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People walk through a snowstorm Monday in downtown Jackson, Mich.

Coos Bay to receive $2 million grant for sidewalks in Eastside

COOS BAY — Coos Bay is receiving a $2 million grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to Schools program to install sidewalks leading up to schools in Eastside.

“I think it’s awesome that the city received that grant," said Bryan Trendell, Coos Bay School District superintendent. "It’s going to improve the Eastside area, but it’s also going to improve access to the new school and the renovated Millicoma school."

Sidewalks will be installed on the north and southbound areas of 6th Avenue from the Isthmus Slough Bridge to D Street, then on the westbound side of D Street to Second Avenue, and finally up the northbound side of Second up to Millicoma Intermediate School.

It is important to note that these sidewalk improvements will also benefit the new Eastside Elementary School, which will begin construction this spring. Funding for the new school comes from the Coos Bay School District’s approved $59.9 million BEST Bond.

Throughout the grant writing process, the Coos Bay School District provided the City of Coos Bay with information on how many students would be attending school once the new school was completed. Approximately 900 students will be going to school in Eastside once the new elementary is finished.

Along these new sidewalks, there are plans for rapid flashing beacons at crosswalks, access ramps, and bike lanes.

“The area has needed some sidewalks for quite some time and the ability to use that grant money to build quality sidewalks and bike lanes all the way from Isthmus Bridge to the new schools is going to be huge," Trendell said. "It’s a win-win for the school, for the city, and particularly the Eastside neighborhood."

The city received the maximum amount one applicant can receive from ODOT, which involved a very competitive grant process.

The recommended funding criteria posted by ODOT is that the project has a plan already assessed when applying, a visible need for safety improvements, that sidewalks would support an elementary or middle school, and that the school have a Title 1 designation.

Applications went through a thorough review process, including analysis by the Safe Routes to School Advisory Committee. Ultimately, 24 applicants and outlined 24 projects were funded, which translates into more than $15 million toward safer ways for students to get to and from schools.

US presses Maduro exit with oil sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration imposed sanctions Monday on the state-owned oil company of Venezuela, a potentially critical economic move aimed at increasing pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the opposition in the South American nation.

Maduro's increasingly isolated government would lose access to one of its most important sources of income and foreign currency along with around $7 billion in assets of Petroleos De Venezuela S.A. under the sanctions announced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and national security adviser John Bolton.

Meanwhile, More than 700 of Maduro's opponents have been arrested during the latest push by Venezuela's opposition to oust the socialist leader.

But there's one anti-government activist security forces notably haven't touched: Juan Guaido, the lawmaker who declared himself interim president in a direct challenge to Maduro's rule.

Maduro's refusal, at least so far, to order Guaido's arrest reflects mistrust in his own security forces as well as the Trump administration's warning that any harm to the man the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela's legitimate leader would be crossing a dangerous red line.

The U.S. administration reiterated that threat Monday in announcing the sanctions.

Any actions taken against U.S. diplomats, Guaido or the National Assembly he presides over would be considered a "grave assault" that "will be met with a significant response," Bolton said.

While he didn't specify what actions the U.S. might take, he reaffirmed that all options for dealing with Venezuela's crisis remain on the table, including use of the military.

"They won't dare touch Guaido," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "There's a new dynamic at play. Even while Maduro's government continues to brutally repress the poor and invisible, they won't harm Guaido because he has so much international support."

Maduro's government on several occasions threatened to arrest the 35-year-old Guaido, accusing him of violating the constitution and acting as a "puppet" of a U.S. coup attempt.

But every day that Guaido is allowed to move freely around Caracas, holding rallies and building a parallel government complete with foreign ambassadors and a presidential-looking office from which he delivers videotaped messages, he looks statelier and undermines Maduro's authority in the eyes of ordinary Venezuelans, Vivanco said.

The U.S. sanctions follow the unusual decision by the U.S. and other nations last week to recognize Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela instead of Maduro, who was re-elected last year in an election widely seen as fraudulent. The once prosperous nation has been in an economic collapse, with several million citizens fleeing to neighboring countries.

"We have continued to expose the corruption of Maduro and his cronies, and today's action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people," Bolton said.

Bolton said he expects Monday's actions against PDVSA — the acronym for the state-owned oil company — will result in more than $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that the new sanctions do not target the people of Venezuela and will not affect humanitarian assistance, including medicine and medical devices that are "desperately needed after years of economic destruction under Maduro's rule."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a vocal critic of Maduro who has called for such sanctions, welcomed the move even before it was announced.

"The Maduro crime family has used PDVSA to buy and keep the support of many military leaders," Rubio said. "The oil belongs to the Venezuelan people, and therefore the money PDVSA earns from its export will now be returned to the people through their legitimate constitutional government."

The sanctions will not likely affect consumer prices at the gas pump but will hit oil refiners, particularly those on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Venezuelan oil exports to the U.S. have declined steadily over the years, falling particularly sharply over the past decade as its production plummeted amid its long economic and political crisis. The U.S. imported less than 500,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan crude and petroleum products in 2017, down from more than 1.2 million barrels a day in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Still, Venezuela has consistently been the third- or fourth-largest supplier of crude oil to the United States, and any disruption of imports could be costly for refiners. In 2017, the most recent year that data were available, Venezuela accounted for about 6 percent of U.S. crude imports.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden pushes for Oregon's craft beverage recovery after shutdown

SOUTH COAST — U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is pushing for Oregon’s craft brewers, which guarantees new jobs, to get help after taking a hit during the 35-day partial government shutdown.

According to a press release, both Wyden and U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer pressed federal regulators to “turn their attention immediately to processing applications from Oregon’s craft brewers, vintners, cider makers, and distillers” on Monday, Jan. 28.

In a joint letter to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, both pointed to the now-ended government shutdown for why the TTB halted its processing of important applications. This halt created a backlog “for these job-creating businesses,” the release said.

“This regulatory paralysis disproportionately disadvantages small, craft brewers, vintners, cider makers, and distillers, who depend on new product releases for their businesses’ survival,” wrote Wyden and Blumenauer together to TTB Administrator John Manfreda, cited in the release. “In addition to the almost certain loss of money and inventory, coupled with cash flow disruptions, the craft beverage producers in our state have expressed concern over longer-lasting impacts.”

In addition to this, Wyden and Blumenauer pointed out that those impacts include “critical space on store shelves and in taprooms, and the potential inability to fulfill contracts, which may hurt their businesses for years to come,” they wrote in the letter.

The release noted that Wyden is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, while Blumenauer is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, and that both of which have oversight responsibility of the TTB.

Not only that, but both stated in the letter that their work in recent years to “streamline and accelerate TTB approval processes has meant the vast majority of formula and label applications before the shutdown were approved in less than 10 days, with processing times for labels dropping to as little as two days,” the release said.

“Modernizing TTB’s regulatory infrastructure has transformed the craft beverage industry, and has helped to fuel the continued growth of the sector,” they wrote. “Rather than rotating beers seasonally, many brewers today release new beers weekly or monthly; and retailers and consumers have come to expect regular releases of new products. If craft beverage producers are unable to meet consumers’ expectations or fulfill contracts because of the TTB shutdown backlog, the consequences to these businesses may be disastrous.”


U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Oregon prepares for next federal government shutdown

SALEM (AP) — Anticipating possible additional federal government shutdowns, Oregon's Senate president has prepared a bill that will allow federal employees who are working but not being paid to receive unemployment benefits, an aide said Monday.

Lisa Taylor, spokeswoman for Senate President Peter Courtney, said the bill that would alter state statutes is expected to get its first reading in the Senate Tuesday.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, told reporters she hopes the bill gets bipartisan support, and that it passes before the agreement by President Donald Trump to end the shutdown expires on Feb. 15.

"We're attempting to put things in place in case there is another shutdown," Kotek said.

Another problem looms if the shutdown resumes, possibly affecting hundreds of thousands of Oregonians.

Some 600,000 receive federal food stamps, known as SNAP benefits, at a cost of $80 million per month, and they would be at risk for March going forward, Kotek said. In addition, federal housing subsidies to Oregonians total $1 million per day.

"If we were on the hook to figure out what to do for the month of March, that's about $100 million for the state that we might not get back from the federal government," Kotek said.

Courtney's draft bill says people can be deemed unemployed — and consequently can file for unemployment insurance — if the employer "is legally compelling the individual to perform the service" but is not paying that person. Almost 10,000 federal employees in Oregon weren't getting paid because of the shutdown, Taylor said.

The bill also would allow a state-funded program to pay unemployment benefits to active duty U.S. Coast Guard personnel in the state who are legally compelled to provide regular service without compensation during a shutdown.

Funding for the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, had not been approved before the longest-ever federal government shutdown began on Dec. 22. It temporarily ended on Friday, with Trump sticking to his $5.7 billion demand for Congress to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Many Coast Guard families in communities like Astoria, where a unit is based where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, relied on donated food and other supplies. There was a ripple effect on stores and services that were not getting their business.

The Coast Guard was specifically mentioned in Courtney's bill because, normally, in order for its personnel to receive unemployment, they have to be discharged, Taylor said. The bill, if passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Kate Brown, will allow benefits to go to Coast Guard personnel who are not discharged but not receiving pay.

Last Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced his state will offer unemployment benefits to federal employees who are required to be on the job without pay during the partial federal government shutdown. Washington was joining states like California, Colorado, New Mexico and Vermont in offering such relief to federal employees, Inslee said.