A1 A1
editor's pick
2000 turkeys kicks off its 2021 Thanksgiving campaign
  • Updated

Autumn has arrived. It’s time for pumpkins, football, bonfires, sweaters, colorful leaves.

And 2000 Turkeys.

The goal of 2000 Turkeys – which kicks off today – remains the same as when it began nearly 40 years ago: to provide Washington County families in need with a Thanksgiving dinner.

2000 Turkeys is a grassroots effort supported by local businesses, organizations and individuals whose donations put a turkey dinner on the table of local families being served each month by the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank at Washington County food pantries and senior high-rise units.

2000 Turkeys aims to help at least 3,000 food-insecure families in Washington County during this Thanksgiving season.

Co-sponsored by the Observer-Reporter and WJPA Radio, 2000 Turkeys has been around since the early 1980s, when it was launched to help feed the underemployed and unemployed during the holiday.

Washington County residents, businesses and organizations, who have been so generous over the years, have already started to make contributions.

2000 Turkeys aims to raise $100,000, and much work must be done between now and Nov. 25 to reach that goal.

Every cent from the 2000 Turkeys campaign goes toward making sure we have dinners for families in need.

You can help. Please make a donation during this holiday season.

We have some ideas. If you’re getting together with family or friends to watch the Steelers, why not ask them to pitch in a couple of bucks for 2000 Turkeys when they arrive with their chips and salsa? Or, hold a casual dress day at work, and have everyone throw in a buck or two for 2000 Turkeys.

Every single donation – which over the years have ranged from jars filled with pennies to checks for thousands of dollars – matters, and is appreciated.

To make a donation, send a check to 2000 Turkeys, P.O. Box 2000, Washington, PA 15301.

State recruiting more bus drivers to keep kids in school
  • Updated

The Pennsylvania departments of Education, Health, and Transportation on Thursday addressed the ongoing bus driver shortage, and provided updates on the anticipated rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 and COVID testing in schools.

Across Pennsylvania, students are excited to be back in the classroom, learning and growing and playing alongside their classmates,” said DOE Secretary Dr. Noe Ortega. “Our schools and students are resilient, and under the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic, this has been a good start to the school year. I thank the students, parents and communities for working together and finding creative solutions so students can remain in the classroom, where it’s vital for them to be.”

PennDOT Deputy Secretary Kurt Myers said the department is reaching out to approximately 375,000 drivers with a Commercial Driver’s License in the state about the immediate need for school bus drivers and how to get the correct endorsements for a school bus license.

He also said school districts can use Federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to reimburse parents and guardians who are driving their students to and from school because of the school bus driver shortage.

PennDOT plans to expand its days of operation, starting Oct. 18, to offer CDL skills testing at 23 locations.

To schedule a CDL skills test, either visit the Driver and Vehicle Services website or call 717-412-5300.

“We urge CDL licensees who are seeking work or supplemental employment to obtain a school bus endorsement – taking advantage of the additional hours for CDL testing – to help transport students safely,” Myers said.

Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam noted students 12 and older are currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

This week, Pfizer submitted its application to the federal government for approval to administer vaccine to children between 5 and 11 years old.

She said the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control review process likely will take several weeks, but encouraged school districts to contact local vaccine providers to schedule on-site vaccination clinics.

“It’s very encouraging that more than half a million school-aged kids are already vaccinated,” said Beam. “We know that vaccinations are one of the best ways to prevent illness due to COVID-19 and help keep students learning in-person. That’s why we encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated and we encourage schools to help make it as convenient as possible.”

In Pennsylvania, 21.9% of children ages 12-14 are fully vaccinated and 42.6% of children ages 15-19 are fully vaccinated.

Last month, an order by the acting Secretary of Health directed vaccine providers to coordinate vaccine clinics with schools for the employees, contractors, volunteers, students, or students’ families.

Additionally, 396 schools are using the 100%, federally funded COVID-19 testing program the Wolf administration launched for the start of this school year to provide safer in-person environments.

Beam said the testing program, along with vaccination, physical distancing, facilities improvements, face coverings, and hand hygiene, will reduce the spread of the virus and keep students in classrooms.

Schools can opt-in to the testing program at any time.

Biden signs bill to avert partial government shutdown

WASHINGTON – With only hours to spare, President Joe Biden on Thursday evening signed legislation that would avoid a partial federal shutdown and keep the government funded through Dec. 3. Congress had passed the bill earlier Thursday.

The back-to-back votes by the Senate and then the House averted one crisis, but delays on another continue as the political parties dig in on a dispute over how to raise the government’s borrowing cap before the United States risks a potentially catastrophic default.

The House approved the short-term funding measure by a 254-175 vote not long after Senate passage in a 65-35 vote. A large majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against it. The legislation was needed to keep the government running once the current budget year ended at midnight Thursday. Passage will buy lawmakers more time to craft the spending measures that will fund federal agencies and the programs they administer.

The work to keep the government open and running served as the backdrop during a chaotic day for Democrats as they struggled to get Biden’s top domestic priorities over the finish line, including a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill at risk of stalling in the House.

“It is a glimmer of hope as we go through many, many other activities,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

With their energy focused on Biden’s agenda, Democrats backed down from a showdown over the debt limit in the government funding bill, deciding to uncouple the borrowing ceiling at the insistence of Republicans. If that cap is not raised by Oct. 18, the U.S. probably will face a financial crisis and economic recession, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

Republicans say Democrats have the votes to raise the debt limit on their own, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is insisting they do so.

The short-term spending legislation will also provide about $28.6 billion in disaster relief for those recovering from Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters. Some $10 billion of that money will help farmers cover crop losses from drought, wildfires and hurricanes. An additional $6.3 billion will help support the resettlement of Afghanistan evacuees from the 20-year war between the U.S. and the Taliban.

“This is a good outcome, one I’m happy we are getting done,” Schumer said. “With so many things to take care of in Washington, the last thing the American people need is for the government to grind to a halt.”

Once the government is funded, albeit temporarily, Democrats will turn their full attention to the need to raise the limit on federal borrowing, which now stands at $28.4 trillion.

The U.S. has never defaulted on its debts in the modern era and historically, both parties have voted to raise the limit. Democrats joined the Republican Senate majority in doing so three times during Donald Trump’s presidency. This time Democrats wanted to take care of both priorities in one bill, but Senate Republicans blocked that effort Monday.

Raising or suspending the debt limit allows the federal government to pay obligations already incurred. It does not authorize new spending. McConnell has argued that Democrats should pass a debt limit extension with the same budgetary tools they are using to try to pass a $3.5 trillion effort to expand social safety net programs and tackle climate change. He reiterated that warning as the Senate opened on Thursday, even as Democrats have labeled that option a “nonstarter.”

“We’re able to fund the government today because the majority accepted reality. The same thing will need to happen on the debt limit next week,” McConnell said.

House Democrats pushed through a stand-alone bill late Wednesday that would suspend the debt limit until December 2022. Schumer said he would bring the measure to the Senate floor, but the bill is almost certain to be blocked by a Republican filibuster.

The arguments made in both chambers about the debt ceiling have followed similar themes.

“You are more interested in punishing Democrats than preserving our credit and that is something I’m having a real tough time getting my head around,” House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., told Republicans. “The idea of not paying bills just because we don’t like (Biden’s) policies is the wrong way to go.”

Undaunted, Republicans argued that Democrats have chosen to ram through their political priorities on their own and thus are responsible for raising the debt limit on their own.

“So long as the Democratic majority continues to insist on spending money hand over fist, Republicans will refuse to help them lift the debt ceiling,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

The Treasury has taken steps to preserve cash, but once it runs out, it will be forced to rely on incoming revenue to pay its obligations. That would likely mean delays in payments to Social Security recipients, veterans and government workers, including military personnel. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank, projects that the federal government would be unable to meet about 40% of payments due in the several weeks that follow.