The Biden administration has abandoned the Trump administration’s opposition to emergency nutrition assistance going to the lowest income households already at the maximum benefit levels.
In two lawsuits in Pennsylvania and California, plaintiffs argued that former president Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue misinterpreted a section of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in a way that denied millions of the neediest Americans access to emergency allotments of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, the program formerly called food stamps. In Pennsylvania, the suit alleged that the Department of Agriculture under Trump denied any emergency allotments to nearly 40 percent of the state’s SNAP households.
Biden’s agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack moved on Thursday for voluntary dismissal of the agency’s appeal in these cases, entering into a settlement that will provide $1 billion per month in additional food assistance to an estimated 25 million people in very low-income American households.
Starting this month, households that had not received at least $95 per month in increased benefits through emergency allotments during the pandemic — because they were already at or close to receiving the current maximum benefit — will now be eligible to receive additional benefits. Benefit levels will remain unchanged for households that have been receiving increased payments of at least $95 per month. States may need a few weeks to update their systems and get the additional benefits to participants, ’'but it should be smooth sailing from here on out,’' said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary of the USDA.
Boehner has harsh words for ex-colleagues
Former House Speaker John Boehner isn’t holding back in his forthcoming book, “On the House,” in which he promises to share “colorful tales from the halls of power, the smoke-filled rooms around the halls of power, and his fabled tour bus.”
In an essay adapted from the book and published by Politico on Friday, Boehner unloads on right-wing media personalities and several fellow Republicans. The former Ohio congressman describes the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2010 and the beginnings of the populist far-right.
“Incrementalism? Compromise? That wasn’t their thing. A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington,” Boehner writes of the 2010 class of lawmakers.
In the essay, titled, “Panic Rooms, Birth Certificates and the Birth of GOP Paranoia,” Boehner says just about anyone could have been elected in the 2010 midterms as long as they were a Republican.
“You could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name — and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category,” he writes.
And on their arrival to Congress, things did not improve, in Boehner’s view.
“I had to explain how to actually get things done. A lot of that went straight through the ears of most of them, especially the ones who didn’t have brains that got in the way,” he says.
Boehner’s book is set to be released later this month. He also recorded an audio version of the book, in which he goes colorfully off-script, according to Axios.
University governing board censures GOP chair over ‘witches’ comment
LANSING, Mich — The University of Michigan’s governing board on Friday censured a Republican regent who called the state’s female Democratic leaders “witches” whom the GOP would prepare for a “burning at the stake” in the 2022 election.
Ron Weiser, who chairs the Michigan Republican Party, said he took “full responsibility” for his “poorly chosen words” to activists but said he would not quit despite the board’s call for his resignation.
“I pledge to be part of a respectful dialogue going forward and challenge my colleagues and others to do the same. I will not be canceled,” he said during a virtual meeting.
Regents said they had no legal authority to remove Weiser because he was elected by the public. But they said he should step down because his “violent, sexist” language had endangered the lives of state and federal elected officials and brought the school negative attention.
Weiser, 75, sparked outrage recently when he referred to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, state Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as “witches” multiple times. Also, he joked about “assassination’' when pressed by crowd members who were angry that two GOP congressman voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump over the deadly Capitol riot.
US sanctions mistakenly targeted Italian catering firm
On the very last day President Donald Trump was in office in January, his administration announced new sanctions targeting a catering company in Verona, Italy.
According to the US Treasury, the measures were designed to defeat a “network attempting to evade United States sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector.”
But for Alessandro Bazzoni, the owner of the catering company, it was a confounding move. He was not involved in sanctions evasion with Venezuela.
And yet now his bank accounts were blocked by US sanctions that targeted him.
“I discovered that I ended up on the blacklist one morning two months ago in the bank, when I saw my current accounts blocked,” Bazzoni told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Friday.
“I thought it was a joke. ‘Look, it’s February 1st, not April 1st,’ I said to the director, but it was all true,” he said.
The US Treasury announced this week that it was removing the company linked to Bazzoni — a catering firm that shares an address with his pizza shop, Dolce Gusto — from its sanctions blacklist.
A design agency in Porto Torres, Italy, was also removed from the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List without explanation, according to the statement on Wednesday.
For Bazzoni, the problem was a case of mistaken identity. The US government had been interested in an Italian citizen named Alessandro Bazzoni, who they said had been a “core facilitator” of a network designed to help sanctioned Venezuelan state firm PDVSA sell crude oil.
But that Bazzoni was not the same Bazzoni as the Verona pizza shop owner. The 45-year-old restaurateur, already facing difficult times due to the pandemic, told Corriere della Sera that the blocking of his account could have been disastrous.
The Treasury did not respond to a request for comment, but an unnamed official told the Hill newspaper this week that names had been removed from the SDN list to “avoid inadvertently harming innocent parties.”