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Tornadoes kill 5 and injure dozens in Iowa; coalition presses lawmakers to put climate bond on CA November ballot; More residential care coming for children with acute mental health needs; and ND again ranks high for workplace danger.

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The House GOP moves to strike mention of Trump's criminal trial from the record, and his former rival Nikki Haley endorses him. Meanwhile, Ohio Republicans reject a legislative fix to ensure Biden's name appears on the November ballot.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

Groups Press Sen. Collins: Mainers Need COVID Relief

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Thursday, February 4, 2021   

AUGUSTA, Maine -- As negotiations over a COVID-19 relief package continue in Washington, advocates for struggling Mainers say Congress can't afford to wait.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, along with a group of GOP senators, made a $618 billion counterproposal to President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and claimed what Biden proposed isn't needed so soon after the December stimulus bill.

But a new Quinnipiac poll found 68% of Americans support the Biden plan, with just 24% opposed.

Mario Moretto, communications director for the Maine Center for Economic Policy, said people still are experiencing really elevated levels of hardship.

"What Mainers need now more than anything is for Congress to act and act quickly," Moretto asserted. "To act boldly, to not only relieve that hardship, but to build some foundation to have a strong and equitable recovery."

Moretto pointed to data which show job growth in Maine slowing down, as well as more than 40,000 residents collecting unemployment.

Nearly 30% of Maine adults are having trouble paying household expenses, nearly 20% are behind on rent or housing costs and 6% live in food-insecure households.

Moretto called the December stimulus "a critical down payment," but said there are still key gaps that will require a big investment.

He contended Collins' proposal is lacking in a number of ways, from lower unemployment insurance benefits to no increase in the minimum wage and no expansion of low-income tax-credits, which he noted have been shown to have a positive impact on reducing poverty.

"It doesn't include rental assistance for families that are struggling to keep their homes," Moretto emphasized. "It doesn't provide paid family and medical leave for people who may need to take time off of work because of the virus."

Moretto maintained even on issues with bipartisan agreement, such as the need to provide more funding for schools, the GOP offer is too low.

He urged members of Congress to pass the president's proposal as quickly as possible.


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