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Review prompted by building collapse closes Miami courthouse


Officials say the Miami-Dade County Courthouse will begin undergoing repairs immediately after a review found safety concerns within the building

MIAMI — The Miami-Dade County Courthouse will begin undergoing repairs immediately after a review, prompted by the deadly collapse of a nearby condominium building, found that safety concerns exist within the courthouse, officials said.

A joint statement from multiple leaders released late Friday said an engineer’s report recommended floors 16 and above be closed to staff at the courthouse. The leaders decided all courthouse employees would go back to working from home.

The courthouse, a historic building completed in 1928, is where most civil cases are heard and contains some administrative offices. Separate courthouses for criminal, children’s and family cases are not affected.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Circuit Court Chief Judge Nushin Sayfie and Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin released the statement.

Specific details about what repairs are needed were not disclosed. The courthouse was built in 1928 and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1989, news outlets reported. The building has 28 floors.

Miami-Dade County is in the early stages of construction of a new civil courthouse, with plans to sell the historic building. Over the years it has been beset by leaks, mold and issues with its facade.

The building underwent a review following the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Saturday that 86 people were confirmed dead and 43 unaccounted for.

“Please pray for all those who’ve lost loved ones and for those whose hearts are broken by this unspeakable tragedy.”

The recovery effort was to continue despite expected bad weather throughout the day. She added that recovery work paused for about an hour after a nearby lightning strike at 7 a.m. Saturday. No evidence of asbestos has been found at the site so far, she said.

Several other buildings have been reviewed to search for any structural concerns, and some — such as a condo building in North Miami Beach — have been evacuated.

The statement said the courthouse’s basement would also undergo an inspection to determine whether additional repairs are needed.



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Another St. Louis restaurant closes waiting for financial assistance; city says help is on the way | St. Louis News Headlines


ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — Another St. Louis business announced it’s closing its doors after waiting too long for COVID-19 relief money. 

Some of that money was in the form of a grant from the Small Business Administration. That Restaurant Revitalization Fund was created in March and aimed to be a lifeline for struggling restaurants. Due to court battles, some of the money was held up and now it has been used up. 

Quincy Street Bistro in south St. Louis City posted to its social media it decided to close its doors at least temporarily, if not permanently.

“We, like many other small locally-owned businesses, have applied for grants through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. We have hopes that those much-needed funds will come through for us, and many others like us,” the restaurant said in its post online. 

The business ultimately said because of legal snags with the grant, the restaurant doesn’t expect to get the money anytime soon and made the decision to close. 

“It’s heartbreaking because I know much work goes into and how much they must have fought to keep that from happening,” said Taco Buddha general manager Jeff Friesen. 

Friesen and the Taco Buddha owner, Kurt Eller, said they used money from the first two rounds of PPP and did not apply for a grant, knowing other restaurants need it more.

As for businesses still in dire need of assistance, the city says help is on the way in the form of the federal COVID relief money the city still has to decide how to spend. 

“We have to use the funds in a way where it creates, it helps to stimulates the economy, it helps get people in a better place,” said Lewis Reed, president of the Board of Aldermen.

The Board of Aldermen heard from the public Wednesday on how they think federal COVID relief money should be spent. The federal government is giving St. Louis $500 million over three years. Right now, the city has $252 million the bank. 

Reed hopes small business owners, especially restaurants, will reach out to the city now to let them know they need help.

“All other things being equal, a voice from some of the small businesses will change things dramatically within city government and can help them,” said Reed. 

The Board of Aldermen hopes to agree on how to spend this first round of money by July 16. Once the board passes that bill, it needs Mayor Tishaura Jones’ signature. After she signs it, the money can be accessed almost immediately and be given to small businesses. 

“They need to save them, they need to jump in and save them or we’re not going to have the same restaurant community,” said Eller.

The next public meeting to discuss how the money will be spent is July 6 at 9 a.m. and will be virtual. 

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved





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Denver nonprofit offers cash assistance to Colorado Black women struggling


DENVER — A Denver faith-based nonprofit organization is helping Black women struggling financially with a cash assistance program.

On Juneteenth, Soul 2 Soul Sisters, a nonprofit, launched a COVID-19 cash assistance program for Black women. Applicants can request $50 to $350.

“The funds can be used for any personal, medical professional expenses,” said Niyankor Ajuaj, a spokesperson with the nonprofit.

The initial goal of the program was to help 90 to 100 Black women living in Colorado, and so far, more than 500 have applied.

“We are finding out that it’s not business as usual for a lot of Black women in our community due to the fact that they are behind on so many different payments, like rent, the car, childcare, school,” Ajuaj said. “We are hoping that we can help all the Black women that apply.”

The organization hopes by providing financial assistance to Black women, they can also boost vaccination rates.

“The narrative is, ‘How can I get vaccinated when I don’t even know how I am going to feed my kids today?’” Ajuaj said.

The pandemic impacted minority communities at a greater rate and drove millions of women out of the workforce.

A study conducted by UCLA found that at the end of 2020, Latinas and Black women had nearly double the unemployment rate of their white counterparts, according to the Associated Press.

Lauren Hawkins applied for the program. She is a single mother on a fixed income. Hawkins said she only receives $215 dollars a month from the Americans with Disabilities.

“I’m struggling, barely making ends meet,” Hawkins said.

She says she’s been out of work for eight years after undergoing reconstructive foot surgery. If Hawkins is selected, she plans to use the money for rent, food or her cell phone bill.

The application for the COVID-19 cash assistance program can be accessed in the Instagram bio of Souls 2 Souls Sisters. The deadline to apply is Saturday, June 26 at 11:59 p.m.

“Cash assistance is open to anybody who lives in the state of Colorado who identifies as a Black woman and in need of financial assistance,” Ajuaj said.

Money is already being dispersed to applicants by check and Paypal. The organization is also accepting donations online to assure everyone’s needs are met.





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Thousands of LIers needed food assistance during COVID-19 surge


The COVID-19 pandemic has been behind a huge 60% surge in people seeking emergency food assistance during the past year, said the chief executive of the Long Island Cares food bank, citing many who had lost jobs because of the pandemic.

“During the first 12 months of COVID [March 2020 to March 2021], we saw 192,542 Long Islanders come to us for the very first time,” Paule T. Pachter, chief executive of Long Island Cares — The Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank, said Thursday during a news conference at its Hauppauge headquarters.

“We vetted everyone that came to us,” Pachter said. “So we knew exactly why they needed the food and 89% of the time … it was the same thing: ‘I lost my job. I got furloughed’. Today, it’s I ‘lost my job. I got furloughed and I don’t know when I’m going to be able to go back to work. My business closed.’ “

What to know

  • 192,542 new people received emergency food assistance from Long Island Cares — The Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank between March 2020 and March 2021.
  • A total of 348,192 people were food insecure on Long Island between March 2020 and March 2021.
  • 18,957,519 pounds of food was distributed between March 2020 and March 2021.

A total of 217,910 Long Islanders were food insecure in 2019, Pachter said, citing Feeding America projections for Long Island and the food bank’s own data. But that figure grew, Pachter said, when it added the 192,542 new people served by the food bank during the past year. He said a total of 348,192 people were food insecure, a 60% increase over 2019.

“Clearly what’s driving this at the top is unemployment or underemployment. People that did go back to work after being laid off found another job, but are earning 20% to 30% less in their paycheck,” Pachter said, adding that it poses challenges for the region’s policymakers.

As Glauco Guerrero of Brentwood waited to get food from Pronto, a human service agency in Bay Shore, he said he had been out of work for six months when he started coming to Pronto’s food pantry. Guerrero said he was working again, as a mail sorter, but not working as many hours as he had before.

Guerrero looked over the shopping cart full of food he was wheeling to his car — a frozen chicken, frozen ground beef, bread, grains and beans — estimating he had $100 worth of food he didn’t have to pay for. He has a family of three. “It helps a lot.”

Marc Soto, Pronto’s executive director, said his agency gets food from both Long Island Cares and the region’s other food bank, Island Harvest, as well as donations from a variety of businesses. He also said the pandemic has prompted an increase in people seeking out the food pantry, which operates six days a week.

Soto said the increase “was due largely to the pandemic and losing employment.” He said, “Those who kept employment were not working the same hours … or were working at a lower wage.”

He said the numbers coming to the pantry “pre-pandemic were typically 4,500 to 5,000 a month. We’re still at around 7,000 people we’re servicing every month for food alone.” He said at the pandemic’s height, his agency was providing food to 14,000 people a month.



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Future

What’s the future for COVID-19 data in South Dakota?


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Case counts, death counts, positivity rates, testing rates, hospital capacity and vaccine counts — the metrics of COVID-19 data have become common terms throughout the pandemic.

As knowledge about the coronavirus pandemic evolved, so did the ways to measure the impact of the infectious disease. With nearly 50% of the South Dakota adult population (16 and older) fully vaccinated, what future does COVID-19 data hold? 

“We have used data very strategically with our COVID-19 response,” State epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said. “The more people that we see vaccinated in some of these areas, the fewer cases of COVID-19 we are seeing as well.” 

Dr. Clayton said adding vaccine data to the state health department’s website has shown the positive side of COVID-19 data. He said it remains important for people to take into account the information available about the virus in the future. 

“The vaccine data will continue to be important through time,” Dr. Clayton said. “We are trying to reach at least that 70-percent level when we talk about herd immunity.” 

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner and board member for Pfizer, touted the metric 10 cases per 100,000 people on a daily basis for public health measuring purposes. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Dr. Gottlieb said the risk of a bad COVID outcome is very low if you are vaccinated. 

Four counties listed as having ‘Substantial’ community spread 

In South Dakota, state health department incorporates case rates per 100,000 people in its community spread map.

The map shows a county-by-county breakdown of where new coronavirus cases are being reported on a per capita basis. It is updated weekly comprising data reported in the previous two weeks in a population-based formula. 

“It does take into account the total population for the state and/or for the county and it does at the number of cases per 100,000 individuals within a specific area,” Clayton said. “That data is used then to help us understand what level of community transmission we are still seeing in some of these areas.” 

The South Dakota Department of Health has begun updating data five-days a week instead of seven days a week. Tuesday’s data now includes data from both Saturday and Sunday.

This week’s community spread map shows only four counties (Minnehaha, Brown, Codington and Custer) listed as having “Substantial” community spread. Six counties have no community spread, while 20 counties are listed having “Moderate” community spread and 36 counties have “Minimal” community spread. 

“Individuals understand their community and they know the number of cases that may translate to levels of community spread,” Dr. Clayton said. “Ten cases in Minnehaha County is going to be different from ten cases in Hughes County because of the size difference there.” 

Clayton said the community impact map will be a “very helpful” tool in tracking COVID-19 in the future. He said knowing what the rate of cases are in the background will help people make decisions on what is best for them. 

“We know COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time,” Dr. Clayton said. “What levels of mitigation should you be taking? Can you go to the store without a mask? Will you feel a little more comfortable if you are fully vaccinated? There’s a lot of thought that goes into how data is being used especially in the context of vaccination.” 

Clayton said there’ll be more COVID-19 data to come as things change as more and more people get vaccinated. 



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Future Economy Collective mutual aid effort hits one-year milestone


BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) – Wednesday marked one year since a Blacksburg nonprofit organized mutual aid efforts to keep feeding families in the New River Valley.

Twice a week volunteers from the Future Economy Collective fill boxes with food, clothing and cleaning supplies to fill the gap between other financial assistance programs.

In December, the nonprofit opened a brick and mortar location to keep distributing these boxes and launched the Southpaw Café. All proceeds from the café go directly back to mutual aid efforts to help families.

“It’s been a mix but overall a massive honor to be able to do this and it fills us with so much pride and joy knowing that folks really do care about their fellow man,” co-director Gretchen Dee said.

The volunteers have filled 948 boxes this past year. If you need a box or want to help with the nonprofit’s efforts, you can do that on their website.

The Southpaw Café is open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and sells coffee, bagels, soup, vegan options, plants, zines, art and spiced hot chocolate. There are suggested prices.

You can also choose to pay it forward for a future customer of the shop.

The nonprofit is located at the intersection of Draper Road and Jackson Street.

Copyright 2021 WDBJ. All rights reserved.



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Clay County residents can apply for rent/utility assistance, starting Monday


CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Clay County residents who are at risk of becoming homeless or are behind on their electric, gas, water or internet services may apply for financial assistance, starting Monday.

The county has received nearly $7 million in federal government Cares Act money. Applicants must be Clay County residents and do have to be able to prove they have lost income or work as a result of COVID-19. Landlords are also able to apply for assistance.

Victoria Hapner, community and social services manager for Clay County, said it will take two to four weeks for the money to be distributed to individuals and said in most cases the money will be sent via check or electronic funds directly to the landlord or utility provider.

“Currently, we are covering up to three months of back rent and utilities — so water, electric, internet services. There is no cap on what the monthly rent could be, so somebody that maybe pays $1,200 a month or somebody that pays $700 a month, they are going to equally get their three months’ worth of back rent,” explained Hapner.

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The application process is only available online. Here is a link explaining who is eligible and what documents will be required to apply.

If you do not have internet access or a computer, the county has partnered with its libraries to offer Clay County residents access to computers, including scanners to help upload the required documents.

Monday’s application process will remain open for 30 days, after which, Hapner said, the process will close to allow them to assess the demand. Should money still be available after the first offering, then a second application process could be made available at a later date.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.



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Birdsong in a Time of Silence by Steven Lovatt review – lockdown’s high notes | Books


In spring 2020, as Covid-19 spread fear and infection around the globe, seismologists were able to track “a wave of silence passing over the earth, its course exactly following that of the virus”. According to Steven Lovatt, silence descended on Britain, perhaps for the first time since the Industrial Revolution: “Finally, the earth could hear itself think, and the voice of its thought was song.”

The pandemic struck in the northern hemisphere just at the moment when birdsong was resuming after the bleak winter months. That “strangest spring” will be remembered not just for the new virus, but as the time when the nation became aware of birdsong. Silent streets and gardens were filled with “a rising choir of chirps, trills and warbles”. People shared recordings made on their phones of “the woozy fluting of blackbirds” and “the deep purring of wood pigeons”.

Lockdown also reawakened Lovatt’s passion for birds. As a child he had been awestruck by the starlings that roosted in Birmingham during the winter: “They swirled and pulsed in the sky-space between concrete towers as though a dark dough of poppyseeds was being stretched and kneaded by invisible hands.” By his teens he could identify most British birds. But then his interest faded – until last year.



Katie Marland’s illustration of the Skylark, from Birdsong in a Time of Silence. Photograph: Katie Marland

Beautifully illustrated in black and white by Katie Marland, Birdsong in a Time of Silence begins early in the morning of 24 March, the day after normal life in Britain was suspended. Lovatt’s slim yet wonderfully evocative book records his walks and observations of nature and birds during the spring and summer, drawing on poetry, folk songs, myths and science to reveal the key role birdsong has played not just in our culture, but our life-worlds.

Lovatt points out that birdsong probably hasn’t changed much since the stone age. It has been the soundtrack to the evolution of our species: “It’s part of our feeling of belonging in the world … we have birdsong in the blood.” It is a reminder of the natural world and “the circular, seasonal time that never ceases to follow its own patterns”. Today, being able to recognise birdsong, such as the insistent alarm calls of the blackbird when it spots a cat, enriches one’s understanding of the world “by revealing an almost forgotten aspect of the grammar of reality”.

Birdsong also shapes our identity as individuals. The songs and calls of birds that Lovatt encountered on his lockdown walks bring back childhood memories, such as waking in his grandmother’s house in the 1980s and hearing the calls of house martins nesting in the eaves “which reminded me of the working of knitting needles”. In its ability to spark forgotten memories and connect us to nature, birdsong is, says Lovatt, both “plainly mystical and profoundly ordinary”.

House Sparrow.



House Sparrow. Illustration: Katie Marland

Lovatt deftly captures the character and personality of the birds he describes: from the ubiquitous blackbird, whose song can be heard across the land and forms “an essential ingredient” of what we know as home, to the “strange and magical” sound of skylarks, the “guttural croaks” of herons, and the “chatters, pop-gun detonations and saucy whistles” of starlings, who he says “have arguably the greatest repertoire of any British bird”.

There are 220 bird species that breed in the British Isles and as many as a quarter migrate here. Swallows fly from South Africa, some 6,000 miles away, to grace our skies. Quite how they navigate remains a mystery. In the era of climate crisis, fewer are migrating. The corncrakes and quail that Lovatt’s grandparents would have heard are less common today, as are the nightingales and turtle doves that his parents would have listened to: “I’ve never heard any of these species in Britain.”

Habitat depletion and the catastrophic decline in insect numbers means there are millions fewer birds in the country than when Lovatt was a child. As well as a big ecological problem, this impoverished soundscape is “a great loss for our sense of who we are as human beings”. Our idea of summer was once defined by the sound of birds such as cuckoos and turtle doves, “the aural equivalent of a heat haze, the gentlest corrugation of air, always just on the edge of your hearing”.

This is a joyous and profound meditation on birdsong and what it means to us, a book that brings to life an essential part of the natural world that most of us take so much for granted that we scarcely notice it.

Birdsong in a Time of Silence is published by Particular (£12.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.



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Third Round Of Small Business Assistance Headed To Hamilton County


Hamilton County will fund a third round of small business assistance using leftover funding from the federal CARES Act. County commissioners voted Thursday to approve the new funding plan that includes $4.35 million for the small business program.

The plan also allocates about a million dollars for navigators to help people find and apply for help, including technical assistance for business owners.

“We wanted to make sure that as more small business relief hits the street that we do more than just tell people to call various numbers to get in the queue,” said County Administrator Jeff Aluotto.

The Freestore Foodbank is slated to receive a million dollars for food assistance.

The increased funding for navigators leaves the county short on full funding to replace the county’s phone system, which is needed because the health department has gotten a high volume of calls related to the pandemic and vaccinations.

County administrators initially recommended $800,000 for the phone system replacement, but that’s reduced to $200,000 based on feedback from commissioners.

Aluotto says the remainder of that cost could come from another round of federal stimulus, or from yet another reallocation of CARES money.

For example, $500,000 is reserved for an alternative care facility in case the hospital system gets overwhelmed.

“We are getting to the point in the path of this pandemic where I’m very hopeful that we don’t have to talk about opening an alternative care facility,” Aluotto said. “But we’re not quite taking our foot off of that particular accelerator yet.”

Funding currently allocated for COVID-19 testing could also shift to vaccination efforts in the near future.

Read the full reallocation plan below: 

Hamilton County CARES Plan Reallocation by WVXU News on Scribd



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Sacramento County OKs more emergency rental assistance. Here’s how to apply


MILITARY HEALTH SYSTEM. APPLICATIONS OPEN TOMORROW FOR PEOPLE IN SACRAMENTO COUNTY WHO MIGHT NEED SOME HELP RENT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE OF THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC THE ASSISTANCE IS AVAILABLE FOR LOW-INCOME RENTERS THROUGH THE SACRAMENTO HOUSING AND REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY LANDLORDS CAN ALSO APPLY FOR ASSISTANCE ON BEHALF OF THEIR TENANTS THE CITY AND COUNTY WILL USE NEARLY $10

Sacramento County OKs more emergency rental assistance. Here’s how to apply

The new infusion of state and federal funds adds to the $31 million allocated by the City of Sacramento — meaning $95.6 million in all is available for those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic


The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors has approved more than $64 million for emergency rental assistance for those in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who qualify can apply for the relief here starting Thursday. The new infusion of state and federal funds adds to the $31 million allocated by the City of Sacramento — meaning $95.6 million in all is available for those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. The money can be used to cover past due rent or utility payments, and property owners can also apply on behalf of their tenants, according to the county. Those who previously applied for the Sacramento Emergency Rental Assistance program are allowed to apply again. Here are more rules about who qualifies for the aid: Must rent their home in Sacramento CountyMust have household gross annual income at or below these low-income limits:1 person: $48,350 ​2 person: $​55,250​3 person: $62,150​4 person: $69,050​5 person: $74,600​6 person: $80,100​7 person: $85,6508 person: $91,150Must have at least one household member who is unemployed or has experienced a reduced household income, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19Must show a risk of being unhoused or housing instabilityThe application period runs from Feb. 25 through March 19. More info: SERA2 Program

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors has approved more than $64 million for emergency rental assistance for those in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who qualify can apply for the relief here starting Thursday.

The new infusion of state and federal funds adds to the $31 million allocated by the City of Sacramento — meaning $95.6 million in all is available for those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

The money can be used to cover past due rent or utility payments, and property owners can also apply on behalf of their tenants, according to the county. Those who previously applied for the Sacramento Emergency Rental Assistance program are allowed to apply again.

Here are more rules about who qualifies for the aid:

  • Must rent their home in Sacramento County
  • Must have household gross annual income at or below these low-income limits:

1 person: $48,350

​2 person: $​55,250

​3 person: $62,150

​4 person: $69,050

​5 person: $74,600

​6 person: $80,100

​7 person: $85,650

8 person: $91,150

  • Must have at least one household member who is unemployed or has experienced a reduced household income, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19
  • Must show a risk of being unhoused or housing instability

The application period runs from Feb. 25 through March 19.

More info: SERA2 Program



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