fee to carry public listening to on stimulus cash

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) – Later this month, Wood County residents will have the opportunity to share their views on how the district commission is supposed to spend money under the American Recovery Act.

The district commission announced last week that a public hearing would be held on Monday, August 23 at 5:30 p.m. in Judge Donald F. Black’s annex in downtown Parkersburg.

Wood County received $ 16 million from the American Recovery Act, which was approved by Congress in February.

Federal law requires the money to be used for projects related to the pandemic. But the district commission wants to hear the concerns of the citizens.

“I think every project will be worth listening to,” said Commission President Blair Couch. “Every idea is worthy. Some projects may not fit into the American Recovery program, and some projects will if we have additional funding outside of those funds. But if it’s a great idea, it’s a great idea. “

The municipalities have until the end of 2024 to spend the money.

Wood County has already made plans for a multi-purpose community building on the site of the now demolished county jail, a multi-purpose community building, and a relocation of the district’s 911 center.

She seeks legal advice for other projects and holds interviews with candidates for a financial advisor.

Copyright 2021 WTAP. All rights reserved.

Your Shot Texas Boosts Vaccinations With Nonprofit Grant Cash / Public Information Service

Austin, Texas – “Your shot of Texas“Aims to fund additional nonprofit, community-based organizations for programs that improve access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The nationwide philanthropic effort has already invested $ 400,000+ across 12 organizations to fight hesitation and ensure the hardest hit communities can be vaccinated.

Lisa Reeve, director of the Area Aging Agency for the Ark-Tex Council of Governments, said her group used grant funds to create a brochure and hire a sales representative to contact unvaccinated populations, particularly senior citizens who are home-bound.

“None of the seniors knew how to navigate a computer and make an appointment,” says Reeve. “And that’s in our brochure so they know we can help anyone who needs help.”

Reeve pointed out that her group mostly helps seniors in her nine counties, but can help anyone who still needs an injection. Local organizations wishing to initiate their own program have until August 6 to apply for funding through Your Shot Texas.

In the past few days, the delta variant has pushed the COVID-19 Positivity rate to 10% in Texas, compared to less than 3% a month ago.

Brian Sasser, chief communications officer for the Episcopal Health Foundation, said grants, along with seniors and people living in rural areas, prioritize the black, Hispanic / Latin American and other populations hardest hit during the pandemic.

He added that groups that receive the money have a deep connection with their community.

“They know the people they work with, they know their needs, and they know what is stopping people from getting vaccines,” Sasser said. “These are the best people to convince those on the fence.”

In addition to the Episcopal Health Foundation, San Antonio’s Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. and the Meadows Foundation in Dallas have pooled funds to fill the void and support outreach and activities that may not be eligible for public resources. Episcopal The Health Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on health issues, mental health, philanthropy, and poverty issues. If you want to support news in the public interest, Click here.

Disclosure: The Episcopal Health Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on health issues, mental health, philanthropy, and poverty issues. If you want to support news in the public interest, Click here.

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SPRING HILL, Tennessee – Tennessee employers step up efforts to convince their employees to get vaccinated as Delta, a more contagious version of COVID-19, spreads rapidly in regions of the country with low vaccination rates.

By early July, it was more than 50% of new cases in the United States. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And in Tennessee is the state Health department reported 125 cases of the Delta variant on July 8.

Jeff Lamarche, executive director of General Motors’ Spring Hill facility, said his facility offered on-site vaccinations for employees.

“Two on-site clinics with the Murray County Health Department that brought nurses on-site provided vaccinations to several hundred on-site workers at two different clinics, so both doses were given twice,” Lamarche said.

Other employers have offered bonuses, paid time off, and other incentives to get the vaccinations, but vaccination rates continue to stall. After an analysis of the New York Times, it would take six months for Tennessee to reach 70% of adults on a dose at the current vaccination rate.

Lamarche added that despite relaxed COVID protocols nationwide, his work has been careful about letting go of masks and social distancing.

“Although the CDC changed its policy, the auto industry, essentially the Detroit Three and the UAW, stepped back and took a more cautious approach before we actually start taking our protocols back,” Lamarche said.

He acknowledged that companies are paying the cost of containing infections, but stressed that higher vaccination rates could cut spending to get operations back on track.

“During COVID, we had to deal with higher absenteeism and higher costs for the additional protocols we introduced,” Lamarche said. “There was a lot just to keep things going.”

He reported that thousands of Spring Hill plant workers have been vaccinated so far.

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Arkansas health officials urge residents who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine to change as soon as possible as the Delta variant makes its way through the state.

A little more than 35% of Arkansas residents are fully vaccinated, which means two weeks have passed since their last dose, compared to nearly half of Americans across the country.

Dr. Michelle Smith, director of the Bureau of Health Justice and HIV Elimination for the Arkansas Department of Health, said early on with vaccine rollout it was easy to reconcile people for a vaccine, but now it’s stalled.

“It’s more about persuading people and speaking one-on-one about their fears, hesitations, and the misinformation they’ve received,” said Smith.

Fewer black, brown, and indigenous residents have received the vaccine than white residents, but Smith noted that great strides have been made since the beginning. She stressed that the most important steps were to make sure people have transportation and hold clinics on the weekend or later in the evening for people who cannot miss work.

Smith added that it was important to meet the churches where they are.

“We don’t just go into a community and expect them to come to us,” noted Smith. “The church is involved in our planning from start to finish, and that’s the most important component of making sure it’s fair.”

Smith encouraged unvaccinated residents to have one-on-one meetings with their health care providers who can clear up any misinformation or misunderstanding people may have about the vaccine. She stressed that the approved vaccines are safe and protect communities, especially the elderly and the immunocompromised.

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LANSING, Michigan – A non-partisan bill before lawmakers would allow Michigan residents to buy medicines from Canada, where the prices are much lower.

If passed, patients could save anywhere from 50 to 80% on treatments ranging from diabetes to blood clots or allergies.

Melissa Seifert, assistant state director for government affairs at AARP Michigan, said before the US-Canada border closes due to COVID-19, many people in Great Lakes state will be traveling to Canada to buy prescription drugs instead of pocket go through their home insurance.

“These prices paralyze older people who live on a steady income,” said Seifert. “These recipes won’t work if you can’t afford to take them. And we’re seeing that more and more in older adults.”

Seifert pointed to data showing that EpiPens cost more than $ 600 in the US, for example, but less than half that in Canada. Xarelto, a drug used to treat blood clots, and Januvia, for type 2 diabetes, both cost more than $ 1,300 in the US, but both cost less than $ 500 in Canada.

Seifert claimed that one of the driving factors was that US drug companies set their own prices.

“Drug companies hold the patent, don’t they?” Seifert explains. “They can extend their patents for 20 years at a time by making very small changes to the prescription drug.”

She stressed that most countries do not allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise. In the USA they spend approx. $ 6 billion a year.

Senator Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, the sponsor of the law, stated that it follows FDA regulations. A rule passed by the agency last year paves the way for programs to import certain drugs as long as there is no danger to the health or safety of people.

“We already have the covenant in force,” said Johnson. “We have to go really hard on this, and we all have to do it together. It’s impartial; it only helps people. “

Johnson added that despite the support of Republican and Democratic members of the legislature, the pharmaceutical industry is cracking down on it. However, she argued that the benefits to consumers are worth it, and urged residents to reach out to their lawmakers to express their support. Disclosure: AARP Michigan contributes to our fund for reporting on health issues, decent wages / working families, and seniors. If you want to support news in the public interest, Click here.

Disclosure: AARP Michigan contributes to our fund for reporting on health issues, decent wages / working families, and senior citizens issues. If you want to support news in the public interest, Click here.

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Welcome to the Tokyo Olympics, the place public well being, cash, and politics collide

It is night on the streets of Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, when the Olympic torch burns out. A viral video shows the slow jogging of the torchbearer past the spectators along the street. Then, as the flame goes by, a woman in the crowd shoots a water pistol.

“Put out the Olympic flame! Face the Tokyo Olympics! ”She screams. Security is racing around them.

This is the backdrop to the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games due to begin in Tokyo on July 23 – where Covid-19 cases are on the rise, causing the city to declare its fourth state of emergency since the pandemic began. The rise in the number of cases is particularly worrying as the country’s vaccination rate remains low. Only 18% of the Japanese population are fully vaccinated.

Nevertheless, the International Olympic Committee continues. Are at stake billion dollars in sunk costs—Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium alone cost 1.4 billion US dollars – as well Billions more potential revenue for the IOC, Japan, local organizers and broadcasters.

A global health crisis that is far from over, an incredible amount of money and a government that is paying off: the forces colliding in Tokyo are unprecedented. And even with strict new rules for the games, experts fear that Covid-19 could worsen in Japan.

Protect athletes

Nearly 100,000 athletes, staff and family members and others are expected to travel to Japan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and organizers are claiming to do their best to protect them.

Brian McCloskey, chairman of an independent body advising the IOC on Covid-19 containment measures for Tokyo, acknowledges the concerns. To reduce the risk of the virus spreading, athletes, employees and others are closely monitored, he says.

“The goal is to have no coronavirus in Tokyo,” says McCloskey. “The aim is to prevent these individual cases from becoming clusters and spreading events.”

Athletes, staff and officials are tested at various intervals during the games. For example, the residents of the Olympic Village are tested daily, while the Japanese workers who are in close contact with athletes are tested more frequently than the traffic drivers. McCloskey says a contact tracing system is being used at the Olympic Village to help contain any cases that arise. Everyone entering Japan must download a contact tracking app, and athletes and media outlets are asked to enable GPS tracking on their phones. The organizers say location data is only used when there are Covid cases.

The closer the games got, the stricter the measures became. Viewers from other countries were banned months ago, and it was announced earlier this month that there will be no audience at all at venues in and around Tokyo.

“It’s not just the event itself, but everything else related to the event: the hotels, the restaurants, the means of transport.”

Linsey Marr, professor at Virginia Tech

McCloskey says there is a precedent for holding the Games amid a public health threat – even if previous Games have not been on the order of Covid. When advising the IOC on the London 2012 Olympics, organizers considered the potential for a SARS pandemic, he says. And before the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, there were concerns about Zika (the WHO later said no cases were reported among athletes or spectators).

For Tokyo, the IOC has published several “playbooks” with instructions for athletes, staff, volunteers and the press.

But despite strict rules, the games will inevitably lead to people mixing and interacting in ways that otherwise wouldn’t happen.

“It’s not just the event itself,” said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who is a leading expert on airborne virus transmission. “It’s everything else that has to do with the event: the hotels, the restaurants, the means of transport.”

How a Public Adjuster Can Save You Cash

SAN FRANCISCO, July 14, 2021 – (BUSINESS WIRE) – Public valuers are dedicated insurance professionals who stand up on behalf of the insured during the claims process and they can make a real difference for homeowners and business owners looking to make up for their losses and rebuild after losing their property in a fire. Earthquake, flood, or other disaster.

“Most people have never heard of public regulators,” noted Steve Severaid, director of Greenspan Adjusters Co. “I have no doubt that public regulators are underutilized.”

To conceptualize the role of a public expert, it is best to think of them as a claims expert. In every insurance policy there are rights to which you are entitled. Public reviewers work to achieve your optimal standard.

Insurance companies also have appraisers; they are the central point of contact in the claims process who, among other things, request documents to prove your asset value. What you may not be aware of is that there is an inherent conflict of interest between the insured and the insurance company’s expert.

This appraiser works for the insurance company, not for you, the insured. Your goal is to maximize profits for the insurance company, which often does not coincide with paying your optimal claim. The goals of a public appraiser align with yours. They usually work on an emergency basis, which gives them an incentive to do their best for you.

How exactly does a public appraiser save you money?

There are many ways a public appraiser can save you money. While some involve holding dollars in the bank, others are less obvious but just as important.

1. After a disaster, while you are focusing on negotiating with your carrier, your company may have problems with customer and employee retention. Once you’re engaged, a public reviewer will assess your goals and develop a strategy for achieving them so you can focus on business. Often overlooked, this factor is critical to keeping your business running.

The story goes on

2. Processing insurance claims costs a disproportionate amount of time and energy – and as the saying goes: “Time is money”. Without a public appraiser, you could spend tens of hours arguing with the insurance company. Public experts manage your claims and give you time to focus on what’s important.

3. Public regulators benefit when you benefit. Although individual situations may vary, most public experts receive a “success fee” when paid as an insured. Therefore, when you hire a public expert, there is no conflict of interest and very little financial burden on you.

4. Public experts help you with the optimal insurance billing. This is money that you are already owed as a result of your insurance coverage, but which you usually do not receive in full without a knowledgeable professional by your side. Public experts understand the subtleties and nuances of each individual policy and the settlement process in ways that the average person cannot. This knowledge is essential when negotiating complex claims. Hiring a public appraiser paves the playing field to make sure nothing is on the table.

5. Even before a disaster occurs, public experts can ensure that you are properly insured for your specific situation. Public experts know what to look for when purchasing a policy, including specific insurance coverage such as Not all coverage is required for every property, so public valuers can expertly appraise each property and recommend insurance packages to ensure you are neither over nor underinsured.

If you’re wondering if a public appraiser can help you save money, call Greenspan Co./ Adjusters International at 800-248-3888 for a free consultation.

Via The Greenspan Co./Adjusters International

Founded in 1946, The Greenspan Co./Adjusters International is the West Coast’s leading public regulator serving both commercial real estate and homeowners. With more than 75 years of experience fighting for our customers, Greenspan Adjusters has the expertise and track record to prepare, present and negotiate insurance claims to ensure you get what you are entitled to. And as insurance professionals who represent the interests of our clients – not the insurance company – Greenspan Public Appraisers can save you time and reduce stress while we negotiate the deal you deserve. For more information on how a public surveyor can make your life easier after a loss, see

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Jodie singer

Helicopters, money funds and a brand new public well being lab: How state businesses suggest spending Virginia’s rescue fund cash

The Virginia Capitol at sunrise. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Virginia has $4.3 billion in federal aid to spend and no shortage of ideas.

State agencies hoping to tap into American Rescue Plan funds have submitted wish lists that top more than $18 billion, floating proposals ranging from new helicopters for Virginia State Police to $1,000 cash payments for essential workers. 

Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration hasn’t committed to specific line items, but lawmakers are scheduled to convene next month for a special legislative session to decide how to spend the money. 

Discussions are ongoing over whether some of the requests are or aren’t eligible for the federal dollars, which are supposed to have a direct link to the negative effects of the pandemic.

Furthermore, the federal government has earmarked certain funds for specific purposes, such as combating student learning loss due to schools going virtual during the pandemic. And because the state can spend the funds over several years, policymakers may choose to set some money aside to adapt to future needs. Federal dollars put toward some initiatives may also free up state dollars for others not eligible for relief funding.

Most of the spending proposals put forward, from vaccine outreach and utility assistance to fixing the unemployment system and broadband investment, won’t come as a surprise. 

Other spending suggestions are a little less intuitive — or show agencies trying to use the sudden influx of funds to advance efforts that may have been back-burnered in tighter budget years. 

Here’s a sampling of the proposals that caught Mercury reporters’ eyes.  

Compensation for essential workers
Price tag: $800 million

Labor proposals include a suggestion to give $1,000 “hero grants” to low-wage essential workers who stayed on the job during the pandemic.

The funding request for $700 million doesn’t specify exactly which types of workers might qualify, but notes that “premium pay” for essential workers is an explicitly authorized use of the funds.

Higher education officials have also requested up to $100 million for “hero scholarships” to help essential workers who want to further their education. The proposal suggests giving up to $5,000 per year to assist essential workers with getting a GED or college degree.

Jason Chadwick, left, who has worked for Kroger for 20 years, leads other workers in a chant demanding the reinstatement of hazard pay during a protest outside of the Kroger on Lombardy in Richmond, Va., September 3, 2020. (Parker Michels-Boye / For the Virginia Mercury)

COVID resources for non-native English speakers
Price tag: $21 million

A persistent complaint throughout the pandemic has been the state’s dependence on automatic (and often shoddy) translations to provide information about the spread of COVID-19 and roll out of vaccines to non-English speakers.

The approach at one point led the Virginia Department of Health to inform Spanish speakers that “the vaccine is not necessary” where English speakers were informed that it is not required.

Northam’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion proposes setting aside $5 million a year to pay for translation services, as well as hiring a coordinator to create a statewide language access plan for translation needs for state agencies. The office also proposes hiring two full time American Sign Language interpreters and a coordinator dedicated to “incorporating people with disabilities and other access and functional needs” into the state’s emergency and recovery plans.

The rescue fund money would cover four years of work.

A bailout for the state’s unemployment trust fund
Price tag: $1.3 billion

One of the biggest single requests comes by way of the Virginia Employment Commission, which wants $1.3 billion to restore the state’s unemployment trust fund to pre-pandemic levels.

The state relies on the fund to pay for unemployment benefits, which saw an unprecedented 1.3 million initial claims last year and another 300,000 already this year — more than double the applications for assistance the state saw in all of 2019.

The fund would otherwise be rebuilt through a series of hefty payroll tax increases on businesses. And state leaders and the business community have already called heading that off a top priority.

A parking lot outside a UVA dorm was filled with hundreds of state police cruisers in advance of the one year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in 2017. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury – Aug. 8, 2018)

Body cameras and helicopters for state police
Price tag: $40 million

In one of the more tangentially pandemic-related requests, Virginia State Police asked for $19 million to roll out body cameras to their officers.

The department argued that “vulnerable social populations” have seen some of the biggest impacts from COVID and have some of the lowest rates of vaccine acceptance “due to fears and skepticism towards government resulting from systemic marginalization.”

The agency proposes that body cameras will help because they foster transparency that in turn “will establish trust in government and mitigate future spread of COVID-19.”

Their justification for requesting two new helicopters at a cost of $21 million was more clear cut. The agency says they will replace two older units currently used for medical evacuation flights that were “experiencing unacceptable downtime” and “impacting the department’s ability to provide air ambulance services during the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

Highway improvements between Richmond and Williamsburg
Price tag: $100 million

The only major road project included in the funding requests is the continued widening of Interstate 64 between Richmond and Williamsburg.

Specifically, transportation planners are suggesting $100 million to help with the costs of widening the interstate in a 29-mile stretch between New Kent County and Williamsburg.

Mitigating congestion on I-64 has been a top priority for Hampton Roads-area leaders.

The request specifies that the new improvements would begin around Exit 205 in New Kent, where a previous widening project between Richmond and New Kent ended in 2019, and continue to exit 234 near Williamsburg.

Capital projects unrelated to COVID-19 generally aren’t intended to be funded through the American Rescue Plan, but the act gives states leeway to spend money on things like roads if the pandemic affected government revenue sources that would typically pay for them.

Mapping overlaps between historic inequities and urban green spaces
Price tag: $500,000

In 2020, a study co-authored by Science Museum of Virginia chief scientist Jeremy Hoffman made national headlines when it found that neighborhoods federal housing officials historically classified as “hazardous” because of their high proportion of low-income and minority residents are hotter than other neighborhoods

The classification, known as redlining, was used by the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation between the 1930s and 1968 to guide banks on granting mortgages to homebuyers and led to wide racial gaps in homeownership. 

It also contributed to higher temperatures today in historically minority or disadvantaged neighborhoods, where shade-providing trees are in short supply and large swathes of land have been paved. 

Now the Virginia Department of Forestry wants to use $500,000 to develop heat island maps that pinpoint where higher temperatures overlap with formerly redlined neighborhoods. 

The agency says that “federal guidance aligns funding” with projects such as those that aim to create green infrastructure and improve water quality, both of which can be achieved by planting trees and other flora. 

An electric vehicle charges at a public station in Henrico County, July 2020. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

Electric vehicle infrastructure
Price tag: $33.3 million

With federal guidelines allowing funds to be used to replace lost public sector revenues for services including infrastructure, the Department of Transportation is proposing a hefty investment of $33.3 million in electric vehicle infrastructure. 

Democrats in the General Assembly and the Northam administration spent the last legislative session pushing electric vehicles as a way to reduce transportation emissions, Virginia’s largest contributor to carbon emissions. 

Money was a sticking point, though. Lawmakers acknowledged that infrastructure is lacking in many rural areas. And although the General Assembly signed off on an electric vehicle rebate program, legislators left it unfunded, a situation the law’s sponsor attributed to tight pandemic budgets. 

A tour of the construction of the new Highland Springs High School in Henrico, estimated to cost about $80 million. (Henrico County Public Schools)

School construction and improvements
Price tag: $2.6 billion

Even before the pandemic, school construction was a major issue in Virginia. A recent survey from the state’s Department of Education found that more than half of public school buildings are more than 50 years old. Replacing those aging structures is estimated to cost the state more than $24.7 billion.

Enter the American Rescue Plan. The federal government set aside specific funds for pandemic-related improvements, including new HVAC systems, but VDOE proposes dedicating an additional $2 billion for more general renovation projects. That money would be delivered to local school divisions through a competitive grant fund, according to the agency’s request.

The department is also requesting an additional $600 million for improvements in early and higher education. The majority of that — $500 million over the next three years — would go toward capital improvements for “successful” child care operators, “allowing them to serve additional children and help more parents get back to work.” 

Another $100 million is proposed for modernization efforts at the state’s public colleges and universities, from updated heating systems to new equipment and technology.

A new public health lab
Price tag: $275 million

Virginia’s public health laboratory — once mostly a site for specialized testing and tracking rare diseases — has taken on a whole new importance throughout the pandemic. 

For the first critical weeks, it was the only lab in the state that could test for COVID-19. And over the past year and a half, its responsibilities have expanded dramatically, from sequencing samples of the virus to rapidly detecting new variants.

The Virginia Department of General Services wants to expand those capabilities even further. The agency is asking for $275 million to replace the state’s aging site in downtown Richmond with a “state-of-the-art” new laboratory in Petersburg. The proposed location is on the same campus as Central State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility that’s currently undergoing a major renovation. And it would boost capacity for complex and high-volume testing, which is already “nearing its limit” at the existing lab, according to DGS.

A public health emergency fund
Price tag: $10 million

The scramble to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic can be traced, in large part, to decades of underfunding in public health. As Virginia was recording its first cases, some health departments in low-income counties were abruptly closing their doors. And across the state, employees were pulled from critical services like maternal health and environmental monitoring to serve as case investigators or contract tracers.

In those early days, the Virginia Department of Health said it lacked the funding to “quickly ramp up an appropriate operational response.” Now, the agency is requesting $10 million for a public health emergency fund. The money might not be used immediately, but leaders say it would give the department more agility to respond to future pandemics.

Eastern State Hospital in James City County (Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services)

Staffing at state mental hospitals
Price tag: $335.5 million

Virginia’s state-run mental hospitals have been struggling for years with rising admissions. But the COVID-19 pandemic pushed them into crisis mode, with outbreaks making it even more challenging to discharge patients and free up bed space. 

That high patient volume, combined with chronic staffing shortages, have made the facilities “tremendously unsafe,” according to Alison Land, commissioner of the state’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. The agency is requesting more than $300 million over the next several years to boost employment, the majority of which would go to salary increases for essential frontline workers. Another $24 million would be dedicated to security guards and safety improvements at aging facilities.

The department is also requesting millions for community mental health services — part of an ongoing effort to reduce admissions through better front-end treatment. But staffing needs have often been framed as one of the most urgent challenges facing Virginia’s beleaguered mental hospitals.

The sun sets over the James River in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Septic and sewer overflow repairs and replacements
Price tag: $230 million

One of the biggest-ticket items Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has on its wish list is $230 million to help repair and replace failing septic systems, pipes that send waste directly into waterways and “combined sewer overflow” systems that can lead to sewage releases during heavy rainfall.

The federal rescue plan “specifically lists water and wastewater infrastructure as an eligible use,” DEQ says in its justification for the request. 

Of the $230 million, DEQ wants to see $30 million go to Richmond to speed up its ongoing overhaul of the city’s combined sewer overflow system. The agency has also identified $35 million worth of sewage system fixes in Southwest Virginia, as well as millions of dollars of investment in wastewater connections for underserved communities in Surry, Middlesex, Northampton and Accomack counties.


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Perella Weinberg shares up and down after going public final week by way of a SPAC

Perella vineyard The stock rose sharply early Monday after going public on a SPAC last week. The stock opened 12% higher on Monday before floating between positive and negative territory later in the day.

The global investment bank, headquartered in New York City, began trading Friday after announcing the previous day that it was entering into a merger with the special purpose vehicle FinTech Acquisition Corp. IV has completed.

“We are going public because we believe there is a very significant growth opportunity for the company going forward,” said Co-Founder and CEO Peter Weinberg on CNBCs Monday “Squawk Box.”

“The reason we chose a SPAC is because it is a transaction, not a process,” like an IPO, said Weinberg, who was CEO of before founding his own company. was Goldman Sachs International in London. “With all the constituencies we have, our founding investors, our retired partners – very important constituencies to us – it was easier and better to have a SPAC,” which was a hot asset class earlier this year.

The enthusiasm, coupled with the recent slump in SPAC shares, may lead to riskier deals in the months and years to come, according to observers.

“Any option you choose, you will end up as a public company,” Weinberg said. “Many of the problems related to SPACs had less to do with the structure than with the companies, which at times were not prepared to go public.”

Weinberg said he isn’t worried about how the decision to go public will affect his company, which he founded with colleague Joe Perella in 2006. Prior to that, Perella, now the company’s retired chairman, held a number of senior positions Morgan Stanley.

The merger environment is currently “extremely active,” said Weinberg, anticipating huge changes in many different industry groups, from consumer health care to energy. He added that while trust is very high, there is tremendous pressure on executives to create value and outperform their competitors.

“I think what is going to happen in the SPAC space is that there should be a level playing field when you look at an IPO and a SPAC, especially when it comes to forecasting. We’re still in the early stages of this second round of SPACs and I think that’s going to happen, “Weinberg said.” But the most important thing really is that two years after the event you will likely have the same shareholders. It’s just a different path to the same goal. “