Connect with us

728 x 90 banner

Continue Reading

Politics

money-dollar-bill-cash-finance-stimulus-covid-9380

Three stimulus checks helped families cover household expenses and other needs during the pandemic. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Despite increased public support for a fourth stimulus check, including a petition calling for $2,000 extra per month, Washington lawmakers are keeping talk of another round of payments on the back burner this summer. Has pandemic relief aid lost all attention from Congress? And why isn’t it included in any of President Joe Biden’s recent proposals? Signs of an economic rebound and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout could be factors, though it’s still debatable how the recovery will play out. 

Plenty of internet hoaxes continue to make false claims about a fourth check. But more money is not entirely out of the question this year, at least for some. The IRS is still sending out supplemental “plus-up” payments for owed stimulus amounts, and the agency is giving millions of families monthly cash through the expanded child tax credit. There are also $1,000 “thank you” payments going to teachers and other school staff in states like Georgia and Florida. Soon, California will be issuing another round of Golden State Stimulus checks, providing $600 (or up to $1,100) for millions of eligible residents.

What does all these mean for the fate of a fourth stimulus check? We’ll explain below. As for other money matters, new rules for the child tax credit give parents the option of receiving the advance monthly checks for extra cash this year or getting one lump sum for up to $3,600 per kid in 2022. Here’s how to check on your tax refund if you haven’t received it yet and what to know about the unemployment tax break. We’ve updated this story.

What about $1,000 ‘thank you’ checks for school staff?

As part of the American Rescue Plan, state and local governments received $350 billion in assistance. Much of that aid will go to schools, with some states deciding to pay their teachers and other school staff a “thank you” bonus of up to $1,000. The states participating are Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas and California. It’s likely other states will approve similar funds in the future, as they have until 2024 to spend the funds.

What about $600 stimulus checks for Californians?

California has approved two rounds of state-level stimulus payments to eligible residents. Called Golden State Stimulus I and II, these payments are intended to support low-income Californians and help those facing hardships due to the pandemic, the state said. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office claims that nearly two-thirds of residents now qualify for the expanded Golden State Stimulus II, amounting to a one-time payment of $600 (and an additional $500 for eligible families with children). The checks will start rolling out in September. 

What’s about the petition for $2,000 stimulus payments?

Change.org petition that has collected more than 2.7 million signatures calls on Congress to send out a fourth stimulus check of $2,000 for adults and $1,000 for children on a monthly basis for the remainder of the pandemic. The petition notes that “the recovery hasn’t reached many Americans” and points to the need for immediate checks and recurring payments so that “we can keep our heads above water.” 

According to a recent study, the first three stimulus checks helped reduce hardships like food insufficiency and financial instability. So far, during the pandemic, eligible adults have received a max of $3,200 and children have received $2,500. For many struggling families, that’s not enough to bounce back from lost wages and benefits. While the Change.org petition is close to becoming one of the most popular on its website, whether it will have any effect is another question. 

What are Washington’s current stimulus money proposals?

Since the American Rescue Plan became law in March, the White House has proposed two packages — the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan — neither of which called for more stimulus aid. On June 3, a White House press conference indicated that efforts would focus on the infrastructure spending package. Biden is “open to a range of ideas” regarding stimulus aid, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, but she also said he already put forward what would be “the most effective for the short term.”

The new scaled-back compromise of the bipartisan infrastructure deal, which the White House announced on June 24, doesn’t include anything related to “human infrastructure” — it doesn’t address child care, improved wages or job training. At the same time, the announcement states, “President Biden remains committed to the comprehensive agenda laid out in the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.”

It’s been some months since Democratic members of the House and Senate argued for another stimulus check. In late March, a group of lawmakers asked Biden to include regular stimulus payments (PDF) in his next stimulus package. In May, several members of the House Ways and Means Committee (PDF) made a similar request. Citing increased poverty and spiraling debt among Americans, they noted that “most people spent relief checks on monthly expenses or essentials such as food, utilities, rent and mortgage payments.”

http://www.cnet.com/

Now playing: Watch this: Child tax credit: Everything we know

4:17

What relief money has been approved so far this year?

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 from March contained three types of direct payments to individuals:

Stimulus checks: Stimulus payments of up to $1,400 have gone out to those who meet the requirements. There’s also money going to certain individuals in the form of “plus-up” payments.

Child tax credit: A temporary expansion of the child tax credit for 2021 sends qualifying families up to $3,600 for each child — you can calculate your child tax credit total here. The advance partial payments, which began July 15, will be issued monthly and last through the end of the year, with a final payment in 2022. 

Federal unemployment bonus: A weekly $300 unemployment bonus was extended to Sept. 6, as was Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to gig workers, freelancers and the self-employed. However, over half of state governments chose to opt out of the extended benefits before Sept. 6, so millions of jobless Americans in those states were cut off from those funds as early as mid-June.

021-cash-stimulus-bill-help-americans-poverty-last-dollar-torn-apart-election

The IRS will continue to send stimulus payments until all eligible Americans have received their checks.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Could Congress offer more money later this year? 

There’s a lot to consider when evaluating the future of stimulus aid for families. The White House could put additional cash in the pockets of Americans in the following scenarios: 

If it makes the child tax credit raise permanent: Money from the expanded child tax credit is set to start this week with monthly payments to lower- and middle-income families with children. In a July 7 speech on the Build Back Better Agenda for Working Families, Biden called on Congress to extend the expanded child tax credit through 2025. Other aspects of the American Families Plan related to health care costs and medical leave have also yet to be negotiated. 

If it passes a minimum wage hike: Some senators continue to look for ways to boost the federal minimum wage, which stands at $7.25 per hour. A few proponents want to set the bar at a $15 hourly wage, and others are looking to only go up to $11 an hour. In recent years, many states, localities and businesses have implemented minimum wage increases above the federal level. However, the discussion of a new national rate of $15 an hour has hit a roadblock in recent months, and the likelihood of it being enacted anytime soon is low.

If it renews federal unemployment bonuses beyond the fall: Some lawmakers originally petitioned for federal unemployment assistance to extend beyond Labor Day. However, dozens of states have already cut off extended benefits early, and enhanced unemployment relief is not likely to continue beyond the expiration date in other states. On June 4, Biden indicated that the temporary boost in jobless benefits should expire in early September as planned.

In the meantime, here’s what to do if there’s a problem with your stimulus check. And here’s what we know about the new IRS portals that’ll help you get money via the child tax credit checks that started going out on July 15.

Continue Reading

Politics

Sign at the US Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, DC

Hackers had access to email accounts for more than six months, the DOJ says.

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Hackers hit the offices of top US federal prosecutors nationwide last December, breaking in to email accounts, the Department of Justice said Friday. As part of the SolarWinds hack, according to the agency, attackers accessed accounts at nearly 30 US Attorneys’ offices, including offices in Washington, DC; New York and California.

The department revealed in January that its Microsoft Office 365 email environment had been breached, but it hadn’t provided the information about the US attorneys.

“The Department of Justice understands that when victims make information public about the nature and scope of computer intrusions they suffered, others can use that information to prepare themselves for the next threat,” the DOJ said in a statement Friday. “To encourage transparency and strengthen homeland resilience, today we are providing additional details about the SolarWinds intrusion in December 2020.”

The DOJ said at least one employee account was accessed at 27 offices from the West Coast to the East. It said at least 80% of employees at the US attorneys’ offices in the Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western Districts of New York had seen their accounts breached, with other districts “impacted to a lesser degree.”

The hackers are thought to have had access to breached accounts from about May 7 to Dec. 27, the DOJ said, adding that exposed data included sent, received and stored emails as well as attachments. The agency said in January that it had plugged the breach.

“The Department’s objective continues to be mitigating the operational, security, and privacy risks caused by the incident,” the DOJ said in its Friday statement.

The SolarWinds hack, which US intelligence agencies say likely originated in Russia, hit customers of IT software provider SolarWinds, including a number of private businesses and federal agencies. Victims included high-level officials at the Department of Homeland Security, showing that not even the government agency in charge of defending the US from foreign hacking attacks was immune.

In April, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order imposing a range of retaliatory measures against Russia. Russia, meanwhile, denied involvement in the hack. In May, Biden signed an executive order aimed at improving US cybersecurity defenses.

The DOJ listed the following US attorneys’ offices as having been hit by the email breaches:

— Central District of California

— Northern District of California

— District of Columbia

— Northern District of Florida

— Middle District of Florida

— Southern District of Florida

— Northern District of Georgia

— District of Kansas

— District of Maryland

— District of Montana

— District of Nevada

— District of New Jersey

— Eastern District of New York

— Northern District of New York

— Southern District of New York

— Western District of New York

— Eastern District of North Carolina

— Eastern District of Pennsylvania

— Middle District of Pennsylvania

— Western District of Pennsylvania

— Northern District of Texas

— Southern District of Texas

— Western District of Texas

— District of Vermont

— Eastern District of Virginia

— Western District of Virginia

— Western District of Washington

CNET’s Laura Hautala contributed to this report.

Stay in the know. Get the latest tech stories from CNET News every weekday.

Continue Reading

Politics

samsung-s7-broken-phone.jpg

Right to repair just might change the way we all look at products we break. Here’s what you need to know. 

Josh Miller/CNET

We’ve all been there: That moment where you drop your smartphone, your stomach starts turning as you watch it cartwheel towards the floor. It bounces a couple of times, and lands face down, and then there’s a half-second moment full of dread as you reach down to pick it up, hoping that the screen isn’t cracked. If you’re lucky, that’s where it ends. But it’s only a matter of time before the display is ruined, and you’re left wondering “How much is this going to cost me?”

http://www.cnet.com/

Now playing: Watch this: What is the right to repair?

9:35

The government can’t help you if you’re accident-prone, but a recent executive order from President Joe Biden and a new policy statement from the Federal Trade Commission are both designed to help you save some money the next time you need to fix your phone.

Everything Apple

CNET’s Apple Report newsletter delivers news, reviews and advice on iPhones, iPads, Macs and software.

Biden’s executive order, issued in early July, came after years of debate by advocates calling for “right to repair,” a series of rules that in theory would force phone developers, manufacturers of cars and washing machines, and even the makers of pricey farm equipment and medical devices to publicly post the diagnostic tools and documentation they use to fix products when they break. This would allow everyday people to either fix the product themselves or go to a third-party repair shop, rather than rely on “official” authorized repair centers, which are almost always the most expensive option.

The FTC quickly followed Biden’s order with a 5-0 vote on a policy statement indicating the commission will begin to look at any warranty or repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws. 

The right-to-repair movement’s been around for a while, and it’s already won victories in states like Massachusetts, where voters in 2020 approved a bill that would allow third parties access to all sorts of data on cars that manufacturers typically didn’t make public.

Below are common questions about the concept of right to repair, what it means for you and what the government is doing to make right to repair a reality.  (This story has been updated with new information.)

What is ‘right to repair?’

Right to repair boils down to giving users and third-party companies the necessary tools, parts and manuals to repair a product they’ve purchased, like a blender or a new laptop, on their own instead of relying on the manufacturer of a product.

Another aspect of right to repair that’s currently being discussed is forcing tech companies to design and build products that are easier to fix. 

For example, Apple’s AirPod wireless earbuds are impressively tiny, which is part of the allure to them, but repair website iFixIt says they’re almost impossible to repair. That’s a problem when you consider that a couple years after getting your AirPods, the batteries will likely start to diminish. But instead of being able to take them apart and replace the batteries, you’ll likely feel forced to just buy another pair. 

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

http://www.cnet.com/

Now playing: Watch this: 3 ways to fix a broken screen

1:06

What does right to repair mean for you as a consumer?

Should the government, whether it’s at the state or federal level, pass right-to-repair legislation, it would potentially give you the option to attempt the repair yourself without voiding the warranty. 

Right now, if you have a cracked iPhone display and attempt to replace it yourself or have work done by a local repair shop and that person and/or company isn’t an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or the replacement screen isn’t an Apple approved part, your iPhone may no longer be covered under Apple’s warranty.

Right-to-repair laws would also likely encourage more competition for repair services, which could drive down prices from third-party repair shops on everything from your phone to medical devices to tractors. 

What does right to repair mean for the environment?

By allowing consumers to repair and extend the life of products they own, it will in turn reduce the amount of waste and e-waste making its way into our landfills. 

Are tech companies for or against right to repair?

Attitudes are mixed. Last year, Bloomberg published a story detailing right to repair and the effort that companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft have put into stopping right-to-repair bills from passing legislation and becoming a law. 

The reasoning? Intellectual property and safety. If the companies were forced to publish schematics, manuals and sell official parts to anyone, the company’s argue that it would put their products at risk of being copied. 

As for safety, companies claim that an untrained individual replacing a battery, for example, could pose a risk to their personal safety through accidental damage, which in turn could cause the batteries to spontaneously combust. 

At the same time, companies like Apple have slowly opened up support for independent repair shops. Critics say Apple isn’t doing enough though.

Who supports right to repair?

While companies are wary of supporting this movement, a growing group of tech and social media influencers are starting to push for it. 

Among them is Kyle Wiens, head of the online manual and parts supply site iFixit. He’s also traveled to legislatures around the country to encourage them to consider right-to-repair laws. He’s declined to share recent sales figures, but in 2016, he sold $21 million worth of toolkits and parts to help people swap out bad screens, cameras, buttons and batteries on their devices.

Another high-profile figure in the community is Louis Rossman, a New York-based repair shop owner who uses YouTube to teach his more than 1.5 million subscribers about fixing computers. Over the years, he’s begun advocating more for right to repair, most recently through his advocacy organization, Fight to Repair and the Repair Preservation Group. 

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also spoke out in support of right to repair in a July Cameo video to Rossman.

“We wouldn’t have had an Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world,” Wozniak said in his video. “It’s time to start doing the right things … it’s time to recognize the right to repair more fully.”

How is the government getting involved with right to repair?

Since 2014 a total of 32 states have considered or are currently working on adopting right-to-repair legislation, according to the Repair Association

In 2021 alone, 27 states are currently considering right-to-repair legislation, according US Public Interest Research Groups. Both the Repair Association and US PIRG organizations are working with lawmakers to craft and pass right-to-repair legislation. 

The New York State Senate passed a right-to-repair bill in June, but it still needs to be passed by the Assembly before it can be signed into law. 

At the federal level, Biden just signed the executive order that, among other things, asked the FTC to consider issuing “rules against anticompetitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment” as it relates to “cell phones.” The order also directs the FTC to consider similar repair rules for farmers, making it easier to repair expensive equipment, such as tractors. 

The FTC’s recent vote “to ramp up law enforcement” when it comes to repair restrictions is another positive sign that the government is taking steps to pressure and dissuade companies from preventing consumers from repairing their own devices.

What are other countries doing about right to repair?

As of July 1, some device manufacturers in the UK are required to make replacement parts available to owners of their products. 

The new law doesn’t isn’t broad enough to include all electronic devices, such as smartphones or computers. Instead, it’s limited to appliances. 

Appliance-makers have two years to make parts available, and those parts must remain available for several years after the company stops making a particular product. But the law doesn’t include every component that makes up a product. Instead, the bill is limited to repairs that are “safe” and can be done at home. The BBC reported, for example, that repairs of heating elements or a motor will need to be done by a “professional repairer.” 

What’s next for right to repair?

Right now, we have to wait and see exactly how the FTC begins to enforce its new policy statement. It’s something we’re actively monitoring. 

Along with watching the FTC, we will continue to monitor proposed right-to-repair legislation working through various stages of the process at the state level throughout the country.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2016-2021 2Fast2Serious magazine.