Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/27

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/27

US: Hunger program’s slow start leaves millions of children waiting

nytimes.com

An emergency program Congress created to compensate for the declining reach of school meals during the pandemic by placing their value on electronic cards families can use in grocery stores has reached only a fraction of the 30 million children it was intended to help. By May 15, only 12 states had started sending money, according to a New York Times analysis.

CT: Local health officials say Connecticut contact tracing plan is hobbled by inadequate staffing and training

courant.com

Health directors on the frontlines of the pandemic said it could be weeks before an ambitious contact tracing program touted by Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is effective because of delays associated with software, training and recruitment of volunteer workers.

NJ: In reversal, New Jersey governor allows in-person graduations

nj.com

New Jersey high schools, middle schools and colleges will be allowed to hold in-person graduation ceremonies beginning July 6, as long as they are outside and comply with social distancing, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced. He was under intense pressure to allow schools to do more than the virtual ceremonies many had planned to comply with his executive order banning large gatherings.

NV: U.S. warns Nevada governor about in-person worship limits

apnews.com

In a letter to Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, the head of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division took issue with the first phase of Sisolak’s guidelines for restarting economic and social activity in the state.

NY: New York governor says it’s time to focus on reopening New York City

apnews.com

After weeks of declining deaths and hospitalizations, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was time to focus on relaunching New York City’s economy. Cuomo laid out a plan that included accelerating major infrastructure projects and tackling transmission of the virus in the most affected neighborhoods.

WI: Governor faces criticism over unemployment issues

jsonline.com

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration is struggling to catch up on a backlog of 675,000 unemployment claims in Wisconsin that are part of the pandemic surge. GOP lawmakers have blistered him with criticism after instituting benefit restrictions over the past decade that have limited Evers’ ability to respond to the current situation.

AL: Justice Department defends Alabama absentee ballot rule

apnews.com

Alabama’s requirement to have witnesses sign an absentee ballot is not a violation of the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Justice argued. A lawsuit contends Alabama’s election procedures jeopardize the health of voters during the coronavirus outbreak.

GA: Georgia Republicans aim to ‘safely host’ RNC; Atlanta mayor raises concerns

ajc.com

Georgia’s GOP leaders are laying out the welcome mat for the Republican National Convention, stoked by President Donald Trump's threats to move the August gathering from Charlotte, North Carolina, unless the state’s governor can guarantee full attendance.

HI: Hawaii's true jobless rate is a mystery

civilbeat.org

Hawaii labor officials announced a 22.3% unemployment rate for April, but the actual figure remains elusive. The federal survey cited by the state likely doesn't show the full picture, officials acknowledged, and the final tally of approved unemployment claims is not determined, as 43,000 already have been denied and 67,000 still are unprocessed.

WY: Wyoming officials alarmed at drop in vaccinations during pandemic

trib.com

Wyoming state health officials expressed alarm because fewer children are receiving vaccinations. A state program that pays for vaccinations saw a 25% drop in April compared with the year before.

WA: Steep drop in children’s vaccinations worries Washington health officials

seattletimes.com

Children still need to get their vaccines on time, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts say. But in Washington, even though clinics still typically offer vaccinations, officials say 30% fewer children were vaccinated in March, and about 40% fewer in April, when compared to previous years.

CO: Colorado officials say older people should stay home this summer

denverpost.com

Older Coloradans need to practice more stringent social distancing than younger residents in the coming months if the state is to avoid exceeding its critical care hospital capacity later this summer, according to a new modeling report.

MO: Missouri governor: Even in pandemic, not state’s job to break up partying

stltoday.com

After a holiday weekend of crowds ignoring social distancing orders at the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said there is little he can do to regulate gatherings. Rather, the Republican said he is leaving enforcement to city and county officials.

AZ: Arizona Senate adjourns without votes on bills

azcentral.com

The Arizona Senate has adjourned, snubbing a proposal by Republicans in the state House to make it harder for workers and customers to sue businesses after contracting COVID-19 on their premises.

DE: Delaware lifts quarantine rule for nonresidents, ban on short-term rentals

wdel.com

Delaware also will allow gatherings of up to 250 people outdoors beginning June 1, the same day it’s easing the other regulations. The state’s stay-at-home order will expire as well.

PA: Facing nearly $5B shortfall, Pennsylvania lawmakers plan stopgap budget

spotlightpa.org

With the true financial fallout from the coronavirus still unknown and the prospects for recovery uncertain, the Pennsylvania legislature is on track this week to approve a five-month spending plan that does not raise taxes and keeps funding level for all state departments.

IL: Illinois driver services facilities to reopen in June

sj-r.com

Illinois driver services offices will begin reopening June 1 with an initial focus on new drivers, people with expired licenses and state ID cards and those who need vehicle transactions such as titles.

VA: Virginia governor says state residents must wear masks in public buildings

richmond.com

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced that the state will require anyone over the age of 10 to wear a face mask while inside a public building or business. The new guidelines will go into effect later this week and apply to any indoor place where people congregate, including all brick-and-mortar retail, personal care and grooming businesses.

NC: Large gatherings ‘dangerous and reckless,’ North Carolina governor says

newsobserver.com

Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his administration is considering all options to stop gatherings like the auto racing event at a speedway in Alamance County that 4,000 people attended. He did not specify what penalties he is considering.

MS: Mississippi shortfall projections as much as $1.2B

mississippitoday.org

The Mississippi legislature could be facing the most difficult decisions of the past century in terms of developing a budget for the next fiscal year and in getting through the current one, Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said.

RI: Rhode Island governor confident about reopening plan

providencejournal.com

With observational data showing widespread adherence to COVID-19 control measures, Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said she is 100% confident the state will be able to transition to Phase 2 next week. That means gyms, barbershops, salons and other businesses shuttered for weeks will reopen and restaurants will be allowed to offer indoor dining.

MN: A large percentage of Minnesota COVID-19 patients don't speak English

startribune.com

More than a fifth of COVID-19 patients interviewed by Minnesota health department workers needed interpreters.

AK: Scientists will study what Alaska’s air quality is like without cruise ships

alaskapublic.org

Southeast Alaska’s economy is poised to take a hit as most of the season’s cruises cancel. But a rough year for tourism could be a good moment for science. No cruise ships or tour buses mean researchers will be able to measure the region’s baseline air quality.

OR: New Oregon figures show 'excess deaths' declining

wweek.com

The Oregon Health Authority has released new data that appear to show a decline in the number of unexplained deaths. Last month, Oregon had a significant number of deaths above the typical number, but data for the first couple of weeks of May shows that the number of unexplained deaths has dropped sharply, and reverted to historical norms.

ID: Workers at another Idaho meatpacking plant have tested positive

idahostatesman.com

Dozens of employees at yet another Idaho meatpacking facility have tested positive for COVID-19. It’s the latest in a string of meat and food processing facilities to experience large coronavirus outbreaks — mostly in the rural parts of the state.

LA: Louisiana House agrees to use $1B in federal aid to fill holes in state budget

theadvocate.com 

The Louisiana House swiftly approved state budget bills that use more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus aid to plug holes left by severely depressed tax collections, with Republican legislators finding broad agreement with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

GA: GOP senators suggest Georgia staffers work same hours for less pay

ajc.com

Georgia Senate Republican budget-writers raised the possibility that instead of furloughing state employees to meet planned spending cuts they might require staffers to work the same number of hours for less pay. 

MS: Overwhelmed Mississippi health agency gets aggressive to curb COVID-19

sunherald.com

Mississippi’s state health officer took on a much bigger job than his health department was capable of handling when he announced more testing and contact tracing would be cornerstones of the state attack on COVID-19.

NY: Uber and Lyft drivers sue for New York unemployment benefits

nytimes.com

In the latest challenge over their labor status, gig workers say New York state is illegally failing to pay them jobless benefits in a timely way.

MD: Maryland schools plan for coronavirus contingencies

baltimoresun.com

Maryland school officials now have outlined a range of possibilities that all involve significant restructuring of the school day and week, with a combination of distance learning and in-person instruction. An average classroom would have room for one-third or one-fourth of its usual number of students.

OH: Customers face long wait as Ohio motor vehicles agency reopens

dispatch.com

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles reopened this week and drivers faced long lines and wait times, a product of both heavy demand and extra time cleaning between customers.

MA: Reopening of Massachusetts public schools this fall would come with daunting issues

bostonglobe.com

State and city school officials haven’t made a firm commitment yet as to when Massachusetts public schools might reopen for a number of good reasons. Schools need a plan for everything from bus rides to handwashing to assessing the damage from a spring of online learning.

MO: Missouri governor moving Medicaid expansion vote to August

stltoday.com

Missouri voters will be asked if they want to expand Medicaid eligibility when they go to the polls in August. Republican Gov. Mike Parson moved the referendum from the November general election to the lower-turnout primary, drawing criticism from his likely opponent.

WY: Wyoming braces for $1.5B revenue shortfall

trib.com

In terms of cuts, Wyoming’s projected shortfall is equivalent to eliminating every state government worker, or roughly all of the spending for the state’s education system.

WI: Nearly 200,000 Wisconsin voters did not have to show a photo ID in the April election

jsonline.com

The spring election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court saw an unprecedented level of absentee voting as people tried to keep away from others.

PA: Thousands of Pennsylvania voters might not get their mail-in ballots in time to actually vote

inquirer.com

The coronavirus pandemic is making every step of Pennsylvania's vote-by-mail process take longer than usual.

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