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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @atompkins.