Cuomo Widens Eligibility After Vaccine Goes Unused or Is Even Thrown Out


This week, the mayor pleaded for Mr. Cuomo to expand the eligibility groups, saying that the narrow eligibility requirements were making it difficult to administer doses on the scale that was needed. As of early Friday, only 167,949 of 489,325 doses had been administered in New York City — about 34 percent, which was lower than the rate across New York State, which was about 50 percent.

“New York City has heard enough,” the mayor said on Twitter after Mr. Cuomo announced the expansion. “We will begin administering shots to City Workers and the elderly in 1B starting on Monday,” he added, referring to Phase 1b, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s second round of vaccinations.

Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary, Bill Neidhardt, then highlighted reporting in The New York Times on Friday morning that detailed the challenges facing clinics that had been unable to give out doses because of the strict rules — or even had to throw some out.

“This is so enraging,” he wrote. “Utterly speechless.”

Among the clinics were the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Manhattan, where the chief medical officer, Dr. Peter Meacher, had expected to receive just a small supply of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine to inoculate employees at the network of clinics he oversees.

Instead, 600 doses arrived late last month, far more than he needed to administer a first dose to his staff.

For two weeks, more than half of the supply sat in freezers. At another clinic in the city, small numbers of unused doses were even thrown out.

Dr. Meacher said that he would like to give the extra vaccine to high-risk patients, but that he had not for fear of violating the state rules about who could receive it. Callen-Lorde Community Health Center’s handful of clinics serve some 18,000 L.G.B.T.Q. New Yorkers.



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Canadians told to pay back CERB say eligibility requirements were unclear


Some Canadians say they were shocked and alarmed to learn they may have to pay back thousands of dollars in pandemic benefits after receiving letters from the Canada Revenue Agency last week suggesting they may not have qualified for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit in the first place.

The CRA is encouraging Canadians who got the letters to pay back the CERB by Dec. 31 so it does not negatively affect their tax returns.

Recipients of the letters have told CBC News they are being targeted because they used their gross income instead of their net income when applying for the benefit, and say the government website did not clearly state that net income had to be used.

“I was completely taken aback, and I thought, OK, this is a typo,” said Alison Griffiths, an author of books on personal finance and a former Toronto Star financial columnist and CBC host.

“I immediately went back to the paperwork that I had copied and went back onto the internet. And I thought OK, this definitely is a mistake because I did not see the word ‘net’ anywhere.”

Griffiths, who considers herself financially literate, applied for the CERB for herself, her husband and her daughter, who recently graduated university and receives disability benefits.

She said that the Government of Canada website stated that in order to qualify for the $2,000 monthly payment, each person in her family had to have earned at least $5,000 in self-employment and/or employment income over the previous 12 months.

She said that, after receiving the letter from the CRA and combing through several pages and menus on the government of Canada website, she was able to find a mention of the net income measure.

The landing page detailing the eligibility requirements on Canada.ca still does not mention the word ‘net’ when referring to income. 

This screen image is from the Government of Canada’s web page outlining the eligibility requirements for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. It does not specifically mention that ‘net income’ will be used to determine eligibility. (canada.ca/CRA)

Pedram Nasseh, a chartered professional accountant, said his office has been getting emails, text messages and phone calls from worried clients who have received the letters from the CRA telling them they do not qualify for the CERB they already have received. 

“Panicked. People are panicked about that and they’re really, really worried, because people have spent the money to live,” he said. “They lost jobs and lost their business and they’re really panicked.”

Nasseh said many of those who applied for CERB assumed that gross income could be used in the application because no clear distinction was made between net and gross income.

“It was not clear at the time of applying, at the very beginning of this pandemic, when CERB was introduced,” he said.

‘It seems like the rules were changed last minute’

Tony Carlucci, a musician who also received the CRA letter, told CBC News that his industry has been shut down since the beginning of the pandemic and he needed the CERB to survive right from the outset.

“My heart was pounding and I felt like someone just punched me in the stomach. But ever since then, I still can’t wrap my head around the letter,” he said. “I’m perplexed, to be honest with you, and very upset.”

Unable to get a clear understanding from the government website, Carlucci sought expert advice and was told that the benefit probably would calculate his eligibility using the net income line from his previous tax return.

After receiving the CRA letter, Carlucci said he learned that two of his sources of income — a small union pension and some rental income — did not count toward his net income calculation.

“It seems like the rules were changed last minute. To me, that’s what it feels like,” he said.

Musician Tony Carlucci said he needed the CERB to survive after his work as a musician came to a crashing halt with the pandemic. (Tony Carlucci)

Nasseh said the timing of the letters could not be worse; people have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes significantly reduced because of the pandemic and Christmas is only a few weeks away. On top of that, accountants are busy preparing for the year’s end. 

He said the CRA should “wait for people to file their taxes” before sending the letters out. “At that time, if CRA is not happy, they could ask for the evidence,” he said. 

“We’re in the middle of the pandemic and a lot of people are in need of the money and now they have to deal with this.”

The CRA told CBC News that it is taking an “educational approach” with the letters, explaining who qualifies and who does not based on their income. The agency said the request to pay the money back by December 31 is only a recommendation meant to avoid confusion on tax returns and should not be confused with a payment deadline.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons during question period Wednesday that the CERB and other emergency payments established swiftly in the early days of the pandemic are now being verified “on the back end,” and that people who made “good-faith mistakes” with regard to net income will not be penalized.

“The rules did not change, but we indicated to Canadians that we will work with them if people made good-faith mistakes,” he said. 

It is not clear what Trudeau meant when he said Canadians who applied for the CERB using their gross income will not be penalized, but the CRA statement to CBC News suggests the benefit payments will have to be returned regardless.

“It is important to note that Canadians who applied for the CERB in good faith, and are later required to pay money back, will not be charged with penalties or interest,” the statement said.

“The CRA is sympathetic to the fact that, for some individuals, repayment of these amounts may have financial implications. For this reason, payment arrangement parameters have been expanded to give Canadians more time and flexibility to repay based on their ability to pay.”



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GOP blame media for Harris’ eligibility questions


FILE – In this June 1, 2019, file photo Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at an SEIU event before the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

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UPDATED 2:15 PM PT – Sunday, August 16, 2020

Trump administration officials have reaffirmed they will not question vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-Calif.) eligibility for office. During a recent interview, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stated he accepts that Harris is eligible for office and reiterated the president will no longer discuss theories to the contrary.

Last week, the president mentioned he heard Harris, who has Jamaican and Indian parentage, was ineligible because she was not a citizen at birth. According to the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, she was born in Oakland, California.

Meadows stated the president never wanted to discuss the conspiracy and claimed the media was baiting him.

“I think the president spoke to this yesterday. This is not something that we are going to pursue. Actually, Jake, you and a number in the media have spent more time on this than anybody in the White House has talking about this.” – Mark Meadows, White House Chief of Staff

Adviser to the president Steve Cortes has also echoed these sentiments. He suggested members of the media are trying to create a controversy that simply does not exist.

WATCH: How Do Black Americans Regard Kamala Harris?





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JobKeeper to be extended until Christmas; eligibility tightened


The JobKeeper wage subsidy will be extended until Christmas at a reduced rate of over $1000-a-fortnight for companies that qualify under a new, tighter, eligibility test.

News.com.au has confirmed that the long-awaited JobKeeper 2.0, to be announced this week, will reduce the current wage subsidy from $1500 a fortnight, but extend the wage support to COVID-19 impacted businesses until the end of the year.

The current JobKeeper scheme was due to expire in late September, but Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will now outline the new measures on Thursday.

Casuals will also no longer secure a flat-rate payment regardless of whether they are full-time or part-time under JobKeeper‘s second phase.

Instead, casuals and part-time workers will secure a part-time rate of the JobKeeper subsidy, ending the practice of ‘overpaying’ casuals.

The decision to phase out the JobKeeper wage subsidy over months rather than have support “fall off a cliff‘’ in September follows the shock decision to subject Victoria to a second lockdown that requires restaurants to close their doors and millions of Melburnians to stay at home.

RELATED: Tough JobKeeper turnover test could strip thousands of payments

It‘s understood the Morrison Government also considered tightening eligibility for sole traders, a proposal that got abandoned after the second lockdown.

A new turnover test will also apply to JobKeeper when the current scheme ends on September 27, to ensure that companies that have bounced back from COVID-19 shutdowns are removed from the program and it is targeted at the companies that most need support.

Companies that qualify for JobKeeper now are guaranteed support until the current scheme ends in September and will not be kicked off income support early.

While not confirming the specific figure for JobKeeper 2.0, which is understood to be worth over $1000 a fortnight, Mr Frydenberg said it was now clear that ongoing support will be required, particularly in Victoria.

“As we have highlighted there will be another phase of income support. It will stick to the principles that have guided us well. It will be targeted, it will be proportionate, it will be scalable, and it will be using existing systems,‘’ he told news.com.au.

“The JobKeeper payment is an economic lifeline to millions of Australians and hundreds of thousands of businesses.

“Barring the spread of the virus in significant numbers beyond Victoria, we expect to see the other state and territory economies continue their recovery towards a COVIDSafe economy.”

RELATED: JobTrainer scheme – Are you eligible for Scott Morrison’s tradie cash splash?

HOW JOBKEEPER 2.o COULD WORK

Companies that are currently securing JobKeeper will be guaranteed payments until the current scheme ends on September 27. After that date, companies will need to prove they are still being hit by the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns in the tourism industry, or in restaurants and cafes in Melbourne.

News.com.au revealed in June that a Treasury review of the JobKeeper scheme was closely examining the option of retesting turnover.

Companies currently need to prove turnover is down by 30 per cent but only need to prove it once to qualify for payments until September.

That means a company that was hit hard in April but bounced back to normal trading in June is still eligible for the $1500 a fortnight payment for each employee.

The new monthly testing options for JobKeeper under consideration could be applied to the current program to wean companies off the subsidy or used to tighten eligibility for the scheme going forward for a smaller number of companies after September, such as Qantas.

Companies may be required to submit monthly updates on turnover to the Australian Taxation Office to prove cashflow is down.

This would make it easy to “flick the switch” and scrap JobKeeper for companies that no longer needed it.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed the shift to a new turnover test as sensible.

“When the JobKeeper program was first announced, and businesses had to demonstrate a drop in turnover of 30 per cent or 50 per cent depending on their level of turnover, once they were in they were in for the entire six month period,” he told Sky News on Sunday morning.

“As we get to the end of that six months, towards the end of September, it is going to be important to reassess which businesses still should be receiving this support.

“In the first six months, irrespective of what happened to your turnover after you initially qualified, you were in — but as we go into this next period, there is a need to reassess whether that support, you still need it for specific businesses.

CALL FOR JOBSEEKER EXTENSION

ACTU President Michele O‘Neil called for JobKeeper to be extended for at least six months on Sunday.

There are also calls to extend the coronavirus supplement that has doubled the ‘dole’ now known as Jobseeker.

Economic modelling from The Australia Institute to be released on Monday finds that scrapping Jobseeker in September would force 120,000 children to live in poverty. Hundreds of thousands of Australians would also struggle to pay rent or service their mortgages, putting acute pressure on the housing market.

RELATED: PM – JobKeeper support will always be a national program

“The coronavirus supplement has been an essential part of our nation’s response to this recession and has improved the lives of nearly half a million Australians. In fact, no other government has ever lifted so many people out of poverty so quickly,” said Ben Oquist, executive director of The Australia Institute.

“Removing the supplement would put more than 600,000 Australians, including more than 100,000 children, into poverty. This will not only have serious negative social effects for decades to come but makes terrible economic policy by effectively withdrawing much needed stimulus.

“Our research shows that even if the government removes the supplement but increases the old rate of Jobseeker by $75 per week there will be a half a million person increase in poverty.”

The Morrison Government is also expected to announce more generous Jobseeker payments will also be extended until the end of the year, but also at a lower rate than the current $550-a-week payment.



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Liberal MP Terry Stephens facing questions over allowance eligibility amid ABC investigation


One of the South Australian Parliament’s most senior office holders is refusing to release details of any allowances paid to him and other regional MPs amid questions over his eligibility to claim.

Terry Stephens publicly claims to live in Victor Harbor, but an ABC investigation has uncovered evidence which raises the question whether paying tenants have stayed at his previous registered voting address.

The ABC has also observed the long-serving Liberal MP spending significant time at his second property in Adelaide’s inner east.

Mr Stephens denies any wrongdoing, insisting he has followed all parliamentary rules.

The Norwood property of SA Liberal MP Terry Stephens.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)

South Australian state MPs who live further than 75 kilometres from the Adelaide General Post Office are entitled to payments of $234 for each night they spend in Adelaide on official business.

But unlike other parliamentary allowances, details about the payments are not publicly available.

A trip to Victor Harbor

In politics, where you live counts.

The town of Victor Harbor is nestled on the picturesque southern coastline of the Fleurieu Peninsula, an hour’s drive from Adelaide.

An ocean view from the front of an apartment.
The ocean view from a Victor Harbor apartment formerly owned by Mr Stephens.(realestate.com)

Its relaxed, seaside vibe makes it a popular place for holiday-makers and retirees seeking a sea change.

Since 2014, it has been the publicly declared home of long-serving Liberal MP Terry Stephens.

Elected to State Parliament’s Legislative Council in 2002, Mr Stephens was in February appointed to the Council’s most senior position: President.

But an ABC News investigation has raised questions about Mr Stephens’s ties to Victor Harbor, and his eligibility to claim a travel entitlement.

Mr Stephens and his wife were early investors in the Breeze, a modern apartment block built on prime waterfront real estate on Flinders Parade, in the heart of Victor Harbor.

The Breeze apartments in Victor Harbor in South Australia's south coast.
The Breeze apartments at Victor Harbor overlook the beach.(ABC News: Simon Goodes)

From 2011, Mr Stephens listed apartments 10 and 21 at the Breeze on his parliamentary register of interests, along with a residence at Stonyfell in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs.

The following year, he sold his Stonyfell home, settling on a $1.085 million dollar townhouse in nearby Norwood on the same day.

While that home appears to have been his primary residence until 2014, that year Mr Stephens changed his website to state that he was living in Victor Harbor.

A section of text captured on the website of Terry Stephens.
Until recently, Mr Stephens’s website included a statement about his place of residence.(terrystephens.com.au)

What makes a house a home?

Searches of the electoral roll confirm Mr Stephens and his wife had been enrolled to vote at Apartment 10, the Breeze, until its sale in April 2019.

But there are several indications that publicly declared living arrangement may not be what it seemed.

The real estate advertisement listing Mr Stephens’s property for sale stated the property was “currently rented until March for $500 per week with option to extend”.

The kitchen and living area of a home. The walls, floor, kitchen and furniture are white, a beach can be seen out the window.
A welcome box can be seen in real estate photos for Apartment 10.(realestate.com.au)

The property sold for $490,000 in April last year.

ABC News has spoken to the buyers who have confirmed the apartment was sold fully furnished, and tenanted.

The ABC understands the tenant was an elderly woman.

The photos advertising the property for sale also raise questions.

The bathroom of a home - a shower and basin can be seen. Mini toiletries and towels can be seen on the bench.
Mini toiletries can be seen in real estate photos posted online.(realestate.com.au)

They show a welcome box on the kitchen bench, house rules on the fridge and mini toiletries in the bathroom.

A series of Facebook videos posted by rental agency Unwind Holidays suggest Apartment 10 has been used as a short-stay holiday rental.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
An online rental advertisement for Apartment 10 was posted in 2017.

“Good morning, my name’s Andrew, I’m from Unwind Holidays,” one of the videos, posted in March 2017, begins.

“Just making this video to let you know we’ve got some apartments available this long weekend.

“We’ve got Breeze 10, which is one of our new apartments we’re taking on. Looking forward to getting some people in there, very good price at the moment. I won’t tell you what it is, you’ll have to call up.”

South Australian Liberal MP Terry Stephens.
Mr Stephens at the Australian International 3 Day Event in the Adelaide parklands.(Instagram: terrystephensmlc)

The ABC has found reviews posted online, purportedly from guests who stayed in Apartment 10 in 2017 and 2018.

“It only needed internet connectivity to make it perfect,” one of the reviews reads.

Terry Stephens and his wife sold their other Breeze apartment, number 21, in January last year.

The real estate listing prior to sale stated the apartment was “currently a very successful holiday rental, managed through Unwind Holidays”.

Mr and Mrs Stephens are currently registered to vote at a third Breeze apartment, which is owned by a close friend.

Back in the suburbs

The ABC has analysed Terry Stephens’s social media presence and has been unable to find any public reference or photograph of him at Victor Harbor.

However, there are dozens of posts placing Mr Stephens in Adelaide, both in and outside of parliamentary sitting weeks.

Several of the photographs appear to have been taken at his Norwood property.

SA Liberal MP Terry Stephens sits at a dinner table with football and cricket players.
Mr Stephens with football and cricket players. The 2018 Instagram post was captioned “home-cooked food and great banter”.(Instagram: terrystephensmlc)

Some show him entertaining Adelaide Crows players, and Australian cricketers Shaun and Mitchell Marsh.

Over the past three months, the ABC has observed Mr Stephens coming and going from the Norwood address nine times.

Seven of those occasions were not in parliamentary sitting weeks.

The MP was spotted at the Norwood townhouse on both Saturday and Sunday of the Easter long weekend when, at the peak of coronavirus infections, the Premier and other officials had urged South Australians to stay home.

Mr Stephens also paid his respects on Anzac Day from his Norwood driveway.

SA Liberal MP Terry Stephens outside his house.
Mr Stephens outside his home on Anzac Day.(Instagram: terrystephensmlc)

So, what are the rules?

Parliamentary rules are unclear for regional MPs who also maintain city residences.

In its most recent determination on the Country Members Accommodation Allowance, the state’s independent Remuneration Tribunal states that a nightly $234 sum shall be paid to a member of either the Upper or Lower House:

  • whose usual place of residence is more than 75 kilometres by road from the General Post Office at Adelaide (by the most direct route), and
  • who is required to stay in Adelaide overnight, and incurs actual expenditure, in order to attend not only to parliamentary duties but also to the member’s duty to be actively involved in community affairs and to represent and assist constituents in dealings with governmental public agencies and authorities.

The nightly allowance is capped at 135 nights per year, with the total annual allowance not to exceed $31,590.

But that sum is available to eligible MPs almost entirely without public scrutiny.

South Australian Liberal MP Terry Stephens sits in State Parliament.
Mr Stephens is the current president of the SA Legislative Council.(Instagram: terrystephensmlc)

Unlike other parliamentary allowances which are paid, reconciled and proactively published by the Treasury, the accommodation allowance is administered by the Parliament itself — meaning it is exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information regime.

The ABC sought a detailed breakdown of travel allowances paid to each MP under the scheme since 2012, but both houses of Parliament refused to make that information public.

In an email, the Clerk of the Legislative Council, Chris Schwarz, told the ABC he had raised the matter with the most senior office bearer of the chamber — who happens to be Terry Stephens.

“I have raised your request with the President of the Legislative Council and he has decided that only the information that had previously been reported be provided,” Mr Schwarz wrote.

A 19th century classical building with columns
SA’s Parliament House on North Terrace in Adelaide.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

That information confirms three members of the Legislative Council claimed the Country Members Accommodation Allowance in 2018-19 for a total of 403 nights.

While those members are not named, the ABC has examined the register of interests and found just three Legislative Councillors who claim to have resided regionally in that financial year — Liberal MP John Dawkins (Hayborough), Labor MP Clare Scriven (Port MacDonnell) and Mr Stephens.

When approached by the ABC, both Mr Dawkins and Ms Scriven consented to their records being released.

Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Adelaide, Clem Macintyre, said it beggared belief the full details of claims under the scheme were not made public.

Clement Macintyre standing in a paved walkway next to a tan-coloured pillar
Clem Macintyre says the allowance information should be on the public record.(ABC News: Patrick Martin)

“I’m puzzled as to why the Parliament is objecting to the release of that material,” Professor Macintyre said.

“There should be nothing to hide there, the information should be on the public record.”

Terry Stephens responds

The ABC submitted a series of detailed questions to Terry Stephens, asking him to explain whether he had received the allowance, if a tenant was living at his registered voting address when it sold, whether that address had been used as a holiday rental, and why he was seen at his Norwood address over the Easter long weekend.

An upstairs balcony with outdoor furniture.
An upstairs balcony at Mr Stephens’s Norwood property.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

The ABC again asked if he consented to the records of any accommodation allowance paid to him being released.

He responded with the following statement.

“The principal residence for my wife and I has been Victor Harbor for some period of time,” he said.

“I have complied with every parliamentary requirement relating to my parliamentary salary and allowances, and I have conducted myself in strict accordance with the Parliament’s code of conduct.

“I would be extremely disappointed if you report otherwise, as my good reputation and that of my wife is paramount to us. I trust this answers your questions.”



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Calls to review Youth Allowance criteria as job losses impact eligibility



There are concerns thousands of gap year students may not be able to get financial assistance when they begin their higher education as job cuts impact their chances of meeting the eligibility criteria.

The Centrelink payment, known as student and apprentice Youth Allowance, is a form of financial assistance for those undertaking full-time study.

Figures from May showed more than 200,000 people were receiving the payment.

For West Australian gap-year student Lexie Duncan-Phillips, 2020 was all about working and earning enough money to be eligible for the financial study assistance.

“It just means that you have that bit of money coming in,” she said.

Like many of her fellow gap year students, she does not immediately qualify for study-based Youth Allowance and to be eligible has to prove “independence” from her parents.

This can be done by working full-time for 18 months, or, for regional and rural students, earning $26,550 over 14 months or working 15 hours a week for two years.

But with the coronavirus impacting work hours across the nation that goal now seems impossible to Ms Duncan-Phillips.

“[The cafe] was shut for two weeks and since then my hours were less than half, and now they are roughly half,” she said.

She said many of her friends were in the same situation.

“There’s a of people who I know who have been on their gap year trying to earn money and some have completely lost their jobs,” she said.

Regional students worse off

Being a regional student from Albany, 400 kilometres south of Perth, study assistance is particularly important for Ms Duncan-Phillips.

Because the nearest major universities are in Perth she will not have the option of living with parents.

“You have to become fully independent if you want to go to uni, and when it’s made so difficult for you it makes you unsure about what’s going to happen in the future.”

The unusual circumstances have prompted calls for the Federal Government to review the criteria so that this year’s gap year students have a fair chance at receiving it as well.

Government ‘monitoring’ impacts

Social Services Minister Ann Ruston said the department was “monitoring” the situation.

“At this stage no decision has been made to change the criteria, or the workplace eligibility criteria,” she said.

“But it’s certainly something I’ll be monitoring it going forward.

“To those young people, I would say test your eligibility with social services anyway, because there are times that eligibility can be waived or altered in special circumstances.

“Right now, with the pandemic on there are many instances where young people who previously wouldn’t have been eligible will be able to get Youth Allowance under the current circumstances.”

Ms Ruston said it was hard to tell what the long term impacts would be, but the Government would make sure that initiatives were incentivising people to go on to higher education.



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