Idaho official says he’s sending MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell the bill for an audit debunking the CEO’s claims of voter fraud

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell

  • An Idaho state official said MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell will incur the costs of an audit of the state’s election system.
  • Lindell falsely claimed that votes for Trump were mechanically switched in some counties to be in favor of Biden.
  • State officials said they knew Lindell’s claims weren’t true because some counties still use paper ledgers.

The chief deputy secretary of state in Idaho said the state “will be sending” MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell the bill for an audit they launched to dispute his claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Last month, Lindell sent Idaho election officials a document, titled “The Big Lie,” claiming widespread voter fraud in the state, in which votes cast for former President Donald Trump were switched to be in favor of current President Joe Biden.

Trump won Idaho by one of the biggest margins with a 31-point lead over Biden.

“Once we had the document in hand, we immediately believed there was something amiss,” Chief Deputy Secretary Chad Houck told local news outlet KMVT at the time.

“This document alleged electronic manipulation in all 44 counties. At least seven Idaho counties have no electronic steps in their vote counting processes,” Houck added. “That was a huge red flag, and one we knew we could either prove or disprove fairly directly.”

Idaho election officials launched an investigation into his claims, only to find marginal human errors in counting – none to the extent that Lindell alleged in the document.

Houck, a Republican who is running for secretary of state in Idaho, appeared on CNN Thursday to discuss the audit and how it debunked Lindell’s claims.

“Lindell comes out with these claims that across the state universally, every county in the state of Idaho – and for that matter, every county in the United States – was actually off by about 8.4%,” Houck said. “We looked at that and said that is an absolute impossibility.”

“We have seven counties in the state of Idaho that could not be mechanically manipulated because they actually still tally their votes,” he continued. “They’re small enough to do that in a paper ledger or tally book. How would you manipulate a paper ledger?”

Houck added that the state election officials “actually will be totaling up the expenses that were incurred in the process and we’ll be sending him a bill.”

He went on to say that, despite knowing that Lindell’s claims were not true at the get-go, Houck wanted to do his part in protecting the integrity of the state’s election system.

“This was never about Mike Lindell, this was never about a partisan position on this,” he said. “This is about going after the integrity of not only the election system in Idaho, but people going after the integrity of the election system as a whole.”

He said such claims like Lindell’s comes across as “criticizing and impinging the integrity” of election officials, professional election administrators, and their teams.

“And that reputation is something we work very, very hard to defend,” Houck said.

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While Idaho’s governor was away, the state’s lieutenant governor – a political rival – tried to deploy the National Guard to the border

McGeachin addressing protest.
Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin speaks during a mask burning event at the Idaho Statehouse on March 6, 2021 in Boise, Idaho.

  • Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin was elected in 2019.
  • She has announced plans to run for governor in 2022.
  • Gov. Brad Little, a fellow Republican, is expected to run for reelection.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The head of Idaho’s National Guard has rejected a request from the state’s lieutenant governor to deploy to the US-Mexico border, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin sought to activate the state’s militia while Idaho Gov. Brad Little was out of state touring the border himself, a move he denounced as “political grandstanding.” The two are expected to compete for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2022.

“Before I even left the state, the Lt. Governor unabashedly requested information from the Adjutant General to deploy our National Guard to the border,” Little said in a statement Tuesday night. He called the move an “affront to the Idaho constitution.”

In July, Little himself sent five Idaho state troopers to the US-Mexico border to assist with illegal drug interdiction. He is currently in Texas with other Republican governors who have sought to blame the Biden administration for an increase in migrants seeking asylum.

The border is not the only area where Little’s second in command has sought to outflank him on the right. On Twitter, McGeachin announced Tuesday that she had “fixed” an executive order from Little that had banned Idaho government entities from requesting proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Under McGeachin’s order, public schools and universities would be prohibited from requiring either vaccines or testing.

In May, she likewise banned mask mandates while Little was away – an order that the governor soon reversed, labeling it another “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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The Department of Defense will build a prototype mobile nuclear microreactor to meet energy demands of US military

This Nov. 29, 2018, file photo, shows the Transient Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, in eastern Idaho.
This Nov. 29, 2018, file photo, shows the Transient Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, in eastern Idaho. The U.S. Department of Defense is taking public comments on its plan to build an advanced mobile nuclear microreactor prototype at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho.

  • A Defense Science Board recommended the department use small modular reactors to meet its growing energy needs.
  • In early 2022, the Department of Defense will review final prototype designs from two teams.
  • Critics told the Associated Press that adversaries could target the microreactors during transport.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Department of Defense is taking public comment on a prototype mobile nuclear microreactor that it plans on assembling at the Idaho National Laboratory, the Associated Press reported.

The department’s colossal energy consumption – 30 terawatt hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day – is projected to increase significantly over the next few years, according to the project’s environmental impact statement.

A Defense Science Board commissioned by the department recommended it deploy small modular reactors to meet its increasing energy needs, the environmental impact statement said. The Idaho National Laboratory defines micronuclear reactors as small nuclear reactors that produce roughly 1-50 megawatts and can operate independently from electric grids.

Two teams, BWXT Advance Technologies from Virginia and X-energy from Maryland, are developing final designs for the prototype, which will be reviewed by the department in early 2022, according to a March press release. Following the completion of the project’s environmental analysis, one of the teams may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype, the release said.

“A safe, small, transportable nuclear reactor would address this growing demand with a resilient, carbon-free energy source that does not add to the DOD’s fuel needs, while supporting mission-critical operations in remote and austere environments,” a March press release from the Department of Defense said.

Still, critics expressed fears to the Associated Press that microreactors could be targeted by US adversaries, particularly during their transportation.

“In my view, these reactors could cause more logistical problems and risks to troops and property than they would solve problems,” Edwin Lyman, director of the nonprofit Nuclear Power Safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Associated Press. “And unless the Army is willing to spend what it would take to make them safe for use, especially in potential combat situations or foreign operating bases, then I think it’s probably unwise to deploy nuclear reactors in theaters of war without providing the protection they would need.”

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A family member of a COVID-19 patient reportedly threatened a nurse after she wouldn’t treat him with ivermectin

icu covid doctor hospital
A doctor checks the vital signs of a patient at the Intensive Care Unit of Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California, on January 3, 2021.

  • An Idaho COVID-19 patient’s family threatened a nurse for refusing to treat him with Ivermectin, BuzzFeed News reported.
  • The nurse said a family member told her they have “ways to get people to do something, and they’re all sitting in my gun safe.”
  • The threats are a part of a larger pattern of violence against medical staff during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The family member of a COVID-19 patient in Boise, Idaho, threatened a nurse who wouldn’t treat the man with ivermectin, BuzzFeed News reported.

The night shift nurse recalled how the police had to remove the man’s son-in-law from the hospital after he told her, “If you don’t do this, I have a lot of ways to get people to do something, and they’re all sitting in my gun safe at home,” according to BuzzFeed News.

Ivermectin is a deworming drug popularly used in animals that the FDA has warned against using in COVID-19 patients. The drug has become widely promoted among conspiracy theory circles as a treatment for COVID-19 – often by those who refuse to get vaccinated.

The nurse, Ashley Carvalho, told BuzzFeed News that hostility to healthcare workers and a new surge of COVID-19 cases are taking their toll, adding that she’s more anxious now than she was before vaccines were available.

“I think it’s just kind of a hopeless feeling,” she said.

Healthcare workers across the US have seen a rise in violent threats

The threat against Carvalho is a part of a larger trend of violence against medical staff during the pandemic.

Karen Garvey, the vice president of patient safety and clinical risk management at Parkland Health & Hospital System, told the Texas Tribune in March that her hospital has seen a rise in violent threats since the pandemic began.

Garvey said there have been “people being punched in the chest, having urine thrown on them, and inappropriate sexual innuendos or behaviors in front of staff members.” She also said medical staff have been called names and racial slurs in addition to getting broken bones and noses.

Natalie Higgins, a nurse at CoxHealth in Springfield, Missouri, told KYTV that the number of physical and verbal assaults in her hospital rose in 2021 as the pandemic raged on.

“The first time I got verbally attacked by a patient, I was like ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Like I expected it, but not to the extent we see it every day,” Higgins said. “The first time someone lunges at you, even still today, when they lunge at you, it’s terrifying.”

Higgins said CoxHealth has installed panic buttons on each staff member’s ID badge to alert security when staffers are in danger.

Researchers and nurses have sounded the alarm on the rise in workplace assaults in hospitals, but according to The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the real number of assaults on healthcare workers may actually be much higher due to a lack of mandatory reporting.

“Alarmingly, the actual number of violent incidents involving health care workers is likely much higher because reporting is voluntary,” the commission wrote.

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Delta variant hits hard in the five worst states for vaccination rates: It’s spreading ‘like a tsunami,’ one health official says

variant lab
Researchers sequence coronavirus samples at the microbiology laboratory of the University Hospital of Badajoz in Spain on April 15, 2021.

  • The five states with the lowest vaccination rates in the US are experiencing surging Delta variant cases.
  • The five states are Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Mississippi.
  • In each state, officials are sounding the alarms, warning that the Delta variant is quickly spreading.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Delta variant is spreading rapidly across five states with the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

Officials in the five states – Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Mississippi – are warning that positive coronavirus cases are shooting up. In Alabama, only 26 of the more than 11,000 COVID-19 deaths in the state since the pandemic began were people who were vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.

Just 44.7% of Alabama’s total population has received at least one dose against the coronavirus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tracks the 50 states and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Following Alabama are Louisiana with 44.1%, Wyoming with 42.3%, Idaho with 41.6%, and Mississippi dead last at 40.8%.

These figures pale in comparison to national stats. About 58% of the US population has received at least one dose against the coronavirus. When it comes to adults, about 71% have received at least one dose.

In Mississippi, the state with the worst vaccination rate in the country, a top health official on Thursday said the Delta variant is spreading “like a tsunami.”

“If we look at our trajectory, we see that it’s continuing to increase without any real demonstration of leveling off or decreasing,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said at a press briefing.

The other four states are also facing dire circumstances.

A top medical official said Louisiana is “in the worst place we’ve ever been in the pandemic,” adding that hospitals are overwhelmed to the point where resources are highly limited.

Federal assistance teams arrived in Louisiana to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and help people recover from it. But the gaps in resources and hospital room availability are so large that these teams are unable to make much of a difference.

The Delta variant has now become the dominant strain in Idaho and Wyoming.

Scientists and health officials are attributing most new coronavirus cases to the Delta variant, a press release from the Wyoming Department of Health says.

“We are deeply concerned. The Delta variant has really changed the COVID fight we have on our hands. Unfortunately, Wyoming’s low vaccination rate makes our state more vulnerable to this highly contagious variant,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and epidemiologist in Wyoming.

Federal and state health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. In response to surging cases brought on by the Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended once again that Americans – including people who are already fully vaccinated – mask up in indoor spaces.

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25 GOP-led states and one Democratic state are cutting $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits. Here are the 26 states making the cut this summer.

GettyImages 1231114054
President Joe Biden.

  • Some Republican governors have decided Americans make too much from expanded unemployment benefits.
  • After a surprisingly dismal April jobs report, they moved to end federal jobless aid early.
  • That also includes eliminating programs benefiting gig workers, freelancers, and the long-term unemployed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Alabama

kay ivey
Gov. Kay Ivey.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Monday that the state was halting its participation in federal unemployment benefits starting June 19. 

Those include the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program for gig workers and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for the long-term unemployed.

“We have announced the end date of our state of emergency, there are no industry shutdowns, and daycares are operating with no restrictions. Vaccinations are available for all adults. Alabama is giving the federal government our 30-day notice that it’s time to get back to work,” Ivey said in a press release.

Alabama is also resuming its work-search requirements for recipients, which had been paused throughout the pandemic.

The average weekly benefit in Alabama amounted to $283 in March. Its unemployment rate stands at 3.8%, higher than the 2.8% it had in February 2020.

Alabama is among the seven states that have not raised the hourly minimum wage for workers since the hike to $7.25 in 2009

Experts say other factors are keeping workers from jumping back into the labor force, such as a lack of childcare access and fear of COVID-19 infection.

Alaska

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy
Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Alaska will end its participation in the extra $300 in weekly benefits effective June 12. 

“As Alaska’s economy opens up, employers are posting a wide range of job opportunities and workers are needed,” labor and workforce development commissioner, Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, said in a statement.

Extensions for the state benefit will continue through September 6. 

Alaska’s unemployment rate was 6.6% in March 2021, a 0.8% increase from the rate of 5.8% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $298.

Arizona

Doug Ducey Arizona governor
Gov. Doug Ducey.

Gov. Doug Ducey said the state will terminate all federal jobless benefit programs on July 10, per a news release from his office.

Arizona, however, is setting aside some federal funds to provide a one-time $2,000 bonus for people who return to work by Sept. 6. There are some strings attached.

People qualify for the measure if they are already receiving jobless aid — and they must earn less than $25 hourly at their next job. That amounts to a yearly salary of $52,000. Individuals must also work 10 weeks with a new employer to get the cash.

The state last recorded an unemployment rate of 6.7%, higher than the 4.9% it had immediately before the pandemic in February 2020.

Arizona’s average jobless payout is $238.

Arkansas

Asa Hutchinson
Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on May 7 that the state would no longer participate in federal unemployment after June 26. 

“The $300 federal supplement helped thousands of Arkansans make it through this tough time, so it served a good purpose. Now we need Arkansans back on the job so that we can get our economy back to full speed,” Hutchinson said in a press release, which cited South Carolina’s and Montana’s separate decisions to opt out of the federal assistance program.

Its unemployment rate is 4.4%, slightly higher than the 3.8% level of February 2020. The average weekly benefit in the state is $248.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, 74.7% of the UI Arkansas disbursed came from federal funds, according to a report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. On January 1 of this year, Arkansas’s minimum wage increased to $11 — several dollars above the federal rate of $7.25.

Florida

ron desantis florida vaccine 60 minutes
Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida will end its participation in the $300 in additional weekly benefits effective June 26. However, other federal programs, including PUA, “will continue for the time being as DEO [Department of Economic Opportunity] continues to carefully monitor job posting and industry hiring trends.”

In a press release, DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said “transitioning away from this benefit will help meet the demands of small and large businesses who are ready to hire and expand their workforce.” Florida’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in March 2021, 1.9% higher than 2.8% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $235.22.

Georgia

brian kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that the state will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective June 26.

“Even in the middle of a global pandemic, job growth and economic development in Georgia remained strong — including an unemployment rate below the national average,” Kemp said in a statement. “To build on our momentum, accelerate a full economic recovery, and get more Georgians back to work in good-paying jobs, our state will end its participation in the federal COVID-19 unemployment programs, effective June 26th.”

The Georgia unemployment rate was 4.5% in March 2021, 1% above the February 2020 rate of 3.5%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $278.95.

Idaho

Gov. Brad Little
Gov. Brad Little.

Gov. Brad Little said Idaho would no longer draw federal money to fund enhanced unemployment insurance, and the state will cancel its program on June 19.

It’s time to get back to work,” Little said in a Tuesday statement. “My decision is based on a fundamental conservative principle — we do not want people on unemployment. We want people working.”

The state was among those that recently reimposed a job-seeking requirement for people receiving jobless aid.

Idaho’s unemployment rate stands at 3.2%, a higher level compared to 2.6% in February 2020. The average weekly unemployment benefit in the state is $355, per the Labor Department.

Indiana

GettyImages eric holcomb
Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state is terminating all federal unemployment programs effective June 19.

“There are help wanted signs posted all over Indiana, and while our economy took a hit last year, it is roaring like an Indy 500 race car engine now,” Holcomb said in the news release. “I am hearing from multiple sector employers that they want and need to hire more Hoosiers to grow.”

The state is also among those now requiring people to actively seek work while on unemployment.

Indiana’s unemployment rate is 3.9%, higher than the 3.2% it had in February 2020. The average weekly benefit is $254.

Iowa

kim reynolds iowa
Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state would cancel federal jobless benefits on June 12.

“Federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs initially provided displaced Iowans with crucial assistance when the pandemic began,” Reynolds said in a statement. “But now that our businesses and schools have reopened, these payments are discouraging people from returning to work.”

The state’s unemployment rate stood at 3.7%, still slightly higher than the 2.9% it recorded in February 2020. Iowa’s average weekly jobless benefit is $430.

Louisiana

john bel edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Louisiana is the first Democrat-led state to prematurely cut off its participation in $300 weekly benefits. Those benefits will end July 31.

Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill that would increase the state’s regular weekly benefits by $28. One of the bill’s stipulations was that supplemental unemployment benefits had to end on July 31.

Local news outlet WWLTV reported that, prior to the bill’s passage, the governor had already said he planned on ending benefits in early August, when school begins.

Louisiana’s unemployment rate was 7.1% in May 2021, nearly two points higher than 5.2% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $175.57.

Maryland

larry hogan
Gov. Larry Hogan.

Maryland will end its participation in all federal unemployment programs effective July 3.

Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement that the state has vaccinated 70% of its adults, hitting the goal set by President Joe Biden, and that Maryland’s “health and economic recovery continues to outpace the nation.”

“While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply,” Hogan said. “And we have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages.”

Maryland’s unemployment rate was 6.2% in April 2021, nearly three points higher than 3.3% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $318.16.

Mississippi

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves
Gov. Tate Reeves.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Monday that he was pulling out the state from the federal pandemic-aid programs starting June 12.

“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,” Reeves wrote on Twitter.

The average weekly benefit in the state is $195, according to the Employment and Training Administration at the Department of Labor.

The state’s unemployment rate is 6.3%, a figure still elevated from its pre-pandemic rate of 5.8% in February 2020.

Mississippi is among the seven states that have not lifted hourly pay for workers since the last increase to the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

Missouri

missouri gov mike parson
Gov. Mike Parson.

Gov. Mike Parson announced on Tuesday that Missouri would be ending its participation in federal unemployment on June 12. 

“While these benefits provided supplementary financial assistance during the height of COVID-19, they were intended to be temporary, and their continuation has instead worsened the workforce issues we are facing,” Parson said in a statement. “It’s time that we end these programs that have ultimately incentivized people to stay out of the workforce.” 

The average weekly benefit in Missouri amounted to $258.57 in March. Its unemployment rate stood at 4.2% in March, a drop from 4.3% in February. That’s still 0.5% higher than the March 2020 unemployment rate.

Missouri raised its minimum wage to $10.30 on January 1, 2021.

Montana

greg gianforte
Gov. Greg Gianforte.

Gov. Greg Gianforte announced the state was ending federal benefits on June 27.

“Incentives matter, and the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits is now doing more harm than good,” Gianforte said in a statement. “We need to incentivize Montanans to reenter the workforce.”

Taking its place will be a $1,200 return-to-work bonus, an amount equivalent to four weeks of receiving federal jobless aid. Workers will be eligible for the cash after a month on the job. The measure enjoys support among some congressional Republicans.

The average weekly benefit in the state is $468 without the federal supplement. The state’s unemployment rate has reached pre-pandemic levels, at 3.8% in April.

Nebraska

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts delivers the annual State of the State Address to lawmakers in Lincoln, Neb., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Nebraska will end its participation in all federal unemployment programs effective June 19.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Gov. Pete Ricketts said the benefits are a “disincentive for some people” in returning to work. The curtailing of benefits come as part of the state’s initiative to reopen and “return to normalcy.”

Nebraska’s unemployment rate was 2.8% in April 2021, lower than 2.9% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $343.25.

New Hampshire

chris sununu
Gov. Chris Sununu.

Gov. Chris Sununu said on Thursday that he was planning on ending the additional $300 weekly benefit before it’s due to expire, NECN reports. However, the date that benefits will be discontinued in the state remains unclear.

The state will also begin work search requirements for those on UI beginning May 23.

The New Hampshire unemployment rate was 3.0% in March 2021, above the February 2020 rate of 2.6%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $277.26.

North Dakota

doug burgum north dakota trans school sports bill
Gov. Doug Burgum.

Gov. Doug Burgum said the state would pull out of federal unemployment benefit programs on June 19.

“Safe, effective vaccines have been available to every adult in North Dakota for months now, and we have an abundance of job openings with employers who are eager to hire,” Burgum said in a news release, noting the state had its highest number of online job postings since July 2015.

The state’s unemployment rate is 4.4%, still almost double its level of 2.3% in February 2020. North Dakota’s average weekly unemployment payment is $480.

Ohio

Mike-DeWine-2019
Gov. Mike DeWine.

Gov. Mike Dewine said the state will scrap the federal unemployment benefit programs on June 26.

“This assistance was always intended to be temporary,” DeWine said in a statement.

The state’s unemployment rate stands at 4.7%, the same level it had in February 2020. The average weekly benefit in Ohio is $383.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Gov. Kevin Stitt is dropping all federal unemployment programs starting on June 26.

“That gives people six weeks to get off the sidelines and get back into the game,” he said in a news release.

Stitt also announced that the first 20,000 laid-off workers now receiving benefits that are rehired will get a $1,200 “incentive using funds from the American Rescue Plan.”

People are eligible if they receive some form of federal unemployment aid between May 2 through 15, and keep their new job for at least six weeks. Individuals must also have a 32-hour workweek.

The Oklahoma unemployment rate stands at 5.2%, higher than the 3.1% it had before the pandemic broke out in February last year. The average weekly benefit is $310.

South Carolina

henry mcmaster
Gov. Henry McMaster.

Even before the jobs report hit, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said the state would stop its participation in federal unemployment effective June 30.

“This labor shortage is being created in large part by the supplemental unemployment payments that the federal government provides claimants on top of their state unemployment benefits,” McMaster wrote in a letter to the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce.

McMaster spoke with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson about the expanded unemployment program, saying he believed it’s a “counterproductive policy.”

The average weekly benefit in the state stands at $228. South Carolina’s unemployment rate is 5.1%, still nearly double its pre-pandemic rate of 2.8% in February 2020.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, 76.7% of the unemployment insurance that South Carolina disbursed came from federal funds, according to the report from the Economic Policy Institute. The minimum wage in South Carolina was last raised in 2009, when the federal minimum wage as a whole was increased to $7.25.

South Dakota

Kristi Noem
Gov. Kristi Noem.

Gov. Kristi Noem announced Wednesday that the state will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective the week of June 26. In a related statement, the state’s Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman noted that “help wanted signs line our streets.”

“South Dakota is, and has been, ‘Open for Business.’ Ending these programs is a necessary step towards recovery, growth, and getting people back to work,” Hultman added.

The South Dakota unemployment rate was 2.9% in March 2021, unchanged from 2.9% in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $369.

Tennessee

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.
Gov. Bill Lee.

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that federal unemployment benefits would end in the state effective July 3.

“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” Lee said in a statement. “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”

The state’s unemployment rate in March 2021 was 5%, a 0.1% increase from the month before and 1% higher than the March 2020 rate. Tennessee’s average weekly unemployment payment is $219.45. Tennessee is one of seven states where the minimum wage remains at the federal level of $7.25.

Texas

greg abbott texas
Gov. Greg Abbott.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he was scrapping all federal unemployment programs on June 26.

“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said in a statement.

Nearly 1.3 million people in the state will experience a sharp cut in their unemployment aid, per an estimate from Andrew Stettner at the liberal-leaning Century Foundation. It’s the largest state yet to eliminate the programs, with the eliminated aid coming to an estimated $8.8 billion.

The average weekly benefit in Texas is $405. The state’s current 6.9% unemployment rate is still nearly double what it used to be in February 2020.

Utah

AP spencer cox
Gov. Spencer Cox.

Utah is withdrawing from federal unemployment aid programs effective June 26.

“This is the natural next step in getting the state and people’s lives back to normal,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement. “The market should not be competing with the government for workers.”

The state has a 2.9% unemployment rate, slightly higher than the 2.5% pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The average weekly benefit in Utah is $428.

West Virginia

WV Gov Jim Justice
Gov. Jim Justice.

West Virginia will end its participation in federal unemployment benefit programs effective June 19 at midnight.

“We need everyone back to work,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement. “Our small businesses and West Virginia’s economy depend on it.”

West Virginia’s unemployment rate was 5.9% in March 2021, 1% above the February 2020 rate of 4.9%. The state’s average weekly benefit is $276.15.

Wyoming

mark gordon
Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gov. Mark Gordon said the state was scrapping the federal unemployment benefit, along with programs aiding gig workers and those who exhausted traditional state payouts.

“Wyoming needs workers, our businesses are raring to go,” Gordon said in a statement. “People want to work, and work is available. Incentivizing people not to work is just plain un-American.”

The Wyoming unemployment rate is 5.3%, slightly higher than the 4.8% it once had in February 2020. The state’s average weekly benefit is $430.

Are you unemployed and have a story you want to share? Contact these reporters at jkaplan@insider.com and jzeballos@insider.com.

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The rural Oregon counties that want to hitch their wagons to conservative Idaho? Experts say it’s a long shot, but far from impossible.

  • Seven rural Oregon counties have voted in favor of pursuing a potential move to conservative Idaho.
  • Experts told Insider the secession effort is unlikely to succeed, but not impossible.
  • “I don’t think the map of the United States is going to look the same in 2050,” one expert said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The goal of the Greater Idaho movement is straightforward: move Idaho’s border to include most of rural Oregon (and eventually even parts of northern California) – but the likelihood of success is extremely low.

The movement has recently picked up steam, as seven counties have now voted in favor of considering or pursuing the move. Organizers say Idaho’s conservative values align better with those of rural Oregon; they argue conservatives in the solidly blue state are not adequately represented in government.

But state legislatures in both Oregon and Idaho, as well as the US Congress, would have to agree on the move, and it’s not entirely clear why any of the three parties would.

However, experts told Insider the effort is far from impossible and that the idea of moving state lines is not unprecedented. One expert said changing the physical makeup of the United States is not only possible, but almost inevitable.

“I don’t think the map of the United States is going to look the same in 2050,” said Richard Kreitner, author of the book “Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union.”

Moving state lines is not unprecedented, but “Greater Idaho” is unique

In American history, there are multiple examples of states being broken up.

Before North Dakota and South Dakota were established in 1889, there was the Territory of Dakota. West Virginia was formed in 1861 when it separated from Confederate Virginia. Maine became a state in 1820 after voting to secede from Massachusetts. And Kentucky broke off from Virginia to become the 15th state in 1792.

But while moving state lines is not unheard of, the efforts of the Greater Idaho movement stand out for a couple reasons.

A group of Trump supporters stand carrying American flags, with one wear a Trump mask and sunglasses
Supporters of President Donald Trump attend a ‘ Stop The Steal ‘ rally at the Oregon State Capitol protesting the outcome of the election on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020 in Salem, Ore.

First, experts told Insider they did not know of an example where a large portion of a state broke off to join another state, rather than create a new one.

Second, in past examples of state-secession movements, there is typically a clear-cut problem being solved.

In the case of Greater Idaho, there is not a single, well-defined issue that would be solved by secession. Reasons to secede, according to the movement’s website, include: American values, law and order, lower taxes, safety, a less regulated economy, and feeling represented in state government.

The movement’s leaders previously told Insider’s Sarah Al-Arshani Idaho’s values match up better with the values of rural Oregon, and that they want to be better represented in state government. But in past state secession stories, reasons were more concrete.

When Kentucky split from Virginia in 1792, it was largely because people who lived there believed the state government was not doing enough to clear the land of Native Americans, who, understandably, did not want to leave. Despite the reason being immoral, it provided clear motivation for people to form their own state that would better protect their interests.

As for secessionist movements today, including efforts in California and Texas to break away and form their own countries, Kreitner said there’s nothing quite like that, at least not yet.

“I think there’s been a bit of a search for actual issues to hang that sentiment on, but mostly it’s been futile,” he said.

Changing the US map could be a good thing as ‘most state lines are fairly arbitrary’

But that isn’t to say all secessionist movements are equally far-fetched, and Kreitner doesn’t think Americans should “clutch our pearls” too much over the Greater Idaho movement. In fact, he said, reconsidering state lines could be a good thing.

“Most state lines are fairly arbitrary, especially in the west, where they’re often right angles,” Kreitner said. “They are not meaningful distinctions, and they should be looked at again. It could make our politics more rational.”

Frank H. Buckley, a professor at George Mason University School of Law and author of the book “American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup,” agreed that rethinking America’s makeup could be positive.

Buckley told Insider the premise of his book, which focuses on efforts to secede from the United States, is that secession is “far more likely than you think and it may not be such a terrible thing.”

oregon state capitol protests
In this Dec. 21, 2020, file photo, pro-Trump and anti-mask demonstrators hold a rally outside the Oregon State Capitol as legislators meet for an emergency session in Salem, Ore.

As for Greater Idaho, Buckley said it could be a win for all parties. Idaho could expand its state and, in turn, its resources. Oregon lawmakers could benefit from the change as a sort of gerrymandering, further establishing their party’s dominance.

“If you’re a Democratic politician in Oregon, you might think it’s not a bad idea to ditch Republican voters in the state,” he said.

Meanwhile, the proposed population shift is so small that it likely wouldn’t impact congressional representation. And unlike efforts aimed at Washington, DC, statehood, expanding Idaho wouldn’t add to the US Senate.

And some rural Oregonians would likely get a government that’s more in tune with them, something that Kreitner said seems increasingly important after the vastly different state responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

As for rearranging state lines, Kreitner said it’s not clear exactly what that would look like. One proposal, known as bioregionalism, suggests organizing our political, cultural and economic systems around natural features, such as mountain ranges and watersheds, would lead to a more sustainable and just society.

Kreitner said the country’s refusal to consider the idea prevents the exploration and development of worthwhile solutions. But as long as our current political divisions continue, the idea of seceding, either from the country or from individual states, will likely persist as well.

“There’s a lot of talk in all parts of the country about discontent with the current arrangements,” he said. “It’s too appealing, given America’s history.”

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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Idaho’s governor lifted a ban on mask mandates that was issued by his number 2, without his knowledge, while he was out of state

Idaho Gov. Brad Little in a suit and tie speaks to the camera
Gov. Brad Little speaks about the COVID-19 emergency in Boise, Idaho, on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. The Republican governor said state lawmakers are perpetuating false information and trying to score political points rather than help fight the pandemic.

  • Idaho’s lieutenant governor issued a mask-mandate ban Thursday while the governor was out of state.
  • Upon his return Friday, the governor rescinded the ban and blasted the lieutenant governor.
  • “The action that took place was an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Idaho’s lieutenant governor took advantage of her boss’s short trip away by issuing an executive order banning mask mandates. Upon his return, he rescinded the ban and blasted the move.

“An executive order that was issued while I was out of state this week runs contrary to a basic conservative principle – the government closest to the people governs best,” Gov. Brad Little said in a statement. “Just like the states begrudge federal government mandates, local governments in Idaho resent the state doing the same thing.”

“The action that took place while I was traveling this week is not gubernatorial,” he said, calling it “an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt.”

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin issued the order on Thursday while serving as acting governor in Little’s absence. Little’s office told ABC he was not aware of the plan. McGeachin announced last week that she’s running for governor and criticized the state’s COVID-19 response in her announcement.

Little repealed the executive order on Friday and issued an announcement saying: “Gov. Little defends local control, denounces Lt. Governor’s irresponsible abuse of power.”

“How ironic that the action comes from a person who has groused about tyranny, executive overreach, and balance of power for months,” Little said.

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Idaho’s Lt. Gov. issued an executive order banning mask mandates while the governor was out of state

Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin
Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin in March 2021.

  • Idaho’s Lt. Gov. issued an executive order banning mask mandates while the governor was out of state.
  • The office of Gov. Brad Little said he wasn’t aware of Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s plan.
  • McGeachin announced last week that she plans on running for governor herself.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Idaho’s Lt. Gov. issued an executive order that banned mask mandates while the state’s governor was away.

Janice McGeachin issued the order on Thursday, when Gov. Brad Little was out of the state and she was serving as acting governor, ABC News reported.

McGeachin announced last week that she’s running for governor, criticizing coronavirus restrictions as part of her announcement.

According to ABC, Little’s office said the governor was not aware of McGeachin’s plan, and did not comment on what Little would do when back in the state.

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‘Greater Idaho’ took one step closer to being a real thing this week, as 5 counties voted to secede from liberal Oregon in hopes of joining conservative Idaho.

welcome to idaho
Welcome to Idaho sign entering from Washington state 3 June 2012.

  • Rural organizers in Oregon are pushing to have more than 18 counties join Idaho.
  • The Greater Idaho movement would transfer more than 70% of the state’s land to Idaho.
  • Leaders of the movement say Oregon’s state legislature does not represent rural residents.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Seven rural Oregon counties have already voted in favor of an effort aimed at leaving Oregon and becoming part of Idaho and organizers of the Greater Idaho movement say more counties will soon have the option on the ballot.

“We want out from underneath Oregon’s governance and go underneath Idaho’s governance, which we tend to match up better with, as far as our values go,” the group’s president, Mike McCarter, told Insider. “Now for 20 years plus, we’ve been trying to change the makeup and improve the makeup of the Oregon legislature but when you haven’t got the vote, there’s not much you can do about it.”

The ballot measures called on officials in each county to start considering the move and are the first step of adding the region to Idaho.

Leaders of the movement told Insider the effort started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic after the GOP in the state attempted to recall governor Kate Brown.

“We’ve had two legislative sessions in our state Capitol where Republicans walked out and denied votes because for these rural communities, that was their last-ditch effort to make sure their livelihoods were protected. So this was the natural solution to all those and learning from all those other experiences,” Keaton Ems, a spokesman for the group, told Insider.

Ems said he’s hoping the group’s goals could be met in the next four to six years but says they’re taking small steps alongside the legislative sessions to slowly push the effort along.

McCarter told Insider the proposed new border would encompass 18 full and three partial Oregon counties and account for about 860,000 of Oregon’s population.

While that’s only 21% of the state’s population, the landmass is more than 70%, a figure that McCarter said highlighted how centralized the state’s government is.

“You add those rural counties and that area to Idaho’s current area, it would make Idaho the third largest state in the union after, after Alaska and Texas,” McCarter said.

An effort to change the border would require the approval of the Oregon and Idaho state legislatures, as well as the US Congress, but McCarter says he sees no reason why it wouldn’t go through.

McCarter said in the seven counties that voted in favor of the effort, support ranged from 54% to a high of 74%, but two counties have so far also voted against it.

Rural Oregonians say they have no voice in state legislature

Ems and McCarter said the issue behind the push to join Idaho is centered around the fact that Oregonians living in the rural areas don’t feel represented by the state legislature.

The vast majority of the population lives in urban centers and skews Democrat, while those living in the rural area tend to skew Republican.

“78% of the people are in the urban area, more or less in the Willamette Valley in Portland. They control the legislature completely. They have a supermajority. That’s why they don’t care to listen to those representatives from central or eastern Oregon. They’re dealing with issues around urban folks and their social agenda is to be a sanctuary state to allow the homeless people to come in, to reduce the laws on drugs, to remove or lessen than the budget for police officers,” McCarter said.

Greater Idaho
A composite image of Oregon counties seeking to join Idaho.

“We’re not saying that that is wrong. We don’t agree with it, but they’re dealing with those issues and those aren’t the issues that we have. Rural Oregon is traditional, has traditional values. We’re more into our communities, more into our schools, more into supporting law enforcement. Right is right and wrong is wrong,” he added.

Ems said the majority had “no incentive” to include those in the rural parts as part of the decision-making process and those living in “concrete jungles” are simply telling those “who live and steward the land how to run their own land.”

McCarter said for those in the rural parts, it’s like they’re being “taxed without representation.”

The group’s Facebook page was labeled as “insurrectionist”

The Greater Idaho Movement is working to directly send information to families living in rural counties, especially as they work to get the idea on the ballot in more counties.

He said they’ve been successful at sending direct mail to families in these communities and going out and hosting events. McCarter said the group’s Facebook page was shut down on January 6 after the Capitol Riot when the social media company said objected to six posts and labeled the group’s page as insurrectionists.

“When Facebook removed a lot of people from Facebook [following the January 6 Capitol Riot], we were one of them who lost our page and we were not talking insurrection or anything. We’re strictly by the book,” McCarter said.

Ems said he wanted it to be clear that this isn’t a “succession” effort, only a move to align the rural parts of Oregon with a government that best speaks for them.

He said the group has spoken to Idaho legislators who are in favor of the effort, but there hasn’t been a lot of conversation with Oregon’s legislation which is currently in session. Ems said he’s working on speaking with legislators in Oregon once the session is over to get the ball rolling.

McCarter said Oregon’s legislature start paying attention to their cause now that seven counties have already voted in favor of the effort.

“It does send a voice up the line and so our goal there is to get more counties to speak on how they feel about it,” he said.

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