The Judicial Response To COVID-19

The Judicial sector is one sector no one would immediately think of when considering the COVID-19 virus and its effects. Nevertheless, its effects were felt in the Judicial system, and reaction to the pandemic was swift, preventing it from paralyzing the system.

At the emergence of the virus in March 2020, the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators quickly put together a Rapid Response Team (RRT), involving the NCSC, and laid down protocols, safety measures by the CDC to ensure a continuous process. This enabled state courts to proceed with dealings and also created the framework to ease the return to court, once possible. 

There have been innovations to help this movement, largely under 3 touch points – communications and funding, court management, and technology. This ensures that no aspect disrupts the entire system.

Efforts in place to ensure safety measures are

  • Granting extensions for court deadlines and fees payments;
  • Suspending in-person proceedings, following up with virtual access;
  • Restricting entrances to court;
  • Ending or restricting jury trials;
  • Publishing of updated and recent guides and protocols.

On August 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the state of Hawai’i pushed for an order concerning the extension of the time, for arraignments and other needful processes, this was done and was to expire on February 14, 2021, however, it has been renewed further till March 31, 2021, with hopes that the effects of the virus continue to reduce.

Furthermore, recently, as the COVID – 19 cases seem to reduce, court operations seem to pick up, though in line with safety practices and as much as possible with the resources.

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Increasing The Federal Minimum Wage During The Pandemic

Raise the Wage Act of 2021, also known as S.53 was introduced by Sen. B. Sanders on the 26th of January, at the 117th Congress. A bill to provide for increases in the Federal minimum wage, and other purposes. It seeks to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 206(a)(1)) to payments summarised as 

  • $9.50/hour, on the initial day;
  • $11.00/hour, effective 1 year after initial day;
  • $12.50/hour, effective 2 years after initial day;
  • $14.00/hour, effective 3 years after initial day;
  • $15.00/hour, effective 4 years after initial day;

The base minimum for tipped employees would be summarily amended to 

$4.95/hour at commencement and increased yearly by either $2.00 or an amount rounded up to the nearest multiple of $0.05, that will result in an equivalent amount of the general minimum wage, whichever is the lesser of the 2 options.

The bill also goes ahead to recommend minimum wages for new hires who are younger than 20, and individuals with disabilities. This infers a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. This would imply a gradual increase leading up to a more than 100% increase in the current minimum wage.

This increase would be highly beneficial to low-income earners, as this would enable them to afford housing and other necessities. Furthermore, it will affect the income eligibility of families made of low-income earners. As shown in an analysis by consulting giant, Novogradac, a two-person family earning the new minimum wage would be able to earn up to 60% and more of the Area Median Income (AMI) and be ineligible for LIHTC, which is a low-income housing tax credit. It further mentions that there are many areas in the country – up to 96% – where low-income earners would not qualify for, using the current minimum wage, and this would not change, even when the $15/hour minimum wage comes into full effect, with the proposed increase in the minimum wage, as they will have incomes above 80% AMI. 

The same analysis further states that a four-person household having 2 individuals earning the minimum wage would also be ineligible for the ‘lower than 60% limit for AMI’, in as many as 83% of states in the country, as their incomes are projected to be above 80% AMI.

It is important to mention that this would remain true, if the eligibility requirements for LIHTC and HUD are not modified, allowing affordable rental housing to only be available to the underemployed and unemployed.

The Congressional Budget Office, CBO, is also in agreement that the new minimum wage would affect workers, lifting close to a million people out of poverty. It goes further to analyze that it would also result in the loss of over a million jobs and that net pay for those affected by the new wage, could go as high as $333 billion in about 10 years after the enactment of the bill – an increased labor cost for firms – and this would directly affect the budget deficit. As expected, it estimates an increase in prices for goods and services and talks about an increased spending on some programs – federally financed health care – and reduced spending of others. This report, as compiled by CBO is different from the picture painted by Senator Sanders, that his bill would provide savings for taxpayers, move workers out of public assistance programs which would, in turn, reduce the deficit.

The sponsor of the House version of the bill, Education and Labor Committee Chair, Bobby Scott, says that the CBO report builds the case to gradually increase the minimum wage, through the COVID-19 stimulus package and that this increase will function as a direct stimulus for struggling families with low-income earners.

The last time Congress sought to increase the minimum wage was in 2007, as this has always been a priority to the democratic party. President Biden looked to include the new minimum wage proposal in his relief package. He, however, states this might not be possible as the republican party would not vote to pass such. Democrats believe that they will be able to pass this bill using budget reconciliation, while using the same tactics to pass President Biden’s relief stimulus package, thereby going over Republican votes. This will be a bit reaching as it would require all democrats to vote to pass it, and at the moment, not all are in support of $15 per hour

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COVID-19 in Jails and Prisons

In the early months of the pandemic, the effects were terrible and drastic, wiping out almost everything in its path. This was also because next to nothing was known about the virus. The CDC and WHO advised several precautionary and prevention methods to help reduce the spread and infection, this included handwashing and/or use of sanitizers as often as possible.

As easy and simple as these tactics sounded at the time, individuals in prisons did not have the luxury of regular hand washing or access to sanitizers, and many of them had existing health conditions, furthermore, the health care systems in these places were limited, so utilizing basic protocols would be a stretch.

An interesting case at the time, Ex Parte: Matthew Gonzalez, who was arrested for murder and released on a pretrial bond payment of $200,000 in 2019. In March 2020, he was indicted for murder and the bond increased to $500,000, he surrendered himself and was taken into custody. Later in the same month, he filed a writ application for reinstatement of previous bond amount or release on recognizance due to the jail’s inability to put in place required COVID-19 precaution and treatment systems. He cited the CDC’s guidelines and insisted that county jail was in direct violation of these guidelines and would foster a quick spread of the virus. This writ was denied, however, it brought to limelight concerns about the system in Prisons, Jails, and dealing with COVID-19.

The CDC advised:

  • Staff should stay home once ill
  • Identifying locations that can be used for isolation before the need for it
  • Providing enough supply of cleaning and medical items
  • Setting up systems for the safe transfer of individuals between facilities
  • To utilize a 14 day quarantine period where necessary

The Federal Bureau of Prisons previously released a guide suspending social and legal visits for a while, limiting staff travel and additional screening for the disease. Other methods in use to reduce spread are

  • Limiting the number of new inmates
  • Sending inmates with low threat possibility to a public safety home
  • Balancing concerns about security with ensuring adequate support to keep prisoners safe.

Ways to support locked up individuals include

  • Sign a petition to advocate for better health care for the inmates
  • Donate to a community fund used for bailout purposes
  • Advocate for inmates to be able to call their families and advocates for free during this phase.
  • Send a letter to the President, Governor, and people in authority to release the elderly, those with a medical condition, and those with a year or less in their sentence to reduce the population of inmates.
  • Find out more information and share awareness

This way, everyone can play a small role to help incarcerated individuals.

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Grannies Goods

Two middle-aged women portrayed themselves as elderly women at a vaccination center in Florida recently.

These women, aged 34 and 44 adorned themselves in bonnets, gloves including spectacles, passing off as elderly ladies to get their second shots. They had valid documents showing they had previously gotten an initial shot, implying their ruse must have worked once before; however, they were issued with warnings and denied the second shot.

At present in Florida, individuals 65 years and older and health care personnel are being prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccination.

Dr. Raul Pino, an Orange County health official disclosed that security has been increased at vaccination sites to prevent similar and other occurrences. Possibly this ruse would get the Governor’s attention and result in opening up eligibility to the vaccines.

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The Restaurant Industry During The Pandemic

The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected lots of industries, cutting right across every sector. While some sectors are gradually finding their footing, others are yet to make headway. One of such adversely affected is the Restaurant Industry.

Guy Fieri – an American restaurateur, author and, Emmy Award-winning television presenter had in the past mentioned that restaurants are the souls of the community. In recent times, he highlights that the effect on the industry was sharp and immediate following the pandemic. Some of the issues faced were total shutdowns, employee layoffs, then proceeded to the phase on how to deal with a reduced capacity, restarting businesses to serve customers safely while dealing with new rules and regulations. They also have to deal with delivery. The industry is heavily dependent on delivery apps, and they insist the charges are exploitative as delivery takes up to 30% of their revenue.

The National Restaurant Association Research Group surveyed 6,000 operators and 250 supply chain businesses and its findings revealed that:

  • 87% of full-service restaurants had reported up to 36% drop in revenue; 
  • 58% of full-service operators expect layoffs soon; 
  • 59% of operators recorded that their total labor costs were lower pre-pandemic than they are now;
  • 48% say it is likely they will remain in the industry in the months to come.

This prompted the association to send a letter to Congress detailing their findings and requesting support. It highlighted that the country’s second-largest private-sector employer was in an unprecedented economic decline, and if they continue without support, more businesses will be forced to shut down. They also requested a cap on delivery charges. 

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GOP Stimulus vs Biden Stimulus

Republicans on Capitol Hill have a different idea for the stimulus package as proposed by President Biden. Recall that President Biden had proposed a $1.9 trillion package including another stimulus check, eviction aid, and other strategies, however, the GOP has turned down this offer brought forward a counter package that totals $618 billion, which is not up to a third of what the president offered.

The bill for the $1.9 trillion packages was not passed as the republicans did not vote in favor of it. President Biden then met with 10 Republican senators in a bid to sway their opinion, however, they presented their counteroffer to the president. In the meeting described as ‘cordial’, no conclusion was reached and both parties agreed to continue to talk, to reach an agreement.

Both packages are similar in strategies and differ in amount value. Democrats are willing to allocate up to $2,000, for the stimulus payments, while the GOP insists on $1,000 per adult with a reduced income range to qualify for it, and $500 per dependent.

With regards to unemployment, democrats propose that benefits be continued till September, while the GOP wants it to be stopped by June. They propose using less than half of President Biden’s proposed sum of $350 billion on this.

Both plans agree on the fact that $20 billion would be utilized in coronavirus testing, vaccination, and tracing with a variation on the actual strategies to be deployed. The Biden proposal considers tripling the health workers available, while the GOP would rather pump funds into hospitals and health care providers that have suffered a loss in revenue and/or coronavirus-related expenses.

Despite the areas of agreement, the President emphasized his view that Congress must respond boldly and promptly and that the senators’ proposal did not address some areas, and as such would not be sufficient in itself.

The republicans seem hopeful that a bipartisan agreement of some sort can be reached, and eagerly look forward to it especially since the initial meeting with the president was held, which was one of his first activities in the office.

While the president is sure that the GOP would come to a bipartisan agreement, democrats do not seem to share the same opinion, as they went ahead to discuss reconciliation, in a bid to overthrow the GOP and get approval on President Biden’s relief package. At the moment, the Democrats have a total of 50 votes on the chair 100 seating capacity and with a reconciliation of budget, they would require a simple majority to pass the bid. And the winning chip would be V.P Kamala Harris. The GOP thinks that reconciliation would be a far stretch as there has not yet been enough of a bipartisan effort.

All in all, Democrats are considering every way to ensure this bill gets passed, and as soon as possible. With the president working directly with the GOP reps, Americans seem calm that one way would get them the bigger and preferred package of $1.9 trillion.

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Reconciliation vs. The Senate GOP

The desk of Senate minority leader – Mitch McConnell – has killed so many progress bills including the measure to increase survival checks at the 116th congress and thereafter. 

The Senate GOP referring to the Republican party insisted in this congress that they would not be bullied into advancing the checks. 

By the 117th congress, democrats provided more votes to this same cause than the republicans. Polling shows that 78% of Americans support the increased checks and blame Republicans, majorly McConnell for not allowing it to pass.

Senator Bernie Sanders believes that the votes are available to pass the bill needed for the survival checks once reconciliation is made. The most important part of this, if true, is that the Senate GOP will be completely bypassed, and calls for their votes will be unnecessary, as budget reconciliation will allow for bills to be passed by majority vote. Outside of reconciliation, a 60% vote is needed to move forward, however, with reconciliation, the debate is limited to 20 hours, following which, majority wins. Presently, Democrats hold a total of 50 seats in the 100 seat chamber and VP Kamala Harris would be extremely important in her role as senate president for the tie-breaking vote.

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Educational Institutions and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 Pandemic disrupted so many schedules, agendas, and events, including but not limited to schooling. This has certainly got to be the worst disruption to the education sector since time immemorial. Considering the previous academic year was filled with a lot of uncertainties, the 2021/2022 school calendar year promises to be better albeit starting up a bit roughly. This would majorly be due to better prevention practices, social distancing, and ultimately vaccination. The Ohio government has also requested that certain prevention practices and controls be set in place by schools.

On March 16, 2020, schools in Ohio closed, and they remained closed for the remainder of the school year. Early in June, it was announced that schools would reopen, but the state was working on guidelines to ensure this possibility. These guidelines tagged ‘Reset and Restart’ were released in July and modified in August 2020 to enable schools to develop their reopening plans. 

Many people and schools were against the closure for reasons such as that 

  • School-aged children are at low risk of COVID – 19;
  • Closing and opening and of schools would have effects on the economy;
  • Closing schools is not an effective practice in mitigating the spread of the virus;
  • A few also complained of the digital divide that would arise from distance learning.

Others who supported closing schools argued the below:

  • Evidence from previous pandemics support the closure of schools
  • Reopening universities will increase the spread of the virus

Governor Mike DeWine mentioned that it was necessary to reopen schools and he was worried about children who have not learned well online due to accessibility, disability, or other reasons.

In November 2020, the Lucas County Health Board insisted that middle schools and higher classes should resume remote learning between December 4 and January 11, while kids in classes six and below could continue to go to school. This resulted in a lawsuit being filed against them by 3 Christian schools in Northwest Ohio, as they claim the new ruling violated their rights to provide religious education in the classroom, and the new ruling prevents affected students’ from utilizing their first amendment rights. They were subsequently joined by Ohio’s largest Christian public policy organization – The schools and Citizens for community values, as they were in support and believed older students should not be kept from schools.

The suit sought that this order is overthrown, and students allowed for in-class teaching. The schools involved are the Monclova Christian Academy, St. John’s Jesuit High School, and Emmanuel Christian School. They believed that the ruling was unjust as students were prevented from getting SAT prep, but could get into clubs, gyms and casinos. They insisted that the limitation was placed on schools while other avenues that might promote the spread of the virus were not curtailed. Furthermore, they insisted that the decision was way more restrictive than what the governor had advised.

The district court denied the motion on the basis that it was a neutral general ruling. Following another denial, the schools decided to appeal for an injunction at the court of appeals for the sixth circuit and this was granted.

In a similar vein, it is also important to mention that a coalition of public universities is calling on Congress to allocate $97billion in the next coronavirus relief package. This is expected to provide critical support to students, protect jobs, financially stabilize institutions and also strengthen public universities’ response to the pandemic in general. They iterated that previous relief packages were ‘very helpful’ but fell woefully short in mitigating the effects resulting from the pandemic.

Hopefully, the government would pay particular attention to educational institutions especially as affected by the Coronavirus.

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It’s obvious why America fired Donald Trump – They disapproved of the Job he did

Donald Trump was elected the 45th president after campaigning with his slogan – Make America great again – and resumed office in 2017.   

This surprise victory of a new politician demonstrated that Americans were eager to disrupt the political scene in hopes of change. 

He thrived on the support of highly expectant voters who could not be discouraged in their quest for change. Thus, with Trump at the helm of the Republican seat, campaigning against Democrat representative – Hillary Clinton, expectations were high as to his performance in office towards rekindling the American dream, however, this was not so, as the highly outspoken and ‘no care for the emotional effects’ president went about his activities with a chip on his shoulder and an attitude of total nonchalance, putting laws into effect and engaging in unsavory practices, such as his immigration laws and various media outbursts. 

As monitored and recorded by Gallup, upon assumption of office in January 2017, his job approval ratings were at 45%, this record wavered steadily till about May of that same year, when it began a steady decline, to an average of 37%, most will say this was as a result of his various shocking actions such as firing the FBI director. Prior to this time, only once had the director of the FBI been fired, and this was on the grounds of ethical violations and only after a judicial investigation; however, Trump fired Comey almost as a direct effect of his handling of cases and investigations surrounding himself and his allies. 

According to a post in the Intelligencer, the now ex-president practically confessed to obstruction of justice. He went on to declare the mainstream media the enemy of the people. One could conclude this phase was the first eye-opening period for Americans.  

In April and May 2018, he received approval ratings upwards of 40% up to 42%, according to Wikipedia, more than 103k jobs were created in March, and the unemployment rate was stable till April. Wages also grew by 2.6% in this same period. At the beginning of the quarter, he was down 4.9% from the initial rating upon assuming office. A record 45% approval rating was noticed in week 73, commencing June 11.  

In February 2020, he hit a new record of 49%, amid the initial phase of the coronavirus and he received high scores from Americans for his initial response. An obvious and steady reduction commenced in May as a result of his handling of the death of George Floyd, several racial protests, and the continued effects, and his response to the pandemic, this persisted till Dec, closing out at 39%. It is easy to see the effects of his decisions were long in coming but were foremost on everyone’s mind and this eventually led to his less than regal ousting from the presidency and ultimately from any other subsequent race. 

In January 2021, approval ratings for ex-president Trump were at a record low of 34%.  It is important to mention that he is the only president to never hit a 50% job approval rating at any point during his tenure since the Gallup poll commenced – see what I mean? 

Trump becomes the 11th president who failed to win re-election. Gallup further notes that Trump is now the 4th US incumbent president defeated for re-election since it started its polling, and the second one to have a lower rating post-election.   

Gerald Ford, one of the 4 previous presidents had lower approval ratings after he pardoned Nixon in 1974, and even with this, he made an average of 50% and recorded an increase in rating post-election.    

Jimmy Carter, another ex-president who missed it at re-election, had a much lower rating falling below 30% and closed out at 34%, wherein a loss of approval from party followership was noted.  

George H.W. Bush had extremely high ratings during his first years in office, however, the numbers steadily declined with the economy at the time. He also closed out with a weak 34% compared to previous ratings when he assumed office.   

For Trump, his markedly low rating post-election could be linked to his reaction to the election results and subsequently his prompting of the assault on the capitol building. 

Final job approval ratings by party identification also showed a 14% decrease by fellow republicans and a 28% reduction from independents telling us that even his party members disapproved of the job he did.

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Honest Joe

Good ole Joe. Honest Joe.

That’s it.

That’s all the blog post.

Let me elaborate on that some more.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is honest in his statements, yes we can recognise he has made some misleading or false claims here and there but, when your opponent has made 13,435 false or misleading claims way before he even had 1000th in office, the bar is not that high.

Unless you are Paulette Dale, who loves President Donald Trump’s smile– Wait, she’s voting for Biden?!

Wow, who could have guessed it? Telling lies doesn’t help, imagine that.

Jokes aside, let us look at the numbers, shall we?

By American voters, Democratic candidate Joe Biden is seen as more honest, more even-tempered, and a better role model than US President Donald Trump.

On a poll conducted June 16-22 by Pew Research Centre among 4,708 adults, including 3,577 registered voters, found overall headline figures of 54% of registered voters who said that if the election were held today, they would vote for Biden or lean toward voting for him, putting him ten points ahead of Trump, who was backed by 44%.

So you could say Trump is LIE-ing low in the polls. No? Okay.

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