March 26, 2020

The Senate unanimously passed a massive $2.2 trillion coronavirus emergency rescue package late Wednesday, and among its many tools to bolster the economy amid the COIVD-19 pandemic is $290 billion set aside for direct payments to most Americans. Assuming the House passes the bill, expected to happen Friday, and President Trump signs it, most Americans will get a one-time payment of about $1,200 sometime in April, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says.

The payments will be based on tax returns from 2019 or 2018. Generally speaking, individuals with an adjusted gross income up to $75,000 will get $1,200 checks, or $2,400 for couples earning up to $150,000. Couples and "head of household" single parents will also get $500 per child. The checks taper off up to $99,000 in income per individual and $198,000 for joint filers with no children. The Washington Post has a calculator for estimating how much money your check should contain. Kiplinger also has a helpful stimulus calculator.

About 125 million people, or 83 percent of tax filers, will get checks, says Kyle Pomerleau at the American Enterprise Institute. "The main people excluded from receiving a payment are: the wealthy, nonresident aliens (i.e. foreigners who do not hold a green card), and 'dependents' who can be claimed on someone else’s tax return.," the Post reports.

Many Americans won't actually get a paper check. The first people to get funds from the program will be those who have direct deposit information on file with the Internal Revenue Service from 2019 returns, filed this year, or 2018 returns. If the IRS does not have your direct deposit information, it will send a check to the mailing address it has on file. "People who don't pay taxes, such as those with very low incomes, may be hard to reach the way the program is designed," Politico notes.

"The last time the U.S. government did anything like this, back in 2008," the Post reports, "the payments went out in batches and it took about eight weeks for the final people to receive their checks." Peter Weber

3:23 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, reunited with his old boss, former President Barack Obama in Flint, Michigan, on Saturday as part of a final campaign stretch ahead of Tuesday's Election Day.

Obama spoke first, touting his old running mate's acumen. At one point, he said that he and former first lady Michelle Obama had recently been talking about how a "big benefit" of a possible Biden presidency is the fact that "you're not going to have think about them every day," implying that what many consider to be the over-politicization of daily life will decline if President Trump is no longer in office.

Biden, too, emphasized a lack of dramatics, arguing that the Obama administration enjoyed two scandal-free terms.

The drive-in event was the first of two for the day in the crucial swing state. Obama and Biden will next head to Detroit. Tim O'Donnell

2:32 p.m.

Part of Lyon has been locked down by authorities after a Greek Orthodox priest was shot while closing his church in the French city on Saturday. Police are still searching for the alleged shooter who fled the scene. The priest, a Greek citizen, is being treated for life-threatening injuries in a local hospital, The Associated Press reports.

The motive behind the attack is unclear, and the French anti-terrorist unit is not investigating the shooting, though it does come at a heightened moment in France. Just two days ago, three people were killed at a Catholic Church by a knife-wielding man. French President Emmanuel Macron called that incident an "Islamist terrorist attack." Two weeks before that, a Parisian school teacher was beheaded by an 18-year-old man, who was reportedly angered by the teacher showing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad in class. Since then, the French government has said it will deploy soldiers to protect several sites across the country, including places of worship. Read more at BBC and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

1:50 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is not considered a favorite to emerge as the Republican Party's next presidential nominee. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that the suggestion prompted laughter from several sources, while multiple GOP strategists expressed doubt to The Washington Post recently, as well.

Mike Lindell, the Minnesota campaign chair for President Trump, said it will simply just "be harder for a career politician to be president going forward," but Alex Conant, who served as the campaign spokesman during Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential run, thinks Pence's ties to the Trump administration could mean the vice presidency will remain the apex of his political journey.

"Trump could be our party's Iraq War," Conant told the Post. "I wonder if four years from now we are nominating someone who had nothing to do with the Trump era."

While Conant's larger point may stand, his historical comparison confused some observers, who argued that the Republican Party's "Iraq War" was, in fact, the Iraq War. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

1:09 p.m.

Slovakia has launched a program to test the country's entire population for COVID-19 over the next two days. Around 45,000 medical workers, army, and police are being deployed to collect samples at around 5,000 testing sites. The effort will utilize antigen tests, which give quick results, but are often less accurate than PCR tests, which require lab analysis.

The ambitious plan is not without critics. While Prime Minister Igor Matovic said it would save "hundreds of lives" and "will be our road to freedom," President Zuzana Caputova called it "unfeasible," noting that there are not enough trained health workers to carry it out effectively. And the Slovak Association of General Practitioners warned that the "mass concentration of millions of people" at testing sites could in fact contribute to the coronavirus' spread.

Further, France 24 reports that some citizens are wary, with one man saying the government is "threatening people." Participation is not mandatory, but people who fail to produce a negative test certificate if stopped by police could face heavy fines.

Slovakia's coronavirus infection rate is below the European Union average, but like many of its neighbors numbers are on the upswing. Read more at France 24 and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

11:46 a.m.

President Trump has seemingly made life difficult for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is hoping to see the GOP retain its majority in the upper chamber this election cycle, The Washington Post reports.

The committee's director Kevin McLaughlin, per the Post, explained last week that Trump is "losing Arizona" where "we think that he and [Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)] are very intrinsically tied together." With Trump down, McSally's Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly, is viewed by both sides as the favorite to take the seat.

In Georgia, another state in which the presidential race and not one, but two Senate races are tightly contested, NRSC strategists believed the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, was polling at 50 percent at one point, which they reportedly found "terrifying."

Even in a state like Alaska which has reliably voted Republican for president since 1964, the NRSC reportedly found that Trump was actually losing at one point this month. Although that seems to be an unlikely result once the ballots are in, it did force the party's campaign arm to spend more on Sen. Dan Sullivan's (R-Alaska) re-election bid there. "You should've seen those [polls] three weeks ago when we had the president down," McLuaghlin said, explaining that Trump's drop sunk Sullivan, as well. "I mean it's not because of Dan Sullivan. I'm just telling you." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

10:33 a.m.

Sean Connery has died, his family confirmed Saturday. He was 90. A cause of death wasn't immediately known, but Variety notes it was believed the actor had been unwell for some time.

The Scottish-born Connery was well-known for his James Bond portrayal and is considered one of the best actors to take on the iconic role. Indeed, a Radio Times United Kingdom poll revealed Connery as the country's favorite Bond after he took home 56 percent of the vote. But his movie career spanned decades and included several other memorable parts in films like The Name of the Rose and The Untouchables, for which he won a BAFTA and an Oscar, respectively.

In a statement, Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said Connery "was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond" and his "gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent ... is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series." Read more at Variety and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

8:01 a.m.

The United States on Friday set another daily coronavirus infection record, tallying more than 99,000 new cases in a 24-hour period. That is also the highest single-day figure for a country since the pandemic began, surpassing India's previous mark of 97,894 cases.

This week, with the presidential election swiftly approaching, many states recorded their worst seven-day stretch of new infections, and 16 reported daily records Friday. The current wave is more widespread than previous ones and does not have an epicenter, though South Dakota and North Dakota are ranked first and second in recent cases per capita, and there are several other hot spots in the Midwest.

The rise in hospitalizations and deaths may be less striking than the case numbers, but both are trending upward, The New York Times reports. More than 46,600 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday, a 25 percent increase over the past two weeks, and more than 970 people died. Over the past week, the average number of fatalities per day was around 800, up from 700 a month ago.

Overall, the U.S. surpassed 9 million infections, which still leads the world, but it's far from the only country struggling with the virus. Belgium became the latest European country to announce a new national lockdown Friday, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering one for England next week. Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

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