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U.S. opens $3 billion aviation manufacturing wage subsidy program


A United Airlines passenger jet takes off with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department said Tuesday it had launched a $3 billion aviation manufacturing payroll subsidy program that will cover up to half of eligible companies’ compensation costs for as long as six months.

The program, funded by Congress, requires companies to commit to not conducting furloughs without employee consent or laying off employees covered by subsidies during the six-month period. Applications must be filed by July 13.

Companies eligible include aircraft, engine, propeller or component manufacturers and companies that repair or overhaul airplanes and parts.

The subsidy program cannot cover more than 25% of an employer’s total U.S. workforce as of April 2020 and can only cover employees with total annual compensation of $200,000 or less.

To qualify, a company must have involuntarily furloughed or laid off at least 10% of its total workforce, or have experienced at least a 15% decline in 2020 total operating revenues.

More than 100,000 jobs have been lost in the aerospace industry since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Transportation Department. Before then, the U.S. aerospace industry was estimated to employ approximately 2.2 million workers, including 1.2 million who worked in various parts of the supply chain nationwide.

Boeing Co (BA.N), which has had extensive job cuts, Raytheon Technologies (RTX.N) and Spirit Aerosystems (SPR.N) did not immediately respond to questions about whether they are considering applying. General Electric’s (GE.N) aviation unit said it would not seek assistance from the program.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had strongly urged Congress to fund the program.

Congress has provided assistance to other aviation industry firms, including giving U.S. airlines $54 billion for payroll since March 2020 and that funding will continue to pay much of airline workers’ salaries through Sept. 30.

Reporting by David Shepardson
Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Future

How COVID-19 is changing the future of homelessness in the Seattle area


SEATTLE, Wash. — As COVID-19 worsened throughout 2020, so did homelessness. During a time when preventing the spread of the virus was first priority, it was nearly impossible to shelter people in the same space.

Claudia Balducci, the Chair of the King County Council in Seattle, says COVID-19 changed the cities’ response to homelessness.

“People realized pretty quickly that we couldn’t continue to house folks in homelessness in these big congregate shelters where they were sleeping on mats on the floor or bunk beds in a big open room because it was too dangerous. There was too big a risk of transmission of the virus,” Balducci said.

COVID-19 also left some local hotels empty, so the county leased them, allowing them to offer homeless people a private room. Dow Constantine, the King County Executive, says the evidence was right in front of them.

“We knew that we were onto something,” Constantine said. “The difference between having a safe place to sleep and then being pushed out on the street and having your own room with a lock on the door was dramatic.”

“The answer to homelessness is housing,” Balducci said.

In 2020, the Washington legislature gave them the authority to raise the sales tax to accelerate getting people into housing. The pandemic, combined with this opportunity led the county to purchase its first hotel: the Inn at Queen Anne. Constantine says they have about five more hotels that are in some stage of negotiation.

“People felt safer, they felt calmer, they did better with their mental health, they did better with planning for the future, there were fewer incidents, less conflict,” Balducci said.

They got direct feedback about what these rooms meant to people experiencing homelessness.

“I have a door I can close. I feel safe. I can sleep. There is a place for my belongings. I don’t have to carry them around with me all the time or worry about them being stolen,” Balducci said. “Instead of being in crisis mode all the time. You can’t plan for your future when you’re constantly dealing with the crisis of the moment.”

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on a single night in 2020, roughly 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States.

“I think that this is an opportunity for every community that’s experiencing homelessness,” Constantine said.

King County wants to be a model for the rest of the country. They say spending money on the front end instead of the back end can create results.

“If you’re a taxpayer, you’re paying for that because people end up in hospitals, they end up in jails, very expensive services that all taxpayers contribute to,” Balducci said. “Over time you’re going to save money because you’re going to have a lot less emergency intervention that is so expensive and frankly doesn’t solve the problem.”

They expect to have about 1,600 people off the streets and into permanent housing by the end of next year, a reality they feel will drastically change their community.

“We are going to show the public that this works and by doing so I believe we will build support to do more of it until we finally turn the tide on this crisis,” Constantine said.





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New state program aims to provide struggling Michigan residents with rental assistance


DETROIT – The state is rolling out a new online tool aimed at helping struggling renters stay in their homes.

It is all a part of a new program called COVID Emergency Rental Assistance aimed at addressing a growing crisis across the state.

Previous Coverage: Michigan renters, landlords can apply for assistance through new program

The number of people struggling to pay rent each month has grown into its own crisis during the pandemic.

Now the state’s new tool officially launched Friday aims at helping those people make ends meet.

The tool is meant to help get $282 million from the federal government with another $340 million expected to be approved by the state legislature into the hands of renters to help avoid eviction, pay back rent and make sure roofs stay over heads.

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“We know there are thousands of renters and there are thousands of landlords that need this program,” said Kelly Rose with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

According to federal data, there are more than 1 million rental homes statewide and more than half are considered rent burdened meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. In Detroit renters outnumber homeowners.

“We have a whole lot of people who have not been able to pay the rent or their mortgage bills or their utility bills as they normally would have over the past year, and then to add on top of that, the normal support system that is there for lower income people who are in financial distress has not been as accessible as it normally would be,” said Joe McGuire with Detroit Eviction Defense.

But for a lot of renters there may be barriers to using the new online tool. They might be disabled or not have access to a reliable computer or the internet.

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Others might not know some key information about their landlord like their email or physical address.

The state says local housing agencies are still taking paper applications for the money too.

Renters are only eligible if they make less than 80 percent of the area median income and have had some kind of COVID hardship. If approved renters can get assistance for up to a full year.

For more on the program or to apply for help, click here.

Copyright 2021 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit – All rights reserved.



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NC HOPE Program: Thousands in North Carolina approved for rental assistance but have been waiting months for money


The North Carolina HOPE Program is supposed to help pay rent and utilities of Triangle residents struggling during the pandemic, yet millions of dollars that the state has in the fund continue to sit unspent.

As of Thursday, out of the $167 million in HOPE funding, only $59.4 million of that has actually been paid out to landlords and utility providers since the program launched in October.

Frustrated renters hope changes to NC assistance program quicken approvals

Troubleshooter Diane Wilson has heard from more than a dozen landlords and tenants who have been waiting weeks, some even more than a month to get their promised funds.

“It’s a whole lot of stress”

“I applied the second day the program opened,” said Durham renter Kymberlee Devine.

HOPE (Housing Opportunity to Prevent Evictions) is a statewide rental assistance program funded by the federal government and opened to applicants in October. The program closed to new applicants just weeks after launching after receiving more than 42,000 applications.

Devine got her application in time and was approved for both utility and rental assistance right away.

While the utility assistance was paid, the promised rental assistance was not.

Her rent continued to be unpaid, her landlord growing impatient for the promised funds.

“I am not getting any answers,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been given the runaround. It’s a whole lot of stress.”

“Miscommunication”

Clayton resident Raimey Cooke faced the same frustrations when trying to get answers from her HOPE representative.

“There is so much miscommunication,” she said.

Some North Carolina landlords rejecting HOPE program rent payments for struggling tenants on verge of eviction

Despite the Cooke family having their HOPE approval letter for utility assistance, their lights were shut off not once, but twice due to nonpayment.

“It’s been a HOPE nightmare,” Cooke said.

She says she and her landlord faced the same obstacle in getting answers. The promised rental assistance from HOPE was set to arrive after she applied in October and was approved, but by the beginning of February — still no funds.

She says calls to 211, the number HOPE applicants are asked to call, and calls and emails to her caseworkers got her nowhere.

“I just need answers to be able to tell my landlord what’s going on because, at this point, he thinks it’s a scam,” Cooke said.

Not only are Triangle renters frustrated with HOPE, but also landlords want to know, “where’s the money?”

‘The moratorium is going to end’: North Carolinians await N.C. HOPE Program funds for rent, utilities

Fayetteville landlord Kim Holland hasn’t received any rent since October from her tenant who was approved for $4,500 from HOPE.

“What about people that this is part of their income to pay bills?” Holland asked.

She says not having any rent since October has been tough and just having an approval letter from HOPE doesn’t pay her bills.

“It’s becoming a hardship for me, you go five months without any pay,” she said.

Holland says she’s called and emailed HOPE and 211 for weeks to find out when she will get the five months of back rent but has gotten no answers.

“If you’re all are going to give this money out, it’s a great program, but you still need to communicate with the people and let them know exactly how you’re going to get their funds,” Holland said.

Where’s the money?

As of Thursday, HOPE administrators say, out of the $167 million they have to give in rent and utility assistance, more than $138 million have been awarded, but only $59.4 million of that has actually been paid out to landlords and utility providers since the program launched in October.

“What we did in the program is to front-load the agreement,” said Laura Hogshead, Chief Operating Officer for the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, which runs the program. “So our primary concern was making sure landlords and tenants got the agreements so everyone knew what was coming. People could sleep at night and know the award was made.”

Stimulus update: Where the COVID relief bill stands in Congress, what’s next

Hogshead acknowledges that payments on those agreements are taking time and that landlords need their money.

“When we started this last fall, we did not know that within the course of three weeks we were going to have 42,000 applications. We were quickly swamped as were our community partners and that’s why we’ve hired 170 people. That’s why we have streamlined every process we can possibly streamline and still remain compliant because that is a concern we want to make sure that federal government doesn’t come back and ask for this money back later,” Hogshead said.

HOPE is assisting thousands of people here in the state. The $138.7 million amounts to 55,856 rent and utility awards to help 36,213 households impacted by the pandemic. Despite only $59.4 million paid to landlords and utility companies statewide, administrators say those numbers are increasing, literally, by the hour.

“We’re trying very hard to make sure that we’re complying on the front end that we’re acting with all due haste and with incredible empathy, but understanding that these are still federal processes and they still do take time,” Hogshead said. “The payments are catching up, we know that folks are waiting on them and we have sped up enormously.”

Once we brought these cases to the attention of administrators with HOPE, along with the other cases in this story where viewers were also waiting for HOPE money, all but one landlord got their thousands of promised in HOPE funding.

For the one landlord who is still waiting, HOPE administrators say they are looking into the issue.

“Now that the weight has been lifted and the nightmare is over,” Cooke said after her landlord got the money.

Help on the way?

Administrators at HOPE stress that if you were approved and have a signed agreement, you will get the money as quickly as they can process it.

Hogshead says if tenants or landlords are having issues she encourages them to call 211.

She does understand there may be delays in getting answers, but they are working hard to work through the cases.

“We know it’s never going to be fast enough, but we keep improving, we keep getting better, and we are eagerly anticipating the next round of funding so that we can help more people.,” she said.

Right now HOPE is closed to new applicants.

The program will eventually reopen once the state gets guidance from the US Treasury on the new rules for the latest stimulus bill that Congress passed in December, which includes North Carolina getting about $700 million to help with COVID relief efforts.

Hogshead says her agency will oversee a large portion of those funds for rent and utility assistance once federal guidance is given.

Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.





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Ambulance Association warns it’s near ‘breaking point’ without more federal assistance | News Headlines


ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — Calls for help are on the rise at ambulance districts across the country as the pandemic continues. The American Ambulance District is warning the federal government that the emergency response system will buckle if additional assistance is not provided. 

“Call volume has been an interesting thing to examine during this time frame,” said Kyle Gaines, the spokesperson for the St. Charles County Ambulance District.

Call volume was down pretty significantly in the spring and summer with more people staying home. Since fall began, Gaines said call volume has been picking up and has now surpassed what it was during the same time in 2019. 

Added costs for PPE and staffing have been the biggest challenges, Gaines said.

“Whenever we have a team member, a paramedic has to quarantine, or is positive themselves, that position can’t go unfilled. This is not a situation where we can just work one short or two short or take a truck out of service,” said Gaines. 

During one shift earlier this fall, 11 of the 46 employees were not able to work. 

From July through September, overtime costs were up 112 percent this year compared to the same time frame in 2019. 

The American Ambulance Association is asking the Department of Health and Human Services for $2.6 billion to prevent the emergency medical system from buckling during the pandemic.

The group said that would give each department that is a member $43,500, which includes St. Charles County Ambulance District.

“Our use for that would be just like it was for the first round it would go toward those staffing needs that arise,” said Gaines. 

Gaines said because his department is not private and is partially funded by tax dollars, the department can survive even if the pandemic is prolonged. 

He is worried about the smaller, rural departments that rely more heavily on people using their ambulances. 

“We’ve been a little bit more well positioned to weather it, not saying it hasn’t impacted our overall budget in a pretty profound way because it certainly has,” said Gaines.

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved





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