Things That Matter

President Trump Might Deny National Guard Benefits By Ending Deployment One Day Early

One of the key elements of a response to a national crisis is the deployment of the National Guard. The servicemen and women have been working tirelessly since COVID-19 started to spread in the U.S. President Donald Trump, who touts his love of the military, delivered a saddening blow to the National Guard.

President Trump’s order deploying the National Guard to combat COVID-19 is set to expire on June 24.

Politico reported Tuesday that 40,000 National Guard virus workers will face a “hard stop” of services on June 24. The end comes after the guards spend 89 days working with the public to keep the nation safe during the deadly pandemic. Military families and advocates are not happy with the possible end to the mission of assisting states in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic after 89 days.

If troops are told to go home after 89 days, Pres. Trump will deprive them of deserved benefits.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, service members who serve 90 days of active duty are eligible for early retirement and educational benefits. The June 24 deadline means that the guards deployed in March will only spend 89 days on active duty. While the deadline looms and gets more attention, a National Guard spokesperson said that a decision on the deadline is yet to come.

Governors across the country are asking the Trump administration to extend the deadline to protect public health.

States like Texas are quickly reopening their economies and the result has been a noticeable increase in cases and the highest single-day death count for the state. States like New York and New Jersey are seeing their numbers fall after months of social distancing and self-isolation.

According to Politico, states are concerned that the Trump administration removing the troops from the states could lead to a second wave. Many of the state leaders are asking for the Trump administration to extend the deadline by months.

The National Guard is involved in the hard work of keeping communities safe and stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The soldiers have been disinfecting and cleaning nursing homes, building and working field hospitals to manage influxes, and providing testing to people. National Guards service members are eligible for retirement at 60 with a full pension is they serve for 20 years. For every 90 days, they can move up retirement by three months and are eligible for 40 percent off tuition with the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Critics argue that the Trump administration intentionally set the deadline for 89 days to prevent the soldiers to collect the benefits owed to them.

“It seemed kind of weird to me,” retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, president of the National Guard Association, told Politico. “It’s a Wednesday. And it also coincides with 89 days of deployment for any soldiers who went on federal status at the beginning. I was getting all kind of calls about it and I said, ‘It’s probably just a coincidence.’ But in the back of my mind, I know better. They’re screwing the National Guard members out of the status they should have.”

READ: Tributes To Nurses Flood Social Media In Honor Of National Nurses Day

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There’s A ‘Haunted Drive-Thru’ Experience Coming To Save Halloween And It Looks Terrifying

Entertainment

There’s A ‘Haunted Drive-Thru’ Experience Coming To Save Halloween And It Looks Terrifying

Miodrag Ignjatovic / Getty Images

I don’t care if it’s barely August. It’s never too soon to start talking about Halloween.

The year 2020 has already taken so much from us, I won’t let it take Halloween too. And thanks to come very creative, socially-distanced supporting Halloween fans, it looks like we won’t have to say goodbye to the best holiday of the year after all.

Orlando is getting a drive-thru haunted experience and I really want to go.

If you were worried that COVID-19 would spell the end of haunted attractions in 2020, you’d best buckle up. The brave and the squeamish alike are invited to travel The Haunted Road this fall, a drive-thru Halloween experience in Central Florida that offers a socially distant alternative to the traditional haunted house.

The Haunted Road promises a fully immersive horror experience replete with monsters and gore galore — which should ring like music to your ears if going to haunts is your Halloween tradition of choice. The difference here is that you’ll experience the world of nightmarish scenery and gruesome creatures entirely from the comfort of your vehicle. So, kind of like a haunted hayride, but Coronavirus safe.

At the heart of the experience is an original take on the story of Rapunzel. On The Haunted Road, Rapunzel “journeys into a world of disarray, faces bloodcurdling creatures — and hundreds of shocking scares.” There will also be a more family-friendly daytime version of the event on weekdays.

OK, a huge thank you to whomever thought up this genius idea.

The idea for The Haunted Road was borne from the idea of creating an original haunted attraction that adheres to safe social distancing measures.

Most haunted attractions place visitors into smaller spaces and encourage performers to get up close and personal to secure the scare. But with the coronavirus pandemic raging on, that in-your-face approach is largely unfeasible and could lead most haunts to remain closed for the 2020 season. And that’s where The Haunted Road comes riding in like a headless horseman poised to save Halloween.

“With the arts and entertainment industry at a standstill, and an increasing need to find new, safe outdoor entertainment, we knew it was the perfect time to develop a unique Halloween experience so everyone can enjoy a dose of horror this upcoming Halloween season, from the comfort of their car,” said Jessica Mariko, executive producer and creative principal, The Haunted Road.

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A Federal Court Ruling Could Finally Put Much Needed Stimulus Funds In The Hands Of Native Tribes

Things That Matter

A Federal Court Ruling Could Finally Put Much Needed Stimulus Funds In The Hands Of Native Tribes

Sharon Shischilly / Getty Images

Indigenous communities in the Unites States have often been forgotten or deliberately excluded from federal policy. Many nations have been forced to go it alone and, as Covid-19 ravages Native lands, many tribe members have died.

After more than two centuries of exclusion, amid a global epidemic, Indigenous communities are once again being excluded from the decision-making process in Washington even as Covid-19 devastates their communities.

But while Indigenous peoples haven’t always had success before the courts, there has been real momentum of late. In July, the Supreme Court recognized roughly half of Oklahoma as Indigenous land, in a ruling that will have far-reaching consequences in the state justice system and beyond.

Now, Native Americans are having to fight once again for what they’re owed as the federal government distributes the more than $150 billion in stimulus money. More than a dozen Indigenous organizations warned, starting in early April, that if the Trump administration did not listen to tribal governments, they ran the risk of turning the relief package into a “grave injustice.”

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to give Native tribes their withheld stimulus money.

Credit: Sam Wasson / Getty Images

Frustrated and disgusted that it has taken so long for the Treasury Department to distribute federal stimulus funds to Native American tribes, a federal judge ordered Secretary Steve Mnuchin to distribute the money immediately, according to HuffPost. The judge said that tribes should have received their portion of the CARES Act months ago when other Americans received theirs.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta was particularly critical of Mnuchin’s decision to hold back $679 million in funding set aside for tribes while waiting on a decision in another case that will determine whether tribal businesses are eligible for the funding, as The Hill reported.

In his ruling, Mehta said “Continued delay in the face of an exceptional public health crisis is no longer acceptable.”

Over the past three months, the Treasury Department has managed to send out billions of dollars in loans to small businesses, checks to families and aid to corporations. But distributing the $8 billion pot set aside for tribal governments has proved more difficult. As a result, tribes, already critically underfunded and among the nation’s most vulnerable communities, have not received all the money they need to weather the pandemic and begin recovering from the economic toll.

“Congress made a policy judgment that tribal governments are in dire need of emergency relief to aid in their public health efforts and imposed an incredibly short time limit to distribute those dollars,” he wrote in an order released late Monday night. “The 80 days they have waited, when Congress intended receipt of emergency funds in less than half that time, is long enough.”

Some tribes were owed $12 million in federal funding and yet got nothing from the government.

Credit: Mark Ralson / Getty Images

Much of the fault is with the Treasury Department which counted the populations of Native tribes differently that Congress had intended. This meant that some tribes would end up with zero funding while some for-profit tribal companies could end up with millions.

Since some tribes do not have a designated reservation or service area, their population counts were listed as zero and they received only the minimum $100,000 allocation.

“We are not races — we are sovereign nations,” said Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe. He added “How can a tribe have zero people?” noting that more than 3,000 people belong to his tribe. “It was a simple clerical error, but no one at Treasury tried to fix it.”

The oversight was even more egregious, Barnes said, because there is also a census count that, while not completely accurate, would have ensured the tribe got closer to the $12 million it believes it is entitled to based on enrollment numbers.

As the legal wrangling continues, the picture on the ground is disastrous.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) reports there have been nearly 33,000 COVID-19 cases reported to IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health organizations. In May, the outbreak in the Navajo Nation surpassed New York as the highest infection rate in the country—today, its infection rate is double any state. Today, the nation has more cases, in terms of raw numbers, than several states.

And while the funding threats and lack of resources threaten everyone, Indigenous elders—sometimes the only remaining speakers of nearly lost languages—face particular danger.

In recent years, there have been furious efforts to collect Indigenous histories and preserve nearly lost Indigenous languages. COVID-19 threatens to undo much of that work as it cuts through the elderly population.

“COVID-19, like many diseases, renders Indigenous elders—our knowledge-keepers and language holders—particularly susceptible to illness and death,” wrote Gina Starblanket and Dallas Hunt, two Indigenous professors and writers in the Globe and Mail in late March. “This virus not only places us at risk, but the future well-being of coming generations as well

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