U.S. Supreme Court weighs Kentucky official’s bid to defend abortion law

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) – In another case stemming from a restrictive abortion law, U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday signaled a willingness to let Kentucky’s Republican attorney general defend his state’s statute – struck down by lower courts – after its Democratic governor dropped the case.

The arguments heard by the nine justices did not involve the legality of the 2018 law, focusing instead on the narrow legal issue of whether Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron can take over the defense of it in a bid to revive the measure.

The dispute highlighted the sometimes messy conflicts that arise when a governor and a state’s top legal officer differ in political views or party, leading to disagreements on whether to defend certain state laws in court.

Both liberal and conservative justices asked questions during the argument that indicated sympathy toward ensuring that Cameron, as attorney general, retains the power to act even after the political party of the governor changes hands.

Republican-backed abortion restrictions enacted by numerous U.S. states in recent years have continued to draw the attention of the nation’s highest judicial body.

Abortion rights advocates have said that Kentucky’s law would effectively ban an abortion method called dilation and evacuation – the most common form performed during the second trimester of a pregnancy – effectively banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The justices must decide whether Cameron can now try to defend the law after lower courts already ruled that it violated Supreme Court precedents holding that women have a right under the U.S. Constitution to obtain an abortion. Governor Andy Beshear’s administration dropped the case.

Abortion opponents are hopeful that the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, will pare back abortion rights this term. The justices will hear arguments in December over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a case in which that state is asking the court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide.

EMW Women’s Surgical Center, an abortion clinic in Louisville, challenged Kentucky’s law, which was signed by then-Governor Matt Bevin, a Republican. Bevin subsequently lost his re-election bid to Beshear in 2019.

Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer noted during the argument that Republicans and Democrats often hold different views on abortion, and that after the new Democratic administration dropped the case Cameron stepped in.

“At that point for the first time we have an attorney general who thinks it’s a pretty good statute – he wants to defend it,” Breyer said “… So if there’s no prejudice to anybody – and I can’t see where there is – why can’t he just come in and defend the law?” Breyer asked a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union representing the abortion clinic.

The Beshear administration’s health department continued to defend the law in court after he took office. But after the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down in 2020, his administration decided not to press the matter further.

Cameron then sought to take over the defense. The 6th Circuit denied that request, saying it was too late for Cameron’s office to step in.

The Kentucky law is one of a growing number passed by Republican legislators at the state level imposing a variety of restrictions on abortion. The justices last month allowed a near-total ban on abortion in Texas to go into effect.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs appeal by official who opposed gay marriage

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rebuffed a bid by a county clerk in Kentucky briefly jailed in 2015 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to two same-sex couples to avoid lawsuits they filed that accuse her of violating their constitutional rights.

The justices turned away an appeal by Kim Davis, who no longer serves as Rowan County Clerk, of a lower court ruling that allowed the lawsuits to proceed. But two conservative justices who voted in dissent against legalizing gay marriage in the court’s landmark 2015 ruling said in an opinion released as part of Monday’s action that the case, Obergefell v. Hodges, continues to have “ruinous consequences” for religious liberty.

“Davis may have been one of the first victims of this court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision, but she will not be the last,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito.

Thomas said the Obergefell decision has left “those with religious objections in the lurch” and made it easier to label them as bigots “merely for refusing to alter their religious beliefs in the wake of prevailing orthodoxy.”

Both justices agreed with the decision to reject the Davis appeal for technical reasons.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that Davis could be sued in her individual capacity in her former role as county clerk. The 6th Circuit rejected her argument that she is protected by a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity, which can shield government officials from liability in certain cases.

Davis, who has earned praise from some conservative Christians, defended her actions by saying that she stopped issuing marriage licenses to everyone regardless of sexual orientation, and the plaintiffs could have obtained licenses elsewhere.

She was jailed for five days in the aftermath of the Obergefell decision for defying court orders to issue licenses in accordance with the high court’s ruling.

The couples – David Ermold and David Moore, and Will Smith and James Yates – sued Davis in 2015, accusing her of violating their constitutional right to marry as recognized in the Obergefell ruling for refusing to provide them marriage licenses. Both couples received their licenses while Davis was in jail.

The stance taken by Thomas and Alito, two of the court’s most conservative justices, comes as the Senate is moving forward quickly with the confirmation process for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite of Christian conservatives. With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, only three of the justices who made up the court’s 5-4 majority in the Obergefell ruling still serve on the bench.

In the Obergefell ruling, the court found that the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law meant states cannot ban same-sex marriages.

In recent years, a number of cases have arisen around the country testing the scope of the Obergefell decision, and the rights of those to object to gay marriage on religious grounds.

On Nov. 4, the justices are due to hear a major religious rights dispute involving the city of Philadelphia’s refusal to place children for foster care with a Catholic agency that bars same-sex couples from serving as foster parents.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Will Dunham)

As cold weather arrives, U.S. states see record increases in COVID-19 cases

By Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – Nine U.S. states have reported record increases in COVID-19 cases over the last seven days, mostly in the upper Midwest and West where chilly weather is forcing more activities indoors.

On Saturday alone, four states – Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin – saw record increases in new cases and nationally nearly 49,000 new infections were reported, the highest for a Saturday in seven weeks, according to a Reuters analysis. Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming also set new records for cases last week.

New York is one of only 18 states where cases have not risen greatly over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis. However, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he is moving to shut non-essential businesses as well as schools in nine neighborhoods, starting on Wednesday. The lockdown would require the governor’s approval.

Health experts have long warned that colder temperatures driving people inside could promote the spread of the virus. Daytime highs in the upper Midwest are now in the 50’s Fahrenheit (10 Celsius).

Montana has reported record numbers of new cases for three out of the last four days and also has a record number of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals.

Wisconsin has set records for new cases two out of the last three days and also reported record hospitalizations on Saturday. On average 22% of tests are coming back positive, one of the highest rates in the country.

Wisconsin’s Democratic governor mandated masks on Aug. 1 but Republican lawmakers are backing a lawsuit challenging the requirement.

North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin have the highest new cases per capita in the country.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is one of several prominent Republicans who have tested positive for coronavirus since President Donald Trump announced he had contracted the virus.

Because of the surge in cases in the Midwest, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities operated by Aspirus in northern Wisconsin and Michigan are barring most visitors as they did earlier this year.

Bellin Health, which runs a hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said last week its emergency department has been past capacity at times and doctors had to place patients in beds in the hallways.

The United States is reporting 42,600 new cases and 700 deaths on average each day, compared with 35,000 cases and 800 deaths in mid-September. Deaths are a lagging indicator and tend to rise several weeks after cases increase.

Kentucky is the first Southern state to report a record increase in cases in several weeks. Governor Andy Beshear said last week was the highest number of cases the state has seen since the pandemic started.

State health experts have not pinpointed the reason for the rise but point to fatigue with COVID-19 precautions and students returning to schools and colleges. Over the last two weeks, Kentucky has reported nearly 11,000 new cases and has seen hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients rise by 20%.

(Reporting by Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Kentucky court releases recording of Breonna Taylor grand jury proceedings

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Kentucky’s attorney general on Friday released audio recordings of the grand jury proceedings that cleared three policemen of homicide charges in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.

The release offers a rare peek at the inner workings of a grand jury, which is normally kept secret, in a case that has captured national attention and prompted street protests in the debate over racism and police use of force.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed 14 audio files of grand jury testimony with the Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk. He had previously said there were more than 20 hours of proceedings, and Reuters has begun to review them.

Cameron served as special prosecutor in the Taylor case. Acting on his recommendation, the grand jury last week cleared two white officers of homicide and charged a third with wanton endangerment for stray bullets that hit a neighboring apartment in the March 13 shooting that led to the death of Taylor.

Cameron had revealed in a Louisville television interview on Tuesday that he recommended only the one endangerment charge that was returned, saying the grand jury had the responsibility to bring additional charges if it believed they were warranted.

Prosecutors have wide leeway in how to present evidence to a grand jury, which then decides whether to bring charges. Nine of the 12 grand jurors must agree on a charge in order to return an indictment.

Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes have supported street protests calling for the arrest of the officers and demanding justice for Taylor, 26, a Black emergency medical technician.

As the raid unfolded, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired once at what he said he believed was a criminal intrusion, wounding one officer. Three officers then shot 32 rounds, six of which hit Taylor, killing her.

The Taylor family has won a $12 million wrongful death settlement from the city of Louisville but still asked for the evidence to be made public, questioning whether Cameron sought to shield the officers from criminal liability.

The Kentucky governor, Louisville’s mayor and even a member of the grand jury itself had called for the proceedings to be released, increasing the pressure on Cameron, a Black Republican whom President Donald Trump has praised as a rising star in the party.

In the end, it was the judge overseeing the criminal case of the officer charged with wanton endangerment who ordered the recordings to be entered in the court file, making them public.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Dan Grebler and Aurora Ellis)

Louisville officer calls for peace after being shot during protests

(Reuters) – One of the Louisville, Kentucky, police officers who was shot last week during protests following the grand jury’s decision in the Breonna Taylor case on Wednesday called for a de-escalation of tensions between demonstrators and police.

“Hate and violence progresses nothing. It’s only when we can come together in mutual respect and love that we can communicate in an effective way and we can make real change,” Major Aubrey Gregory told a briefing on Wednesday.

Gregory and Officer Robinson Desroches were shot last Wednesday amid protests that erupted following news that a grand jury would not bring murder charges against three police officers involved in the March 13 killing of Taylor during a botched raid at her home.

Larynzo Johnson, 26, is the only suspect in the shootings of the two police officers last week. He was charged with two counts of assault and multiple counts of wanton endangerment. He pleaded not guilty.

Gregory’s calls for calm come as pressure builds on Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, over his handling of the case. Cameron, who presented evidence to the grand jury, said in a Louisville television interview that he did not recommend any charges against the two police officers who shot Taylor, saying the jurors needed to make that decision on their own.

A recording of the grand jury proceedings was scheduled to be made public on Wednesday, but Cameron asked a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge for another week to redact private information, according to a court filing released on Wednesday.

Gregory, who said he had been playing a leading role working with protest organizers to keep demonstrations peaceful, added he was concerned about violence.

“The willingness to profess openly in public the desire to harm, kill, hurt the police and their families has really ratcheted up,” he said.

“We support the demonstrations we do not support violence in any shape, form or fashion,” said Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville chapter of the NAACP on Wednesday.

“We hope that the situation here will come to a peaceful conclusion. And we also hope that justice will come regarding the murder of Breonna Taylor.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

Kentucky AG says he did not recommend charges against two Breonna Taylor officers

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Kentucky’s attorney general, who presented evidence to a grand jury in the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor, did not recommend any charges against the two police officers who shot her, saying the grand jury needed to make that decision on its own.

The revelation, in a Louisville television interview, pre-empted one of the main points of interest that was set to be unveiled on Wednesday when a recording of the 20-plus hours of proceedings was due to be made public.

However, a judge agreed to delay the release of the recording, giving the state until midday Friday to redact witnesses’ names, the attorney general’s office said on Wednesday afternoon.

Under public pressure to show the evidence he presented in a case that has captured national attention and prompted protests, Attorney General Daniel Cameron told WDRB television in an interview on Tuesday that he recommended only one charge against the three officers who opened fired. The grand jury took his guidance and indicted one officer for endangerment last week.

“They (the grand jury) are an independent body. If they wanted to make an assessment about different charges, they could have done that. But our recommendation was that (Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove were justified in their acts and their conduct,” Cameron said.

The case of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, has revived street protests across the United States against racism and police brutality, further polarizing the country as some voters are already casting early ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The shooting took place while police were executing a search warrant in a drug investigation involving Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. When the officers burst into her home in the early morning hours of March 13, Taylor’s current boyfriend fired once, wounding one officer. Three officers responded with 32 rounds, six of which hit Taylor.

The grand jury decided against indicting either Mattingly or Cosgrove, who were placed on administrative leave. Instead it indicted a third white officer, Brett Hankison, for wanton endangerment for stray bullets that hit a neighboring apartment. Hankison was fired in June.

Cameron has said the shooting was justified as self-defense since Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired first at the officers. Walker has said he believed the officers who entered the home with a “no-knock” warrant were criminal intruders, and an attempted murder charge against him was dropped in May.

Critics of Cameron, including civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Taylor family, have been questioning the presentation to the grand jury, suggesting that Cameron, a Black Republican, was protecting the officers. Crump helped the family win a $12 million wrongful death settlement against the city of Louisville.

Cameron previously said he presented the grand jury with “all the evidence” and walked the panel through six possible homicide offenses under Kentucky law.

But prosecutors have wide leeway in how to present evidence to a grand jury, which then decides whether to bring charges. Nine of the 12 grand jurors must agree on a charge in order to return an indictment.

Cameron told WDRB, a Fox-affiliated channel in Louisville, he only recommended the one charge that was brought.

“Ultimately our judgment is that the charge that we could prove at trial beyond a reasonable doubt was for wanton endangerment against Mr. Hankison,” Cameron said.

The case has put the spotlight on Cameron, a potential rising star in a Republican Party that greatly lags Democrats with the Black vote.

Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes have called for the prosecution of the officers and celebrated Taylor, an emergency medical technician, under the slogan “Say her name!”

Cameron told WDRB he felt free to speak more openly now that a recording of grand jury proceedings would be made public. Cameron previously resisted releasing the grand jury evidence, saying it should remain secret as is normal practice.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith had ordered that a recording of the 2-1/2 days of proceedings be filed with the court on Wednesday as part of Hankison’s case.

But Cameron asked the judge for another week, saying the state needed time to redact the names of witnesses and private citizens identified in the recordings. Instead, the judge extended the deadline two days until midday Friday, according to Hankison’s defense lawyer, Stew Mathews, and a statement from the attorney general’s office.

Grand jury evidence is rarely made public, and Kentucky usually only shares it with the lawyers in a criminal case when the defendant has the right to see it. “In Kentucky it is made available to the defendant. In the interest of transparency, the judge has decided that it should be made public,” Mathews said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Chizu Nomiyama, Steve Orlofsky and Aurora Ellis)

Kentucky grand jury finds use of force in Breonna Taylor death justified

By Bryan Woolston and Jonathan Allen

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) – Two white police officers who fired into the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker, will face no charges for her death because their use of force was justified, but a third will be charged with the wanton endangerment of her neighbors, the state attorney general said on Wednesday.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced the Louisville grand jury’s decision at a news conference as protesters against racial injustice and police brutality massed on city streets.

Former Detective Brett Hankison’s indictment for wanton endangerment in the first degree represents the lowest level of felony crime in Kentucky and carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.

Benjamin Crump, a civil rights lawyer representing the Taylor family, said it was “outrageous” that none of the officers would be criminally charged for Taylor’s death.

Taylor, 26, was killed in front of her armed boyfriend shortly after midnight on March 13 at her Louisville apartment after Hankison and his two colleagues forced their way in with a so-called “no knock” warrant.”

The two other officers, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, were not charged because they were justified under Kentucky law in returning fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them, wounding Mattingly in the thigh, Cameron said.

“There is no doubt that this is a gut-wrenching, emotional case,” Cameron, a Black Republican, said at a news conference.

Hankison fired his weapon 10 times. Some of the bullets traveled through Taylor’s apartment into adjacent apartment three, where a man, a pregnant woman and a child were at home.

There was “no conclusive” evidence that any of Hankison’s bullets hit Taylor, Cameron said.

Organizers of the protests against police brutality that have become a daily occurrence expressed frustration at the outcome.

“Tonight, tempers may flare,” said community organizer Reece Chenault, 40. “People are going to be sad and I think you are going to see a lot of tears with folks who are marching.”

About 400 protesters wound their way out of downtown Louisville’s Jefferson Square Park and marched through the streets chanting, “Out of the homes, into the streets!”

‘WANTON MURDER,’ LAWYER SAYS

“If Brett Hankison’s behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor’s apartment too,” Crump said. “In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!”

Ahead of the announcement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a 72-hour curfew for the city beginning at 9 p.m.

“I urge everybody to choose peaceful and lawful protest,” Fischer, a white Democrat, said shortly before the announcement.

The three officers involved in the raid knocked on Taylor’s apartment door and announced their presence outside, which was corroborated by a neighbor who witnessed the arrival, Cameron said. Getting no answer, they “breached the door,” he said.

Mattingly entered first, and at the end of a corridor saw Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, with Walker pointing a gun.

Walker fired, injuring Mattingly in the thigh. Mattingly returned fire, and his colleagues began shooting soon after, Cameron said. Hankison fired 10 bullets, Cameron said.

Six bullets hit Taylor, Cameron said, contradicting reports she had been hit five times. Ballistics investigators found only one shot, fired by Cosgrove, was deadly, Cameron said.

In June, the Louisville Metro Police Department fired Hankison with Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder writing that Hankison “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly fired” into Taylor’s home.

The department reassigned Mattingly and Cosgrove to administrative duties.

Louisville police obtained the warrant to enter Taylor’s apartment from a judge as part of an investigation into a drug ring at another house elsewhere in Louisville. They told the judge that they believed that one of the men suspected of selling drugs had used Taylor’s apartment to receive packages.

Taylor had previously dated a suspected drug seller but had severed ties with him, according to her family.

She and Walker, were in bed when police broke down her door with a battering ram shortly after midnight, the families’ representatives have said.

Walker has been charged with attempted murder. His lawyer has said there is evidence the bullet in Mattingly’s thigh was shot by one of his colleagues, not by Walker, but Cameron disputed this on Wednesday.

Images of Taylor have become a familiar sight at ongoing protests against police violence in cities across the United States. Last month, television mogul Oprah Winfrey featured an image of Taylor on the cover of O, the Oprah Magazine.

Louisville has agreed to pay $12 million to Taylor’s family to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit, Mayor Fischer announced earlier this month.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Remnants of Hurricane Laura drench Arkansas as storm heads east

(Reuters) – The remnants of Hurricane Laura were dousing Arkansas on Friday morning and due to bring rain to the East Coast over the weekend.

Now a tropical depression, Laura had proved less damaging than feared, despite arriving in Louisiana this week as one of the most powerful hurricanes recorded in the United States.

The storm killed at least six people in Louisiana, including four who were killed when trees fell into homes, damaged buildings in Louisiana and Texas and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of residents.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to head to the Gulf Coast over the weekend to survey the damage.

The storm was forecast to drop heavy rain over Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky as it headed out to the East Coast, the National Weather Service said.

At its peak upon making landfall on Thursday morning, Laura had maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (241 km per hour), faster than even Hurricane Katrina, which sparked deadly levee breaches in New Orleans in 2005 after arriving with wind speeds of 125 mph.

What would have been a dangerous 20-foot (6-m) storm surge that forecasters had predicted could move 40 miles (64 km) inland was avoided when Laura tacked east just before landfall, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said. That meant a mighty gush of water was not fully pushed up the Calcasieu Ship Channel, which would have given the storm surge an easy path far inland.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

COVID-19 outbreak in hard-hit U.S. states may be peaking, Fauci says

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A coronavirus surge in Florida, California and a handful of other hard-hit states could be peaking while other parts of the country may be on the cusp of growing outbreaks, the top U.S. infectious diseases official said on Tuesday.

A spike in cases in Florida, along with Texas, Arizona and California this month has overwhelmed hospitals, forced a U-turn on steps to reopen economies and stoked fears that U.S. efforts to control the outbreak are sputtering.

“They may be cresting and coming back down,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program regarding the state of the outbreak in several Sunbelt states.

Fauci said there was a “very early indication” that the percentage of coronavirus tests that were positive was starting to rise in other states, such as Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“That’s a surefire sign that you’ve got to be careful.”

He urged the states with rising positivity rates to act quickly now to prevent a surge and other states to reopen carefully following guidelines established by U.S. officials and health experts.

Fauci has become a lightning rod for some supporters of President Donald Trump who accuse the 79-year-old health official of exaggerating the extent and severity of the U.S. outbreak and playing down possible treatments.

Trump, who is seeking a second term in the White House in the Nov. 3 election, retweeted a post accusing Fauci and Democrats of suppressing the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus. The post included a link to a video of a group discounting the need for face masks.

A Twitter spokesman confirmed that tweets with the video were in violation of the company’s COVID-19 misinformation policy, and the tweets shared by Trump were deleted.

In his interview with ABC, Fauci defended his work to protect Americans’ health.

“I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances,” he said.

RISING TOLL

The number of people in the United States who have died of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, rose to 148,446 on Monday, with more than 4.3 million confirmed cases, according to the latest Reuters tally.

Florida had 191 coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day increase since the start of the epidemic, its state health department reported on Tuesday.

Texas became the fourth state with more than 400,000 total cases, joining California, Florida and New York in the grim club. But in a glimmer of hope, Texas’ current hospitalizations due to COVID-19 fell on Monday, according to its state health department.

The rise in deaths and infections has dampened early hopes that the country was past the worst of the economic fallout in March and April when lockdowns brought business activity to a near standstill and put millions out of work.

The U.S. Congress on Tuesday was locked in difficult talks over another coronavirus aid package to help American families and businesses recover from the crisis.

In late March, as the economy was beginning to crater, Congress passed a $2.3 trillion stimulus package that included enhanced unemployment benefits to blunt the pain of lockdowns that were being adopted to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Senate Republicans announced on Monday a $1 trillion coronavirus aid package hammered out with the White House, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell touted as a “tailored and targeted” plan to reopen schools and businesses, while protecting companies from lawsuits.

But the proposal sparked immediate opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats decried it as too limited compared with their $3 trillion proposal that passed the House of Representatives in May. Some Republicans called that one too expensive.

The Republican proposal would give many Americans direct payments of $1,200 each, provide billions in loans to small businesses and help schools reopen. But it would slash the current expanded unemployment benefit from $600 per week in addition to state unemployment to $200 per week. The enhanced unemployment benefit expires on Friday.

The supplemental benefit has been a financial lifeline for laid-off workers and a key support for consumer spending.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Daniel Trotta, Patricia Zengerle and Lisa Shumaker; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Howard Goller)

Three more states, D.C. and Puerto Rico added to New York’s COVID-19 travel advisory

(Reuters) – Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday ordered those arriving in New York from an additional three states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico to quarantine for 14 days to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The states of Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota were added to the travel order which was first issued in June. The District of Columbia and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico were also added.

Travelers arriving in New York from a total of 34 states are now required to quarantine, Cuomo said.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Franklin Paul)