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US shutdown: Thousands of federal workers miss paycheques | Trump News

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Thousands of federal workers won’t receive a paycheque on Friday as the partial US government shutdown stretches into its 21st day, rivalling the longest on record. 

More than half of the 800,000 federal employees affected are still on the job, while the others were furloughed when key federal departments and agencies shut down on December 22 after Donald Trump, his fellow Republicans and Democrats failed to come to an agreement on whether to allocate more than $5bn in funding to the president’s border wall project. 

On Thursday, during a visit to the US-Mexico border, Trump renewed his threat to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and find funds for the border wall, a move that, if he were to take it, would likely be challenged in the courts. 

Democrats, who oppose the wall, blame Trump, who has so far refused to back down on his demand for $5.7bn in funding, for the shutdown. They have instead said they will provide more than $1.3bn for border security measures, which do not include a wall.  

“I don’t even know if Trump wants the wall, I think he just wants to debate on the wall,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters on Thursday, suggesting that a meeting between her party and the president a day prior was a “setup” so Trump “could walk out”. 

At that meeting, Trump abruptly left after Pelosi told him Democrats would not fund the wall in exchange for his ending the shutdown. 

National emergency

Trump, who initially said he would be “proud” to shut down the government for border security, blames the Democrats, saying the wall is necessary to stem irregular immigration and stop the flow of illegal drugs into the US. Critics have pointed out that most drugs cross between official ports of entry. 

With workers missing their first paycheque and increased impacts on national parks, the economy and federal programmes, Republicans are feeling the pressure to find a way to end the shutdown. But Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, has so far refused this year to bring any legislation that Trump won’t sign to a vote. 





Trump speaks to reporters as he visits the banks of the Rio Grande River with Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and US Customs and Border Patrol agents during his visit to the US-Mexico border [Leah Millis/Reuters] 

Meanwhile, Trump appeared to be inching closer to declaring a national emergency. US media, citing unnamed sources, reported that the White House had asked the US Army Corps of Engineers to look to divert money from its budget towards the wall and explore how fast construction could begin under an emergency declaration. 

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement that it was “time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier”. But other Republicans have expressed doubts, given the potential legal hurdles such a move may face. 

‘How in the hell are we going to eat?’

On Thursday, federal workers across the country rallied against the shutdown. 

At the Washington, DC rally, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions, called the shutdown a “lockout”. 

“Shame on the Senate. Shame on the White House,” he told the crowd. “This lockout has to end, and it has to end now.”

In Detroit, federal worker Gregory Simpkins told the Associated Press, “Next week, it’s going to be a panic mode. How are we going to pay rent? How are we going to pay out bills? How in the hell are we going to eat?”

In New York, furloughed Park Ranger Kathryn Gilson said if the shutdown goes much longer it will probably cause her to go into a depression. “I’m kind of just sitting and staring at the wall and trying not to lose my mind,” she said. 





Union members and Internal Revenue Service workers rally against the partial government shutdown in Covington, Kentucky [John Minchillo/AP Photo]

Another furloughed park ranger, Sean Ghacala, said he hopes “this can get resolved and we can get past all of this … putting precious federal funding towards things that will only make … division worse … What we need is to reopen the government and get past this racism and xenophobia.” 

Also on Thursday, the Senate approved a bill to ensure that all federal employees will be paid retroactively after the shutdown ends. 

The bill requires that all employees – including those who have been furloughed – be paid as soon as possible once the government reopens. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. 

The Democrat-controlled House has also passed several bills that would fund specific government departments. The bills would still need to be passed by the Senate, where Republican leaders have vowed not to bring them to a vote. 





Federal air traffic controller union members rally against the partial US federal government in Washington, DC [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters] 

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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