Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of August 30, 2021.
The Delta rush. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially approved the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech for people ages 16 and older. It was previously available under emergency-use authorization only. The FDA has not approved the vaccine for people between the ages of 12 to 15, but this age group can still receive the two-shot vaccine under FDA emergency use authorization. Officials are hoping that FDA approval will clear the way for people who have previously resisted getting the vaccine to do so.
- The takeaway: FDA approval comes as the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, which is thought to be more contagious than earlier strains, continues to infect record numbers of people. Vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also have emergency use authorization from the FDA, but neither have received full approval. Moderna has filed for full approval with the FDA. Several states in the South, including Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, and South Carolina, have seen surges in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. In Kentucky, more people are hospitalized with Covid-19 than ever before. Florida, meanwhile, is experiencing its worst wave of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. During the week of August 25, 2021, Florida reported a record average of 227 daily Covid-19 deaths. Florida also recorded an average of 23,314 new cases during that week, more than its previous peak of Covid-19 cases in January 2021.
Budget bartering. The House of Representatives passed a version of the $3.5 trillion budget plan previously approved by the Senate. The budget framework includes funds for education, child care, healthcare, paid leave, climate change action, and other social programs. During the vote, the House also set a late September deadline to vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which would include funding for the nation’s power grid, initiatives aimed at fighting climate change, and the repair and replacement of public works projects. This deadline is a compromise between progressive and moderate Democrats, who’ve said that the two bills should be evaluated independently, and urged a vote on the infrastructure bill. Some progressive Democrats have argued that the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has already passed the Senate, doesn’t go far enough in areas like health care and climate change.
- The takeaway: This budget and infrastructure plans are cornerstones of Biden’s presidency so far. The proposed budget is far from the $6 trillion spending plan that Biden introduced in January 2021. Still, if the bill passes, it will be one of the biggest budget bills since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was a response to the Great Depression. Democrats hope to pass the budget through a process called reconciliation, which would allow them to pass the final version of the bill in the Senate with a simple majority. In order to pass in the Senate, the bill will need support from every Democrat and independent, as well as from tie-breaker voter, Vice President Harris.
A win for landlords. The Supreme Court ruled on August 27, 2021 that an extension on an eviction moratorium that began in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic covering renters in federally subsidized housing and for homeowners with federally-backed mortgages, was unconstitutional last week saying the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did not have the authority to extend the moratorium. The moratorium was designed to protect people from being evicted during the pandemic, and was last extended by the CDC. In its ruling, the Supreme Court said that an extension of the moratorium would require Congressional approval.
- The takeaway: With this ruling, landlords will now be able to begin evicting people who have been behind on payments. The Census Bureau has reported that one in six renters is behind on payments. As of August 2020, an estimated 30 to 40 million Americans were reportedly at risk of eviction. These consumers have been protected by the eviction moratorium, which began under the Trump administration. In their dissent, liberal-leaning judges said that the moratorium should be extended because of increasing Covid-19 cases and the Delta variant. The Biden Administration has urged Congress to pass legislation protecting people from evictions, but Democratic lawmakers reportedly lack the votes to do so. In response to the Court’s ruling, the Biden Administration called on city and state governments to enact their own protections for vulnerable renters and homeowners.
Settling the store’s score. Apple says it will settle a class-action lawsuit filed by U.S. app developers over how the company charges to use its App Store. As part of the settlement, Apple will allow developers to tell consumers about alternative payment options outside of Apple’s App Store, and users will have to consent to using the App Store, or opt-out. Additionally, Apple will uphold a program that lowers its commissions on small businesses for three years. Apple will also set up a $100 million fund for small developers in the U.S. The tech giant also committed to using objective criteria in its App Store search results, and increasing the number of price points for apps to 500, from 100. Apple will maintain its commission structure in the App Store, and its prohibition against using rival app stores or in-app payment mechanisms.
- The takeaway: Tech companies including Apple and Google have faced backlash from developers and from governments over practices that some have called anticompetitive, since consumers primarily use the App Store and the Google Play Store to make transactions. This class action lawsuit is a response to Apple’s decision to enforce its commission structure on app developers who want to use the App Store. Apple is also facing a lawsuit from Epic Games, the developer of the popular video game Fortnite.
Here’s what we covered in last week’s Scan:
- Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the company is developing a humanoid robot.
- China passed a big data privacy law.
- The Biden Administration canceled student debt held by severely disabled people.