April 2, 2020

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing about journalism and coronavirus, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

If you owe back taxes or if you are behind on student loans, the government still intends to send you a COVID-19 stimulus check. But if you are behind on child support payments, it is a different story.

NBC News reported that the “only administrative offset that will be enforced” with the stimulus checks is overdue child support. Those who owe could see a smaller stimulus check or maybe nothing at all.

Under a 1996 law, the Treasury Department operates a program that allows it to collect overdue child support by cutting or withholding federal payments as an offset. State child support agencies share information with Treasury about people who are behind on payments, and the amounts.

Sen. Chuck Grassley said in an FAQ about the stimulus bill that in order for the federal government to withhold money to people who do not pay child support, the states have to report the delinquency to the feds.

Happy International Fact-Checking Day

It is easy to make this claim: There is nothing else like what my Poynter colleagues at the International Fact-Checking Network have built.

Here you find the database that gathers all of the falsehoods that have been detected by the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus alliance. This database unites more than 100 fact-checkers in 45 countries and articles published in at least 15 languages. As I write this, the database includes more than TWO THOUSAND fact checks. It is constantly updated.

It is an incredible resource for journalists who want to find the origins and spread of rumors and for the public to search for truth. I predict it will be an unparalleled resource for researchers and historians years from now who want to study how we documented and lived through this moment in time.

Also to help mark the International Fact-Checking Day, here is a fun, interesting and useful video with five fact-checks about COVID-19 from our MediaWise partners that you can embed or link to.

Should national parks close in a pandemic?

Some national parks have closed during the pandemic, but others are still open. Not only open, but invitingly free. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is closed to visitors. So is the Statue of Liberty. Yellowstone National Park is closed but the Grand Canyon is one of 300 national sites that are still open. Or at least it was.

Late Wednesday, the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the most popular national parks, closed after a park service worker tested positive for the coronavirus. The National Park Service and the Interior Department came under fire for moving slowly on closing the Grand Canyon, which still attracted big crowds even after the government encouraged social distancing.

The National Park Service posted a health update that said:

The National Park Service is modifying its operations on a park-by-park basis in accordance with the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local public health authorities. While most facilities and events are closed or canceled, many of our outdoor spaces remain accessible to the public.

The National Parks Conservation Association — an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit — said it is past time to close more parks. The NPCA said:

Warnings on the National Park Service website and closed park facilities are not enough to deter people. In fact, the visitors are still coming in droves. Parking lots are full and attractions are too crowded as people try to seek respite in this incredibly stressful time. On a popular trail in the Grand Canyon, a ranger had 600 contacts with visitors in just one day, proving that social distancing just isn’t possible, despite people’s best intentions. If an outbreak were to occur in one of these parks, the rural community hospitals and staff would be overrun.

Kevin Dahl, the Arizona senior program manager for the NPCA, said that keeping open the Grand Canyon, which is near Native American territories, endangers the people who live near there:

The Navajo Nation has temporarily closed their community to visitors, and is pleading with the national park to do the same. The Hualapai Nation on the west side of the park took similar action days ago, and is also asking the park to follow its lead. Given the risks associated with thousands of visitors flocking to the Grand Canyon during this time of crisis, and the pleas from people who are most affected by this, it is unfathomable that the administration is dragging its feet in allowing park staff to temporarily close the park.

The Washington Post reported that at least seven national parks workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

When meatpackers get sick

ProPublica takes us inside a world you probably don’t often consider … until people start panic-buying meat. Meatpackers said they are working nonstop and in close quarters, even while they are considered to be “essential.” ProPublica’s story reported:

In interviews this week, meat and poultry workers, some in the country without authorization, noted with irony that they have recently been labeled “essential” by an administration now facing down a pandemic. Yet the rules of their workplaces — and the need to keep food moving — pressure them to work in close quarters, even when sick.

Grocery meat sales were up 77% for the week of March 15, according to the National Chicken Council. “In absolute dollars,” the council reported, “the five biggest winners for the week of March 15 were ground beef (+$179.1 million), chicken breasts (+$89.5 million), pork loin (+$36.9 million), chuck (+$36.3 million) and ribeyes (+$31.6 million), according to IRI.”

Thinking about getting a coronacut?

I have taught hundreds of college journalism students through virtual classrooms over the last two weeks and I have seen some trends. One of them is what is being called the “coronacut.”

Here is Ian Gilmour, a sophomore journalism student at Michigan State University. His roommate gave him a coronacut. These are desperate times as we are asking to endure weeks without haircuts.

Ian Gilmour, a sophomore journalism student at Michigan State University, before and after his roommate gave him a coronacut. (Courtesy)

So yes, journalists, send me your before and after coronacut pics and I will feature some in the coming days. A cut in process is best. Radical transformations will get my attention.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a new edition of Covering COVID-19. Sign up here to get it delivered right to your inbox.

Al Tompkins is senior faculty at Poynter. He can be reached at atompkins@poynter.org or on Twitter, @atompkins.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
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  • hello everyone, is ee the comments and everyone has a different situation. My childs father had to be put on child support due to his lack of doing it on his own. From four years old my daughter has excelled in schools even has a partial scholarship in college, i am a disabled mom but i sacrificed with my daughters moved to a decent environment on my own expense, so that they can prosper, he is in arrears for over 7500 to date. There were plenty of times i needed that monthly payment to correspond with school and other things she needed, besides what i was funding for, and he would make up lies, not make the payment and which is why he has arrears. I tolerated it and kept contact so that my child would have adequate care with both her mom and her father caring for her. i constantly question why men have to be forced to care for their child, when they should put in as much as they were pushing in when they were having sexual intercourse. If the stimulus comes in the child support i will use it to pay on the car that is much needed for her to travel to college and different places. No, i dont drive, and have no intention on using the vehicle. i sometimes used to pray if the arrears can be taken from his account and given back to me, it is a reminder of all the struggle and sleepless nights i had when the payments werent made. But now, instead of preying on him, i prayed for him to do the right thing, and send him a daily prayer. it is a reminder to let him know god is watching.

  • I have been raising two of the three children for the last 11 years and I have gotten child support Maybe two dozen times he owes over $9,000 he gets welfare Works under the table in only pays when they issue a warrant I go to nursing school only work 3 days a week because I am in school and I can’t get food stamps because I guess I make too much how is that fair I’m the one raising the kids I pay for their clothes I pay for a roof over my head I pay for everything from these kids he pays nothing no he should not get the $1,200 and I’m just praying to God it comes to me he’s only court-ordered $123 a month and he makes fifteen bucks an hour and lies about it and works under the table so yes I should get it I’m the one taking care of his children he doesn’t even buy them a Christmas gift or a birthday gift

  • How is it fair or right that my children have to suffer because of their dad owing back child support? My kids are already robbed of time they could spend with their dad because he has to work 2 full time jobs just so he can pay child support and help pay our own bills. Now with people getting layed off and schools being closed, the opportunity to pay our bills has once again been taken because of child support. If it wasnt for him being married to me, he would be homeless because what he is able to bring home would barely cover rent much less pay utilities. This is ridiculous that my family suffers from not getting time with him and financial struggles while his ex gets to sit at home and live off of his child support and food stamps. How do you expect a man to be able to provide a home for children and spend time with them when he has to work multiple jobs just to pay child support? It’s not healthy for the man or the child, the child needs time to bond and build a relationship, not money.

    • i just want to say if he was responsible enough to take care of his child without support, there would e no reason for his checks to be garnished. You were foolish to marry and have more children by an irresponsible man, not only is he making payment to child support, now he cant even afford to take care of the children with you. He needs to re think the situation and talk to the custodial parent, do the right thing, and as his wife, YOU should welcome the step child in and treat equally like your own. THis is the actual problem , people have issues blending in with step children, and the mother of the child. When you married him, you married the mother and the child too, it was a package deal. He already had a situation. his ex is his ex, and whatever she had to go thru was probably the same as you, taking care of him, and when she saw he finally got something going for himself she immediately jumped at the opportunity to get currency for her child. especially since he got married and had more children. which he thought he would forget about the ones already BORN? Certainly not, and as his wife you should have made sure he didnt do that, then child support wouldnt have been necessary in the first place. if he was already on child support when you met him, that should have told you something! BOnding with the child means you and your children need to bond with the child as well, not only him. what is the meaning of living off his child support? she is caring for “HIS” child. so he is caring for “HIS” child that means rent, food, shelter, clothing, accessories, soap and everything it takes to raise the child.

  • Let me just say that I am a receiver of child support. I work, maintain a roof over my children’s heads, Do 100% for my children and the father has not paid a lick since November. Anyone who is just recently behind should be waved. Someone like my kids father should not receive it. When you have a child, it take 2 parents to raise that kid. I get so sick of people always complaining about having to pay child support. I pay my mortgage every month, car note, insurance, I struggle hard, but somehow I make it. The money is for my children. My children go without because I have to pay for everything, housing and food. Kids are not cheap. Either get reevaluated for a decrease in support or get another job. We as people need to handle our business. I do not feel he deserves a check because he doesn’t care to help support his kids but wants to see them and buy them everything in his presents. Stupid things too, nothing useful, so if you owe, no, you should not get one. Just saying.

  • So a family of 4 will receive $3400 in stimulas. $1200 Husband $1200 Wife and $500 per child.
    But if back child support is owed , the custodial parent gets my $1200 ?
    Does that actually make sense?
    The custodial parent is getting their $1200 plus $500 per child as well as my $1200 …
    I thought the stimulas was to help everyone…
    I think if an order of repay is in place and being paid per the order that at least the stimulas check should not be intercepted as was my $2500 tax refund was….

    • It doesn’t make sense. Imagine a mother with 4 children with different fathers! That’s unbelievably ridiculous!

    • I completely agree with you. I make my full payment bi weekly. The other parent gets my federal tax and now they will get the stimulus check also. It is taking 21 weeks to unlock unemployment benefits in Ohio right now so if you are unemployed and was counting on this to buy food or basic household needs you are just out of luck.

  • I swear you pay child support on child you’re also raising and the other parent getting a relief check is going to still gain from you! If you cannot claim your child on taxes you cannot spend money on your child when their with you because you send all your extra money to other parent for child support makes absolutely NO SENSE! How do you make someone spending 50% of there time with child pay for the 50% of the other parents time and now once again the parent trying their best to support their child 100% of the time gets screwed again, how is this even legal, how is this even logical??

    • It’s because we do not stand as one. We need to speak from the same place as one, for one purpose. I understand why child support exists. But, there are reasonable fathers that had situations occur. So we are punished for being sick, or disabled, or even learning of having a child years later, etc.

  • Child Support couldn’t be screwing me and my kids even more than it is now with all this crap going on. Every where i look to find help with my bills, Child Support says they taking it. Me and my kids will be on the streets by time all this is over. 😩And the Government isn’t helping ppl like me with this nightmare either. Why must i keep getting punished when im just trying to help my kids survive. Yes i have back pay and been slowly paying it off but i also have been paying my child support weekly up until i just lost my job cause of covid 19. Chilsupport already gonna take alot of my unemployment. They want any help thats offered to me. I want to go back to work. Im trying to keep a roof over the two kids i got living with me and a place for my oldest son to come visit me. Im struggling and was hoping this check would help me until i could get back to work cause my landlord just racking late fees by the min but i find out its not an i wont get this help. This is a complete utter nightmare to me . i fear for my kids and i fear for anyone elses in the same position i am just trying to keep their sanity with out showing it in front of their kids.. 😔 this world seems to not care about people like me just trying to live and maintain. I just wish the government would of thought a lil more about ppl in my position. If ur gonna say to think and help everyone then think of every one. Right now all i see is the government punishing my kids in my home just for me being behind on childsupport when ive been paying. Not right they dont deserve this. And soon we will be homeless cause the government didnt think of us when they made that bill.

    • Yes…. I’ve been going thru this since 2010…Only mine CSE is a Block Order…since my 3 children are over the age of 18…in their late 20s, grown, and working. The state only sees dollar signs…I’m the non custodial parent, female, over 55, had two light strokes, denied disability as recently as two weeks ago. Unemployed, filed unemployed,
      My tax refunds have been taken from me since 2009, there’s a 30 yr student loan debt, then child support, both are offset thru the federal government. Both agencies TAKE, TAKE every year. I am currently homeless, lost my car 2019, no money saved. I sleep in my storage unit at night, which is clearly trespassing. Unable to get a passport because if you have arrears or back payments over 1500, you cannot get a passport. I’m on 7 medications presently because of the last light stroke, I have hypertension, arthritis, high cholesterol.
      I see why some people commit suicide…my only hope now is my unemployment and hoping that the DOL keep their end of the bargain…
      Gov Brian Kemp make it happen.

      Pathetically Waiting in GA

      • Don’t do it brother.
        It’s hard and we are judged and misjudged but, we have similar struggles. They just took all of the stimulus… even from the 4 kids living here! And the children that I owe for (2)… THEY ARE HERE NOW! It should have just been given to everyone because we are in the situation just like those that owe taxes and student loans and court fees and more. They need to hurry up and undo this. It’s not logical, due to the hardship that no one could’ve prepared for, yet has to live each day.

      • Same thing – I’m homeless too. I’ve lived on the streets most of the last 10 years since they took away my my drivers license and professional license to help me. My 2 daughters are pushing 30 and the both hate me. Haven’t talked to them in about 10 years too. I have no criminal record, don’t drink or use drugs, none of that. I work as a day laborer when I can because the last job I had took so much money it ended up costing me $25 just to afford the train. I was living in the park when the judge told me I had to pay an additional 10K by the next week or I go to jail for life until somebody pays it for me. Lost everything family, friends, Masters Degree, all gone. And half the guys on the street are there for the same reason. If a woman can’t support her kids she gets Federal, State, and Local AID – If a man can’t support his kids he get’s JAIL… Life in jail in 90 day rotating cycles until some stranger happens to come along and pay the bill which will never happen. You want to know why so many veterans commit suicide – that’s why. Lot’s of my friends killed themselves and I’m sure that’s probably going to me someday. It’s the only way out. You either die violently in prison or violently on the street or you beg enough money for a room for a night and wake up in Heaven the next day which is a pretty tempting offer. Senator Chuck Grasssley made this decision about the relief checks not going to us – even though rich people are already excluded from it. People who don’t get this check aren’t deadbeat, they’re dead broke, the poorest of the poor.

      • I’m sorry to tell you, they are confiscating the entire $600 stimulus in unemployment, too. I have this debt and my story is a mess, Child support was waived in divorce… He had custody of 2 of our children & I had custody of 2. When he remarried, he sued me for the 3 years retroactive from when we were divorced and it stuck! They were garnishing so much, my 2 other children & me had to move in with mom bc my paycheck couldnt cover our rent (he lives in a beautiful 5 bedroom home w his new wife!) I’ve been arrested for not keeping up, I’ve lost my license & jobs, I cannot catch up or get ahead. All 4 children are over 18… None of them will see any of this $. I couldn’t counter sue bc I lived in a different county & couldn’t afford the lawyer to file! I tried to give what I could but couldn’t keep up! Now I have a record and my credit is shit. I became homeless… Do you know how hard it is to get help or a job when you don’t have any address? Thank God for the partners we meet who love us enough to help deal with this… I fell behind more when I was homeless but still sent $50/week… They wanted $550/mo. To a man who had a combined income of $200,000 w new wife! I Lived in a boat…now I rent a room… Its $200 a week.. Corona took both my jobs and unemployment is $204… And I just saw.. They took the entire $600.. And my refund and the $1200. Half I could understand… But all??? Its not my fault I’m not working, I try. I also have physical & mental disabilities I deal with but who looks out for us? Its so frustrating. Every situation is not the same.

  • How are people supposed to support theirselves if they take it for child support. I think it is a bunch of crap. Those people have to live too. Or do they?

    • I agree 💯 percent I guess they don’t realize that maybe that’s why we are behind on child support were having a hard enough time without this Corona virus I don’t have a place to live a car to drive to work or license if I did have a car but because I couldn’t afford to take care of my kids my aunt gets child support out on me and now I don’t have my kids and still can’t pay but the government only See’s me as not trying

      • That is EXACTLY why it’s not logical. They told us stop working, kept charging child support, it added up (with the bills), then they took the stimulus! Doesn’t make even a fraction of sense.

    • Yes they need to live also. They should be applying for unemployment so they are not in arrears and have an income to live on. Then the check will not be taken. Coming from someone owes alot of money that has nothing to do with what’s going on, I would understand them only giving a percentage to child support and let the person keep the rest