(Reuters) – The U.S. government has entered an agreement with life sciences company Cytiva, a unit of Danaher Corp, to expand the manufacturing of products needed to make COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Tuesday.
Under the deal, Cytiva will receive about $31 million to scale up manufacturing of vaccine-related products, including cell cultures and hardware such as bioreactors used for the culturing of cells and antibodies.
The grant will help the company ramp up the manufacturing capabilities of its Massachusetts and Utah facilities.
The U.S. government has till date agreed to pay more than $1.1 billion to purchase needles, syringes, vials and supply kits, as well as expand manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in the United States, the HHS said.
“By expanding capacity now, not only do we help deliver these products as quickly as possible, but we also return manufacturing to America, boosting the economy and preparing us for future crises,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a media statement.
Cytiva is among the primary suppliers to several companies currently working with the U.S. government to develop COVID-19 vaccines.
(Reporting By Mrinalika Roy and Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)
CONNECTICUT — Gov. Ned Lamont signed Connecticut’s electric utility reform bill into law Wednesday. The law will implement performance-based incentives for electric utilities instead of a flat-rate investment. The bill received near-unanimous support in the state House of Representatives and Senate.
“Utility companies provide a critical service that can quite literally mean life or death in certain situations, and ratepayers deserve a level of respect that puts them above profits,” Lamont said in a statement. “I congratulate Senator Needleman, Representative Arconti, Senator Formica, Representative Ferraro, and subject-matter experts and stakeholders across the state on sending a bill to my desk that sets Connecticut firmly on the path toward tying utility rates to utility companies’ performance.”
The bill was spurred by a few factors. Tropical Storm Isaias knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of electric customers across the state with some people not getting power back for a week or more. Municipal leaders were particularly critical of Eversource’s communication with town crews on restoration efforts.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority opened up an investigation into Eversource and United Illuminating’s preparation for the storm. Eversource had underestimated the storm’s impact and only forecasted up to 380,000 outages when the number was more than double that, according to the CT Mirror. UI’s forecast was accurate.
Eversource and UI also came under fire for not reimbursing customers for spoiled food caused by long-term power outages despite other nearby utilities providing relief for their customers. The bill includes a mandatory reimbursement process for outages lasting more than 96 hours.
Eversource also increased its electric rate over the summer. Many customers had sticker shock over bills due to the rate increase and a record-setting hot summer. More people were also spending time at home during peak A/C hours due to the coronavirus pandemic and offices being closed.
Connecticut’s electric rates are among the highest in the continental U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Eversource’s five highest-paid executives received around $40 million in total compensation in 2019, according to reports from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Some state legislators, including legislative Energy and Technology Committee Chair Sen. Norm Needleman went as far as calling for Eversource CEO James Judge to resign after the storm response. Lamont didn’t call for Judge’s resignation and said that the company has been through several CEOs since storm Sandy, but not much had changed.
The state Office of Legislative Research has analyzed different aspects of the bill. Below is a summary of some parts of the bill:
Account credits for outages and food/medicine reimbursement Starting July 1, 2021, Electric companies will need to credit customers $25 per day for customers that have outages for more than 96 consecutive hours. Residential customers can also be compensated with $250 for food or medication that expires or spoils for outages lasting more than 96 consecutive hours after an emergency. Electric utilities won’t be able to recover the costs of reimbursement through rate increases.
NEW JERSEY – Gov. Phil Murphy has signed eight bills into law, creating a big testing expansion for New Jersey now that cases have been on the rise.
Murphy has signed legislation sponsored by Senators Vin Gopal and Linda Greenstein that authorizes pharmacists to order and administer tests for COVID-19 and COVID-19 antibodies.
The law comes as Murphy also announced that New Jersey will double its testing capacity after the Trump administration promised to supply the Garden State with millions of additional coronavirus tests. Read more: Gov. Murphy: NJ Gets 2.6M More Tests That Could Be ‘Game Changer’
The testing expansion recognizes “the vital importance of rapid, accurate and widely available testing to the ongoing battle to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” lawmakers said.
The testing expansion also comes as New Jersey has had its highest daily case numbers in months. Murphy said expanding the state’s testing capacity has had something to do with it, but some areas of the state also have had outbreaks. Read more: Gov. Murphy: NJ May Stop Reopenings If COVID-19 Cases Keep Rising
The number of cases rose to 209,342 on Tuesday, and 14,360 confirmed deaths have been reported. Gov. Murphy announced 651 new coronavirus cases and nine more deaths. Read more: NJ Coronavirus Updates: Here’s What You Need To Know
Murphy also signed several bills that make his tax hikes in the revised 2020-21 budget officially the law of the land. Read more: 4 New NJ Tax Hikes Take Effect: Millionaires, Gas Tax
Under the testing bill, S-2436, a pharmacist would be required to ensure compliance with all state and federal requirements concerning a positive test for COVID-19.
“New Jersey’s pharmacists serve on the frontlines of every health care challenge facing our state, and they are well-positioned to expand COVID-19 testing capabilities at this critical time,” said Gopal, D-Monmouth. “Pharmacists are uniquely suited to aid in this fight and to help mitigate the spread of disease. They are trusted healthcare professionals who have long established relationships with their patients, with other health care professionals and within their communities.”
Pharmacists would also be required, in the event of a positive test, to advise the patient on next steps, including practicing self-isolation and potentially seeking further treatment.
“Over these months of the coronavirus pandemic, rapid, reliable testing has emerged as a key component in fighting back against COVID-19,” said Greenstein, D-Mercer/Middlesex. “In New Jersey, we are proud to enlist our many skilled, capable and compassionate pharmacists in this fight.”
Also, Murphy signed SJR92, which designates September of each year as “Safe Haven Awareness Month” in New Jersey.
“Safe haven sites are designated in communities across this state so that new moms and dads can surrender their babies safely and anonymously,” said Murphy. “I am proud to sign this legislation to bring awareness to the Safe Haven Act and thank my legislative partners and the Department of Children and Families for their work on this critical issue.”
Washington — President Trump signed a stopgap government spending bill just after midnight Thursday that funds the government into December, averting a partial government shutdown.
The measure was passed with bipartisan support by the Senate on Wednesday and approved by the House last week. It was sent to the White House on Wednesday evening and signed by Mr. Trump after he returned to Washington, D.C., from a campaign swing through Minnesota, White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
The bill, known as a continuing resolution, keeps the government funded through December 11 and delays further congressional debate on routine government spending until after the presidential election. Negotiations over a new relief bill to address the coronavirus crisis are continuing.
While funding officially lapsed at midnight and Mr. Trump signed the bill after the deadline, federal operations were unaffected.
The spending bill is the result of a bipartisan deal between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It includes an additional $8 billion for nutrition assistance programs and renews provisions of public health and transportation programs.
President Donald Trump signed Thursday a spending bill that averts a government shutdown and extends funding weeks beyond the November 3 presidential election, after Democrats reached a deal with the White House and Republicans.
The bipartisan text easily cleared the Senate Wednesday by 84 votes to 10 a week after it passed the House of Representatives.
It then went to Trump, who signed the so-called Continuing Resolution in the wee hours of Thursday, White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
Trump needed to sign the stop-gap measure by 11:59 pm Wednesday to avoid a partial government shutdown, as fiscal year 2021 technically begins on October 1.
He signed shortly after midnight, after returning from campaign stops, so technically there was in fact a mini-shutdown.
The short-term legislation keeps government federal agencies operating at current funding levels until December 11, easing pressure on Congress — and presidential candidates Trump and Democrat Joe Biden — to address the issue during a heated election.
The measure adds nearly $8 billion in desperately needed nutrition assistance for children and families, and extends funding for community health centers to continue to address Covid-19 and health disparities.
Last week on the day the measure cleared the House, the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 200,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
Separate from the federal budget, lawmakers are in the middle of negotiating a much-needed, trillion-dollar-plus relief package for thousands of communities and millions of families suffering during the pandemic.
Congress, which is deeply divided along party lines, would not likely have been able to reach a broader agreement on a new 2021 budget before the end of the fiscal year.
“I hope members of Congress can come back to the negotiating table in the coming weeks and work in a spirit of cooperation to pass a comprehensive funding bill,” Senate Republican Roger Wicker said.
“A continuing resolution is no substitute for a full appropriations package,” he added.
(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump signed a stopgap funding bill on Thursday that would keep the federal government open through December 11, the White House said in a statement.
Trump signed the measure into law shortly after government funding ran out at midnight.
The law would maintain current funding levels for most programs, avoiding a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic just weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
It would also give lawmakers more time to work out budget details for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30 2021, including for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 82-6 on a procedural motion to advance the temporary funding bill.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the measure a week ago after Democrats struck a deal with the White House and Republicans on farmers’ aid and nutritional assistance for children.
Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Peter Graff
President Trump has signed a bill to fund the government through Dec. 11, averting the possibility of a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts Thursday.
Trump signed the bill, which was approved by sweeping bipartisan agreement Wednesday, into law early Thursday morning shortly after returning from campaigning in Minnesota.
The temporary extension will set the stage for a lame-duck session of Congress later this year, where the agenda will be largely determined by the outcome of the presidential election.
The measure would keep the government running through Dec. 11 and passed by a 84-10 vote. The House passed the bill last week.
The stopgap spending bill is required because the GOP-controlled Senate has not acted on any of the 12 annual spending bills that fund the 30% of the government’s budget that is passed by Congress each year. If Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the White House in November, it’s likely that another stopgap measure would fund the government into next year and that the next administration and Congress would deal with the leftover business.
The measure is the bare minimum accomplishment for Capitol Hill’s powerful Appropriations committees, who pride themselves on their deal-making abilities despite gridlock in other corners of Congress.
The legislation — called a continuing resolution, or CR, in Washington-speak — would keep every federal agency running at current funding levels through Dec. 11, which will keep the government afloat past an election that could reshuffle Washington’s balance of power.
The measure also extends many programs whose funding or authorizations lapse on Sept. 30, including the federal flood insurance program, highway and transit programs, and a long set of extensions of various health programs, such as a provision to prevent Medicaid cuts to hospitals that serve many poor people.
It also finances the possible transition to a new administration if Biden wins the White House and would stave off an unwelcome COVID-caused increase in Medicare Part B premiums for outpatient doctor visits.
Farm interests won language that would permit Trump’s farm bailout to continue without fear of interruption. In exchange, House Democrats won $8 billion in food aid for the poor.
WASHINGTON — President Trump signed a stopgap spending bill early Thursday to keep the government funded through early December, after the Senate overwhelmingly agreed to punt a series of thorny debates about federal funding once the general election was over.
The funding was set to lapse at midnight, with the official start of the new fiscal year, and Mr. Trump signed the measure nearly an hour afterward as he returned from a campaign rally in Minnesota, a White House spokesman said. The Senate passed the measure 84 to 10 on Wednesday, but the bill, which the House approved last week, reached his desk after he left Washington.
The delayed signature had little effect on the function of the federal government. The Office of Management and Budget had instructed federal agencies on Wednesday to continue normal operations and “to not engage in orderly shutdown activities,” a senior administration official said, given “a high level of confidence” that the president would sign the stopgap bill on Oct. 1.
Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told reporters earlier in the day that the measure should have passed long ago. “There’s overwhelming support — you need to bring certainty to the government,” he said.
In giving final approval to the measure, lawmakers completed the last of the essential legislative tasks that were keeping them in Washington before the election on Nov. 3, clearing the way for Congress to begin a recess and for members to scatter around the country to campaign for re-election.
It remained unclear, however, when lawmakers would depart, as top House Democrats and Trump administration officials made a final push for an elusive bipartisan deal on an economic recovery plan that both sides have said is desperately needed to address to continuing toll of the pandemic. Senators were also bracing for the possibility that a partisan feud over Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee could bleed into next week, keeping that chamber in session.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin huddled in Ms. Pelosi’s Capitol Hill office on Wednesday afternoon, toiling to hammer out a stimulus deal that could be acceptable to Mr. Trump and to Democrats. The meeting ended without a deal, and Ms. Pelosi announced that Democrats would soon vote on Democrats’ latest, $2.2 trillion proposal, which Republicans are all but certain to reject.
But the two said they had made progress in their talks and agreed to continue negotiations.
“We have more work to do, and we’re going to see where we end up,” Mr. Mnuchin said as he left the Capitol.
Ms. Pelosi, under pressure from moderates to redouble efforts to find a compromise before the elections, was determined to give Democrats one final opportunity to vote in favor of a recovery plan — this one about $1.2 trillion less costly than the stimulus plan the House passed in May. The vote, she said in a statement, would serve to “formalize our proffer to Republicans in the negotiations to
The President signed the bill upon returning to the White House from campaign stops in Minnesota. Trump did not sign the bill before the midnight deadline to keep the government open, but no federal operations were expected to be affected by the shutdown that lasted less than an hour.
The bill breezed through the Senate on Wednesday after having been approved by the House last week and had been sent for Trump’s signature just after 6 p.m. The President had left the White House for campaign stops about three-and-a-half hours before that vote.
By funding the government only until mid-December, the legislation still sets up the possibility of a funding fight and potential shutdown after the election and just before the start of a new Congress.
Video: Smerconish: Is this what law & order looks like? (CNN)
The continuing resolution, while far short of bipartisan full-year funding bills, is the product of bipartisan negotiation and an agreement between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — one that had initially appeared to fall apart just a few weeks before the deadline.
The deal to avert a shutdown has so far proved to be a rare spot of bipartisan agreement at a time when partisan tensions are running especially high amid a high-stakes battle in the