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D.C. Memo: WHO; CARES

Taking another look at the CARES Act; who funded the pro-Klobuchar Super PAC; and Omar demands Federal oversight of Amazon after firing of two workers in Shakopee.

photo of donald trump
After praising the World Health Organization (WHO) for months, President Donald Trump said this week he would cut funding to the organization that has been on the frontlines of responding to the coronavirus internationally.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, taking another look at the CARES Act; who funded the pro-Klobuchar Super PAC; and Omar demands Federal oversight of Amazon after firing of two workers in Shakopee. Alright, let’s get on with this.

WHO

After praising the World Health Organization (WHO) for months, President Donald Trump said this week he would cut funding to the organization that has been on the frontlines of responding to the coronavirus internationally. WHO first declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic in February, and as part of the United Nations, has coordinated the international response to the virus.

“In my 53 years of seeing dumb things, defunding the WHO in the middle of a global pandemic is the winner,” Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said on Twitter. 

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Congress CARES

The $2.2 trillion dollar CARES Act, the third coronavirus stimulus package, was meant to solve problems, not create them. But as the weeks wear on, the holes in the bill are becoming more apparent.

For one, dependents above the age of 16 don’t qualify for a $1,200 or a $500 check.

”What good is money in the future if my credit score is ruined and I can’t pay my bills?” Jamie Agustin, a 23-year-old paralegal based in New Jersey who was a dependent in 2019, told Vox. “My brother is 17, but his age doesn’t affect how much money he’s costing my parents, so the age requirement is ridiculous. To me, means testing is just another way to deny people money that they need.”

Rep. Angie Craig and Sen. Tina Smith want to fix that. I wrote a story on the their bill, the All Dependents Count Act, which would expand the qualifying age of a dependent under the CARES Act to 19, 24 for dependents who are students and beyond 24 for individuals with disabilities.

“It’s deeply unfair to Minnesota families that no credit is available for dependents 17 and older, including older children with disabilities and college students,” Smith said in a statement. “My legislative fix will right this wrong and — more importantly — offer some additional relief to families.”

Another problem: Members of Congress can’t agree on how to update the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, meant to give small businesses a lifeline, which ran out of money in just two weeks. 

And another problem: The congressional oversight committee drawn up by Rep. Dean Phillips isn’t quite ready yet. From Bloomberg News:

Bharat Ramamurti became the first person named to the Congressional Oversight Commission supposed to police the massive coronavirus relief fund. A former top staffer for Senator Elizabeth Warren, Ramamurti expected to have company—the new law requires congressional leaders to appoint a five-member panel.

He’s still waiting.

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The Super PAC Next Door

Who funded the Super PAC that supported Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s presidential run? Two men named Jeff gave a total of $1 million. But who else?

Read more at MinnPost. 

Amazon fires two Shakopee employees

Amazon workers around the country are concerned about lax protections during the coronavirus outbreak and say management isn’t taking them seriously. Adding to this, they recently fired Bashir Mohamed, a worker at their Shakopee facility. Workers interviewed by BuzzFeed say Amazon is targeting workers involved with walkouts and worker protection efforts.

Rep. Ilhan Omar sent a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt on Wednesday requesting an investigation into his dismissal, as well as the dismissal of another employee.

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By the numbers

Free calling to be temporarily instituted in federal prisons

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is making calling and video calling free during the coronavirus outbreak, Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal told Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar led 12 senators in raising the issue earlier this month, after visitation availability was significantly limited.

In other news

What I’m reading

Pat Borzi for MinnPost: COVID-19 is a huge story for newspapers across Minnesota. For some, it could also be their undoing.

Local news is declining around the country. That’s something we already know. But coronavirus is speeding up the process. And that means journalists who were juggling entire newspapers are losing their jobs.

“This was true in January before hell broke loose globally: There are no solutions being proposed, or anywhere close to becoming reality, that deal with the tremendous loss of growth in newspapers,” said one media analyst. “Now the problem has been advanced four years.”

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: gschneider@minnpost.com. Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.