New top story from Time: Trump Spent Years Disparaging the Administrative State. Then Coronavirus Hit.

In the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, the White House was openly fixated on shrinking the footprint of the government Trump was leading. It was one part pander to his rally crowds that he would “drain the swamp” and another part distrust in a man who spent his career atop an empire of his owning. Deep cuts to sectors of the federal workforce, top jobs left unfilled and an open contempt for career bureaucrats were all hallmarks of the first years of Trump’s tenure.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, overwhelming the U.S. health-care system and sending the economy into a spiral. The workhorse agencies that had been running on skeleton crews needed to swing into action fast, and suddenly, the neglected organizations and shuttered offices sprinkled around Washington began to look a lot like a liability. The latest relief package negotiated between Congress and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin includes almost $2 billion in new funds set aside for federal workers’ salaries and expenses — a small slice of the total $2.2 trillion package but a sizable increase for an administration that had been at war with its operational cogs.

The move, buried in a package that primarily focused on keeping small businesses open and airlines in the skies, has won praise from pragmatists who say it is merely a first of many relief packages that are to come. But critics — who say that a bigger government is not the answer, even in a pandemic — say it was a federal jobs trough that came through the backdoor.

“It’s classic: government has a crisis, so they decide they’re going to pad their own budgets,” says David McIntosh, the president of the anti-tax Club for Growth. “I was pretty outraged that the government is supposed to be helping the American people create jobs for them and it’s padding its own payroll.”

The biggest pool of those salaries is a $675 million allocation for the Small Business Administration (SBA), now in charge of running a $349 billion program helping small businesses with loans that can be forgiven if employers preserve current payroll levels. The added workload stood to overwhelm the relatively small government body if they weren’t able to add staff to administer the program. Before the pandemic hit, total spending at the Small Business Administration was just a little more than $1 billion. “This is what we need to give them,” says Nick Iacovella, a spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio, who took the lead in writing the small-business lending plan. On Tuesday, Trump said he was asking for another $250 billion for the loan program.

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The hiring spree isn’t limited to the SBA. Other agencies deemed critical to the federal government’s response to the pandemic are also being given money in the stimulus to build up their ranks or cover overtime costs. The Social Security Administration is slated to get $300 million to bring on new staff to process a backlog of new disability and retirement applications, the Federal Communications Commission was on deck for $200 million and the Department of Treasury was on track to get $104 million more in salaries. The Bureau of Prisons, Congress and the Capitol Police Department also are among the two dozen organizations receiving money to cover salaries.

To be sure, the $2 billion is a relatively small amount in the overall scheme of federal spending. The federal budget is $4.8 trillion, but about two-thirds of that goes to automatic spending on programs like Medicare and Social Security. Civilian federal workers earned $136.3 billion in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2016. That means the new money is less than a 2% increase on what the government pays workers.

But for Trump, and the anti-government ideologues who support him, it’s a big shift. Early in his term, Trump went about dismantling the permanent federal bureaucracy that carries from one administration to the other. Instead of relying on the backbone of career federal workers, the Trump administration sought to run things through political loyalists. Even this week, Trump sought to discredit or remove watchdogs who appear critical of his work. And there remain 149 Senate-confirmed positions in Trump’s administration for whom there is no nominee, according to a tracking project from the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post.

Raw numbers suggest Trump hasn’t so much gutted the federal workforce as shifted it around. But backwater offices and programs have felt the cuts, and droves of experienced hands have retired rather than navigate the churn of Trump’s making. The result has been seen in surveys of workers’ sliding morale.

Many of the new jobs that the stimulus creates will be done by contractors and subcontractors, not permanent hires who would have union-protected rights. But critics of the move to grow the government payroll say the toehold will be strong and there is no shortage of items on many departments’ to-do lists.

“Once there is a new contractor or subcontractor in an area, they will likely find additional things for them to do once this immediate crisis goes away,” says Paul Winfree, a former Trump White House budget official who sees a mixed bag in the outcome. “It’s possible that we will see an eventual reduction, but it won’t match the pre-crisis levels.”

When asked for comment on its apparent reversal of position, the White House referred TIME to the Office of Management and Budget, which did not respond.

The efficiency of a small government has always been a dream in some corners of the Republican Party. As the anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist famously put it in a 2001, ‘I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.’

But critics also worry that the government simply cannot afford to bring more people on. The United States is closing in on $24 trillion in debt and there’s talk in Congress of adding another trillion dollars in a follow-up round of coronavirus spending. It is a massive pile of IOUs that could hamper the plans of future administrations — and generations — long after the crisis point of the pandemic passes.

“We’ve been out-of-touch and out-of-control and this just serves to reinforce the fact that once we get past it — and we will get past it — what are we going to do to put our finances in order?” says David Walker, a former Comptroller General of the United States and one of the country’s leading critics of government red ink. Previous generations, he notes, spent wildly during crises or times of war, but deficit spending is now so commonplace no one bats an eye at routine spending that saddles the next generation with the bill. “We have a cultural problem that we’ve got to come to grips with.”

First, though, the country has to get through the immediate crisis.

— With reporting by Tessa Berenson/Washington

Please send tips, leads, and stories from the frontlines to virus@time.com.

New top story from Time: Former Brazilian President Lula Says Bolsonaro Must Change Dismissive Coronavirus Response

(SAO PAULO) — In home isolation just months after his release from jail, Brazil’s former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Wednesday that President Jair Bolsonaro needs to change his dismissive approach to the new coronavirus or risk being forced from office before the end of his term in December 2022.

The former president known as Lula said in an interview with The Associated Press that Bolsonaro’s defiance of calls for social distancing hamper the efforts of governors and mayors to contain the virus.

He also argued Brazil may need to print money to protect low-income workers and keep people at home, a proposal sure to raise concern in a country with a history of hyperinflation and a sliding currency.

Da Silva, who governed between 2003 and 2010 at time when Brazil’s economy was strong, acknowledged that Bolsonaro is unlikely to heed growing opposition calls to step down and that there are not enough votes in congress for impeachment.

“Brazil’s society might not have the patience to wait until 2022, though,” da Silva said in a video call. “The same society that elected him has the right to remove this president when it notices he is not doing the things he promised. A president who has made mistakes and is creating a disaster. Bolsonaro, at this moment, is a disaster.”

Some people in several regions that voted massively for Bolsonaro in the 2018 elections are disillusioned with him, banging pots outside their homes in regular protests in the last two weeks. The president’s downplaying of the outbreak puts him at odds with almost all of the country’s 27 governors.

About 800 people have died from the COVID-19 disease in Brazil so far, and there are almost 16,000 confirmed cases, the most in Latin America. Brazil expects a peak in virus cases in late April or early May.

Last week, da Silva praised Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria, a former ally of the president, for imposing restrictions designed to curb the spread of the virus. Bolsonaro, who frequently refers to da Silva as a “former inmate,” then said in a radio interview that he feels embarrassed when conservative politicians who have turned on him during the crisis receive praise from the leftist leader.

“I am just recognizing those who have done a more effective job,” da Silva said, adding that Doria will remain a political adversary.

Da Silva, a 74-year-old cancer survivor, is in isolation with his girlfriend and two dogs in the city of São Bernardo do Campo, on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, since returning from a trip to Europe. He said he has not had any symptoms of the virus, nor been tested, and is meeting very few politicians. Most of his conversations are now online.

The former president said his 580 days in jail have helped him cope better with health recommendations to remain home. He is free while appealing corruption and money laundering convictions, which he says are politically motivated.

“I trained spiritually to live well. It is not easy to live in 15 square meters, seeing family once a week,” he said. “Now I am at home with my girlfriend Janja living with me. It is much better. I have space, people to talk to all the time.”

Bolsonaro has challenged recommendations of the World Health Organization and of his own health ministry on social distancing and other measures to curb the virus. He has repeatedly called COVID-19 “a little flu.”

Former president da Silva believes Brazil might need to print money to avoid the closing of businesses and social chaos. Brazil’s economy has suffered since 2015, with about 12 million people unemployed and three times as many people in the informal sector and working gigs.

“Those who need liquidity at this moment are poor people. They need it to buy soap, hand sanitizer. That’s who needs liquidity, not the Brazilian financial system,” he said. “To beat the coronavirus we need more state, more action from public authorities, from making new money and ensuring it reaches the hands of the people.”

Da Silva’s prescription runs counter to the ideology running through Bolsonaro’s administration, led by the University of Chicago-trained Economy Minister Paulo Guedes. After his appointment, he promised to shrink both the size and influence of the state through vast privatizations and by reining in state bank lending.

Since the outbreak, there has been some recognition of the need to provide financial relief. Among other things, state bank Caixa Economica Federal slashed interest rates on overdrafts and credit card installments, and the government allowed people to withdraw the equivalent of one month’s minimum wage from retirement accounts. It also approved monthly payments of $117 to help keep low-income workers afloat, which are expected to begin Thursday.

Still, it isn’t enough, da Silva said. He added that support for possibly printing money isn’t radical, but rather a necessary measure in a desperate circumstance.

“In a time of war you do things that aren’t normal because what matters is survival,” he said. “The coronavirus is an invisible enemy whose shape we know, but we still don’t know how to defeat it.”

Brazilian leftist politicians of different parties, including da Silva’s Workers’ Party, published a letter last week calling for Bolsonaro’s resignation over his management during the pandemic. The former president didn’t sign it, but said his views are clear.

“There’s no way out with Bolsonaro if he doesn’t change his behavior,” he said. “It would be much easier to apologize, admit he was wrong, tell the Brazilian people that he is sorry.”

____

Associated Press writer Maurico Savarese reported this story in Sao Paulo and AP writer David Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro.

New top story from Time: A New York Doctor Who Died After Fever and Cough Was Never Tested for Coronavirus, Highlighting the Limits of the Official Toll

(NEW YORK) — As the coronavirus bore down on New York, Dr. Doug Bass’ family begged him to work from home. He refused, pointing to his patients at Phoenix House, a drug and alcohol treatment center where he served as medical director.

“He said he was on the front lines and they needed him,” his brother, Jonathan Bass, told The Associated Press. “Too many people relied on him.”

Bass, 64, died suddenly last month after suffering symptoms commonly caused by coronavirus, including coughing, a fever and severe stomach cramping. That made him possibly the first physician still treating patients in New York City to die from the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Except he wasn’t counted.

It happened so quickly he was never tested for COVID-19, but his brother believes he was among the hundreds of undiagnosed cases that, for weeks, have been excluded from the official coronavirus death toll.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday the city would begin counting victims like Bass who weren’t tested, including those dying at home whose symptoms fit certain parameters.

“It’s just horrendous. The numbers speak for themselves. This used to be a very, very rare thing in New York City and suddenly it’s jumped up. The only thing that’s changed is COVID- 19,” de Blasio told reporters.

A year ago, the New York City Fire Department was receiving an average of 64 calls for cardiac arrest per day, generally with no more than half of those patients dying, FDNY spokesman James Long said. “Now, in this pandemic, we are seeing more than 300 cardiac arrest calls each day, with well over 200 people dying each day,” Long wrote in an email.

Casualties have been undercounted worldwide, experts say, due not only to limits in testing but the different ways nations count the dead — not to mention deliberate underreporting by some governments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new guidance saying it is acceptable to count undiagnosed COVID-19 cases as “probable” or “presumed” coronavirus deaths under circumstances that are “compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said he was also interested in trying to find a way to account for people who die at home without being tested.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause pneumonia.

Bass, the New York City doctor, believed he had been getting better in the days before his death and continued working for Phoenix House, which provides residential and outpatient treatment at multiple locations in New York City and Long Island.

He had a weakened immune system, his brother said, but “nothing life-threatening and nothing terminal.” He collapsed in the elevator of his building in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood after calling for an ambulance because he could not breathe. Officials at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, the hospital where Bass was taken, declined to comment on his death.

Ann-Marie Foster, the president and chief executive officer of Phoenix House, said her organization had at least two patients who had tested positive for coronavirus, but added it was not clear whether Bass had dealings with them. She said she received an email from Bass at 6:27 p.m. on March 27, the evening before his death.

“We’ve lost a gem,” she said.

There have been similar uncounted fatalities among health care workers.

An emergency room physician at East Orange General Hospital outside Newark, Frank Gabrin, died March 31 from what his loved ones and colleagues described as coronavirus complications. A cancer survivor who also was never tested for COVID-19, Gabrin died in his husband’s arms, at home in New York City, days after developing symptoms that included a dry cough, aches and fever.

The actual coronavirus death toll will be better understood when the pandemic is finally over, based on an a review of fatalities in out-of-hospital settings, said Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest municipal health system in the country.

“If an older person was found dead in their home, it would not be easy to know whether they succumbed to COVID without ever having been brought to diagnosis, or whether they succumbed to cardiac arrest,” Katz told reporters recently.

“I think there will be ways, when all of this horror that we’re living through is done, to try to study these things,” he added. “But I think, right now, everybody is in the moment trying to save as many lives as they can.”

___

Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak in New York and David Porter in Newark, New Jersey, contributed to this report

New top story from Time: A New York Doctor Who Died After Fever and Cough Was Never Tested for Coronavirus, Highlighting the Limits of the Official Toll

(NEW YORK) — As the coronavirus bore down on New York, Dr. Doug Bass’ family begged him to work from home. He refused, pointing to his patients at Phoenix House, a drug and alcohol treatment center where he served as medical director.

“He said he was on the front lines and they needed him,” his brother, Jonathan Bass, told The Associated Press. “Too many people relied on him.”

Bass, 64, died suddenly last month after suffering symptoms commonly caused by coronavirus, including coughing, a fever and severe stomach cramping. That made him possibly the first physician still treating patients in New York City to die from the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Except he wasn’t counted.

It happened so quickly he was never tested for COVID-19, but his brother believes he was among the hundreds of undiagnosed cases that, for weeks, have been excluded from the official coronavirus death toll.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday the city would begin counting victims like Bass who weren’t tested, including those dying at home whose symptoms fit certain parameters.

“It’s just horrendous. The numbers speak for themselves. This used to be a very, very rare thing in New York City and suddenly it’s jumped up. The only thing that’s changed is COVID- 19,” de Blasio told reporters.

A year ago, the New York City Fire Department was receiving an average of 64 calls for cardiac arrest per day, generally with no more than half of those patients dying, FDNY spokesman James Long said. “Now, in this pandemic, we are seeing more than 300 cardiac arrest calls each day, with well over 200 people dying each day,” Long wrote in an email.

Casualties have been undercounted worldwide, experts say, due not only to limits in testing but the different ways nations count the dead — not to mention deliberate underreporting by some governments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new guidance saying it is acceptable to count undiagnosed COVID-19 cases as “probable” or “presumed” coronavirus deaths under circumstances that are “compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said he was also interested in trying to find a way to account for people who die at home without being tested.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can cause pneumonia.

Bass, the New York City doctor, believed he had been getting better in the days before his death and continued working for Phoenix House, which provides residential and outpatient treatment at multiple locations in New York City and Long Island.

He had a weakened immune system, his brother said, but “nothing life-threatening and nothing terminal.” He collapsed in the elevator of his building in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood after calling for an ambulance because he could not breathe. Officials at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, the hospital where Bass was taken, declined to comment on his death.

Ann-Marie Foster, the president and chief executive officer of Phoenix House, said her organization had at least two patients who had tested positive for coronavirus, but added it was not clear whether Bass had dealings with them. She said she received an email from Bass at 6:27 p.m. on March 27, the evening before his death.

“We’ve lost a gem,” she said.

There have been similar uncounted fatalities among health care workers.

An emergency room physician at East Orange General Hospital outside Newark, Frank Gabrin, died March 31 from what his loved ones and colleagues described as coronavirus complications. A cancer survivor who also was never tested for COVID-19, Gabrin died in his husband’s arms, at home in New York City, days after developing symptoms that included a dry cough, aches and fever.

The actual coronavirus death toll will be better understood when the pandemic is finally over, based on an a review of fatalities in out-of-hospital settings, said Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest municipal health system in the country.

“If an older person was found dead in their home, it would not be easy to know whether they succumbed to COVID without ever having been brought to diagnosis, or whether they succumbed to cardiac arrest,” Katz told reporters recently.

“I think there will be ways, when all of this horror that we’re living through is done, to try to study these things,” he added. “But I think, right now, everybody is in the moment trying to save as many lives as they can.”

___

Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak in New York and David Porter in Newark, New Jersey, contributed to this report

EPA settles two cases with Coleman Oil Company, LLC, stemming from 2017 Columbia River oil spill

EPA settles two cases with Coleman Oil Company, LLC, stemming from 2017 Columbia River oil spill
Region 10
Seattle, WA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has settled two federal Clean Water Act cases with Coleman Oil Company, LLC, located in Lewiston, Idaho, owner and operator of a former oil bulk terminal in Wenatchee, Washington, adjacent to the Columbia River.

Published April 08, 2020
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