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Mayor Sylvester Turner donates $ 19 million to the people of Houston.

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Houston — A second assistance program is going to be available for Houston renters who are struggling to keep up with their payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a $19 million rental assistance program with $15 million coming from the city’s CARES Act funding and $4 million coming from private donations which were raised in the last 36 hours.

Houston Endowment Inc. donated $2 million while the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund and the Kinder Foundation donated $1 million each.

Turner said they hope to grow the fund to $20-25 million by next week. City Council has to first approve the plan next Wednesday.

The announcement comes the same day millions of Americans are losing their extra $600 weekly unemployment benefit from the CARES Act.

The money will help renters that don’t qualify for federal relief dollars and cover legal assistance.

Baker Ripley will once again administer the program.

The mayor said this will help thousands more families on top of the 13,000 helped during their first rental relief program in May.

The funding will not be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.

He added they’ve learned lessons since then.

“Not first-come, first-serve,” Turner said. “Want to design metrics for those who need it the most. Restricted last time because it was just federal dollars. Now we’re combining with non-federal dollars.”

The mayor explained they are trying to design metrics that will help those in most need, especially residents who face immediate eviction.

If you have a lease, you qualify for this second relief program. Some of the funding will be set aside for people who didn’t quality for help from the CARES Act.

Undocumented immigrants will also be eligible for relief under this second program.

The program also provides funding for Lone Star Legal Aid to help renters.

“We want to keep people in their homes,” Turner said.

The mayor is asking justices of the peace to be thoughtful in this time when it comes to eviction notices.

The Houston Apartment Association is also working on developing a voluntary grace period to help renters.

urner also pleaded Friday afternoon with the state and federal governments to help the city.

“We won’t meet every need but we’ll do our part,” Turner said. “Congress, if you’re listening, Mr. President, if you’re listening, people need your help and they need your help now.”

The first program was provided in May. The $15 million meant to help Houstonians pay rent was gone in less than 90 minutes.

READ: Fort Bend residents in need of help can now apply for Phase 2 of rental, mortgage relief program

“If we had kept it open there would have been thousands more who would have applied, we had to cut it off because there was no money there,” Turner said at the time.

At the time, the City of Houston Housing Department acknowledged the funding was nowhere near enough to meet the need of all Houstonians.

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Priests and monks abducted in Haiti have been released

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HAITI – The remaining Catholic clergy who were kidnapped in Haiti earlier in April have been released, a missionary group said Friday.

The Society of Priests of Saint Jacques said the clergy were freed but did not say if a ransom had been paid.

A total of 10 people were abducted in Croix-des-Bouquets, a town northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, on April 11, including the seven clergy — three of whom have already been released.

The clergy members were a group of four priests and a nun from Haiti, as well as one priest and one nun from France. The three non-clergy were members of the family of a Haitian priest, who was not among those kidnapped.

“Our hearts are filled with joy because we have found our colleagues, the sisters and the family members of Father Jean Anel Joseph in good health,” the missionary society said in a statement, without specifying whether a ransom has been paid.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is plagued by insecurity and natural disasters.

Kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months in Port-au-Prince and other provinces, reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.

Haiti’s government resigned and a new prime minister was appointed in the wake of the kidnappings, a move President Jovenel Moise said “will make it possible to address the glaring problem of insecurity and continue discussions with a view to reaching the consensus necessary for the political and institutional stability of our country.”

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New Jersey Government with the announced  give free beer to Covid vaccine recipients

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced a new bid to boost coronavirus vaccinations: Receive your first dose in May and get a free beer.

“We’re not going to be afraid to try new things,” Murphy said as he unveiled the new program, dubbed “Shot and a Beer,” at a press briefing.

Thirteen New Jersey-based breweries are participating in the program — which is only available to state residents ages 21 years and older, Murphy specified.

Those New Jerseyans will have to show their vaccine cards as proof before receiving their reward, the Democratic governor said.

The breweries themselves are footing the bill for the free drinks, said Murphy, who suggested more beer-makers could soon be added to the list.

The breweries currently participating are: Battle River Brewing, Bradley Beer Project, Bolero Snort Brewing Company, Brix City Brewing Company, Carton Brewing Company, Flounder Brewing Company, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Gaslight Brewery and Restaurant, Hackensack Brewing Company, Kane Brewing Company, Little Dog Brewing Company, Magnify Brewing Company and River Horse Brewing Company.

The program came from the New Jersey Department of Health in partnership with the Brewer’s Guild of New Jersey.

The Garden State is hardly the first to propose an outside-the-box incentive for people to get vaccinated.

West Virginia’s Republican Gov. Jim Justice last week announced an initiative to give $100 savings bonds to younger state residents who get vaccinated.

Connecticut is offering its own alcoholic incentive with its “Drinks On Us” campaign: Residents who get fully vaccinated and show their vaccine cards at certain restaurants will score a free drink between May 19 and May 31.

Incentive or no, vaccine rates are rising. More than 29% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University, and cases and deaths from Covid are on the decline.

But a significant number of Americans say they are not willing to get vaccinated. A Monmouth University poll published in mid-April found that about 1-in-5 Americans say they won’t get the shot.

That’s prompting health officials and leaders at every level of government to urge more people to seek out and receive their vaccinations.

The “Shot and a Beer” campaign is just one piece of New Jersey’s broader slate of programs aimed at returning the state to a more normal summer as the fight against the pandemic continues.

Murphy announced the free-beer plan after detailing the “Grateful for the Shot” initiative, which makes it possible for congregants to go from religious services directly to vaccination sites.

It’s “perhaps at the other end of the spectrum” of incentives, Murphy said.

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