French President Emmanuel Macron says ‘America is back’ after Biden’s first few months in office

Emmanuel Macron in Brussels
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks in Brussels on October 2, 2020.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday said “America is back” now that President Joe Biden is in office.
  • “It’s great to have a US president who’s part of the club and very willing to cooperate,” Macron said at the G7 Summit.
  • Macron’s remarks mark a stark contrast from when President Donald Trump was in office.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday signaled his confidence in the United States as an ally with President Joe Biden at the nation’s head.

When asked by reporters whether he thinks “America is back,” Biden gestured to Macron to answer the question.

“Yes, definitely,” Macron said at the G7 Summit.

“It’s great to have a US president who’s part of the club and very willing to cooperate,” Macron said. “What you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”

Biden, adding on, indicated his agreement.

“The United States, I’ve said before, we’re back,” the US president said. “Things are going, I think, well, and we’re, as we say back in the States, we’re on the same page.”

Macron’s comments about relations between the United States and other countries like France are a complete departure from his thoughts from when President Donald Trump was in office.

Trump and Macron had a notoriously tumultuous relationship. The French president, for example, didn’t seem to regard Trump as a leader, characterizing him as someone who’s not a “classical politician.”

After the US pulled out of the Paris climate agreement in 2017, France chose to not invite American leaders to a climate change meeting in Paris. Macron around the same time said France “will be there to replace” US contributions to the funding of climate change research.

In 2019, Macron and other world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were caught on a hot mic mocking Trump for his unusually long press conferences.

Macron in his Saturday remarks did not explicitly mention Trump by name but reporters and officials were quick to make comparisons between the former president and Biden.

Macron’s remarks come on the heels of praise and criticism from other world leaders.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, hailed Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin told NBC News that Trump is “extraordinary” and “talented.” Putin called Biden a “career man” who “has spent virtually his entire adulthood” in politics.

Across 12 countries surveyed on Biden’s approval rating so far, a median of 75% of respondents said they felt confident he would “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” according to a Pew Research study released Thursday. At the end of Trump’s presidency, just 17% of global respondents believed the same about the former president.

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Four states cut off federal unemployment benefits Saturday – and the White House is very unlikely to step in to prevent the loss of stimulus aid

unemployment insurance weekly benefits stimulus checks recession job losses coronavirus pandemic
  • Four states are cutting off stimulus jobless aid on Saturday.
  • The cuts in Mississippi, Missouri, Alaska, and Iowa yanks aid from 340,000 workers.
  • The Biden administration is very unlikely to step in and prevent the unemployment aid losses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For nearly 340,000 workers on Saturday, a steady flow of federal assistance will abruptly end.

Mississippi, Missouri, Alaska, and Iowa are the first four Republican-led states to scrap their federal unemployment insurance programs. They include the $300 federal supplement to unemployment checks, along with a pair of federal programs that expanded government assistance to gig-workers, freelancers, and the long-term unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

No extra federal assistance will be going out the door in those states after this weekend. That means the level of wage replacement with regular unemployment aid will not amount to half of workers’ past income, per data from Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow and jobless policy expert at the left-leaning Century Foundation.

Some 22 million US jobs were lost last year because of the pandemic, many of them low-wage positions.

Twenty-five GOP-led states are pulling the plug on unemployment insurance programs over the summer, imperiling aid for nearly four million people, according to Stettner. Republican governors argue that the federal aid is keeping people from re-entering the workforce, slowing the economic recovery.

“It has become clear to me that we cannot have a full economic recovery until we get the thousands of available jobs in our state filled,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said last month.

The unemployment aid was extended until early September under President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief law enacted three months ago. But many employers and Republicans stepped up their complaints about worker shortages, particularly in the leisure and hospitality sector, though those sectors added jobs in the past two months.

Biden appears to have demonstrated some sensitivity to the criticisms. The president said last week that it “makes sense” for federal unemployment aid to expire on Labor Day. Then White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Republican governors have “every right” to cancel the administration’s jobless aid programs.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, along with some economic experts, argue that the government has a legal obligation to step in and distribute aid to at least gig workers through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. But the Labor Department – which administers the program – has concluded it is unable to do much about it.

Some Democrats in Congress have been fiercely critical of the GOP moves.

“No one should face financial ruin for living in states run by Republicans,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a statement last month. He told Politico recently he was eyeing a new bill to address the situation, though such a plan faces an uphill climb in the evenly-divided Senate.

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US senators urge stricter crypto regulation after a flood of ransomware attacks

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) on January 30, 2020 and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) on February 3, 2020 both in taken in Washington, DC.

Two US senators called for stricter cryptocurrency regulation after a flood of ransomware attacks that plagued the country in the past months.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC Meet the Press on Sunday that regulators need to scrutinize the cryptocurrency loopholes that help criminals carry 0ut cyberattacks.

“There was some good things coming out of distributed ledger technology, but we are seeing now some of the dark underbelly,” Warner said. “If a company is paying, if there’s not some transparency of that payment, the bad guys will simply find another way to hide it.”

The senator said while there has been some progress when it comes to bipartisan legislation, the debate about cryptocurrencies and ransomware is “just starting.”

In May, the Colonial Pipeline paid DarkSide Ransomware a $5 million ransom to restore services, Bloomberg reported. The transaction was said to be untraceable.

The following month, JBS, the largest meat supplier in the US, revealed it was hit by a cyberattack that affected some of its systems. Whether there was a payment of ransom or not remains unclear.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, also a member of the Intelligence Committee, said regulators need to demand more transparency when it comes to attacks like these to protect the American financial system.

“Nobody wanted to report that they had been hacked. That was a fight we’ve been having now for almost a decade,” he told NBC Meet the Press. But “the only way you can begin to get on top of this is to know how pervasive the problem is.”

He continued: “We have a lot of cash requirements in our country, but we haven’t figured out in the country or in the world how to trace cryptocurrency.”

“There ought to be more transparency if a company does pay, so we can go after the bad guys,” Warner said. “Right now what’s happening around ransomware, not only are the companies often not reporting that they are attacked, but they’re not reporting the ransomware payments.”

The Biden administration is reportedly looking at how to increase oversight of the cryptocurrency market to protect retail investors, sources told The Washington Post. The administration is also analyzing potential gaps that may be used to finance illicit activities, sources said.

US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen has been critical of cryptocurrencies in the past, calling out their misuse, which she described in February as “a growing problem.”

“I see the promise of these new technologies,” the former Federal Reserve chief said. “But I also see the reality: cryptocurrencies have been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers; they’ve been a tool to finance terrorism.”

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Biden wants to make moving to the US from abroad easier and cheaper by revamping the immigration system, according to a new report

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Biden wants to make it easier for foreigners to move to the US, according to a document seen by The New York Times.
  • New policies could help refugees, asylum-seekers, high-skilled workers, and other groups move to the US, The Times reported.
  • Biden wants to make immigration forms simpler and the whole process cheaper, per the report.

President Joe Biden wants to make moving to the US easier and cheaper, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The Biden administration plans to rebuild and expand the legal-immigration system in the US, according to a 46-page government document seen by the Times titled “D.H.S. Plan to Restore Trust in Our Legal Immigration System.” The document outlined plans to undo efforts by former President Donald Trump to make immigration more difficult, expensive, and slower, The Times reported.

Policies from the document would help more people move to the US, including refugees, asylum-seekers, trafficking victims, high-skilled workers, families of Americans living abroad, and Native Americans born in Canada, The Times reported.

The Biden administration plans to revamp various programs in the immigration system, including the H-1B Visa program for highly-skilled workers and the U-Visa program, which offers citizenship to undocumented immigrants if they cooperate with law enforcement, the document said, per The Times.

The document proposes simpler immigration forms that can be filed online, The Times reported. People will go through fewer security checks and the US will make fewer requests for evidence from foreigners under the proposals, The Times reported.

Read more: Biden’s immigration messaging is fine – the problem is his policies don’t back up his ‘don’t come’ message

Potential immigrants will have a better chance at securing work visas or joining families who live in the US, the document said, per The Times.

They may also pay less or get waivers to lower barriers to immigration, the document showed, per the Times.

More security checks on immigrants during the Trump era, along with less travel during the pandemic, has meant fewer foreigners coming into the US. As a result, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, financed by immigrants’ fees, received less money, the Times said. Restoring the agency is central to Biden’s effort to develop legal immigration, the document said, per the Times.

“There are significant changes that need to be made to really open up all avenues of legal immigration,” Felicia Escobar Carrillo, chief of staff at Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the Times. “In the same way that [the Trump administration] took a broad-stroke approach to closing off avenues, I think we want to take a broad approach toward opening up the legal avenues that have always been available but that they tried to put roadblocks up on.”

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Biden sees a post-pandemic economic boom, but a small and short one

President Joe Biden.

  • Biden’s budget sees the economy booming for just two years before settling into slower growth.
  • GDP is forecasted to grow 1.8% annually in the mid-2020s, weaker than growth after past recessions.
  • The conservative estimates contrast with the Trump administration’s pattern of underdelivering.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration sees a strong economic rebound in the cards. What’s forecasted afterward is less exciting.

President Joe Biden revealed his budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year on Friday, laying out his plan to spend roughly $6 trillion on child care, clean-energy initiatives, and infrastructure improvements – and laying out a set of forecasts for US gross domestic product over the next several years.

The near-term estimates are promising. Biden sees GDP expanding 5.2% in 2021 and 3.2% in 2022, handily exceeding the annual growth seen just before the COVID-19 crisis.

But if the so-called Biden boom began with his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan in March, then his budget proposal sees it ending just two years later. The administration estimates GDP growth will slow to 2% in 2023 and then settle at 1.8% through 2027.

This is considerably weaker than recoveries from previous recessions. Annual growth averaged 2.3% from 2010 to 2019 as the US placed the Great Financial Crisis behind it. After the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.4% until 2008. And the output expanded at an annual pace of 4.4% from 1983 to 1989, after back-to-back recessions had kickstarted the decade.

Biden’s forecast, then, is notably conservative. It contrasts with statements he’s made publicly as recently as this week. Citing “independent experts” in a Thursday speech, the president said growth could come in at 6% or greater in 2021.

He added that his follow-up spending proposals would open the door to “faster” growth. Yet the rate of expansion forecasted in his budget sees growth slowing or holding steady through 2027.

It also falls short of forecasts from major Wall Street banks. Morgan Stanley sees growth coming in at 8% this year before cooling to 3.2% in 2022. Bank of America projects growth of 7% in 2021 and 5.5% the following year.

The modest estimates could reflect a desire to buck the trend seen throughout the Trump presidency, which underdelivered on growth, even before considering the economic collapse seen through 2020.

The Trump administration’s final budget expected GDP growth to trend at 2.9% through 2030. While that was published before the pandemic, it still handily exceed the levels forecasted by Biden.

To be sure, other estimates in Biden’s plan are much more optimistic. The White House expects the unemployment rate to fall from 6.1% to 5.5% by the end of 2021 and reach 4.1% by the end of 2022. The rate will then hold steady at 3.8% into 2031, just above the pre-pandemic lows of 3.5%, according to the plan.

Biden’s latest spending proposals – which include trillions of dollars for infrastructure and family support – are also engineered to provide sustained investment instead of an immediate burst like that seen with his stimulus plan. Both packages are meant to be spent over the next eight to 10 years, and administration officials argue such a timeline would minimize their effect on inflation.

The White House has also stepped up its calls to invest in economic growth while interest rates sit at historic lows. While deficits are traditionally measured as debt to GDP, interest-payments to GDP are a better measure for sustainable spending, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told lawmakers in a Thursday hearing.

The government should spend on investments that lift output over the long term while debt-financing costs are so low, she added.

“The president’s proposal will have a temporary period of spending and permanent increases that, beyond the budget window, will result in lower deficits and more tax revenue to support those expenditures,” Yellen told a House Appropriations subcommittee.

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There’s no help coming anytime soon for the millions about to lose federal unemployment benefits in two dozen GOP states

Joe Biden sad
President Joe Biden.

  • At least 24 red states are starting to end their federal jobless benefits within weeks.
  • The moves will impact 4 million people on unemployment, with about half losing all government aid.
  • The Labor Department has concluded it has limited authority to step in to keep aid flowing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Almost half of all US states have decided to end their participation in federal unemployment benefits, setting up some workers to receive drastically reduced payments – and others without any federal relief coming through the door.

Twenty-four GOP-run states are moving to slash federal unemployment benefits within weeks, citing a so-called labor shortage and lack of hiring. Governors in those states are ending programs set up in the early in the pandemic, which added federal cash onto state unemployment checks and extended the weeks people were eligible for aid. Nebraska was the latest to pull the plug on all stimulus jobless aid programs, on Tuesday.

The measures will slash jobless aid from 4 million people, per an estimate from Andrew Stettner at the liberal-leaning Century Foundation. That projection means that nearly one in four of all Americans receiving unemployment are poised to experience some reduction in their benefits.

One of them is Scott Heide, a 35-year-old in Florida. His state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, announced this week that the state would be terminating its participation in the extra $300 in weekly federal benefits effective June 26.

Heide told Insider that he’s been on unemployment for almost a year. When he lost his job, he also lost his health insurance, and has had to pay over $800 a month for COBRA insurance since. He had to leave his apartment and move back in with his parents.

The original $600 supplement “really made a big difference,” he said, but that expired after just a few months. Then, Biden’s American Rescue Plan added in a $300 benefit. “That was like my lifeline” for paying bills, Heide said. But at a certain point he said he knew it was a “matter of time” before DeSantis went down the same road as other GOP governors.

“It’s just really tough because I’m trying to get a job, but it’s not that easy. And I feel like I’m being punished for no reason when it’s out of my control if somebody offers me a job. All I can do is apply,” Heide said.

Florida is an anomaly among the GOP states moving to end federal benefits in that it’s only stopping the additional $300 – for now, at least – and keeping in place programs that expand unemployment eligibility and the number of weeks recipients can access benefits.

In other states, about 2.1 million workers on those programs – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – will lose their benefits entirely, per Stettner’s calculations.

Some advocates and politicians have said that Biden’s Labor Department has an obligation to step in and provide PUA benefits, arguing that it’s mandated under the CARES Act.

Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh pressing the Labor Department to continue paying out benefits on its own.

Other Democrats have called on the agency to continue exploring options without specifically urging them to distribute the aid.

“I think the administration should be looking under every rock, and every nook and cranny for ways to protect the vulnerable,” Wyden said in an interview on Tuesday. He suggested he was looking at “next steps.”

Yet it appears that the Biden administration won’t be able to prevent a lapse in unemployment aid in the GOP states. The Labor Department has concluded it’s probably unable to help pay out the benefits, an administration official told Insider last week, given that unemployment systems are administered as a federal and state partnership built on agreement from the states.

The Labor Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I think there is still going to be litigation on this topic,” Stettner told Insider. “The real legal question is whether DOL has the authority to force states to pay benefits or find a way to get them out themselves.”

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Manchin is in no rush to strike an infrastructure deal with Republicans – and it’s giving some Democrats ‘bad flashbacks’ to futile Obamacare talks 12 years ago

Joe Manchin 2
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) wants Democrats to slow down on infrastructure.

  • Bipartisan infrastructure talks are likely to stretch into June with centrist Democrats reluctant to pull the plug.
  • Some Democrats are wary, citing failed efforts to secure GOP support for Obamacare in 2009.
  • “I’d keep pushing forward as hard as I could, but there’s not much time left,” former Democratic senator Max Baucus said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

With negotiations on a major infrastructure package likely to stretch into June, the White House is poised to blow past its self-imposed Memorial Day deadline, which was meant to ensure significant progress on a bipartisan plan.

Senate Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) are preparing to make a $1 trillion offer as soon as Thursday. Another bipartisan group of six senators that includes Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) are preparing another offer to President Joe Biden in case those talks stall.

Manchin is insisting on more time to secure a deal, saying on Tuesday “this is the long game, not a short game.” The White House want to approve a multi-trillion spending package to upgrade roads and bridges, in addition to setting up universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, and cash payments to families.

But some Democrats doubt Republicans’ genuine interest in giving Biden a bipartisan victory and are wary of the ongoing talks turning into a time-consuming dud. They cite huge differences that remain to be bridged on the size, scope, and basic definition of infrastructure. Democrats are anxious to shepherd along new economic programs using their thin majorities in the House and evenly divided Senate.

Their potential to drag into the summer is prompting comparisons to negotiations over a decade ago between President Barack Obama and Republicans on overhauling the healthcare system.

“When I read the comments from Sen. Manchin asking for more time, all of a sudden I had bad flashbacks to Obamacare where there was a push and pull between the desire for more time and the reality that Republicans were never going for it,” Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told Insider.

Max Baucus, a former Democratic senator and one of the architects of Obamacare, said in an interview he was getting “somewhat” a case of déjà vu seeing the infrastructure discussions unfold.

“I’d keep pushing forward as hard as I could, but there’s not much time left. I’d give it a month or so and then tell Schumer to push reconciliation,” the former Montana lawmaker said, referring to a legislative tactic available to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to approve some bills with only a simple Senate majority.

“I doubt you’re going to see much bipartisanship in the end”

obama sign affordable care act
President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010.

In 2009, the Obama administration chased support from a bloc of moderate GOP senators for the plan that became the Affordable Care Act. As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus spent five months trying to draw backing from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the panel, for a more “durable” health law.

That effort collapsed amid sharp disagreements on tax increases and whether Americans should be obligated to buy health insurance. Republicans stepped up their attacks and cast the healthcare bill as federal overreach, with Grassley falsely warning of the government “pulling the plug on grandma” at an Iowa town hall that August.

Anger over how voters perceived Obamacare contributed to major Republican victories in the 2010 midterms, one that lost the House for Democrats and effectively crippled the next six years of Obama’s legislative agenda. Now, Baucus sees his experience as a cautionary tale as Democrats attempt to forge ahead with a massive two-part package to reconfigure the economy with new spending on physical infrastructure, healthcare, and education.

“I doubt you’re going to see much bipartisanship in the end. Frankly, a lot of Republicans would rather not see a bipartisan bill,” Baucus told Insider. “They say they would, but deep down they don’t.”

Baucus said he believes next year’s midterms are already factoring into the negotiations, in the sense that a party-line reconciliation bill from Democrats would almost surely include tax hikes on the wealthy and large firms, and a lot of Republicans “are going to run against those tax increases in 2022.”

max baucus
Former Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in an interview he was “very concerned” about Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s endgame on infrastructure, pointing to his recent comment about being “100% focused” on thwarting the Biden administration. The GOP leader also made similar remarks early on in the Obama administration.

“I’m always going to try and get a bipartisan approach, but it’s certainly a bigger lift after a statement like that,” he said.

Yet other Democrats like Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said they weren’t troubled by the state of the discussions. “I think we’re on the timeframe that I always thought we’d be on,” he told Insider. “Thus far, it’s soliciting their opinions.”

Kaine continued: “Even if we go reconciliation, we will put things in that bill that will be extremely attractive to Republican governors, to Republican mayors, to Republican interest groups.” He said he thought it was possible for Democrats to “pick up votes we weren’t expecting.”

The White House used reconciliation to approve a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill in March. Biden met with Senate Republicans once in early February in a bid to broker a deal. But he ultimately abandoned those talks by the end of the month after they only put $618 billion on the table. No GOP lawmakers voted for the Biden stimulus law.

There are signs that Democratic leaders are loathe to avoid watering down bills for the veneer of bipartisanship. “Look at 200[9] where we spent a year and a half trying to get something good done, ACA, Obamacare, and we didn’t do all the other things that had to be done,” Schumer said on MSNBC in late January. “We will not repeat that mistake.”

Schumer told reporters on Tuesday that Democrats will move ahead with a “big bold plan” in July, suggesting reconciliation looms in the near future. Still, Capito said her GOP group would “not walk away” from the negotiating table anytime soon.

“I think you go as far as you can, but then there comes a time where the other side is just not seemingly negotiating in good faith, so you gotta stop and pass your own bill,” said Baucus.

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Biden says it’s ‘simply wrong’ to allow the DOJ to seize phone records and emails from reporters

President Joe Biden

  • President Joe Biden told CNN he would not allow the DOJ to seize records from reporters.
  • His remarks come after reports said the DOJ covertly obtained email and phone records from journalists with The Washington Post and CNN.
  • Biden condemned the practice, calling it “simply wrong.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Friday condemned the government seizing phone and email records from reporters.

He told CNN he would not permit the Department of Justice to do so while he’s president, calling the practice “simply wrong.”

“I will not let that happen,” he said.

His comments come after reports saying the Justice Department covertly obtained records from multiple reporters at The Washington Post and CNN.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department under the Trump administration pulled phone records from several of its journalists who were investigating Russia’s influence in the 2016 elections.

The DOJ notified three of its reporters “that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records … for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” These records included their personal, work, and home phone numbers.

And just this week, CNN reported its Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, was informed in a similar fashion that the Justice Department had seized her phone records.

The DOJ obtained Starr’s personal and work email, as well as her phone records, between June 1, 2017, and July 31, 2017. Starr was notified that the records had been seized after a court had approved the action.

As long as the attorney general approves the request, prosecutors are able to obtain records from journalists without their knowledge through the court system. Prosecutors must also demonstrate that the records are related or potentially useful to “extraordinary” circumstances like national security threats, CNN reported.

It’s unclear what the Trump administration was looking for in obtaining Starr’s records.

The longstanding and controversial practice of federal investigators secretly seizing records from journalists, under the scope of leak investigations, was widely used by the Obama administration and favored by the Trump administration as well.

Biden’s Friday comments against the action mark the strongest stance against the practice from his administration.

Hours before Biden gave his direct remarks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ultimately, the Justice Department would have the final say.

“This President is committed, strongly, to the rights of the freedom of press as you’ve seen for decades, and standing up for the rights of journalists,” Psaki said. “And the Justice Department conveyed yesterday that they intend to meet with reporters to hear their concerns about recent notices.”

“They certainly intend to use the Holder model as their model, not the model of the last several years, but really these decisions would be up to the Justice Department,” Psaki added, referencing former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Justice Department did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Insider’s Azmi Haroun contributed to this report.

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Survivors of domestic violence call on the IRS to recognize financial abuse and help them combat it

domestic violence
  • Lawmakers and domestic violence survivors told Insider the IRS isn’t doing enough to support victims of financial abuse.
  • About 99% of domestic violence survivors experience financial abuse, according to experts.
  • Over the course of the pandemic, abusers pocketed stimulus checks and might direct much-needed child tax credits to their own accounts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

For almost a year, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been calling on the IRS to make it easier for domestic violence survivors to collect stimulus checks and tax returns.

Experts say almost all domestic violence survivors experience some form of financial or economic abuse, and lawmakers and IRS representatives continue to hold conversations about ways to prevent it.

But the two parties seem to be at odds. So far, the IRS has not sufficiently delivered on pleas to streamline filing processes, lawmakers and survivors of domestic violence said in interviews and emails with Insider.

Instead, stimulus checks and tax returns designated for survivors have gone straight to their abusers. And now, following President Joe Biden’s announcement that child tax credits are slated for rollout beginning July 15, survivors taking care of children worry their abusers will pocket that money as well.

Rimsha, a 28-year-old survivor who requested her last name be withheld due to safety concerns, said she hasn’t received any of the three stimulus checks Congress approved to offset the financial difficulties brought on by the pandemic. Her abuser filed his tax return jointly without her consent and collected them all instead, she told Insider.

Biden’s child tax credit announcement “makes me more anxious,” Rimsha said. “I’m actually more frustrated. Okay, IRS, you’re going to send that to my husband as well?”

Domestic violence survivors like Rimsha often double as caregivers who, over the past year, have had to adapt to inconvenient circumstances like remote learning while trying to earn a living and support their children.

Adding to the stress of making ends meet, the pandemic has exacerbated the financial abuse nearly all domestic violence survivors endure. Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, abusers have had more opportunities to pocket money that’s not theirs.

While missing out on supplemental income like stimulus checks or child tax credits, survivors also have to navigate tax season.

Even before the pandemic, abusers often tried to claim children on their tax returns to get more money back from the government, according to Teal Inzunza, program director for Economic Empowerment at the Urban Resource Institute, a nonprofit that provides services to domestic violence survivors. But as the country begins to reopen fully and slowly recovers from the economic recession, that extra financial support is more crucial than ever to survivors, experts say.

“Abusers will often fraudulently sign and claim the survivor on their tax return, therefore making it so that the survivor doesn’t have access to really necessary refunds or tax return information,” Inzunza said.

In attempts to get the stimulus checks she’s owed and ensure that all other funds like child tax credits are directed to her account, Rimsha has repeatedly engaged with IRS representatives.

So far, no one has been able to help her, she said.

IRS reps on the phone have used her husband’s joint tax filing as a justification for the issues Rimsha’s facing, she said, adding that she’s even provided the agency with copies of restraining orders against him to explain her case and separate her filings from his.

“It makes me upset,” she said. “Why are the abusers getting away with this?”

Because of the abuse she’s endured, Rimsha has been diagnosed with PTSD, she said.

A congressional push to derail abusers

In a June 2020 letter to the IRS, Democratic lawmakers outlined a series of changes the agency could implement to make it harder for abusers to gain access to accounts and private information that do not belong to them.

That letter, though nearly a year old, reflects many of the same struggles domestic violence survivors still deal with today.

Among the changes recommended was the implementation of a dedicated phone line that survivors could call to report address changes, and the creation of an individual PIN that would heighten security measures and prohibit abusers from accessing or changing their partner’s information. There’s also a suggestion to add information to aid survivors like Rimsha who filed a joint tax return but are no longer with their spouses.

These changes, several lawmakers told Insider, have not been adequately addressed or implemented. And as a result, there will be survivors at risk of losing child tax credits, among other financial support, the lawmakers behind that letter told Insider.

“Right now, these benefits are at risk of being stolen by their abuser unless the IRS takes additional concrete steps to support survivors of domestic violence,” the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown said to Insider in an email.

The changes outlined in the letter remain pertinent today, almost a year after it was sent off to the IRS, lawmakers argue. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told Insider changes to the way the IRS collects taxpayer information are needed to ensure survivors have access to “crucial resources” that make it easier for them to keep their information secure and out of the hands of their abusers.

Van Hollen’s office said the senator plans to follow up with the IRS to urge the agency to better support survivors of domestic violence, especially when it comes to financial abuse, a topic less commonly known, but widely prevalent.

About 99% of domestic violence survivors experience financial abuse, according to Blair Dorosh-Walther, program manager of economic empowerment at Safe Horizon, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to providing resources to survivors.

“The average survivor carries over $103,000 worth of debt throughout their lifetime due to the abuse,” Dorosh-Walther said. “This leaves taxpayers with an annual cost of $3.6 trillion due to domestic violence, which is higher than some countries’ GDP.”

Other lawmakers, like Sen. Cortes Masto of Nevada who led the June 2020 letter, said they also plan to continue advocating for survivors to minimize economic abuse. Her office is collaborating with the IRS on ways to revamp the agency’s systems so they benefit survivors over abusers.

“I have consistently called on the IRS to make sure their systems are working” to address economic abuse, Cortes Masto told Insider. “There are clear steps the IRS can take to make sure that survivors can receive the stimulus payments they are owed, and I’m going to keep pushing to make sure they do so.”

Other senators are taking different approaches. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, for example, is working on moving a bill through the Senate that “would reauthorize and improve a federal funding program which lapsed six years ago,” his office said.

“Through grants to states, tribal governments, and territories, survivors would receive services such as emergency shelter, crisis counseling, safety planning, and assistance recovering from financial abuse and housing insecurity,” his office told Insider.

The IRS did not respond to a request for comment.

Financial abuse takes many different forms

Sara Gardner, 29, considers herself both a survivor and an ally to people who’ve experienced domestic violence and financial abuse.

As a kid, her stepdad made large purchases under the guise of supporting Gardner, her mom, and younger sister.

“Growing up, it would be like, why are we not getting groceries but we bought a car? Or a new truck for my stepdad?” Gardner told Insider.

Her mom was always the parent who took care of tax filings, while her stepdad refused to contribute his portion. Only when lawmakers passed the first stimulus relief fund offering Americans $1,200 checks did her stepdad decide to contribute his information and file taxes, Gardner said. That’s when her mom learned he owed over $15,000 in federal and state taxes, Gardner said.

The anxiety of having to deal with that debt got to her.

“I cannot pay over $15,000 back to the government,” Gardner said her mom told her. “I don’t have that.”

Late last year, Gardner’s mom called while her husband was away on business and told her she had to leave him before he returned. Her mom has Parkinson’s disease and is immunocompromised, meaning she had to find isolated shelter where she wouldn’t run the risk of getting sick with COVID-19.

Having that much debt made her mom feel isolated and drove her to consider pursuing suspicious tax services that promised to “stop IRS debt,” Gardner said. Her mom’s credit score had dropped over 100 points, Gardner said.

After she left her husband, Gardner’s mom continued to receive stimulus checks, but they were written out to both her and her abuser because the IRS had their joint tax information on file. That meant both of them had to sign the check in order for the money to be deposited. Gardner’s mom didn’t want to see her abuser, and the onus fell on her to find a way to deposit the check safely and without meeting up with him.

She called the IRS, Gardner said, but a representative was unhelpful, telling her the agency couldn’t do anything since the two parents filed together. Ultimately, Gardner’s mom ended up calling their local bank and asking whether she could come in to sign the check separately from her now-ex-husband. She had to deceive him and promise she’d be there to sign the check with him, Gardner said.

She was able to connect her mom to a shelter program that advocated for her and helped her find a place.

But the financial abuse has left lingering emotional scars, Gardner said.

Her mom, for example, is afraid to spend money on anything other than bills. Because of the fear of going into further debt and losing control of her finances once more, her mom avoids spending leisurely or on personal items whenever possible.

“I buy her a grocery store gift card or a meal or a massage” as gifts, Gardner said, because she knows she will usually try not to buy these things on her own.

Money and personal finances can easily tie into feelings of self-worth and self-validation, experts told Insider. And events like tax season and periods of time that come with financial uncertainty like this pandemic can be major trigger points for survivors of domestic violence who’ve experienced economic abuse.

“With taxes, with credit reports, and then with the stimulus check, it’s just this ongoing reminder of the abuse,” Dorosh-Walther of Safe Horizon told Insider.

In Gardner’s case, her mom is “optimistic” about her future.

“I think she’s really looking forward to filing alone, to having a much more simple return,” Gardner said.

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Biden administration will close 2 ICE detention centers in Georgia and Massachusetts after allegations of abuse

In this Sept. 15, 2020, file photo, Dawn Wooten, left, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, speaks at a news conference in Atlanta protesting conditions at the immigration jail.

  • ICE will cut ties with two immigration detention centers, officials announced Thursday.
  • The Georgia and Massachusetts facilities have both come under federal investigation in the last year.
  • Those who remain will be transferred out of the facilities.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration will close two Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers – one in Georgia and one in Massachusetts – that came under federal investigation for allegations of mistreatment of immigrants, officials said Thursday.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed ICE to discontinue the use of the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, which is operated by a private contractor, and the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Bristol County, Massachusetts, which is operated by the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, with which the agency will also cut ties.

The move comes months after the Massachusetts attorney general released a report finding authorities used excessive force against detainees and violated their civil rights during a May 2020 clash over COVID-19 testing.

Last fall, a whistleblower who had previously worked at the Irwin Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, alleged medical neglect against the institution in a complaint filed to the Homeland Security inspector general. Around the same time, NBC News reported that multiple women at the center were accusing a gynecologist who worked at the facility of performing unnecessary hysterectomies on them.

The inspector general has launched a review into the Irwin allegations.

Federal officials chose the two centers in particular because their rosters have decreased and are “no longer operationally necessary,” a DHS official told The Washington Post. Irwin is holding 114 detainees out of nearly 1,000 beds, while Bristol is holding only seven detainees out of almost 200 beds, the outlet reported.

Those who remain will be transferred out of the facilities, as the administration plans to take a different approach to immigration detention, according to CNN.

In a memo obtained by The Post, Mayorkas told acting ICE Director Tae Johnson that “we will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the Thursday decision, after having previously pushed for the closure of 39 detention centers.

“By shuttering detention facilities with a track record of problematic conditions and ending local collaboration with ICE, we can work together toward a fairer and more humane immigration center, Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts told NBC News.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, an outspoken Trump supporter, responded to the order with disdain.

“Shame on Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas for putting his left-wing political agenda above public safety by ending the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” he said in a statement. “While Sec. Mayorkas and the Biden administration are turning their backs on the people of our great country, I will not.”

Since taking office, the Biden administration has seen the number of immigrant arrests and deportations drop, as well as detention population. According to ICE, there were still 20,430 immigrants in detention as of May 14.

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