Last year, graduating seniors could bring only three guests to Commencement. This year, some students will have as many as 60 family members and friends present when they graduate as a result of the University’s decision to move the Commencement ceremony to Notre Dame stadium.“Parents from each year would say, ‘It’s really hard on us to have so few guest tickets for such an important event and can you please do something about that?’” University Registrar Harold Pace said.As a result of the change, seniors can have an unlimited number of guests, and their guests will be able to sit together in the stadium — something that would not have been possible in the Joyce Athletic Center.Commencement had been held in the Joyce Center since 1969, but the Center’s recent renovations made seating limited and sparked the decision to change locations, Pace said.“We were already down to three or four tickets per family. We didn’t feel like that’s where we needed to go in the future,” Pace said. “We decided with this renovation that it was the year that we needed to make formal recommendation to move to the stadium.”Pace estimated that 25,000 people will attend the ceremony Sunday, a substantial increase from the 9,000 that attended in the past. He said the crowd is expected to fill half the stadium.The large bulk of the crowd will be guests, Stephanie Maenhout, senior administrative assistant for the Office of Registrar, said.Approximately 22,000 guests are expected to attend, with students bringing an average of eight guests each, she said.“The responses that I got were wonderful. It was like yes, I really do have that many family members coming. The one has 60 coming,” Maenhout said. “We think it’s wonderful.”Pace said there will be two large screens broadcasting the ceremony in the stadium, as well as a broadcast in DeBartolo Hall for those who wish to be inside.Commencement was last held in the stadium in 1959. Commencement has also previously been held at the Grotto, University Mall, Stepan Center and Washington Hall.In addition to the change in Commencement location, the University will hold diploma ceremonies separate from Commencement.“What happened in the past was graduating students would go to the field house and faculty were there to distribute the diplomas to them, but not in ceremony,” Pace said. “They would actually walk into Commencement holding their diploma in hand.”Assistant Registrar Lora Spaulding said this method of diploma distribution was missing a key element.“What was lacking there was the individual recognition,” she said.Eighteen diploma ceremonies, separated by department, will take place across campus Sunday afternoon.Pace said the decision to implement diploma ceremonies also came in response to parent and student feedback.“We had requests from parents saying that would be really nice if they could actually see their student receive their diploma in hand and we felt that was an important part of the weekend,” Pace said.An additional change this year will be the time of the ceremony, Pace said.Previously, the ceremony was held Sunday afternoon, but this year it will be held at 9 a.m., Pace said.The addition of diploma ceremonies, which needed to occur Sunday afternoon, contributed to the time change, Pace said.“We really ruled out having a University ceremony on Saturday because some family members might not have been in town,” he said. “The other factor is since it is outdoors, there are fewer thunderstorms in the morning than in the afternoon.”In the event of rain, the ceremony will proceed as planned. If the weather is severe —lightning, high winds or heavy, persistent rain — the ceremony will be moved to the Joyce Center. A message will be sent to graduates’ cell phones via the ND Emergency Alert System, Pace said.Each graduate is allotted three guest tickets if the ceremony is moved to the Joyce Center, but severe weather will not affect the number of guests who can attend the diploma ceremonies in the afternoon, Maenhout said.Pace said the decision to move Commencement to the stadium will be a long-term change. “It is our location moving forward,” he said.Spaulding said she thinks the change will be a positive one.“There is no other venue that can handle the number of people that come,” she said. “I think the students are excited about being able to graduate in the stadium.”Students can pick up guest tickets today at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Dr. Ken Hackett, President of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), explained the fundamental Catholic identity and history of the international charity organization Thursday night as part of the Notre Dame Forum. For the second annual Rev. Bernie Clark, C.S.C., lecture, the topic “Globally Engaging Charity in Truth” alluded to Hackett’s integration of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” into CRS. “At CRS we have taken a lot of time to examine what’s inside these documents,” Hackett said. “It reminded us that humanitarian action should be rooted in a selfless love that should always be done in a spirit of humility.” Hackett, who oversees approximately 5,000 employees in over 100 countries, approached the task of aiding world disasters with a definitive mission adhering to Catholic Social Teaching. “Integral human development, that I would contend, sets CRS apart from the many humanitarian agencies that appear to look just like us,” Hackett said. “We consciously try to incorporate Catholic Social Teaching in everything we do. What might be surprising to you, we haven’t always been good at integrating these things.” Hackett reflected on the development of CRS by defining “three phases of history,” in which he perceived “lenses” of the world and how to address specific issues. First, Hackett described the “social welfare lens” in the beginning stage of forming CRS. In the context of the “darkest days of WWII,” CRS focused on the corporal works of mercy and established a network of international institutions, called “Caritas Internationalis,” that still function today. “Catholic identity was strong but it was difficult to look introspectively,” Hackett said. The “social development” stage in the 60s and 70s was geared towards “providing sustainable solutions,” but Hackett said there was an absence of a Catholic identity. “We became to look more and more like any other NGO,” he said. The important shift of the organization to Catholic Social Teaching occurred through several tragic and personal experiences. Hackett said he was shocked to learn that CRS hadn’t provided fresh water to the people of Somalia but instead to a group of conquerors. After providing food amidst the ethnic tensions in Rwanda two years before the genocide of 1994, Hackett said the CRS realized the need to change the direction of their efforts. “800,000 were slaughtered in a most vicious way [in Rwanda]. It was horrific, and for us, it was personal. Because CRS staff lost colleagues, friends, family members, it wasn’t something over there, it was in here — personally and institutionally,” he said. “And after the genocide, we learned a tough, bloody lesson: all the good work we thought we were doing … was not enough.” Hackett said that he and other CRS officials knew about the ethnic tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis that eventually led to genocide that claimed nearly one million lives. He said he regrets that he did nothing to address the issue before it was too late. “That was politics. We did development,” he said. “We realized after that cleansing, a lot of weeping, and introspection and prayer that we as an agency had to start addressing justice issues in imbalance of society in Rwanda and imbalance of society elsewhere. And we started to incorporate a justice-centered focus worldwide.” Embracing the principles of solidarity within Catholic Social Teaching, CRS redefined the endeavors of the organization towards the human dignity of stricken people, as well as the employee relationships with one another. “Catholic Social Teaching is not just a theological exercise,” Hackett said. “It’s a practical and fundamental guide for how the church should live in the world. And we as an organization should transform ourselves to function in the world.” In the closing questions, an African priest from Darfur gave homage to Hackett’s work with CRS benefiting his people, yet posed the question of how the Catholic Social Teaching vision should appeal to the majority of CRS workers, who are not Christian. Hackett responded with the words of St. Francis. “‘Preach always, sometimes use words.’ We should be recognized by what we do and how we do it,” Hackett said. Hackett closed by acknowledging that people of all faiths identify with the dignity of a human person. “You know who you are and you’re ready to say who you are, without boastfully pushing who you are. Do it with humility,” he said.
This week, members of Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) are reminding others of the importance of loving their bodies. Love Your Body Week was the idea of Saint Mary’s junior Laura Glaub, SGA’s student services commissioner. A communication major and women’s studies minor, Glaub noticed how often body dissatisfaction appeared in her coursework. Not long after, Glaub noticed that some of her friends were demonstrating the same body dissatisfactions, and she wanted to make a change. She decided to create Love Your Body week. “I want to empower my peers,” Glaub said, “and I want to show them that they are beautiful no matter what.” Glaub plans to empower her peers through a series of lectures, activities and student presentations. Today at noon, Dr. Susan Alexander, Saint Mary’s professor of sociology, will speak on “Disrupting Body Dysmorphia: Media Literacy as a Method of Addressing Women’s Body Image Issues” in conference room A in the Student Center. Judy Fean, the Director of Campus Ministry, and Regina Wilson, Assistant Director of Campus ministry will give a lecture entitled, “Women and the Church: Father, May I Love My Body?” at 5 p.m. in the same location. A Saint Mary’s student will discuss her own struggles with eating disorders at 7 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium. She will speak alongside of a panel on eating disorders on “Biting Back.” Glaub said the discussion would be very powerful. This student has yet to reveal her eating disorder to the general public, but she wants to share her stories with others now. The rest of the week is packed with events, including a presentation by Connie Adams of the Belles Against Violence Office at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday in conference room A. Also on Tuesday, students are encouraged to relieve stress by laughing with clinical exercise psychologist, wellness coach, and certified laughter leader/laughter yoga instructor Mary Labuzienski at 6 p.m. in conference room a of the Student Center. “Mary says we all need fifteen minutes of laughter each day to remain healthy, so I wanted people to get their laugh in for the day,” Glaub said. This event is especially fun and eye opening, Glaub said, because it teaches students “you don’t need to be on a treadmill to love your body.” Later that night, Professor Bettina Spencer and Saint Mary’s student Gina Storti will give a lecture, “Love Your Body? Body Image at SMC compared to ND,” at 7 p.m. in Vander Vennet. Dr. Terri Russ, a professor of communication studies at Saint Mary’s will give two lectures on Wednesday, one at noon in conference room A in the Student Center, and the other at 7 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium. Her first lecture is entitled “Mother, May I Love My Body?” and the second is, “Beautiful Body Battles, Why Are We All Chasing Unicorns?” Students can attend a Fashion Show sponsored by Flourish at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Noble Family Dining Hall. At 8 p.m., the Student’s Activity Board will show the film “Eat Pray Love” in Vander Vennet. The week wraps up with a presentation by Saint Mary’s senior Christina Grasso. Grasso will present her senior comprehensive project entitled, “The Cult of Thinness in Fashion Industry” at noon in conference room A in the Student Center. The presentation will highlight interviews with models and fashion industry professionals Grasso has worked with in the past, and their views on the concept of thinness in the fashion world. Grasso has interned with Elite Model Management during New York Fashion Week in 2010 and 2011. She also interned with Nanette Lepore at the most recent fashion week in February. These internships have altered her perception of the fashion world and its impact on the public. “We only see the finished product — the glossy images of seemingly flawless women,” Grasso said. “What most people do not see, though, is the heavy preparation that goes into a photo or runway show — the hours of hair and makeup and photo editing. “Fashion, at its core, is a business and its purpose is to sell clothing. But somewhere along the line, it has become less about selling confectionary designs and more about selling a body-type as a utopian lifestyle. I am absolutely in love with the fashion industry, but I have to be mindful of my own innate values.” Grasso stresses the importance of Love Your Body Week on an all-women’s campus. “In today’s society as a whole there is an idea that there is only one kind of beauty, and that perfection is the vehicle to success and happiness,” Grasso said. “It is in this relentless pursuit, though, that we find anything but. Quirks and so-called imperfections are what make a person interesting, unique [and] beautiful.” Grasso also said this week is especially important because it provides an open forum for women to talk about their concerns, achievements and aspirations. SGA will also be distributing T-shirts and buttons in the Student Center today and during Grasso’s presentation at no cost to the students. “I don’t want people to have to pay to love their body,” Glaub said. All events are free and open to the public.
A Notre Dame alumnus and president of the People’s Choice Awards shared tips and advice about making it in the pop culture industry during a lecture Thursday. Fred Nelson highlighted 25 lessons he learned during his career and used examples from celebrities to prove his point in his lecture, “Popular Culture is Not an Oxymoron.” Nelson has previously worked at entertainment outlets such as “E! News,” “Time, “Esquire” and ABC’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” For example, Nelson said he learned how to “Fake It ‘Til You Make It” based on Ellen DeGeneres’ 1995 acceptance speech for the People’s Choice Award’s favorite female performer in a new television series. He said DeGeneres seemed uncomfortable with accepting the award, but gave the speech anyway. Around the same time, he was the assistant publisher of “Marketing for Worth” magazine and knew little about personal finance, and found inspiration in DeGeneres’ speech. “I thought, ‘You know what? I can fake it,’” he said. “And I did.” Nelson said he learned to “Razzle Dazzle ‘Em” from Ricky Martin and learned to “Be a Prodigy While You Can” from Neil Patrick Harris. The 25 lessons he presented included advice he wishes he had heard as an undergraduate, he said. “Change your mind — switch careers, jobs, cities,” he said. “You have every right to change your mind multiple times.” He also said perseverance and the ability to adapt in any situation are two keys to achieving any goal in life. “If nothing else, think for yourself,” he said. “All that you’re learning now, everything you’re going to do in your job, try to suck the marrow out of all the experiences.” The lecture was co-sponsored by the Department of Film, Television and Theatre and the College of Arts and Letters.
After three nights of risqué comedy and envelope-pushing musical numbers, the 37th annual Keenan Revue came to a successful close, director Brian Bettonville said. “We’ve received entirely positive feedback so far,” he said. “We love that people loved [the Revue,] and we’re happy to provide that for them.” Producer Raymo Gallagher said “The Revue Strikes Back” was a consistent success throughout all three shows. “All the staff and actors are very proud of the show they put on all three nights because it was a great product,” he said. “We could tell by reactions throughout the show that people were enjoying it, and we got positive reviews from students and even some parents in the audience.” Though the two-hour Revue included parodies of pop culture and skits focused on the quirks and traditions of Notre Dame, but Bettonville said a few acts stood out to audience members. “The performers of the final song, ‘December 1963,’ did a phenomenal job every single night,” Bettonville said. “A short called ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ also got a good crowd response.” Junior Mike Butler said the “SAOPA” skit, which put a unique Notre Dame twist on the recent Internet censorship debate, was the highlight of his first Revue experience. “My favorite skit was the censorship one for sure,” he said. “I thought it was really cool how they incorporated all the stuff that happened to [the Revue] last year and just bounced back and used it all to make the show even better.” While last year’s Revue was altered throughout the weekend in response to criticism about its coarse humor, Bettonville said this year’s Revue remained relatively constant throughout the weekend. “One skit was cut, and there were many more tweaks than full changes,” he said. “All these decisions are left up to us, so nothing was explicitly cut and we made alterations ourselves with suggestions.” Junior Dallas Bunsa said issues with last year’s Revue didn’t affect his expectations for his first time attending the Revue this year. “I heard some people complaining about the lack of original material in the Revue, but for me, everything was new,” he said. “I was pretty impressed with all of the choreography throughout the show.” Though the Revue is sometimes cited as an outlet for taking campus stereotypes too far, Bunsa said he thinks the show’s jabs at different groups were all in good fun. “A night full of poking fun at just about every different group of people … is great,” Bunsa said. “I think it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself or have fun poked at you.” Senior Lauren Metayer said she enjoyed the Revue overall, even if some of the humor “seemed forced.” “I thought the Revue was pretty good, and the Pokemon skit in particular was really witty and creative,” Metayer said. “Some of the jokes about Saint Mary’s girls seemed forced and predictable at times, but I may just have a soft spot for Saint Mary’s since I transferred from there to Notre Dame.” With another year of the Revue under their belts, seniors Gallagher and Bettonville are optimistic about the future of the campus tradition. “I think this year sets it up to be a good Revue next year, and I don’t foresee any issues that would prevent them from putting on a show next year,” Gallagher said. “A lot of actors and guys on staff are coming back next year, and they know what it’s about, so it should be good.” Looking forward to next year, Bettonville did not give specifics, but guaranteed the event will aim to please. “We haven’t picked our successors yet, but the Keenan Revue will always move forward,” Bettonville said.
Nearly 300 student organizations participated in the annual Student Activities Night, hosted by the Student Activities Office (SAO) in the Joyce Center from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Tuesday night. Academic, professional, service, athletic and other miscellaneous clubs explained their pursuits to interested students, who circulated between the organizations’ tables. Freshman Felipe Remolina said he was most interested in the Student International Business Counsel, the marketing club and the sailing club. He also said the wide array of groups represented by the many booths impressed him. “I enjoyed the chance to get to know the breadth and diversity of student interests on campus,” he said. For several clubs, this event marked their first official appearance in the Notre Dame campus community. Sophomore Bryan Ricketts, founding member of the new PrismND organization for LGBTQ students and allies, said Activities Night allowed PrismND to reach out to students face-to-face and to establish a branded presence for their new organization. “Having an official table and seeing the excitement on people’s faces – it’s great to have that affirmation,” Ricketts said. “I think promoting a message here is pretty difficult, but I do think that it is great for branding the club and handing out information in a one-on-one interaction.” Ricketts said over the course of the two-hour event people from all sections of the community have signed up with PrismND. The Humor Artists, reigning winners of Club Coordination Council (CCC)’s Club of the Year award sent several representatives to Activities Night. Junior Miranda Brickner and Senior Kyle McDonald, officers of the club, said they felt that attendees seemed enthused about the Humor Artists. Brickner said an impressive number of students expressed an interest in the club. “Many people came to seek us out, which goes to show how our club’s popularity has grown,” Brickner said. McDonald said the congenial atmosphere at the group’s performances is a large part of their appeal. “I think that people really appreciate the opportunity to just relax and have fun when they take part in our shows, since we do everything through improvisation,” McDonald said. Freshman Ian Tembe said he found himself drawn toward the more academic clubs, though he said he still appreciated the fun opportunities represented by other clubs at Tuesday’s event. “I found that the more complex the presentation of a club was, the more I was drawn to it,” Tembe said. Tembe said colorful banners, cutouts, candy and the occasional interactive display caught his eye, drawing him to the clubs with a more extensive set-up.Tembe said he also appreciated that clubs can serve as co-curricular as well as extra-curricular activities. “I’m interested in all kinds of disciplines, so it helps to be able to join a club in an interesting subject rather than taking a class.” Tembe said.
The Justice Education Program at Saint Mary’s kicked off a semester-long series about materialism, justice and sustainability in a panel discussion Wednesday about thrift store shopping.Anne Watson, executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County, explained how thrift stores aim to work towards social justice by putting the needs of people first. Watson said the St. Joseph County stores put the needs of the poor before their own and have an open door policy, highlighting two values of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.“The main core of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society is to provide for the emergency needs of people who ask us,” Watson said. “We provide food through home visits through a food pantry. We provide clothing through furniture.”Watson said thrift store shopping could have an important economical impact in St. Joseph County.“Shopping really makes a difference,” she said. “By shopping at our stores, you are helping the local economy, you are looking for the well-being of laborers right here and you can have the satisfaction in knowing that 100 percent of our revenue stays here.”Bianca Howard, a former Goodwill employee, said Goodwill helped her to turn her life around after facing hardships in her life that limited her job search.“I never got that type of help,” Howard said. “They open doors for people.”For their employees, Goodwill emphasizes skill building, such as learning to create resumes, Howard said.President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Michiana, Inc. Debie Coble said shopping in thrift stores is important because so many lives can be impacted by thrift shopping and making contributions.“At Goodwill, our motto this year is donate, shop, change a life,” she said.Coble said grants made it possible for Goodwill Industries of Michiana to initiate programs that would help individuals who had been involved in crimes, specifically prior sex offenders.“The Second Chance Program helps individuals gain valuable work experience while working with [potential] employers to help expel myths,” Coble said. “We started in 2010, and now this program serves just under 400 sex offenders per year. The money [for the program] comes from thrift shops.”Interim coordinator of the Justice Education Program Adrienne Lyles-Chockley said thrift store shopping could be a way to develop virtues, gratitude and integrity.She said the community service she did while attending law school and her continued dedication to the community inspired her to support and make purchases at thrift stores.“Thrift stores can also be used in creating social justice as a way of sustainability,” Chockley said. “What you spend your time and money on demonstrates what you value.”She said making purchases and donations to thrift stores creates opportunities for serving others.“Thrift store shopping is an opportunity for integrity in practicing what you preach,” Chockley said. “If you are committed in serving the poor, thrift store shopping is a way to be in community with them.”Tags: Justice Education, panel, Saint Mary’s College, shopping, St. Vincent de Paul, thrift stores
Before they could bring copies of The Wall Street Journal to campus this year, student body president and vice present Lauren Vidal and Matthew Devine needed to make a series of behind-the-scenes changes.In the past, student government coordinated Notre Dame’s participation in the College Readership Program through the Gannett Company, which brought copies of The New York Times, USA Today and The South Bend Tribune to campus. After discussions with the student senate and research, Vidal said they decided to end the relationship with Gannett and instead negotiate individual contracts with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.Their research showed that the Readership program was a significant expense, that only about 20-30 people picked up The South Bend Tribune copies per day and that many students expressed a desire for access to The Wall Street Journal, especially for business classes.“[The College Readership Program] was very costly,” Vidal said. “We knew it was going to be an undertaking, but we said ‘what if we try to create our own program?’ And so we negotiated the contracts in such a way that we were going to save money, and with the money saved, we created a student job. …We’re proud of that.”Devine said the first priority was seriously evaluating student input on the program instead of continuing the established system by default. When the contract renewal period came up with the Gannett Company in the spring, he said the department of academic affairs decided to change courses.“We were in a negotiation process with The Wall Street Journal for a month,” Vidal said. “They don’t typically do this kind of [mass subscription] program; we basically just created our own readership program with two individual contracts, one with The New York Times and one with the Wall Street Journal.”Two student employees are now tasked with distributing the papers to both dining halls and to LaFortune Student Center each morning. Devine said 400 copies of The Wall Street Journal and 300 copies of The New York Times are available in total. Online access for the Times is available too, but not for the Journal. In the first month of the school year, Devine said approximately 240 copies of the Times and 310 copies of the Journal were picked up each day.The decision to eliminate The South Bend Tribune subscription was based on the low readership numbers they found, Devine said.“Our whole perspective throughout the decision to eliminate the Tribune was not that we were shifting our focus away from the community in any way,” he said. “We were just trying to figure out a better way to help people be involved in the community. This service wasn’t being taken advantage of, so we thought we could figure out a better way [to stay connected to the community].”Devine said they did not get any reaction from the Tribune after the subscription was cut, probably because it was a secondary relationship administered through Gannett.“What’s important to emphasize is that this really wasn’t a hasty decision,” Vidal said. “We’re saving money with this system, and we’re able to pay students to work a new job above minimum wage.”Their opinions are based in hands-on experience — for the first five weeks of the program, Vidal and Devine delivered the papers themselves at 6 a.m. before they could hire regular employees.“We did have some kinks in the beginning, but it worked out,” Vidal said. “We really have received nothing but positive feedback about the program.”Tags: College Readership, Gannett, New York Times, South Bend Tribune, Student government, Student Government Insider, Wall Street Journal
Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Stock Image.WASHINGTON – Officials in Washington, D.C. have proposed a package of new policy that aims to address health care, food security needs and bring economic revival in the wake of the novel Coronavirus outbreak.The House of Representative’s Problem Solvers Caucus, co-chaired by Congressman Tom Reed, presented their recommendations to congressional leaders and the White House on Friday.The package, Reed says, aims to bring economic response for businesses, employees and the self-employed, secure health care, provide food security needs, and restart the economy with infrastructure investment.“It’s always better for the country when we act together,” said Congressman Reed in a statement. “The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus’ ‘Heath Crisis and Economic Revival Package’ provides Congressional Leadership and the Administration tools to continue solving the Coronavirus emergency and ensures the revival of the U.S. economy when it is over. Together, we must see the light through the darkness.” The Caucus’ proposed recommendations include:I. Economic Response for Businesses, Employees and the Self-EmployedImmediate, Direct Financial Payments to Individuals: Limited only to the crisis, significantly increase unemployment insurance benefits, including payment amounts, for hourly and salaried workers, under a certain income threshold. This relief should focus on mid-to-low-income workers and furloughed workers. Provisions to be made for freelancers and the self-employed to ensure the same relief.Bridge Loans to Help Keep Businesses in Business: Low-or-zero-interest loans to businesses of all sizes willing to keep their employees (furlough, but preserving benefits) in their positions during the coronavirus crisis. Must include long-term repayment options, and not exclude any industries.Allow Individuals and Businesses to Defer Mortgage Payments and Rent: During the national crisis, stay all foreclosure and evictions proceedings.Contract and Insurance Protections for Existing Contract and Business Insurance Policies: Legislatively declare the coronavirus a public health crisis, and, as such, a qualifying event for all existing force majeure contract provisions and business interruption insurance policies.Loan Deferral and Forbearance: Develop and allow loan deference, modification, and forbearance mechanisms for individuals and businesses of all sizes, during the crisis (e.g. mortgages, lines of credits, student loans, and other qualifying loans).Refundable Tax Credit to Employers for Employee Retention: During the crisis, provide immediately advanceable, refundable tax credits for employee retention by employers — including maintaining employment status or providing benefits for furloughed employees.II. Health Care & Food Security NeedsSpeed Testing to Market: Provide additional regulatory relief at FDA and CDC for market-based testing solutions and essential supplies (e.g. testing kits, ventilators, PPEs, reagent supply, and hospital conversion).Childcare Enhancement: Reflecting new work and school environment, enact childcare assistance policies and regulatory relief to provide childcare coverage during term of crisis.Price Gouging: Enact applicable measures to strictly enforce anti-price gouging measures.Medical Personnel and Supplies: Where available, deploy federal government excess medical personnel and equipment capacity, including military sources (e.g. vents), to affected areas needing service.GI Benefits: Correct the technical glitch, so that, during this time of crisis, veterans can utilize GI benefits for online learning.III. Long-term Economic Stimulus and Job CreationInfrastructure Investment: Passage of a significant infrastructure package which would stimulate job growth and allow for borrowing at historically-low interest rates.Best Practice Encouragement: Utilize and encourage new business models based on global best practices following disasters.Led by co-chairs Congressman Tom Reed and Josh Gottheimer, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus consists of 24 democrats and 24 republicans.
Image by Justin Gould/WNYNewsNow.NEW YORK — The U.S. renewable energy industry is reeling from the new coronavirus pandemic, which has delayed construction, put thousands of skilled laborers out of work and sowed doubts about solar and wind projects on the drawing board.In locked-down California, some local agencies that issue permits for new work closed temporarily, and some solar companies furloughed installers.In New York and New Jersey, SunPower CEO Thomas Werner halted installation of more than 400 residential solar systems, fearing for his workers’ safety.As many as 120,000 jobs in solar and 35,000 in wind could be lost, trade groups say. “There are many smaller companies going out of business as we speak,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Up to half our jobs are at risk.”Leaders are confident the future is bright. But the worldwide slowdown is delaying a transition to cleaner energy that scientists say is not happening quickly enough to curtail climate change.Even as some states move toward reopening, executives fear diminished incomes and work disrupted by layoffs and social distancing will do lasting damage.The wind industry is plagued by slowdowns in obtaining parts from overseas, getting them to job sites and constructing new turbines.“The industry was on a tremendous roll right up until the last month or two,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. ”That reversal is stunning and problematic.”Residential solar business has been hit especially hard, Hopper said, with door-to-door sales no longer feasible and potential customers watching their wallets. Deals with commercial buyers also have slumped.New solar installations could be 17% lower worldwide than expected this year, and wind turbine manufacturing could fall up to 20%, according to consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.“Pre-pandemic, there were great dreams and aspirations for a record-setting year,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of Longroad Energy, a utility-scale wind and solar developer. “I’m sure we’re not going to have that.”Fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal remain the leading providers of the nation’s electricity, with nuclear power another key contributor, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.But renewable sources — wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal — have jumped in the last decade as production costs have fallen and many states have ordered utilities to make greater use of renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Renewables produced nearly one-fifth of the country’s energy last year.The EIA predicts renewable energy, despite recent setbacks, will grow 11% this year — an indication of the sector’s strong surge before the economy tanked. Meanwhile, coal-fired power is expected to decline 20% and gas generation to grow just 1%.The setback for renewable energy still has been painful — even in California, where residential solar demand took off due to frequent blackouts and state laws requiring to new homes to produce as much energy as they consume.“A lot of companies are just trying everything they can to just limp along and keep their workforce,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association.All 20 employees were temporarily furloughed at Cinnamon Energy Systems, which sells residential and commercial solar systems in Northern California.“I’m sure we’ll bounce back, just smaller,” CEO Barry Cinnamon said, adding that people might not spend as much as they once did, because their income will likely be down. “Whether that’s months or years, nobody knows.”Luminalt, a San Francisco solar company, furloughed most of its 40 employees. And when work resumes, CEO Jeanine Cotter expects that projects will take longer and cost more to keep installers safe.“Think about working on a roof with a mask,” Cotter said. “And think about not being able to pass a power tool to somebody unless you disinfect it before you pass it on.”Since his furlough in mid-March, Luminalt solar technician Tom Hicks has been collecting benefits but no salary — and he’s worried about mortgage payments.“My 401k got crushed by 30% just like everyone else,” said Hicks, 55. “How much time do I have to recover?”Still, there are hopeful signs. The Boston-based developer Longroad recently began a utility-scale solar project in California and secured new financing for another in Texas.Sunnova Energy International, a Houston-based residential solar and energy storage service provider, is doing more videoconferencing and fewer in-person dealings with customers. But CEO John Berger said, “Our installations are still moving ahead, service is still moving ahead, we still see customers paying us.”In eastern Kansas, construction has continued at Southern Power’s 200-megawatt Reading Wind Facility despite delayed parts shipments, company spokeswoman Helen Northcutt White said. Sixty-two turbines are planned for the facility, scheduled to go online in mid-May.The wind and solar industries have asked lawmakers and federal agencies for help, including an extension of their four-year deadlines for completing projects without losing tax benefits. Similar assistance was granted during the 2008-09 recession.The renewable energy industry’s health is crucial to improving the climate and to a strong economic recovery, said Matthew Davis, legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters.“These businesses, these workers deserve immediate relief,” Davis said.It’s important to push for more responsible energy use as the economy reopens worldwide, said Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer with Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine, which studies climate change and oceans.“My hope is that we would use this as an opportunity to build toward an economy that doesn’t depend on burning coal and oil and that is more resilient to the climate impacts that are heading our way,” Pershing said. Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)