The coronavirus variant that the world is deeply concerned about has unfortunately reached the United States soil as the first case of this Omicron strain has been identified in the state of California.
Omicron is in the U.S.
This was revealed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci in a recent news briefing inside the White House. He stated that it was detected in an individual who traveled from South Africa on November 22 and was later on tested positive with the said variant of the virus on November 29, CNN reports.
Fauci added that the individual is as of late doing a self-quarantine and thankfully, the close contacts have tested negative for Covid-19.
Experiencing mild symptoms
It was also learned that the said individual was fully jabbed and has been enduring mild symptoms which according to Fauci “are improving at this point.” When asked as to whether that individual was vaccinated with a booster shot, Fauci replied that the person hasn’t taken it to his knowledge.
How Omicron was ID’d
Meanwhile, both the public health departments of San Francisco and California have asserted that it was indeed the Omicron strain via genomic sequencing being done at the University of California at San Francisco. Further confirmation of the sequence in question was done by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As we continue to learn more about Omicron, there is no reason to panic but we should remain vigilant.
We know how to protect ourselves from COVID – get vaccinated, get your booster & wear a mask.
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) December 1, 2021
In an official statement, Color Health stated that it sent back the positive test result through a Covid-19 testing program in San Francisco. Further, the Omicron variant was pinpointed in just less than 30 hours from the time the sample was collected to the identification and confirmation of the strain.
The new Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been deemed a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. Moreover, WHO highlighted in a technical brief that was published this week that the latest coronavirus variant poses a very high global risk. For the uninitiated, the Omicron variant was detected by South African scientists and has been spotted in several countries.
With that in mind, scientists are now looking as to how contagious this Omicron variant is including how sick people can get from it and the efficacy of the current Covid-19 vaccines that are in circulation right now.
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Inflation And Bills Surge – US Seniors Call For Stimulus Checks
Inflation is a growing concern that has made even the basic amenities quite expensive and out of reach for many. Continuous rise in the prices of fuel, food, and other basic necessities is a concern for both working individuals and seniors. Seniors have called for stimulus checks on this red-hot inflation with the continued bill surge.
Bills Surge And Inflation Are Ever Rising
In a report by The National Interest, Americans are facing high inflation even in 2022. The Consumer Price Index is skyrocketing rapidly year after year, making a hole in the pockets of commoners.
CNBC reported that approximately 20% of Americans struggled to pay their energy bill in full at least once during the last year. Fuel oil is roughly 40% more expensive than last year, electricity prices have risen by 6.3%, and natural gas prices have risen by nearly 25%.
This rise in fuel and energy prices has forced around 18% of Americans to keep their house at a temperature considered unhealthy and unsafe. Additionally, around 28% of Americans were forced to skip the necessities due to the inability to pay off the bills.
Struggle Of Seniors Is Still Here
Seniors who rely on Social Security for a living are bearing several issues due to rising energy prices. Beneficiaries did receive good news last fall when the Social Security Administration approved a 5.9% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for this year, which will increase Social Security payments by about $90 on average.
However, some experts believe that raises are still insufficient in the current environment.
On this dire issue the Social Security and Medicare policy analyst, Mary Johnson, for the Senior Citizens League, stated, “Social Security benefits have lost nearly one-third of their buying power, 32 percent, since 2000, about the length of a typical retirement.”
Need And Demand Stimulus Checks
Based on the various issues stated, the Senior Citizens League has been on its tiptoes and campaigning for months with the help of the petitions to get approval for the fourth round of the Stimulus Checks. The demand is to directly get $1400 in the accounts of the Social Security Recipients.
In addition to this one petition, six more stimulus check petitions are circulating with an estimated five million signatures.
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California’s Golden State Stimulus Check Program – Beat The February Deadline
It does not seem realistic that many hopeful Americans will receive further stimulus checks or payments from the Federal government in the United States of America. However, according to The Sun, stimulus payments in the form of the Golden State Stimulus programs are still being sent out to eligible Californians this year. Read on for more information on these stimulus programs as well as eligibility criteria.
To begin, under the first program – the Golden State Stimulus I program residents were eligible, and received, $1,200 and $600 respectively. According to the Golden State Stimulus II program, eligible Californian citizens received $1,100 stimulus payments issued up until January 2022. Let’s look at eligibility for these two programs.
Golden State Stimulus Eligibility Criteria
Here are the qualifying criteria:
- You must have filled your 2020 Tax Returns.
- Be either an ITIN tax filler and made $75,000 or less, or A Californian Earned Income Tax Credit recipient.
- Resided in California for at least half of 2020 Tax year.
- You must have been a Californian resident on the date your payment was issued.
- Cannot be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.
Individual Tax Identification Number
An ITIN or ‘Individual Tax Payer Number’ is allocated to those who don’t have social security numbers or qualify for them and allows them to work in the state of California. The deadline for Californian residents to submit their tax returns for 2020 was on October 15, 2021. However, it is still possible to get a stimulus check or payment from the state.In fact, some 100,000 citizens are set to receive automatic stimulus payments from these programs in the next month. This is because citizens might still have been waiting for an ITIN number after the end of this deadline. If this might be the case you will be given extra time to file your taxes for this period. This will determine how much stimulus aid you are eligible for or qualify for.
Meet The February Deadline
You can apply for the Golden State Benefits stimulus payments – by using your ITIN number to file your tax returns before February 15, 2022 (as mentioned earlier) and if you have met all criteria you should then receive such payments after you file your tax returns for this period. Remember this is only in two weeks’ time – don’t miss the deadline!
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California Suspends 345,000 Disability Claims Suspecting Fraud
The California employment development department suspended 3,45,000 disability checks after finding out that almost all of those claims were made by criminals trying to dupe the state into paying them, reports Abc7.com.
In addition, about 345,000 claims were found to be associated with 27,000 practicing doctors, out of which the state has verified the identity of only 485 doctors, meaning that the rest of the disability claims are fraudulent.
Since the pandemic broke out, the employment development department has been plagued by fraudulent claims, especially in unemployment benefits. Researches depict that the state paid out $20 billion due to these false claims, starting from March 2020.
The state takes initiatives to prevent any further fraud
The ABC7 report adds that criminals have stolen inhabitants’ identities to dupe state officials to pay them unemployment benefits. They are also using doctors’ credentials to register false disability claims. To eliminate fraudulent claims from the roots, the state has installed the latest software to verify the identities of applicants before accepting their claims. However, the department faced difficulties trying to distinguish legitimate claims from fraudulent ones. Currently, the state is sending the doctors an email from a registered government account asking them to verify their identity by using a computer program called ID.me.
Problems arising due to this scam
A lot of people had their claims suspended, even though they were true while the state was sorting things out. According to Cal Matters, Erik Robles, aged 35, went on disability last December and had his payments stopped. When asked, the department said there’s nothing they can do.
A couple from California, Alex Silva and Patricia has not received state disability checks since November without any explanation from the department. As a result, they have lost their car insurance and internet and television services. They fear they are soon going to be homeless.
The state officials have informed the couple about doing some paperwork for their identity verification. As of now, the couple hasn’t received any paperwork yet. The state officials have denied revealing the various verification processes to prevent fraudsters from tricking them any further.
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