Tag: relief

Civil society fears spike in GBV cases if government cuts Covid-19 relief funds

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published16m ago

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Durban – A move by government to cut Covid-19 relief funding could lead to a spike in gender-based violence cases.

This is according to former public protector Thuli Madonsela, who joined several civil society organisations across the country in pleading with the government to continue providing the much-needed R350 Social Relief of Distress grant as well as the R585 monthly grant to caregivers.

Speaking during a media briefing on Monday, Madonsela said if the government planned to withdraw the grant, “we need to push them as women and girls would bear the brunt”.

“We know that when there is distress that women and girls will pay the price as they bear the burden of care,” she said.

Madonsela said funding could be pulled from other spheres to accommodate for the payments of these grants.

Alluding to the exorbitant costs of security staff for government officials, she said the issue should be re-visited as South Africa was not the most dangerous country in Africa, therefore there was no need for such an excessive amount of security.

“We do not want women to pay for government’s mistakes,” she said.

On Sunday, several civil organisations called for the government to continue the paying out the grants until a comprehensive plan for guaranteed basic outcomes was established.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the organisations highlighted the need for the grants and how they had helped to put food on the table for millions of South Africans who live well below the poverty line.

According to researcher Ihsaan Bassier, at least 5 million people will be pushed to extreme poverty if the grants are withdrawn.

“Furthermore, while jobs and a recovery plan is crucial, this will take time and there needs to be cushion in the meantime. The grants were meant to address the Covid crisis and this is far from over. Also, this is an opportunity to reach commitment to eliminate extreme poverty,” he said.

The full statement can be read here:

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M4 relief road: UK ministers ‘could bypass Welsh Government’

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Media captionWelsh Secretary Simon Hart said UK ministers would never “rule anything out”

The UK government would never “rule anything out” on bypassing the Welsh Government to build an M4 relief road, the Welsh secretary has told BBC Wales.

Simon Hart said UK ministers would “much prefer” a “collaborative project” to tackle congestion around Newport and the Brynglas tunnels.

He added that while they “probably could” bypass Welsh ministers it would be “complicated” and “controversial”.

The Welsh Government said the relief road was a matter for Wales.

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford scrapped a relief road plan last year after declaring a climate emergency.

The recently published UK Internal Market Bill, if passed into law, will give the UK government power to spend on otherwise devolved areas such as infrastructure and economic development.

Speaking to the BBC Politics Wales programme, Mr Hart said that if the UK government could “find a way” of building the M4 relief road it would.

He said he did not want to bypass the Welsh Government, but added: “There are ways in which I suspect we probably could, it would be complicated, controversial, it would require years probably of legal wrangling.

“We would much prefer the Welsh Government to come to the table, look at this as a collaborative project.

“But until we get to that point, I’m afraid there’s not just a blockage at Brynglas, there’s a blockage in Cardiff as well.”

When asked whether new powers granted through the UK Internal Market Bill would allow UK ministers to bypass the Welsh Government if they could not get them on board, Mr Hart said: “We never rule anything in, or rule anything out.”

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The cancelled 14-mile relief road was estimated to cost £1.6bn

But he said these new powers were “not there to try and put Welsh Government in a difficult position” but to “enhance what we all want to do which is job creation and investment in Wales”.

The Welsh Government said a decision had “already been made” regarding the relief road.

It added: “We remain committed to tackling congestion with solutions that recognise the unprecedented challenge of climate change as well as the financial pressures caused by ten years of austerity and capital budget cuts.”

How could this be funded?

Mr Hart said the UK government had “already ruled out” using money provided to the Welsh Government by the Treasury through the block grant or Barnett formula to fund infrastructure projects because it was “earmarked for other things”.

He added there also “isn’t a lot of spare money knocking around at the moment” for new money to be made available.

But he said the Shared Prosperity Fund – promised cash to replace EU funding after the Brexit transition period – would be “one option”.

However, last week a cross-party group of MPs accused the UK government of making “negligible” progress in its plans to replace EU funds in Wales after Brexit.

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Third-Quarter 2020 Market Commentary: Despite Uncertainty Around U.S. Election And Hard Brexit, Hope Springs Eternal For COVID-19 Vaccine And Government Relief

Data Source: Bloomberg

Source: PxHere

3D Note: As part of our ongoing commentary concerning the coronavirus global contagion and its impact on human and global markets, we remind readers that the situation remains fluid as evidenced by volatile market reactions to most new developments, although the pace of these reactions seems to have slowed down from March/April. In addition to our bi-monthly articles and periodic podcasts, 3D has started publishing mid-month updates to our advisor partners as we navigate through the coronavirus pandemic. Please contact us if you would like to be added to the distribution list.

Market action during the third quarter was largely uneventful despite a moderate pickup in volatility and a “pause” in the global reflation trade. The first two months saw rallies in the global reflation trade, broadly represented by growth technology stocks, emerging markets, commodities/non-U.S. currencies, and corporate credit, only to see investors back away from this trade in September due to technical reasons (e.g. over-exposed long positioning in large-cap technology stocks via call option purchases and speculative non-commercial long positioning in EUR/USD) and diminishing prospects over a second U.S. pandemic relief spending program as well as rising prospects over Hard Brexit. The end of the quarter saw elevated (i.e. buy-the-dip) risk sentiment after having peaked in mid-August, prior to the early September sell-off (we wrote about this in peak in investor sentiment in mid-August titled “Market is Euphoric”).

The furious global technology growth rally that characterized the early quarter advance spilled over into the first week of September before the “trade” unwound itself following reports of a large options “whale” (later to be revealed Softbank – Japan’s publicly-traded venture capital fund) having bid up single stock call options on key technology stocks, forcing options market-makers to buy the underlying stocks in order to hedge their positions. We mentioned this activity in our August 2020 Market Commentary, prior to media reports confirming the options trading activity.

The final two weeks of September saw a reversal of the growth technology stock sell-off amidst reports of renewed call option buying by retail investors regardless of prospects for another U.S. spending program (U.S. Treasury yields and the dollar whipsawed between diminishing prospects versus renewed prospects). Markets are being tested in the first week of October as U.S. President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

As of the writing of this commentary, prospects for a second pandemic relief plan diminished despite reports of active negotiations between the White House (Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin) and Congress (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi). The Republican-led U.S. Senate is still resisting a negotiated plan, but the spending gap between the White House plan and House plan has narrowed with remaining differences over the level of unemployment benefits and state/local aid. The House passed a $2.2 trillion version of the plan, but the prospects for Senate passage are dim as Republican leaders claim the House version is full of “poison pills.” An estimated $2 trillion aid package could serve as a shot in

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POLITICO Playbook PM: A Covid relief deal looks likelier than ever. A law, not so much

THE HUMAN YO-YO HAS BOUNCED BACK UP: President DONALD TRUMP now desperately wants a Covid relief deal, and his White House seems to be trying to make it happen for him.

BUT Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL said today in Kentucky he thinks it is very unlikely something will get done in the next three weeks — and that explains the tension here.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS and Hill sources tell us that they plan to work through this weekend, all next week and possibly next weekend to get a deal.

WHO KNOWS WHY TRUMP WANTS THIS. He may want noise to fill the silence. Maybe he wants a bump in the stock market. We’re not mood readers or psychiatrists or psychics. This deal could’ve been cut 90 times between May and now.

HERE ARE A FEW THINGS WE PICKED UP ON this morning, which are likely to be represented in an offer we’re told the administration will transmit to Speaker NANCY PELOSI today:

— THE WHITE HOUSE’S top-line number is $1.8 trillion. The line the GOP can’t cross is $2 trillion. All depends on the details, but this is now significantly higher than the GOP’s previous top line, which was $1.5 trillion.

— THE ADMINISTRATION is aiming for $300 billion in state and local funding. Too low for Democrats, but in the right direction. The GOP will have to come up here. Also, there’s unspent money that could be counted.

— THEY WANT TO TRY TO REPLACE the Earned Income Tax Credit with a boost in stimulus payments. We’re not clear here on the details, but it shows that the GOP is looking to close up an unresolved element of the negotiations.

BUT HERE ARE THE PROBLEMS: Lots of details are still not worked out. And Republicans on Capitol Hill are going to hate this. It’s going to be hard to get through the House with many Republican votes, and it could land in the Senate as late as the end of this month or on the doorstep of early November. What do they do with a bill at that point? Probably ignore it.

CASE IN POINT — MCCONNELL today in BULLEIT COUNTY, KY.: “The situation is kind of murky, and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage. I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April, but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks.” More from Marianne LeVine

TAKEAWAY: DEAL, more likely than ever. A deal means MNUCHIN and PELOSI say they have reached a deal. AN ACTUAL LAW: Not terribly likely pre-election.

THERE IS A SPLIT MINDSHARE IN D.C.: Will MCCONNELL accede to the White House no matter the deal? Or will he hold his

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The Energy 202: Trump administration dinged by government watchdog for pandemic relief for oil companies

That royalty relief was supposed to go to wells that would have otherwise shut down because of the sharp decline in oil prices. The idea was to make sure that normally profitable wells were not plugged permanently because of the health crisis. 

But the GAO, in a report released Tuesday, said the Trump administration failed to properly take the economic viability of wells into account when deciding which wells got relief — and probably ended up offering aid to oil producers that did not need it, shortchanging taxpayers in the process.

“This is exactly the time the government should be spending money,” said Frank Rusco, the watchdog agency’s director of natural resources and environment. “But we’re about good government. And if you do it, do it in a smart way.”

When oil prices plummeted this spring, the Trump administration offered a 60-day reprieve on royalty payments in more than 500 cases in Western states.

The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees drilling on federally controlled lands, reduced rates from the agency’s usual minimum of 12.5 percent to an average of less than 1 percent between March 24 and June 11.  

Offering a break on royalty payments is not unusual, especially during economically challenging times. When deciding which wells got relief, officials on the ground in BLM’s state offices told the GAO they considered certain factors, such as transportation and refining costs, that may weigh heavily on low-margin producers during a price crash.

But the agency failed to analyze whether royalty relief was needed in the first place to keep wells operating during the pandemic, according to the GAO — and, in turn, to ensure “the government gets a fair return” for taxpayers on its oil and gas. 

Whether an application for royalty relief was approved varied wildly state by state, in part because local BLM officials interpreted guidance from headquarters differently, the GAO said. 

The majority of wells granted a break on payments were in Wyoming, with wells in Utah, Colorado and other places also getting some relief. But the approval rate in Wyoming was just 28 percent, while in BLM office covering Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota it was 95 percent.

The total cost to taxpayers was $4.5 million in forgone revenue in May and June — though the GAO said that estimate is “conservative.” The watchdog agency recommended the BLM evaluate the effectiveness of the relief program and update its guidance for it.

The Trump administration denounced the watchdog agency for not working with it “in good faith.”

Derrick Henry, a BLM spokesman, defended the agency’s royalty relief program, saying it was legal and has been done under other presidents.

“No special circumstances were granted to anyone,” he said, adding that relief was granted only “when it was legally permissible, in the best interest of the United States, and when it would encourage the greatest ultimate recovery of our natural resources.” 

Although the watchdog agency did talk to local BLM staffers, it was not granted interviews with

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‘Danger sign’: State, local government job losses grow as Congress stalls on relief

The new data undercut a Republican argument that state and local governments have gotten enough help from Washington, with some citing an uptick in revenue for many states this summer that outpaced initial projections. But the job losses suggest that economic relief that Congress approved in the CARES Act in late March gave a temporary boost to local economies that’s now drying up.

Not all Republicans have rejected more state aid outright. In an interview, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) cited three Republican cosponsors — Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi and Susan Collins of Maine — for his bill to provide $500 billion in flexible grants to help state and local governments.

“One of the lessons we should take from the Great Recession was that massive layoffs and tax increases at the state and local level acted as an anchor and weighed down our economic recovery for years to come,” Menendez said. “We shouldn’t repeat that.”

He pointed to a Moody’s Analytics report this month that predicted the fiscal shock for state and local governments could run as high as $450 billion, or 2.2 percent of the economy. However, that figure assumes an additional stimulus, projected at approximately $1.5 trillion, from the federal government arriving sometime in the fall.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House Republican leadership and a senior appropriator, told POLITICO that if lawmakers fail to reach agreement soon, the economy could “lose the momentum that we created over the summer.”

“There’s a lot of things that were actually generating revenue for states that are ending,” Cole said, referring to unemployment benefits, stimulus checks and coronavirus support funds.

Even though many of his fellow Republicans think no more aid is needed, the “political reality is if you want a package, there’s going to have to be state and local and tribal aid in it, period,” Cole said.

Meanwhile, local budget officials have kept up a steady call for more aid. They also warn that federal funds already provided can’t be used the same way by all states.

Colorado Treasurer Dave Young said that even though the state managed to fill shortfalls earlier this year using reserves, the drawdown led to automatic spending cuts because a certain level of reserve funds is required by statute.

Young said the state also has difficulty using the Municipal Liquidity Facility, which the Federal Reserve set up in April as a backstop emergency lending source for states in financial distress. With so few states using the facility, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has suggested that officials wind it down.

But Young said the facility, which lends short-term debt at above-market rates to be paid off over a maximum of three years, isn’t a viable option for Colorado, because state law requires that any borrowing must be paid off in the same fiscal year it is made.

“When they say, ‘Well, you’re not utilizing it!’ Well, there’s a number of reasons we’re not utilizing it. None of them have

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