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Arizona governor signs stripped-down $11.8 billion budget

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a stripped-down emergency state budget that contains $50 million in spending to help tenants, homeowners and small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis. The $11.8 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1 essentially contains no other new spending beyond required inflation adjustments and raises for teachers. It passed the state Senate last week and the House on Monday. The $50 million of virus-related funding includes money to prevent evictions and foreclosures, provide homeless services, assist small businesses and pay for food bank operations. It also includes longer welfare payments and a waiver from work requirements.


Tribes say persistent efforts pay off in massive stimulus

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Tribes say their persistent efforts to be included in a massive stimulus bill to respond to the new coronavirus have paid off. Tribes have been lobbying Congress to help address shortfalls in an already underfunded health care system that serves Native Americans. They secured $10 billion in the bill that President Donald Trump signed Friday. Most of it is set aside as a relief fund that will be distributed based on need. More than $1 billion will go to the federal agency that provides primary health care for more than 2 million Native Americans. The Navajo Nation in the U.S. Southwest has been hardest hit by the virus with more than 90 confirmed cases.


Flagstaff mayor closes salons, says complaint unmerited

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The mayor of Flagstaff says her decision to close nail salons and beauty parlors is not barred by the governor's order blocking cities from expanding his list of businesses that can't be shuttered to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Mayor Coral Evans said Friday that Gov. Doug Ducey's office has not provided a detailed list of “personal hygiene” businesses covered by his order issued Monday. Evans said her review of the order and state law showed she could order salons to close to save lives. Republican Rep. Vince Leach has threatened to ask the attorney general to investigate the legality of Evans' order. The state on Saturday reported 15 deaths from the coronavirus.


What's essential? In France: pastry, wine. In US: golf, guns

The coronavirus pandemic is defining for the globe what's essential and what things we really can't do without, even though we might not need them for survival. Attempting to slow the spread of the virus, authorities in many places are determining what shops and services can remain open. They're also restricting citizens from leaving their homes. Whether it's Asia, Europe, Africa or the United States, there's general agreement on what's essential: Health care workers, law enforcement, utility workers, food production and communications are generally exempt from lockdowns. But some activities reflect a national identity, or the efforts of lobbyists.


Texts, not door-knocks: Census outreach shifts amid virus

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The coronavirus has waylaid efforts to get as many people as possible to take part in the census. The outbreak and subsequent orders by states and cities to stay home and avoid other people came just as the census ramped up for most Americans two weeks ago. Nonprofits and civic organizations leading census outreach efforts are now pivoting from in-person activities to digital strategies. Texting campaigns and social media are replacing knocking on doors and rallies. The coronavirus has pushed back the deadline to wrap up the once-a-decade count, which determines how much federal money goes to communities.


Arizona forest proposes using fire as tool for restoration

FREDONIA, Ariz. (AP) — Forest officials in northern Arizona have plans to use prescribed fire to help with restoration efforts in an area north of Grand Canyon National Park. The Kaibab National Forest is seeking public comments on a proposed vegetation management project that would span more than 43 square miles. Managers are calling for using prescribed fire and managed wildfires in combination with mechanical thinning to treat the area. Officials say the goal is to make the forest more resilient by creating conditions better able to withstand the effects of climate change and severe wildfire.


Arizona governor OKs bill giving closed schools flexibility

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation that will give the state's K-12 schools added flexibility to deal with shutdowns caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The measure signed by the Republican governor Friday relaxes rules requiring a minimum number of school days and mandatory testing. Schools are required to switch to online-only instruction or other alternatives after the end of the month and teachers and support staff can work remotely and won't lose pay. A series of other requirements are waived, as are penalties for not meeting school letter grade requirements.


Prostitution camp provided women in human smuggling case

PHOENIX (AP) — A co-defendant in a human smuggling operation told police that a prostitution camp in the Marshall Islands provided many of the pregnant women involved in former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen's allegedly illegal adoption business. The Arizona Capitol Times reported that co-defendant Lynwood Jennet told police that majority of the women were from a prostitution camp. Authorities say Jennet is accused of serving as his fixer in the Marshall Islands. Petersen has pleaded not guilty to the charges in Arizona. His lawyer Kurt Altman told The Associated Press that any implication that Petersen knew of or was involved in a prostitution camp is absurd.