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By KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A committee helping oversee Idaho’s $1.25 billion share of the federal government’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package on Tuesday approved spending $150 million to help educate students.

The Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee followed Republican Gov.

Brad Little’s request from last week and unanimously approved spending $100 million to replace a similar amount cut by Little in 2020 due to pandemic-related budgetary concerns.

The committee also unanimously approved spending $50 million to be made available to parents so they’re less likely to leave the workforce or dip into household money while their children learn amid the challenges posed by the pandemic. That money will be distributed based on income and can be used to purchase educational materials, computers and other services.

The $100 million allocated to Idaho's 310,000 school kids will be divvied up among schools at $315 per student. But officials are having to use old enrollment numbers that might not be accurate, so the committee left open the possibility of some school districts getting more money later.

Alex Adams, Little’s budget chief and the committee’s chair, said the state has about $200 million left in federal relief money after allocating the $150 million for education.

Shawn Keough, a State Board of Education member and a former Republican state senator, voiced support for Little's plan.

“We're in uncharted waters," she said. “This I believe will be very helpful for all our (school) districts.”

Adams said there was an urgency to get the money distributed given that schools have opened and many students are learning online.

“It's possible we could get this out as early as Sept. 25,” he said.

The $50 million for the Strong Families, Strong Students initiative program will provide up to $1,500 per child with a maximum of $3,500 per family. Many students are learning at home as school districts try to avoid spreading the virus.

The money will help about 30,000 kids, and Adams said after the meeting that applications would go out in waves based on need until the money ran out. Officials have said that money could help close achievement gaps among students whose families can't afford internet access or the electronic devices needed to learn remotely.

Republican Sen. Lori Den Hartog isn't on the committee but has helped plan how to spend the money to keep it within federal spending guidelines, urging the committee to pass the plan.

“I have heard from many constituents who have been trying to balance work and school for their kids,” she said. “The (school) districts are all doing the best they can.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in an email sent 13 minutes before the start of the 1 p.m. meeting said she was unable to participate and asked committee members to delay taking any action.

But none of the members made a motion to delay the committee's work when given the opportunity.

About two hours before the meeting started, McGeachin tweeted a photo of herself driving a convertible, writing that she was on her way to the central Idaho town of Stanley to meet Donald Trump Jr., who was holding a fundraising event for President Donald Trump. Tickets to the event cost $2,800 per person.

Johns Hopkins University reports that Idaho has more than 35,000 coronavirus cases and 419 deaths.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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Congress poised to leave town without passing COVID relief

By Ted Barrett, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox | CNN

Congress is readying to leave Washington this week until after the election without passing a coronavirus economic stimulus bill that members of both parties, businesses and hard-hit Americans all agree is desperately needed.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking GOP leader, and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the Republican who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday they are trying to complete action on a House-passed government funding bill this week.

That should allow lawmakers to leave town for much of the month of October and members up for reelection to hit the campaign trail, though they are expected to return to cast their votes to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

The funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, is being shopped around to all Senate offices, senators and aides said, in hopes they can get unanimous consent to pass it as early as Thursday. That would mean they could avoid procedural hurdles that would otherwise force them to return to the Capitol next Wednesday, after the Jewish holiday, to approve the bill on the final day of the fiscal year.

Some fiscal conservatives, notably Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, are reluctant to give consent to pass these types of bills without being able to offer amendments and it remains unclear if they will this time.

Thune said he expects the Senate to have pro forma sessions throughout October, something that will allow leaders to call members back to vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee or if there is a deal reached on a coronavirus stimulus, which seems highly unlikely at this time.

Members of the Judiciary Committee say they expect to be back and forth between their states and Washington as they work to swiftly confirm a new justice.

On the stimulus, Democrats and Republicans remain far apart, both in terms of the overall price tag and how the money would be spent. For instance, Democrats are insisting on hundreds of billions of dollars for state and local governments but Republicans say that is a non-starter for them.

“The Democrats seem to be saying that we would rather have zero than have what we put up,” Thune said, referring to a scaled-down stimulus bill that Democrats recently blocked in the Senate. “At this point we’re not seeing cooperation with Democrats on a reasonable or realistic bill.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was Republicans who were being unrealistic.

“We have to meet the needs of the American people. This is not a check the box or the path of least resistance,” Pelosi argued Friday about the Democrats’ most recently proposal. “They have contempt for science and disdain for state and local government.”

The lack of action on a stimulus has rattled Wall Street, worried struggling Americans, and frustrated business owners who believe more government stimulus could have helped them stay afloat and keep workers employed.

The House is scheduled to be in session next week but that may change if the Senate completes the government funding bill this week.

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