Update: The Trump administration has reversed course and announced people on Social Security will not have to file a tax return to receive the stimulus check.
Original post follows below.
Quick: You’re in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis that has killed thousands of Americans and infected many more. You’ve already suggested (and thankfully retracted) a call for people to get back to regular life far earlier than experts recommend, a move that would dramatically increase the number of cases. The Lt. Governor of Texas beat you to the punch re: volunteering old people to die to save the economy, so that’s out, but what’s the next most evil thing you could do here (aside from denying reality for months and letting the virus gain a hold in the U.S.)?
The Trump administration is glad you asked:
The Trump administration is requiring Americans who receive Social Security to file a tax return to receive their $1,200 economic stimulus payment, an added step that is causing confusion and could prevent millions from easy access to relief. Many lawmakers and advocates for the poor say filing a tax return shouldn’t be necessary for people on Social Security because the government already knows how to send this population monthly checks. The $2.2 trillion aid legislation, passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, said that if someone has not filed a 2019 or 2018 tax return, the U.S. Treasury should get their information from Social Security, if applicable. But, the Internal Revenue Service posted a notice on its website on Monday instructing Social Security recipients who do not normally send in a return to file a “simple” tax return, which will be available soon.
A request to IRS and the Treasury Department for comment about the discrepancy was not returned. Democrats and some Republicans are upset that the Trump administration isn’t doing more to help ensure that as many Americans as possible get these payments during this national health emergency. Forty-one Democratic senators sent the White House a letter Wednesday asking why the Trump administration is placing this “significant burden” on senior citizens and the disabled.
“This filing requirement would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.
As the Washington Post notes, over 15 million Americans on Social Security don’t file a yearly tax return because their income is so low. During the 2008 recession, 3.5 million Social Security recipients did not receive a stimulus check from the government because they didn’t file the required tax return to get it. Now, in the midst of a crisis in which people are being told to stay home, there is worry that even more people won’t get a check if they need help filing their return. “There is no need for Treasury to require those millions of Social Security recipients to file,” Chye-Ching Huang, a tax expert told the Post. “We just hope it’s a misunderstanding and they clear it up quickly. It’s a really simple fix.” Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri, was slightly more blunt. “Despite language Congress passed in #COVID-19 relief bill to ensure Social Security beneficiaries would NOT have to file taxes to receive direct relief, IRS issued guidance saying seniors DO have to file taxes. That’s ridiculous. IRS should follow the law that Congress passed,” he tweeted.
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Florida governor pulls his head out of the sand, announces stay-at-home order
After weeks of resisting calls for a state-wide order to stay home, during which he refused to close beaches to coronavirus-spreading spring breakers and blamed New Yorkers for supposedly bringing the disease the the state, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an order Wednesday directing residents to do just that, making him one of the last governors in the country to do so. Previously, the Republican had been loathe to break with President Donald Trump, who spent months downplaying COVID-19 and as recently as last week was talking about getting people back to everyday life and work by Easter, arguing that killing the economy would be worse than killing millions of Americans.
But after being briefed by campaign officials and allies re: the fact that a spike in deaths could “be even more politically damaging in November than the current economic downturn,” Trump extended nationwide social distancing guidelines through April 30, which apparently gave DeSantis the courage to prevent needless deaths in his state, where the number of people testing positive surged by more than 1,000 on Tuesday to hit almost 7,000, the New York Times reported. “When the president did the 30-day extension, to me, that was, ‘People aren’t just going to go back to work,’” DeSantis said at a news conference in Tallahassee. “That’s a national pause button.”
Prior to Wednesday, DeSantis had spent most of his time carping about New Yorkers bringing the virus to the state, while strangely having no issue with the spring breakers flocking to the area. At a press conference last week, he blasted residents of the Empire State—already under a stay-at-home order themselves—for the rise in cases in his state. “You’re having people be reckless and cause problems for other communities,” DeSantis said. “Tens of thousands have defied [state directives in New York] and so we’re ending up in a situation where we’re having to pick up some of those pieces.” He later issued an executive order mandating a 14-day self-quarantine or isolation period for travelers coming to Florida from the New York tristate area and Louisiana.
While rational people are obviously pleased he finally came around, many have had no issue taking DeSantis to task for dithering while the virus spread. “I’d say better late than never, but being late may have catastrophic consequences for our residents and our health care system,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement. “I am glad he heeded our call for statewide uniformity and urge all residents of our city and state to remain safer at home.”
Kellyanne Conway enjoys vacation to alternative universe
The one in which the economy is on fire:
Conway gaggled with reporters on the driveway of the White House Wednesday morning, and was asked about Trump’s relatively high recent approval ratings. In the latest Gallup poll, Trump earned the highest net approval of his presidency (49% approve vs. 44% disapprove), while 60% approved of his response to the coronavirus crisis. Conway was asked “The president has really increased in the polls, what do you attribute that to?”
“He’s at 61% in the Gallup poll for his handling of COVID-19,” Conway said, adding an extra point. Since that poll was taken, Trump’s approval on the issue has been lower in other polls. “He never had this high an approval rating on the economy, and certainly deserved it,” Conway said when asked about Trump’s numbers improving. “The economy is humming along and it’s a Trump economy, between the deregulation, the tax cuts and job production, the trade deals, the energy dominance.”
She added: “People expect Donald Trump, he’s a businessman, that’s part of why he got elected, lots of reasons, but you expect Donald Trump to fix, to help fix the economy, make it better,” Conway said. Last week, 3.3 million people filed for unemployment, with the numbers expected to rise to 5.6 million. On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs said it expected unemployment to hit 15% during the second quarter of the year, with gross domestic product projected to fall at an annualized rate of 34%.
Um...that’s not how any of this works
If a Thai king quarantines with almost two dozen women, is he really quarantining at all?
Thailand’s playboy king has taken over a luxury German hotel to isolate from the coronavirus—along with a harem of 20 women, according to reports. King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 67, reportedly booked the entire Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl with “special permission” to break the lockdown in the Alpine resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Independent said, quoting German media. But rather than isolate, he moved in a harem of 20 concubines along with a team of servants, the U.K. paper said, citing German tabloid Bild. The king, widely known as Rama X, planned an even bigger party—but 119 members of his entourage were forced to return to Thailand amid fears they had the potentially deadly bug, the report said.
According to a spokesperson for the local district council, the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl was granted permission to host the king and his harem because “the guests are a single, homogenous group of people with no fluctuation.”
Biden reignites talk of delaying Democratic convention (Politico)
Politicians are already calling for a 4th coronavirus relief plan. Here’s what could be in it (CNBC)
Desperate lawmakers hunt for medical supplies as Trump takes hands-off approach (Politico)
Pence, in Craziest Lie Yet, Denies Trump Ever Downplayed the Coronavirus (Intelligencer)
Navy to remove 2,700 sailors from aircraft carrier struggling with coronavirus in Guam (The Washington Post)
The Small-Business Bailout Just Got a Lot Better (Intelligencer)
All Hail Tiger King (AirMail)
Real estate exec gives free rent to pizzeria feeding hospitals (The New York Post)
Some good news on the COVID-19 front? We fact-checked 10 positive coronavirus claims. (Poynter)
Town creates neighborhood ‘safari’ for kids during pandemic (Associated Press)
“I Wouldn’t Do a Puzzle If It Were the Last Activity on Earth” (The Cut)
— Trump Awakens to the COVID-19 Danger
— Could Wall Street’s Coronavirus Tsunami Get Worse?
— Jared Kushner Told Trump the Coronavirus Was Fake News
— Tucker Carlson on How He Brought His Coronavirus Message to Mar-a-Lago
— The 12 Most Insane Moments From Trump’s National Emergency Presser
— How a QAnon Coronavirus Conspiracy About Oprah Went Viral
— From the Archive: Inside the Week of Hurricane Katrina, Revealing the Foolishness, Fear, and Politics That Turned a Natural Disaster Into a Man-Made Catastrophe
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