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‘Meth gators?’ Tennessee police warn against flushing drugs down toilet

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LORETTO, Tenn. – Police in Tennessee are cautioning against flushing drugs down the toilet out of concern for the animals in local waterways.

The warning comes from a Loretto Police Department Facebook post where officers say they found a suspect trying to flush meth and several items of paraphernalia.

Police arrested the man.

“On a more or less serious note: Folks…please don’t flush your drugs m’kay,” police wrote.

They said flushed drugs end up in retention ponds for processing before going downstream.

“Now our sewer guys take great pride in releasing water that is cleaner than what is in the creek, but they are not really prepared for meth. Ducks, Geese, and other fowl frequent our treatment ponds and we shudder to think what one all hyped up on meth would do,” the Facebook post says.

Police say “meth-gators” could be created in Tennessee and Alabama if the meth made it far enough downriver.

“They’ve had enough methed up animals the past few weeks without our help,” the Facebook post says.

Police say they will properly dispose of drugs if called.

A $15 minimum wage started as a slogan. This week, it’s set to pass the House

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(CNN) — Nearly seven years ago, a week after Black Friday, a few dozen workers walked off their New York City fast food jobs to demonstrate for higher pay. The median wage for fast food workers was $9 an hour, CNN reported at the time. The demand that would soon emerge as the movement’s rallying cry — $15 and a union — seemed hopelessly ambitious, like a wild-eyed opening bid.

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on the Raise the Wage Act, which would make $15 an hour a reality for nearly all American workers by 2024, up from the current national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. And it’s expected to pass.

Although the bill still has to make it through the Republican-led Senate and past the President’s desk — a near-impossibility, at least in its current form — the House vote sets the stage for a final victory if Democrats win back the Senate and White House in 2020. That would break the longest period America has gone without raising the minimum wage since it was originally instituted, back in 1938.

The path from then to now has been a remarkable journey. The first place to adopt a $15 minimum wage, in 2013, was the tiny town of SeaTac, which is almost entirely taken up by the airport that serves Seattle and Tacoma. Then came Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, all of California and New York State. Conservative states like Arkansas and Missouri started raising their minimum wages through ballot initiatives. Big companies like McDonald’s and Walmart started inching their way up as well, and Amazon adopted a $15 minimum last year.

“It created this snowball,” says Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which helped organize the Fight for $15 movement behind the scenes. “And then employers started raising the wage — all these people we didn’t expect. It became natural to think about, why not try to do it at the federal level?”

The other reason raising the wage nationwide became important: Blue cities in red states that set local minimum wages, like Birmingham and St. Louis, were knocked back down by their conservative state legislatures. Other cities in places like Texas and Virginia never even tried, because their state laws already pre-empted localities from acting on their own.

Those are the places where a $15 minimum wage could make the most difference in peoples’ lives, because so many workers there currently make less than that. For the same reason, they’re also the places that face the highest risk of job loss as a result, because businesses will have to spend more to comply.

Will it cost jobs, and does it matter?

The fight over the effects of raising the minimum wage goes back to the 1990s, when economists Alan Krueger and David Card published trailblazing work casting doubt on the canonical understanding that artificial wage floors kill jobs. The most recent research, which now has a large number of minimum wage increases to draw from, generally finds little to no job loss following minimum wage increases — and that that they may actually create more jobs by bringing people into the labor force.

But most of those increases have been in relatively hot job markets, where — at least in the past few years — employers have no choice but to cough up to stay fully staffed, even if it means raising prices. That could be a different story in places with weaker local economies, where businesses are operating on thinner margins and don’t have as much room to charge more.

The debate reached its apogee last week, when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published a study taking into account most of the latest research and projecting the effects of the Raise the Wage Act. (The legislation also indexes the minimum wage to inflation after 2024, and phases out the tip credit, which allows employers to pay as little as $2.13 per hour if employees make up the difference in tips.)

The verdict: By 2025, the legislation would raise the wages of 27 million people and lead to 1.3 million fewer jobs, or 0.8% of total employment. They arrived at that conclusion by averaging numbers that represent what other studies had found to be the employment “elasticity” — the sensitivity of jobs to changes in the minimum wage.

The CBO heavily emphasized the uncertainty around those estimates, but both sides immediately seized upon parts of the report as evidence to support their positions, while some criticized its methodology.

Arindrajit Dube, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said the CBO erred in equally weighting some of the older papers. He is among a group of authors to publish a study forthcoming in the prestigious Quarterly Journal of Economics that finds the elasticity is actually positive, and thinks that the CBO’s report overestimates how many jobs will be lost.

“What we had to do is reconcile a lot of the past literature,” says Dube, who provided input to the CBO on an earlier draft. “We specifically show what the problems are with some of those papers. What I see is peculiar choices that, in my opinion, are not justified that clearly affect the final outcome.”

Others saw the CBO study as an effective synthesis of a complicated literature, and cause for scaling back the bill to something more modest. Daniel Hamermesh, a distinguished scholar in economics at Barnard College who has also published papers on the minimum wage and reviewed CBO’s report ahead of time, called it “extremely good and extremely fair.” Because of the employment effects of the $15 option, he favors $12, which is projected to have only a mild impact.

“This is closer to religion than anything else,” Hamermesh said, of the two sides of the minimum wage debate.

Methodological quibbles aside, progressives argue that it’s important to focus on the overall welfare impacts of raising the minimum wage, as well as possible government responses to help anyone who may end up without a job because of it.

David Howell, a professor of economics and public policy at the New School, says that raising wages significantly for those at the bottom of the income distribution is more important than simply preserving low-paid employment.

Half of the projected 1.3 million lost jobs are those held by teenagers, he points out, many of whom could be employed through work-based learning programs that would provide a better on-ramp to a career. Everyone else, given the strong demand in America for workers in fields like nursing and construction, could be retrained for higher-paid work.

“The American problem isn’t quantity of jobs,” Howell says. “It’s quality of jobs.”

Both sides dig in

After several months of inter-party lobbying, the Democratic caucus seems to have come around to support the bill. Members of the moderate New Democrat Coalition were reassured by the addition of an amendment that would require a study of the effects of the bill a few years in, leaving room to make adjustments if more jobs have been lost than anticipated.

The bill now has 203 cosponsors, and National Employment Law Project government affairs director Judy Conti says she’s “very confident” the votes are there to pass it. Even Representative Terri Sewell, who had been trying to rally support for an alternative bill that would have tailored the minimum wage to local economic conditions, now says she’ll vote for the Raise the Wage Act.

But no Republicans have voiced support for it. The minority leadership of the House Education and Labor Committee sent a press release slamming the Democrats’ “radical and unprecedented mandate,” and that “one job lost is one too many.” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said recently he doesn’t think minimum wages are a good idea at all, raising doubts that Trump would sign it. And although the powerful US Chamber of Commerce has said it’s willing to meet in the middle on some higher minimum wage, $15 is out of the question.

“If the House proceeds and passes $15, that’s a dead letter, it’s going nowhere in the Senate, and any momentum for a compromise that could be enacted into law dies,” said Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s chief policy officer.

Bradley sent a letter to all House members last week outlining his willingness to support a number in the double-digit range. But he also requested labor law changes to help businesses absorb the increased costs, such as allowing after-hours electronic communications to not be counted for the purposes of overtime, and letting employers audit their own payrolls rather than having the Department of Labor do it.

To the charge that businesses already should be able to stomach higher wages, given the massive corporate income tax cut they received in 2017, Bradley responds: “We don’t believe that the government has a claim on everyone’s income and gets to return it when it sees fit.”

There may be room for compromise on the House side in order to get something through the Senate this session.

“If they have an interest in talking, we’ll obviously talk,” said Representative Bobby Scott, who, as chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, has pushed the bill forward. He’s coy, however, on how far he’s willing to go. “I’m not going to say I’ll accept this or that.”

Even if nothing passes before the 2020 election, the union that pushed $15 onto the national stage sees the debate as a way to galvanize support among voters. The aim is to elect a Democratic Congress that wouldn’t have to compromise at all — or persuade Republicans to change their minds.

“We want to use the Raise the Wage Act going to the Senate as a way to inject it into Republican-dominated states and districts,” said Henry, of the SEIU. “The fight we want to have is to convince them that the political price they would pay for voting against it is not worth it.”

Maxine Waters has a plan to ban Libra and other Big Tech cryptocurrencies

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(CNN) — New proposed legislation drafted by Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ staff could stop Facebook’s cryptocurrency ambitions.

The proposal, still just a discussion draft, is titled the “Keep Big Tech Out of Finance Act.” It details rules that would prohibit large internet platforms from becoming financial institutions or offering cryptocurrencies.

The draft will be a topic at a House Financial Services committee hearing on Wednesday about Facebook’s plan to launch a digital currency called Libra. Waters chairs that committee. The Senate Banking Committee will take up Libra on Tuesday.

The proposed legislation would affect more than Facebook. It would prohibit all large internet companies from affiliating with or becoming financial institutions — including domestic or foreign banks, credit unions, and depository institutions, among others. The prohibition would go into effect one year after the bill’s passage.

The draft bill was circulated by Waters’ committee staff. Waters has loudly opposed Facebook’s Libra since it was announced last month. Facebook says Libra will be a digital currency managed by an independent association in Switzerland that could speed up online payments and improve financial inclusion. Libra is expected to launch in early 2020.

The Libra announcement, and Facebook’s plans to offer a digital wallet and other financial services for Libra users, sparked worries that the company wants to become a bank without being regulated like one. President Donald Trump tweeted last week that Facebook would need to “seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks,” if it wants to offer financial services.

One major question concerning the project has been which US regulatory agency would oversee Libra. Its proposed governing body, the Libra Association, and related products from Facebook would also need federal oversight. The drafted bill lays out the various banking regulatory agencies that would be responsible for enforcing the legislation.

The proposed legislation would also bar Big Tech companies from developing cryptocurrencies. The bill would apply to any technology company with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more whose primary business is operating an online public marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties. That would apply to Facebook, Google, Amazon, and potentially Apple and Microsoft.

The bill would not ban digital currencies from existing financial institutions, such as the digital coin introduced by JP Morgan earlier this year.

Violators would be subject to a fine of “not more than” $1 million per day, according to the drafted bill.

The proposed legislation has not been formally introduced, and thus it does not yet have any sponsors. But Waters and other Committee Democrats have asked Facebook to place Libra’s development on hold to give to lawmakers the chance to consider regulatory action.”

The Facebook executive testifying at this week’s congressional hearings, David Marcus, said in his prepared remarks released Monday that Facebook will not launch Libra until it receives the proper regulatory approval. The company says it has met with regulators and will work with lawmakers on guidelines for Libra.

Firefighters throw a surprise party for a boy whose house burned down on his birthday

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(CNN) — Erick Hill was supposed to spend his 6th birthday celebrating at a cookout with family and friends. Instead, tragedy struck as a fire ripped through his Buffalo, New York home.

While everyone got out safely, Erick’s family lost almost everything, including all of his birthday presents.

Erick’s mother, Jamia Jones, was out buying balloons and decorations for the party when her cousin called alerting her to the fire. By the time she returned, the flames had gutted their home.

Knowing that Erick spent his birthday watching his house burn down, the local firefighters decided to make sure he had some happy memories of turning 6. They wasted little time throwing him the celebration that the fire took away.

Songs and gifts

Just two days later, they opened the doors of Engine 33 to surprise Erick with dozens of firefighters singing to him and trucks full of gifts.

When they found out that Erick’s favorite superhero is Batman, they made that a theme of the party and even welcomed the Caped Crusader along with some of his “super” friends.

Firefighter Brian Madison went above and beyond, building Erick a brand new custom toy box to keep his gifts. Madison put so much work into it that he was late to the party, waiting for the paint to dry.

The whole community came together for Erick. Buffalo’s Birthday Squad along with The Buffalo Peacemakers showed up to celebrate and bring gifts.

… and dance battles

Jones told CNN that Erick was shocked and a little overwhelmed at the surprise. With the party coming just two days after the fire, he was unsure whether he should be happy or sad. But as the party went on, Erick opened up and had plenty of fun. He even challenged some of the firefighters to dance battles.

“The fact that they took time out of their busy schedules shows that they love what they do,” Jones said.

John Otto, the vice president of Buffalo Fire Fighters Local 282, helped organize the party.

“if we can take his mind off the stress for an afternoon, then it was a job well done. Mission Accomplished,” he told CNN.

The Buffalo community is also helping Erick’s family get back on their feet. They are donating money through a Go Fund Me fundraiser.

 

Dog dropped off at shelter in cereal box, given new name of ‘Razz Berry’

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RIVERSIDE, Cali. – About 20 families were determined to adopt a small pooch with a sweet story.

‘Razz Berry’ as she is now named, was brought to the Riverside County animal shelter in a cereal box.

Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries to be exact.

The odd way she was transported quickly went viral on social media and captured the hearts of many. This weekend, “Razz Berry” got to go home with her new family.

We have seen some creative pet carriers in our days. This ⁦@RealCapnCrunch⁩ cereal box has to be one of the oddest ways a pet came to us as an over-the-counter dropoff. We handled all its fleas and now hope an owner arrives. #RivCoNOW pic.twitter.com/yr2CHczswB

— RivCO animalSERVICES (@helpinRIVcoPETS) July 10, 2019

The Sheets family (Hayden, Teresa & James) of Riverside picked the highest number in a “lottery” for Razz Berry, the pooch that came to us inside a ⁦@CapnCrunchBerry⁩ cereal box. Roughly 20 families came to our shelter in #JurupaValley this morn to adopt Razz. #RivCoNOW pic.twitter.com/wd13spfoBt

— RivCO animalSERVICES (@helpinRIVcoPETS) July 13, 2019

Video shows pendulum ride breaking at amusement park, killing 2 and injuring dozens more

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AHMEDABAD, India – A broken ride at an amusement park in India killed two people and injured more than two dozen, according to the Times of India.

The incident occurred Sunday evening at Ahmedabad’s Kankaria lakefront.

(WARNING: Graphic video below. Viewer discretion advised.)

#Ahmedabad video two dead more than fifteen injured as pendulum ride broke down at Kankaria Lakefront @MumbaiMirror pic.twitter.com/rLl3xYcu6Q

— Vinay Dalvi (@VinayMIRROR) July 15, 2019

Police are investigating how the ride was operated, maintained and inspected, the Times reported.

Central Indiana church wipes out $5 million in Hoosiers’ medical debt

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KOKOMO, IN (CNN) — A church in central Indiana is planning to help a lot of Hoosiers in need by wiping out millions of dollars in medical debt.

Fuel Church of Kokomo says they donated $20,000 to RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit organization that purchases medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgives those loans completely.

“We had some money allotted in our budget to do some renovations here at the church this summer and our board of directors agreed to take that and give it to help eliminate $5.2 million in medical debt for people in Howard County and Miami County,” said Jacob Burgei, pastor of Fuel Church. “My wife and I were in thousands of dollars in medical debt at one point in our lives. I’ve had two back surgeries and it impacted our lives, it impacted our marriage and our parenting and I know the stress that it brings.”

That donation will wipe out the medical debt for 3,400 Hoosiers, most of them Burgei says he will probably never meet.

“It’s random. We don’t pick whose debt gets eliminated,’ Burgei said. “It very well likely could be people within our church and it could probably be alot of people outside of our church. They may never walk through our church and we’re fine like that.”

He says it’s the church’s way of paying it forward.

“We just want them to know because of what Jesus did, paying our debt, your debt has been forgiven,” Burgei said.

This isn’t the first time an Indiana church has wiped out debt for Hoosiers. Last week, a southern Indiana church purchased $6.2 million of debt for four surrounding counties and wiped it clean.

The next Bond? Captain Marvel star to take over role after Daniel Craig’s departure, reports say

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With the James Bond movie franchise approaching the age of 60, there have long been rumors that producers will try to refresh the formula with a black Bond or a female Bond. It now appears that the next 007 will be both, TMZ reports.

According to the Daily Mail and other UK outlets, British actress Lashana Lynch, most recently seen as a fighter pilot in Captain Marvel, will play an agent named Nomi who inherits Bond’s old code name.

“There is a pivotal scene at the start of the film where M says ‘Come in 007,’ and in walks Lashana who is black, beautiful, and a woman,” one insider claims. “It’s a popcorn-dropping moment. Bond is still Bond but he’s been replaced as 007 by this stunning woman.”

Insiders say Daniel Craig’s James Bond is brought out of retirement in the new Bond movie—and makes an unsuccessful attempt to seduce the new 007.

GQ notes that Idris Elba was rumored to be in the running to replace Craig in the role, though there was plenty of pushback from Rush Limbaugh, among others.

The new Bond movie, known for now as Bond 25, is currently filming in London and is expected to be released in April 2020. Besides Craig, other actors believed to be reprising their roles include Ralph Fiennes as M and Christophe Waltz as villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Variety reports. (Read more James Bond stories.)

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Feds warn UFO enthusiasts against storming Area 51: The military ‘stands ready’

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They’ve got a plan to raid Area 51 and “see them aliens.” But what will happen if they actually do it?

Over one million people have signed up to a joke Facebook event, calling on users to meet at Area 51, the US Air Force base in Nevada that’s long been a source of alien conspiracy theories, in September.

“If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets,” the page says, referencing the Japanese manga-inspired running style with arms outstretched backwards and heads forward. “Let’s see them aliens.”

A pinned post on the page attempts to cover its bases, reading “Hello US government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan. I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the internet.” But as the event has gained traction — inspiring dozens of memes and jokes — the profile of the situation has risen, so much so that the US Air Force has been made aware of the potential impending raid.

And they’re not as lighthearted about the situation as folks on the internet are.

“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” a spokeswoman told The Washington Post. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

CNN has reached out to the Air Force and is waiting to hear back.

Area 51 has been a source of alien conspiracy theories for decades

Area 51 was officially acknowledged as an Air Force base in 2013, but has spurred conspiracy theories as an unidentified flying object and alien holding site for decades. In short, it’s thought that Area 51 holds all the government secrets about aliens — though the CIA has published documents confirming its use as a test base.

But it has since been confirmed that the US government has spent $22 million researching UFOs. Just last month a group of US senators were briefed on UFO encounters the US Navy has had, too.

Authorities identify Clinton, IA 12-year-old killed in off-roading crash

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Authorities have identified a 12-year-old boy who died after being thrown from an off-road vehicle in eastern Iowa.

The crash occurred Saturday afternoon outside Bellevue. Authorities say Gavin Milder was riding in a Chevrolet Suburban driven by a 15-year-old when the crash happened. Milder was ejected when the modified sport utility vehicle rolled, and he became pinned underneath it. Three other people in the SUV were not hurt.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office says the boy was a student at Clinton Middle School in Clinton.

The district will be hosting a vigil for Milder tonight at 6:00 p.m. at Clinton Middle School LRC. School counselors and therapy dogs will be available for those in need of emotional support.

Remnants of ‘Barry’ to break the heat for one day… Year’s hottest to follow

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Another scorcher of  a day it has turned out to be with temperatures approaching 90 for the fourth straight day, with enough humidity to make it feel well into the 90s. We’re still on track in breaking this heat wave for one day tomorrow before the hottest stretch of weather in 7 years bakes the area for the rest of the week and into the weekend.

High clouds of what is left of ‘Barry’ will slowly push in from the south as early as tonight and linger throughout our skies on Tuesday.  This will naturally trim down the heat with daytime highs in the mid to upper 80s.  Any showers we see will not only be isolated but light and mainly south and east of the Quad Cities.

The departure of this disturbance will quickly bring the highest heat of the season across the area. Highs in the low to mid 90s on Wednesday will be replaced with upper 90s… possibly reaching 100 heading heading into the weekend.  Heat index values could peak near 110!  Signs of a few storms on Sunday will eventually break the heat sending temperatures to more seasonal summer weather next week.

Chief meteorologist James Zahara

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Giant jellyfish the size of a human spotted by divers off English coast

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A giant jellyfish the size of a human has stunned a diver off the south-western coast of England.

The incredible creature — a barrel jellyfish — was spotted near Falmouth by broadcaster and biologist Lizzie Daly, who described the encounter as “breathtaking.”

“What an unforgettable experience,” she added. “I know barrel jellyfish get really big in size but I have never seen anything like it before!”

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” she said in a video of the meeting.

Daly, who was exploring the waters as part of her campaign “Wild Ocean Week,” added the jellyfish was a big as she is.

Barrel jellyfish are the largest species of jellyfish in British seas, but it is extremely rare to spot one of the size Daly did.

They typically grow up to one meter (3.2 feet) and weight up to 25 kilograms (55 lbs), according to The Wildlife Trusts. Barrel jellyfish are frequently washed up on the UK’s coastlines during the summer months.

Four kids steal parent’s car and run away on 600-mile road trip

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Four adventurous children aged between 10 and 14 packed a stolen family car with fishing rods and took off on an epic 600-mile road trip along the Australian coast, authorities have said.

One of the children left a goodbye note for their parents before leaving for the mammoth journey, which ended several hours later when police tracked down the parked car along a highway in New South Wales, authorities told CNN.

The kids likely shared driving responsibilities during the 930-kilometer (578-mile) trip from Rockhampton in Queensland to Grafton in New South Wales, police added, after taking a four-wheel-drive Nissan Patrol car belonging to one of their parents.

The runaways were taken into custody at 10:40 p.m. on Sunday evening (8:40 a.m. ET) and could now face charges.

“It’s a pretty big journey. It’s a long way for a person to do it, but I suppose a couple cans of Red Bull and you’re likely to do anything,” inspector Darren Williams told CNN affiliate Nine News.

Police triangulated a cell phone signal to find the vehicle, Williams said. “When we got there, they wouldn’t open up … they’ve come under notice because of illegal behavior, doing drive-offs at petrol stations,” he added.

Missing person appeals were made by police in Queensland after the children were reported missing.

The journey made by the youngsters usually takes more than 10 hours, hugging the eastern Australian coast line and crossing through the cities of Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Rock Island – Milan schools to continue free food program

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Kids and parents in the Rock Island – Milan school district will continue to enjoy free school meals for the upcoming school year.

In a release sent out by the district, school officials confirmed that all schools from elementary through senior high will be able to continue in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program and serve students free meals at no extra cost to them.

The district first entered this program in 2015 when the amount of students eligible for reduced-cost lunches, about 70% of the student body, allowed it to receive the CEP grant for the first time. The grant would last for four years, after which the school had to re-apply.

With the 2019-2020 school year approaching, the district was able to successfully renew the grant, with reduced-cost meal eligibility still above the program’s required 40%, and will keep all of its students fed without breaking their families’ banks.

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