Private business owners likely wish their employees could be paid by the government when they’re out of work. Dozens if not hundreds of Cumberland County’s “full-time and part-time employees who receive benefits are being paid,” said Assistant County Manager Sally Shutt. “No county employees have been furloughed.”
Shutt said the county has an Emergency Closure Leave policy. It prescribes that when an emergency closing of a county workplace occurs, such as the courthouse, schools and libraries, the county provides paid time off for employees. The policy governs the guidelines of closings that result from emergency declarations. Shutt also noted that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires the county to provide its employees with paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

Gas prices approach a modern low

Gas prices could still drop 15-35¢ per gallon in the weeks ahead. An OPEC deal to cut oil production will not have a near-term impact on prices, according to Gasbuddy.com. The most common gas price across the country stands at $1.79/gal. As of this writing, 14 states had gas prices at 99 cents a gallon. A Fayetteville gas station is in the top 10 in North Carolina, with the lowest prices at the pump. The Circle B station, at 802 Bragg Blvd., was selling regular unleaded gas at $1.21 a gallon, Gasbuddy reported. North Carolina prices would be even lower if not for the fact that our state has one of the highest gas excise taxes in the country.

Veterans Affairs is in more hot water

More than a million veterans will receive instructions from Veterans Affairs officials on how to determine if they are eligible for thousands of dollars in medical cost reimbursements as the result of a court decision last fall. Tens of thousands of veterans were turned down for financial relief for bills they received for nondepartmental emergency medical care. That move comes over VA objections concerning an ongoing lawsuit over the issue, which could add billions in new costs to the department’s budget. Last fall, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled that the department’s current regulation for veterans who seek nondepartment medical care violates federal law. The court ordered the VA to reexamine more than 72,000 rejected claims and update its rules. The case centers on veterans whose unpaid emergency room expenses were denied under existing policies. The plaintiffs both had part of their bills paid for by other insurance but were left with thousands of dollars in personal costs. VA officials argued in court that they did not need to handle the unpaid balances because the veterans were primarily covered under other insurance plans. The VA is considering appealing the ruling.

Fort Bragg soldiers are on COVID-19 deployment

Soldiers with Fort Bragg’s 82nd Sustainment Brigade are ready for deployment to assist communities battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The brigade’s 249th Composite Supply Company received “prepare to deploy” orders three weeks ago, according to Sgt. 1st Class Jaquetta Gooden, a brigade spokeswoman.
Gooden said the entire company of 162 paratroopers is prepared to join the fight against the virus, if needed. The unit is equipped with general supplies, fuel support, water purification and shower and laundry services. About 270 Fort Bragg soldiers have already deployed in support of operations at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. The 44th Medical Brigade troops are helping local officials move patients in and out of the Javits center’s temporary hospital facility, according to brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Fergus Joseph. The Army said Fort Bragg units are supporting local, state and federal operators under the joint leadership of U.S. Army North and the U.S. Northern Command.

Railroad grade crossings being repaired

CSX Corp. has informed the North Carolina Department of Transportation that it will temporarily close several railroad crossings in Cumberland, Robeson, Harnett and Johnston counties for track maintenance. The railroad began work in Robeson County last week. In a few weeks will move northward into Cumberland, Harnett and Johnston counties. A crossing closure typically lasts three to five days. Because of the scope of work and the use of several crews, it’s impossible to say in advance which railroad crossings will be closed. Drivers should use caution on roads near any railroad crossing and be prepared for a temporary closure. Detour signs will be posted.

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