Connect with us


American Finances Updates: Latest news on the Gas Prices Stimulus Check, 2022 Social Security COLA payments

Our live blog this Saturday March 19 brings you all the latest financial news from across the USA, outling the various benefits programs on offer, the latest developments in Social Security payments and the government’s response to rising gas prices and inflation.
Many people in the United States have been left wondering what financial support is available in 2022, with stimulus checks now a thing of the past while some programs, like the expanded Child Tax Credit, have not yet been renewed. In this March 19 live blog, we will bring you the latest news and updates on the financial situation in the USA and what is on offer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not gone away but now no longer carries the same threat as it did, so many of the programs available are for more general needs, such as helping citizens against the rise in inflation, the increase in gas prices and so on.

In response to the rising gas prices, there have been calls from Democrats in California for taxpayers to receive a 400 dollar tax rebate stimulus check, designed to help combat rising inflation and rising costs at the pump. That and other similar initiatives are discussed in more detail below.

As the most important cryptocurrency in the world, it’s always interesting to know which system is the one regulating the price of Bitcoin. Take a look at an in-depth analysis of everything worth knowing about this crypto.

The Lifetime Learning Credit is for qualified tuition and related expenses paid for eligible students enrolled in an eligible educational institution.

The LLC can help pay for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree courses, including courses to acquire or improve job skills.

There is no limit on the number of years you can claim the credit. It is worth up to $2,000 per tax return.

If your Modified Adjusted Gross Income is between $59,000 and $69,000 ($118,000 and $138,000 if you file a joint return).
The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2022 in the United States was a 40-year high of 5.9 percent due to the higher rate of inflation brought about due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this percentage is set to drop in 2023.

So far, following five months of the measuring period ahead of the January 2023 COLA for retirees, it currently stands at 3.9 percent – a decrease of two percent.
This is, however, a rise of 0.9 percentage points from February in the inflation index utilised to calculate the adjustment.

Read more about the COLA 2023 prediction.

The IRS is inviting U.S. taxpayers to file their taxes electronically this year, and it will be processed promptly.

The agency says Americans should apply for tax refunds – if they are due one – by direct deposit.

Mortgage rates rose above 4%, which hasn’t happened since May 2019, as a result of the Federal Reserve moving to curb inflation.

The move ends the Fed’s pandemic-era easy money policy after the central bank announced it would raise interest rates for the first time since 2018
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.16% in the week ending March 17, compared to 3.85% the previous week.

There are millions of Social Security recipients across the USA who have begun to receive increased payments this year thanks to the 5.9 percent cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase.

The most recent payments went out on March 16 to those retirees born between the 11th and the 20th of the month. Anyone born from the 1st to the 10th has already had their money come through this March, while those with a birthday between the 20th and the 31st of the month will see their money arrive on March 23.

There are approximately 70 million Americans claiming Social Security payments, with the aforementioned 5.9 percent rise due to the COLA, which is a 1.3 rise compared to last year. Also, the maximum amount of money subject to the Social Security tax has also increased, going from 142,800 dollars in 2021 to 147,000 dollars in 2022. The Social Security tax rates are staying the same, which is 6.2 percent for employees and 12.4 percent for self-employed workers.

Read more about the latest batch of Social Security Payments.
As a result of Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions put upon Vladimir Putin’s country, gas prices in the USA have risen at a sharp rate.
In fact, for the first time in a decade, gas prices even went as high as four dollars a gallon. The previous high was set at 4.103 dollars per gallon back in 2008, but now a new high has been set with 4.104 dollars.

Nevertheless, oil prices are continuing to fall. In the last week the oil price decreased by 30 percent, following the spike caused by Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Democratic state lawmakers in California have suggested that taxpayers could receive a 400 dollar tax rebate check to help with the high costs of everyday expenses such as gas.

Read more about the Rising Gas Prices.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the standard mileage rate for the use of an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes
Taxpayers are advised to apply for the standard mileage rate in the first year that they are using the car for business purposes. Then, they will have the option to choose between this rate and the actual expenses.

The new rates came into effect back on January 1, 2022, and they are related to the use of cars including vans, pick-ups and panel trucks.

Read more about the Mileage Reimbursement Rate in 2022.
Many people across the USA will have been keen to get in their tax returns on time, knowing that down the line they are likely to receive a tax refund.
After all, the sooner that it is filed, the sooner you will get a refund. Since tax season got underway on January 24, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have returned at least 78 billion dollars to the US public.

In February 2021, the average tax refund was 2,880 dollars. However, this year it is 3,536 dollars on average. Therefore, the average amount received as a tax refund has increased 23 percent compared to last year.

Read more about IRS Tax Refunds.

The expanded Child Tax Credit payments has now come to an end in the United States, having been made available during the second half of 2021.

Families were able to receive 3,600 dollars for each child aged under the age of six, and 3,000 dollars for each child aged between six and 17. There was then the option to either receive half of this money on a monthly basis, or it could be received as a full lump sum once the individual had filed their 2021 taxes.

However, this expanded program has not continued into 2022 after an agreement could not be struck across all Democrats to support Joe Biden’s Build Back Better initiative. In particular, Sen. Joe Manchin was the opposing vote that caused the plans for the expanded Child Tax Credit program to fall through.

Read more about the plans with Child Tax Credit.

There has been a proposal from Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah for a new stimulus check to be made available for American families.

Through his Family Security Act proposal, eligible families with children up to five years of age would get $350 per month, while families with children between the ages of six and 17 would get $250 per month.

“Now is the time to renew our commitment to families to help them meet the challenges they face as they take on most important work any of us will ever do-raising our society’s children,” Romney said. It remains to be seen, though, if this measure will pass.

Read more about the Family Security Act 2022.

Given the way in which prices are rapidly rising in the USA, the US Federal Reserve have taken the decision to raise interest rates for the first time since 2018 in a bid to bring things back under control.

The benchmark rate will be lifted by 0.25 percent by the US central bank, and they have warned that further rate rises could follow in the months ahead. This comes against the rise in inflation in the USA, which hit a 40-year high of 7.9 percent in February.


Continue Reading


Fact check: Here’s the truth about crime in Manhattan

As former President Donald Trump and his allies attack Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is prosecuting Trump on felony charges of falsifying business records, the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Monday in Manhattan to castigate Bragg for his handling of violent crime.

But Trump and other Republicans, including committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and former Vice President Mike Pence, have made false claims about the crime situation in Manhattan and New York City. Contrary to their claims in recent weeks, neither the borough of Manhattan nor the city as a whole has been even close to a record level of crime, violent crime or murder since Bragg was sworn in as Manhattan’s top prosecutor in 2022.

And Bragg’s office is correct when it points out that Manhattan has experienced declines in key crime categories so far in 2023 compared with 2022. However, it’s also true that many of Manhattan’s crime numbers increased in 2022 compared with 2021.

It’s impossible to quantify how much Bragg had to do with either the 2023 decrease (it’s early in the year) or the 2022 increase (which was a continuation of a trend that began months before Bragg was elected in 2021); in general, it is extremely difficult to determine how much any jurisdiction’s crime numbers, positive or negative, can be attributed to the local district attorney. There is always a complicated mix of factors at play, from the economy to policing to the corrections system to social policy to the weather to, since 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have a tendency to want to blame one person, or credit one person, when in reality these are complex systems that rise and fall for often complex, random reasons that we don’t have the ability to explain – but it’s easier to say, ‘It was Joe Schmoe over there,’” said Jeff Asher, a crime analyst and consultant and co-founder of the firm AH Datalytics.

Here’s a look at what Manhattan crime numbers actually show and do not show.

Continue Reading


Space Force Satellite Control Network Is In Urgent Need of Upgrades, Watchdog Says

The Space Force system for controlling U.S. government satellites is in urgent need of an update, and the branch also needs an up-to-date plan for delivering it, the Government Accountability Office said in a report published April 10.

The Satellite Control Network (SCN) is made up of 19 antennas stationed around the world, from Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean to the village of Oakhanger in southern England to Schriever Space Force Base, Colo., where the primary control center for SCN is located.

SCN operators use the antennas to track a satellite’s location, collect its health and status reports, and send signals to control its subsystems such as power supply, antennas and mechanical and thermal control. These functions are collectively called tracking, telemetry, and commanding (TT&C), and satellite users across the federal government rely on the Space Force’s SCN operators for TT&C support.

The satellites controlled by the SCN support a wide range of important activities such as positioning, navigation, and timing; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; missile warning and missile defense; communications; weather; and research and development, the GAO noted in its report. But as space becomes increasingly crowded with government satellites, the growing demand for SCN operations has fallen on an aging antenna network that is difficult to maintain and too small to meet the need.

“The SCN makes over 450 daily contacts with satellites,” GAO wrote. “Satellite users who rely on the SCN and whom GAO interviewed said that this increased demand, and resulting limits on system availability, could compromise their missions in the future.”

The problem is not new to the Department of Defense, which has known of the challenges facing SCN capacity since at least 2011, the GAO wrote. The military even developed a plan in 2017 for the long-term sustainment of SCN. However, the large reorganization of the military’s space authorities that occurred after Space Force was launched in late 2019 meant that the Life-Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP) is in need of an update to match the current organizational structure. The Space Force initially estimated an update the LCSP would arrive by the fall of 2022, but that update is yet to materialize.

“Without updating the LCSP for the SCN in a timely fashion, Space Force will not have sufficient information to appropriately plan and budget SCN sustainment efforts in the future,” the report states.

Part of the challenge affecting the SCN today is that its antennas can maintain contact with only one satellite at a time, and not for very long before the satellite passes over the horizon and out of contact, as Air & Space Forces Magazine has previously reported.

This has led to a scheduling system where SCN users contact the Space Force’s 22nd Space Operations Squadron to request a contact time, and the 22nd SOPS uses a prioritization matrix to schedule a time and assign operators from the 21st or 23rd Space Operations Squadrons to carry out the contact, the GAO report notes.

The problem is that as demand for SCN support grows and supply of contact times does not keep pace, scheduling conflicts occur and are exacerbated by unexpected outages, maintenance needs, or emergencies like recovering a satellite that has drifted out of its planned orbit. There were 15,780 scheduling conflicts from January 2021 through June 2022 alone, GAO noted. And as the current antenna infrastructure ages, SCN operators have to choose between maintenance needs and satisfying demand. Deferred maintenance can lead to antenna failures, one of which lasted 18 months before it could be restored to function.

Outdated infrastructure further aggravates the problem. The Space Force has had to pay a manufacturer to create a production line for making replacement parts for obsolete SCN equipment, GAO noted, and branch officials at Schriever Space Force Base, the primary control center for SCN, said the power infrastructure there is so out of date that “efforts to maintain current operations at the base are unsustainable and mitigation efforts are close to exhausted.”

How to fix it
The Space Force is aware of its growing SCN problem and has several efforts for fixing it. One effort is called the Satellite Communication Augmentation Resource (SCAR), a phased-array antenna that would allow each antenna to contact 18 to 20 different satellites at the same time rather than the one-at-a-time limit imposed by today’s parabolic SCN antennas. It would also cost less to operate the SCAR system, but the technology requires further development, a prototype is not expected until 2025, and operational units may not be available until the 2030s.

In the meantime, the Space Force is working to expand SCN capacity and make SCN scheduling more efficient. These include using five National Oceana and Atmospheric Administration antennas to help boost capacity, though it will take until the end of fiscal year 2024 for necessary upgrades to be finished. The Space Force is also exploring using commercial antennas to increase SCN capacity, though the number of commercial antennas available would depend on how many could meet government bandwidth and cybersecurity requirements.

Meanwhile, the Space Force is also looking to make its scheduling system more efficient by replacing its current “manual and labor-intensive process” with a cloud-based system, GAO wrote. The branch also plans on yanking out 80 percent of the current number of old modems, decoders, and data processors and replacing them with new, lower-footprint systems that would cut down on maintenance time by 20 to 25 percent.

However, some of these changes were not included in the 2017 Life-Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP), and the GAO report authors worry that could throw off the Space Force’s implementation of the plan. Branch officials say an ongoing challenge has been delineating between headquarters staff and field commands as to who is responsible for the overall SCN architecture and how those responsible can assess new systems or augment the current architecture, the report states.

Though the Space Force is working on an update for the plan, officials say it has been delayed due to reasons “including updating SCN budget information and an unclear process to finalize the LCSP,” the GAO wrote.

The need to finalize and implement the plan is urgent as the Space Force expects the number of satellites requiring SCN contacts to more than double between 2019 and 2027.

Continue Reading


Global EV sales jump 66% in 2022, lifting market share to 9.5%

Global electric vehicle sales climbed 66.6 percent in 2022 from a year earlier to 7.26 million units, data from a research firm showed Saturday, reflecting a rapid shift in the industry to zero-emission vehicles to meet stricter emission regulations.

The number accounts for 9.5 percent of overall auto sales of 76.21 million vehicles last year, expanding from 5.5 percent in 2021, according to Tokyo-based MarkLines Co.

European and Chinese automakers are boosting EV sales, while Japanese carmakers strive to catch up with global rivals.

Honda Motor Co., for example, has teamed with Sony Group Corp. to set up a 50-50 venture to make new electric vehicles. Toyota Motor Corp. plans to expand its all-electric vehicle lineup and boost its EV sales to 1.5 million vehicles annually by 2026.

Excluding EVs, global sales fell 7.4 percent to 68.95 million vehicles.

By market, China posted an about 80 percent surge in EV sales to 4.53 million vehicles while Western Europe including Germany and Britain saw EV sales soar by about 30 percent to about 1.53 million vehicles.

Approximately 800,000 EVs were sold in the United States last year and 50,000 in Japan.

Among EV makers, the leading manufacturer, Tesla Inc., boosted sales to around 1.27 million vehicles in 2022 from about 880,000 the year before. Chinese EV giant BYD Co. sold approximately 870,000 vehicles last year, compared with 320,000 the previous year.

The alliance of Nissan Motor Co., French partner Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. ranked seventh with sales of about 280,000 EVs.

Toyota, the world’s largest auto seller, sold 24,000 EVs in 2022, according to the company.


Continue Reading