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Trump halts COVID-19 relief talks until after election

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Tuesday called an abrupt end to negotiations with Democrats over additional COVID-19 relief, delaying action until after the election.

Trump tweeted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was “not negotiating in good faith” and said he asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to direct his focus before the election into confirming his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” the president tweeted.

Trump’s move came after he spoke with top GOP leaders in Congress, who had been warily watching talks between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi. Many Senate Republicans had signaled they wouldn’t be willing to go along with any stimulus legislation that topped $1 trillion, and GOP aides had been privately dismissive of the prospects for a deal.

The White House said last week it was backing a $400-per-week pandemic jobless benefit and dangled the possibility of a COVID-19 relief bill of $1.6 trillion, but Pelosi rejected that offer.

Trump broke off talks after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned earlier Tuesday that the economic recovery remains fragile seven months into the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump cited Pelosi’s demands for state and local governments as a key reason for pulling out of the talks. Pelosi and Mnuchin were far apart on that issue – with Trump offering $250 billion while Pelosi was holding out for more than $400 billion.

Pelosi was also asking for a higher weekly jobless benefit and refundable tax credits for the working poor, among other provisions.

The negotiations started in July and were on pause for weeks before recently reheating.

Pelosi wanted an aid package exceeding $2 trillion – roughly the cost of the landmark CARES Act in March. Trump said Pelosi’s offer was $2.4 trillion.

Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, pushed back against any notion that breaking off negotiations could hurt the president at the ballot box.

“Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and congressional Democrats have not been honest brokers,” Murtaugh said. “They would rather have a political issue to help Joe Biden than act to help Americans. It’s despicable.”

McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill he supported Trump’s decision.

“Well, I think his view was that they were not going to produce a result and we need to concentrate on what’s achievable,” McConnell said about the president.

Bill Ballance Jr. of Ballance Farms in Oakland unloads a full bin of dry field corn from his combine into a grain cart driven by Alex Trejo on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Dry field corn is harvested at the Ballance Farms in Oakland on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. According to Bill Ballance Jr., the farm will have produced over 800 acres of corn, 1,600 acres of soybeans and 500 acres of wheat this harvest season. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Alex Trejo drives a grain cart to the Ballance Farms grain bins while the Oakland farm harvests over 35 acres of dry field corn on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Counselor offers FAFSA advice for lost income amid pandemic

This time of year, John Bergman typically tours high schools as an outreach counselor with the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, supporting students as they apply for college aid. But like so many other things in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic is shaking that up.

“Some schools are having me come in, some schools are not,” said Bergman, who’s planning a mix of in-person and virtual sessions at local high schools this month.

When it comes to applying for help paying for college through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, there are no major changes this year, Bergman said.

An on-file FAFSA form remains key to qualify for federal, state and institutional aid, including grants, loans and finding a job on campus, Bergman said.

“We just always suggest that if you plan on going to college we strongly suggest filling it out because you never know what you might be eligible for,” he said.

Aspiring college students should apply as soon as possible, Bergman said. Based on the student, potentially thousands of dollars in state and federal aid are on the line, and aid offers can dry up as the 2020-21 school year progresses.

Aid through the country’s federal, need-based Pell grant program has risen to an individual maximum of $6,345 this school year, Bergman said.

And even if a student qualifies but doesn’t receive that full amount, they can receive money through a state College Access Program, or Kentucky CAP grant.

A student planning to attend a community college, for example, could receive $2,000 under that program, provided funding is still available. That benefit can potentially rise to $2,200 for students attending public and private four-year schools.

Additionally, students attending certified private schools in Kentucky can qualify for the Kentucky Tuition Grant, which totals up to $2,960.

Student loan interest rates are also low given the pandemic, Bergman said.

“The interest rates for a direct loan … right now it’s at a 2.75 percent” rate, Bergman said.

The FAFSA continues to use a household’s previous year’s income, a potential complication given that millions of Americans have lost jobs and income this year amid the pandemic.

In that case, Bergman recommends applicants contact their target university’s financial aid office to pursue a professional judgment of aid eligibility based on income.

“Say that a family made a $100,000 in 2019. One of their parents lost their job in 2020 due to COVID. Now the family, say, is making about $30,000. A professional judgment could be made based off that because of the fact that that is a huge difference in income,” Bergman said, adding that the judgment is based on what the institution is willing to offer case by case.

When applying for college aid, Bergman recommends students use a personal email address – not the one through their school – and employ the FAFSA’s built-in IRS Data Retrieval Tool to save time.

Bergman also suggests applying with a mobile phone number, an FSA ID to act as their signature, their Social Security number or Alien Registration number if they are a resident and not a U.S. citizen.

Applicants should also have their 2019 tax returns, W-2s and other income records on hand, along with their parents’ dates of birth, Social Security numbers and other key information.

The following are local FAFSA workshop dates:

  • Oct. 13: Warren East High School, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 16: South Warren High School, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (virtual).
  • Oct. 21: Warren Central High School, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (virtual).
  • Oct. 22: Greenwood High School, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 23: Bowling Green High School, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Oct. 29: Warren East High School, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 30: Bowli
  • ng Green High School, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

More homes planned for Morehead Road area

Hoping to meet a housing need in Warren County, Bowling Green homebuilder Barrett Hammer and his Southside Development limited liability corporation are planning to put a 215-lot subdivision on 48 acres along Morehead Road in the southern end of the county.

Hammer and the property owner, the Mary Louise Smith Family Limited Partnership No. 1, were recommended for approval last week by the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County for rezoning the 48-acre tract from agriculture to single-family residential.

The proposal, which passed on a 9-2 vote after a number of residents along Morehead Road joined the online meeting to express their opposition, will go to Warren Fiscal Court for final approval.

The development calls for a maximum of 215 homes that will have at least 1,200 square feet of living space and two-car garages. It will connect to the 42-lot McLellan Crossings subdivision that Hammer is developing and is described in the rezoning application as an extension of that development.

With homes in the development expected to sell for prices in the $200,000 range, it has the potential to meet a growing need in a Warren County housing market that has continued to be active even during the economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Realtor Association of Southern Kentucky, in fact, reported near-record residential sales volumes in June and July. Those sales volumes have shrunken the available home inventory.

“Generally speaking, any and all residential builds would be welcome to our market,” RASK CEO Jim DeMaio said in an email. “Our market has set a new record for lowest inventory in residential units for sale, every month, this summer and early fall. There is tremendous need for more options for buyers, as there is great demand for more residential properties for sale. Our local market is currently at the lowest inventory we’ve seen.”

The development by Hammer might be a great fit for the current housing market, but it wasn’t welcomed by all residents along Morehead Road.

Several joined the online meeting to speak against a development they see as adding to the congestion along a road that has become busier as the southern end of the county has experienced explosive growth.

Amy Willingham, who lives on Morehead Road, said the homes proposed for the development are compatible with the nearby Greystone subdivision but not with homes along Morehead Road.

“This is a desirable area,” Willingham said. “I’m appalled that we’re not talking about a traffic light at the end of this road. I’m completely opposed to this.”

Willingham was referring to the waiving of a Traffic Impact Study by the Warren County Public Works Department. In lieu of such a study, the developer agreed to install right-turn deceleration lanes at the two access points on Morehead Road into the development and to widen the intersection of Morehead Road and Nashville Road to create dedicated left- and right-turn lanes.

“A turn lane from Morehead Road to Nashville Road won’t help without a traffic light,” said Joe Upchurch, who lives on Cleveland Drive, a connector to Morehead Road.

Kevin Brooks, the attorney representing the developer, responded: “The applicant would be delighted if the state had asked for a traffic light at Nashville Road. They didn’t, so we’ve done all we can do.”

Another Cleveland Drive resident, Emily Graham, believes the turn lanes won’t be enough.

“There’s already a lot of heavy traffic on that road,” Graham said. “People use it as a cut-through from Nashville Road to Russellville Road. Adding more cars is going to create more problems.”

The commission voted 9-2 to approve the rezoning. Only Plum Springs representative Sandy Clark and Smiths Grove representative Debbie Richey voted against the application.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

Homecoming Chili & Cheese lunch set for Thursday

Junior Achievement of South Central Kentucky’s Chili & Cheese Homecoming luncheon will look a bit different from previous years’ events, but it will still take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Montana Grille.

Instead of a pep rally where Western Kentucky University fans usually gather, JA is allowing community members to place to-go orders at the restaurant for pickup during the event’s time frame.

“We are very aware of our limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to respect those limitations so that we can have a safe luncheon this year for anyone participating,” JA Brand Experience Coordinator Emily Harlan said. “Montana Grille has fostered a very safe environment so we feel great working with them this year.”

JA wants people attending the luncheon to pre-order tickets so the lunches can be ready when they arrive. Tickets can purchased on the WKU Alumni Association website.

A $6 ticket buys one bowl of Wendy’s chili, one grilled cheese sandwich, dessert and a soft drink.

After purchasing tickets and reserving a pickup time, luncheon participants can park at Montana Grille and come inside.

Masks are required for pickup.

Once inside, you will need to confirm your pickup, and a volunteer will get your order for you.

The place of business that buys the most lunch tickets will win a free catered lunch by Wendy’s of Bowling Green for the entire office.

All proceeds from the luncheon will go toward funding K-12 student programs in Warren and surrounding counties.

Harlan said the event has been well-attended and supported in recent years, and event organizers hope for another strong turnout.

“This pandemic has shown how important it is to be prepared,” Harlan said. “This program is more important than ever as we try to foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literary skills.”

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

FILE - This June 1, 2012 file photo shows guitarist Eddie Van Halen of the band Van Halen performing in Los Angeles. Van Halen, who had battled cancer, died Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. He was 65. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, file)

Bill Ballance Jr. of Ballance Farms in Oakland harvests over 35 acres of dry field corn in a combine on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. According to Ballance, the farm will have produced over 800 acres of corn, 1,600 acres of soybeans and 500 acres of wheat this harvest season. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)