Author

Laura Olson

Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Florida Phoenix. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.

States that borrowed from feds to cover unemployment comp checks are about to owe interest

By: - September 6, 2021

WASHINGTON — Ten states that struggled to pay the mounting costs of rising unemployment compensation claims during the COVID-19 pandemic will face yet another challenge starting Monday: interest accruing on federal loans they relied on to cover payments to the unemployed. Collectively, those states — which include Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — owe the federal […]

Feds launch civil rights investigations of 5 GOP-led states banning school mask mandates

By: - August 30, 2021

WASHINGTON — Federal education officials have launched civil rights investigations in five Republican-led states that have prohibited school districts from mandating mask-wearing, saying those policies could amount to illegal discrimination against students with disabilities. The Biden administration notified the education chiefs in Iowa, Tennessee, South Carolina, Utah and Oklahoma of the investigations through formal letters Monday. The new investigations will examine whether “students […]

U.S. Supreme Court rejection of eviction ban increases pressure to dole out rental aid money

By: - August 27, 2021

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the Biden administration’s last-ditch effort to extend a federal ban on evictions has put hundreds of thousands of American renters at risk of losing their housing — and is increasing pressure on states and localities to get rental assistance dollars distributed faster. In an eight-page majority opinion […]

House Democrats advance budget resolution, overcoming standoff on timing of infrastructure vote

By: - August 24, 2021

WASHINGTON — Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday muscled through a $3.5 trillion budget framework, overcoming a standoff with a handful of centrists who had demanded the House first approve the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate. That position by 10 House Democrats — including Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, […]

FDA grants full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot, now known as ‘Comirnaty’

By: - August 23, 2021

WASHINGTON — The United States has its first fully approved vaccine against COVID-19, with federal health officials announcing Monday the approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose vaccine. The green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move Pfizer’s vaccine from emergency use to full approval is a milestone in the national pandemic response, and one […]

Biden mandates vaccines in nursing homes, citing Medicare/Medicaid authority

By: - August 18, 2021

WASHINGTON — Nursing homes will be required to ensure their staffers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars, the Biden administration announced Wednesday in a major move on vaccinations as the delta variant sweeps many states. President Joe Biden at a press conference also criticized Republican governors who have prohibited […]

COVID-19 booster shots to roll out starting next month

By: - August 18, 2021

WASHINGTON — Top U.S. health officials announced a plan Wednesday to begin offering COVID-19 booster shots to Americans starting Sept. 20, with the scheduling of the additional shot to be based on when a person was fully vaccinated. The new round of jabs will be extended to those who received the two-dose vaccine from either […]

Pay boost for federal firefighters OK’d by Biden administration

By: - August 17, 2021

WASHINGTON — As wildfires rage in the western United States, the Biden administration on Tuesday announced it is hiking pay for federal wildland firefighters to at least $15 per hour. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the change will boost pay for 3,500 firefighters with the Interior Department and […]

Biden administration pressures Florida Gov. DeSantis over school mask policies

By: - August 16, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has written Gov. Ron DeSantis saying that if his administration withholds state funding from school districts that enact mask mandates, those schools can use federal coronavirus relief dollars to make up for the penalties. In a letter to DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona […]

Trump allies’ lingering election ‘audits’ spark public skepticism, concerns in Congress

By: - August 5, 2021

WASHINGTON — The months-long, Republican-led investigation in Arizona into the results of last year’s presidential election has cost millions of dollars and produced no evidence yet of major issues in tallying Maricopa County ballots. Yet supporters of former President Donald Trump are still attempting to follow Arizona’s lead by pushing for so-called audits in several […]

Feds order new eviction ban in counties with highest COVID-19 infection rates

By: and - August 3, 2021

WASHINGTON — Federal health officials on Tuesday announced a new, narrower moratorium on evictions through Oct. 3, which would protect struggling renters in areas of the U.S. that have been hit hardest by soaring COVID-19 infection rates. The targeted eviction ban comes days after a federal moratorium in place since September expired on Saturday. The Biden administration […]

House Dems struggle to extend federal eviction ban through mid-October

By: - July 30, 2021

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are in a last-minute scramble to possibly extend federal legal protections against eviction that are set to expire on Saturday. The end of the eviction moratorium would jeopardize housing security for millions of Americans who are struggling both to pay their rent and to access billions of dollars in slow-moving federal rental […]