Another Monday, another week, right CivMixers? Today marks the last work week in July and the final days of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments.

Needless to say, this makes many people who are still out of work as a result of the pandemic very worried.

Congress is working to reach an agreement on an extension of those benefits, not to mention another round of stimulus payments.

It appears that the stimulus payments – if approved – will be similar to what was included in the CARES Act.

But to be clear, there is no approved or even formally proposed legislation from the GOP-controlled Senate at this time. There are just a lot of unnamed source reports, talk in the media by both Republicans and Democrats, and no firm agreements in sight.

There were more clashes over the weekend between peaceful protestors, violent demonstrations, detractors, and authorities. I wish people and news organizations would stop saying how long it has been since the George Floyd incidents set off this “round of protests.”

The BLM movement has been around for a long time; Floyd’s death was a match that lit the flame. I think we can go ahead and call this the next Civil Rights movement or the Social Justice movement.

Okay, enough of my musings. Let’s get down to business and see how we are starting this week’s news cycle, shall we?

1) As mentioned, the two sides in D.C. are talking about a stimulus package that would extend reduced FPUC payments, and the Senate Republicans have been working on a proposal that would lower the amount to a $200 flat benefit payment per week.

Three separate senior GOP aides have confirmed this information to news outlets and suggested the full aid package proposal could be released sometime today.

The $200 payment would last for the next two months. It would help support unemployed Americans as states work to transition their own unemployment benefits to a rate of 70 percent of what an individual earned before losing their last job.

States that are having any issues switching their systems over to wage replacement setups will be allowed to have their respective Departments of Labor apply for this two-month, flat-rate extension. This will guarantee all states time to make the switch, allowing for as little impact as possible to those receiving benefits.

It is technically unknown how the Democrats will react to this, since the Democrat-led House passed the proposal to extend the current amount up through January 2021.

Republicans have largely opposed the continuation of payments in that amount, saying that there is a report from the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency, that showed the $600 exceeded what the majority of people could expect to make if they returned to work – making re-entering the workforce an unattractive option.

Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, has made it clear that $200 is not enough. He has proposed that any Republican who thinks that is enough – up to and including President Donald Trump – try to live on that amount for a few weeks.

That statement was met with hostility by Michael Zona, spokesman for Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. Zona did not speak to any other suggested parts of the bill, but was quick to say that this would be a spend of about $1 trillion even with the reduced amount. He pointed out that since the $200 would be a supplement to state benefits, Sen. Wyden’s argument was more than misleading.

“To call this misleading would be generous. A federal benefit of $200/week would be *in addition to* hundreds in state benefits. No unemployed American is being asked to live on $200 a week.”
-Michael Zona, spokesman to Chairman Chuck Grassley

No matter the solution, I think everyone can agree the time to go to the negotiating table is past due, since this week is the last week of any kind of FPUC payment, and many people will be below the poverty level if forced onto just their state’s unemployment benefits as they currently stand.

2) In the long history of weather and Hawaii, only two hurricanes have ever made landfall in the past. Hurricane Dot in 1959 and Hurrican Iniki in 1992. Hurricane Douglas looks to be the first in this century and only the third since 1900 when the current system of tracking began to form.

Being a series of islands, Hawaii has been lucky enough to have only some tropical storms hit them as well…though may of both tropical storms and hurricanes have been close. Though many storms head that way, they tend to weaken or entirely fall apart before they hit the state.

It is important to point out that they have missed landfall status by the National Hurricane Center’s definition of need the eye of the cyclone driving the storm to be overland. According to the NHC, this means that some storms that technically do not make landfall status more affect a place than a storm that meets this criterion, but never has the strongest outer bands over land.

As of yesterday, the storm was ranked as a category one storm, and Douglas was north of the Big Island and east of Maui in Hawaii, heading to the west-northwest. This would put possible landfall on Oahu and/or Kauai. If it remains a cat one storm, the winds will max out at 85 MPH (sustained). Kauai, Maui, and Oahu Counties are all under a Hurricane Warning, and Hawaii County has a tropical storm warning.

3) If you know me and you knew this story was out there, then its inclusion here should be of no surprise. If you don’t know me personally – I love sharks. Shark week is my favorite time of year. I research sharks in my spare time because they fascinate me. I think they are beautiful, amazing, under-appreciated apex predators that have survived in some form since the time of the dinosaurs.

So. Yeah. I am a geek. I am sure we have covered that before. This is just a different facet of that. With that in mind…

Long Beach in Long Island is currently indefinitely closed after there was a second shark spotted in the ocean off its shores. Long Beach spokesman Michael Caputo confirmed that this is the town’s first shark sighting since 2016. The first one was mid-morning today, and Caputo confirmed that it was close to shore, only eight or ten feet from the shoreline. There was a second confirmed sighting around 2:15 PM and closed the beaches until further notice.

The first sighting was this morning, and in a press conference, Long Beach Town Supervisor Don Calvin stated the shark in the first sighting was approximately ten to twelve feet, which is a substantial size shark. Calvin also said there could be two different sharks in the area.

With beaches already at a reduced capacity following COVID regulations, now there is only waist-deep swimming allowed in Hempstead at all town beaches between Atlantic Beach and Jones Beach. Because of that second sighting, there are lifeguards and Coast Guard Patrols in the water, continually evaluating the situation.

Long Beach will let residents know as soon as it re-opens.

4) Yesterday, Schenectady joined the recent rash in an uptick of shootings across the country. There were five reported incidents of shooting in just one day.

First, there were shots fired in Central Park, and the Schenectady Police Department confirmed that two people were hit, though both had non-life-threatening injuries. Next, a third victim came into the hospital, determined to have a gunshot wound.

If SPD knows the location of that shooting, they have not yet released it.

Next, there were shots on Duane Avenue, but no one was reported as being hit. SPD next had reports of gunfire on Crane Street. SPD is investigating, and no exact time frame has been determined yet. There is no information on if there were any victims.

Hulett Street saw the last shooting of the day. According to SPD, two males arrived at Ellis Hospital, walking into the ER. One had been hit in the leg and the other in the ankle.

According to SPD, the incidents of shots fired this year is up from last year by 60.7 percent, with 55 reported incidents. Luckily, the uptick seen in Schenectady is nothing next to Albany’s 146 shots fired incidents as of July 19.

So far, there have been no arrests made in yesterdays shootings, and the SPD asks that anyone with any information let them know as soon as possible.

5) Across the state, school districts are yet to make their re-opening plans public, at least in full. In less than a week, they are all due to turn their plans into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will be deciding next week if in-person learning is going to be how schools proceed when they re-open for the year.

New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Robert Schneider said that from what his organization has seen, many districts are planning for a hybrid of learning experiences. This will maximize social distancing by allowing for both in-class and distance learning.

Schneider went on to say that at NYSSBA, they are seeing a lot of the plans reflecting what is happening across the state now, with mask and social distancing requirements, as well as sanitizing and cleaning procedures. There are also general screening policies for all involved, from students to staff.

What most districts are concerned about is funding for the implementation of these policies. The other consistent question is if students, staff, faculty, and parents are ready for children to return to schools.

As of today, the state Education Department did not have a count as to how many districts have turned in their proposals.

As an aside…

I usually end it here – but I have seen multiple stories and warnings throughout my day about seeds in the mail. Also, my dad told me about it yesterday, but I half thought he was messing with me—sorry, Pops. So, there are many people in many states getting unsolicited seeds in the mail, and the Department of Agriculture is warning against even opening and touching them, and warning against planting them if you do open them.

They could be some kind of invasive species, or something else. If you have or do receive these seeds, please email with your name, contact information, and pictures of the package.

I feel it necessary here to remind people that if you get something like this, you haven’t ordered anything and it is marked as one thing, but contains another, it is always important to be cautious and report that. Okay, that’s it for my PSA for the day.

That is all for today. Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.