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WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Friday he plans to hold an oversight hearing on the crisis-plagued federal Bureau of Prisons after The Associated Press reported that the agency is keeping its embattled ex-director on the payroll as an adviser to his successor.

Sen.

Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who demanded Michael Carvajal be fired last November amid myriad failings, told the AP in a statement he was dismayed by continuing misconduct within the agency and by its unwillingness to completely cut ties with the former director.

Carvajal submitted his resignation in January but remained in charge of the Bureau of Prisons until the the new director, Colette Peters, was sworn in on Tuesday following a lengthy search process.

On Thursday, the AP reported that Carvajal is staying on through the end of the month as a senior adviser to Peters, the former director of Oregon’s state prison system.

After speaking with Peters this week, Durbin said he’s “hopeful for serious reforms at BOP,” but it is time to move on from Carvajal’s failed leadership.

“It’s no secret that the Bureau of Prisons has been plagued by misconduct,” Durbin said, noting his calls for Carvajal’s ouster last fall. “It’s time to leave the scandals and mismanagement of the Carvajal era in the past and focus on fixing this broken institution.”

“That’s why, in addition to my commitment to working with new BOP leadership, I plan to hold a BOP oversight hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee when we return from the August state work period,” Durbin said.

Durbin didn’t provide a date for the hearing or say what witnesses might be called or topics discussed. The Senate returns from its August recess after Labor Day.

Peters has pledged to overhaul the federal agency, which was plagued by myriad problems during Carvajal’s two years in charge. She has pledged greater transparency and accountability for the Bureau of Prisons, the Justice Department’s largest component with a budget of more than $8 billion.

Carvajal, a Trump administration holdover, submitted his resignation on Jan. 5 amid increasing scrutiny over his leadership in the wake of AP reporting that uncovered widespread problems at the Bureau of Prisons, including rampant sexual assault at a California women’s prison, widespread staff criminal conduct, dozens of escapes, deaths and staffing woes hampering responses to emergencies.

Durbin demanded Carvajal’s firing last November after the AP revealed that more than 100 Bureau of Prisons workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019. Durbin doubled down on his call for Carvajal’s removal in a speech on the Senate floor last December.

“Since day one, Director Carvajal has shown no intention of reforming the institution,” Durbin said. “For years, the Bureau of Prisons has been plagued by corruption, chronic understaffing, and misconduct by high-ranking officials.”

By then, Carvajal was already on the hot seat. Biden administration officials had discussions in the spring of 2021 about whether to remove Carvajal, after the AP reported that widespread correctional officer vacancies were forcing prisons to expand the use of cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates.

In one of his final acts as director, Carvajal clashed with senators at a hearing last week as he refused to accept responsibility for a culture of corruption and misconduct that has plagued his agency for years.

Carvajal, testifying before the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, insisted he had been shielded from problems by his underlings. But he had been copied on emails, and some of the troubles were detailed in reports generated by the agency’s headquarters.

Carvajal blamed the size and structure of the Bureau of Prisons for his ignorance on issues such as inmate suicides, sexual abuse, and the free flow of drugs, weapons and other contraband.

___

On Twitter, follow Michael Balsamo at twitter.com/mikebalsamo1 and Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak. Send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Will senior citizens receive a stimulus check?

SINCE the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, federal and state lawmakers have pushed for direct payments to Americans to alleviate financial hardship.

The federal government successfully sent three rounds of stimulus checks while various states were able to legislate cash to citizens as well.

1Advocates have called for renewed stimulus payments for senior citizens

However, as inflation soars, higher monthly expenses are draining out the bank accounts of Americans.

Add that to the fact that most stimulus programs are ending or have expired.

Prices are up more than 9% compared to the same time last year, as categories including groceries, gas, utilities, and more have been affected.

In particular, inflation has hit older Americans hard.

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The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) recently noted that Social Security claimant's buying power has been slashed by 40% since the year 2000.

As a result, there have been calls for more payments.

Senior stimulus check

In October 2021, TSCL Chairman Rick Delaney sent a letter to Congress imploring lawmakers to pass additional aid for seniors.

"We’ve heard from thousands of [seniors] who have exhausted their retirement savings, who have started eating just one meal a day, started cutting their pills in half because they can’t afford their prescription drugs," the letter said.

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TSCL acknowledged that it was highly unlikely Congress would act in 2021 but the organization hoped senior stimulus checks would become a legislative priority this year.

The organization also created a petition calling for $1,400 stimulus payments to seniors.

More than 15million seniors are considered economically insecure, according to the National Council on Aging.

That insecurity, coupled with the fact that many seniors live on a fixed income, means that the group is particularly vulnerable in the face of high prices and rising costs.

Will seniors get a fourth stimulus check?

Congress has failed to pass any new, meaningful stimulus measures, for senior citizens or otherwise.

Dozens of lawmakers have pushed for recurring stimulus payments.

However, another round of stimulus has not been a part of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Agenda.

A narrowed-down version of Biden's plan has passed the Senate.

The package worth $700billion addresses climate change and aims to lower the cost on a small number of prescription drugs.

While that may have some positive impact on seniors, there are currently no serious talks about renewed stimulus payments.

A broad stimulus that includes seniors seems unlikely at best, currently.

Barring a significant change, senior citizens should not expect to receive more federal stimulus.

However, it's possible that should the US enter a recession (which is feared by many economists), that some more aid could be coming on the state or local level.

Dr Tim Rosenberger Jr, rising fellow at the Hoover Institution, whose research focuses on state and local government policies, told The Sun that California, in particular, could act.

“California is sitting on a big pile of cash right now,” Dr Rosenberger said.

“Whether that continues to be true, and whether the state decides to deploy that money on some kind of UBI or [a[ one-off inflation [payment] offset is unclear.”

Other aid for seniors

The federal government adjusts Social Security benefits each year to keep pace with inflation.

The cost-of-living adjustment for 2022 was 5.9%, one of the biggest in history.

That means about 70million Americans are receiving a monthly increase in their benefits in 2022.

There are also two programs that provide low-income seniors with meals, known as the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program issues coupons for elders to buy fresh groceries at the farmers’ markets and other local businesses.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program supplies seniors with monthly healthy food packages.

To be eligible for either of the two free food programs, you need to meet certain requirements:

  • You need to be 60 or older
  • Your income needs to be at or below 185% of the federal poverty income guidelines.
  • You can visit the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program map to find out if your area participates in the program.
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The Sun explained the full schedule for Social Security, SSI, and SSDI payments.

For more on seniors, we explain why it makes sense to start claiming benefits at 70.

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