How has this hotel firm spent its PPP money? Eight members of Congress want to know

Eight members of Congress are calling on the Small Business Administration to investigate whether the operator of a luxury Santa Monica hotel and dozens of other properties properly spent tens of millions of dollars in pandemic relief funding.



a group of people that are talking on a cell phone: A group prays during an August demonstration supporting Margarita Santos, center, who was fired from her housekeeping job at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot hotel. The hotel's operator, Columbia Sussex, received tens of millions of dollars in PPP loans. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)


© Provided by The LA Times
A group prays during an August demonstration supporting Margarita Santos, center, who was fired from her housekeeping job at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot hotel. The hotel’s operator, Columbia Sussex, received tens of millions of dollars in PPP loans. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and seven of her Democratic colleagues issued a letter Tuesday urging the SBA to investigate how a hotel conglomerate that owns or operates at least 50 hotels spent the money it received — as much as $63 million — from the Paycheck Protection Program.

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The group of lawmakers said in the letter that the PPP was designed to keep workers employed but that the hotel company, Columbia Sussex, accepted the funding through multiple affiliates and still laid off thousands of workers.

“Columbia Sussex appears to have taken advantage of these policies — borrowing taxpayer money at artificially low interest rates through multiple entities while laying off workers,” their letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza says.

Phone calls and emails to the Kentucky headquarters of Columbia Sussex were not returned Tuesday.

The PPP, part of the $2-trillion stimulus funding package approved by Congress in March, was promoted as a tool for keeping workers employed during the economic crisis. But experts, academics and union leaders told the Los Angeles Times that loopholes and flaws in the program allowed businesses to accept millions of dollars in forgivable loans without retaining or recalling most of their workers.

The program requires loan recipients to use at least 60% of the money on payroll and lets them wait as late as December to spend that money on payroll. If the recipient doesn’t follow the guidelines, the loan is no longer forgivable — but it converts to a low-interest loan that is much cheaper than loans offered by traditional lenders.

The PPP launched in April with $349 billion for forgivable loans. Congress added $320 billion later that month. The program ended Aug. 8 with more than $100 billion left unused.

Columbia Sussex, through affiliates, employed about 6,500 people nationwide before the pandemic. Porter and her colleagues accused the hotel conglomerate of receiving the PPP funding through 17 affiliates, registered at the same Kentucky address, and double counting employees of the various companies to justify the need for more PPP money.

The letter asks the SBA to investigate the 17 loans and respond by Monday.

Porter’s office said the call for an investigation is supported by Unite Here Local 11, which represents thousands of hotel workers in Southern California and Arizona. The union has been critical of the Columbia Sussex-operated JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot hotel, accusing management of firing a housekeeper after she was infected with COVID-19 and of

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Ohio is back on New York’s travel advisory list, visitors required to quarantine

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Hope you got that fall trip to the Finger Lakes in, because Ohioans are back on New York’s not-welcome-here list.

Spiking COVID-19 numbers landed Ohio back on the travel advisory list, which means visiting Ohioans are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut (a negative COVID test will get you out of the quarantine requirement in Connecticut).

Ohio has been on and off New York’s list since mid-July, as the state’s coronavirus numbers have spiked and subsided. Ohio was most recently removed from New York’s list on September 15.

Ohio last week set a single-day record for positive cases, with 1,840 cases reported Friday.

Numerous states have travel restrictions in place in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. New York’s is one of the strictest.

New York uses one of two metrics to place states on its restricted list – either a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or a 10% or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. According to Covidactnow.com, Ohio has a 3.7% positivity rate on recent tests, and a positive test rate of 12.5 residents per 100,000.

On Tuesday, three states – Ohio, Michigan and Virginia – were added to New York’s list, bringing the total to 38, reflecting rising infection rates throughout most of the United States. In New York itself – which aggressively controlled the virus using travel quarantines and other measures over the summer – infection numbers continue to increase. The number of daily cases per 100,000 residents in New York has increased to 7.2, according to Covidactnow.com, up from 3 in mid-August.

Travelers who violate New York’s rules face a fine of up to $10,000, although it’s unclear if anyone has been penalized. According to the restrictions, Ohioans are permitted to travel through New York, spending up to 24 hours in the state.

Ohio, meanwhile, has seven states on its travel advisory list – Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin.

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Exploring Niagara Falls, N.Y., America’s first state park: Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds and terrific hiking

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Vancouver Parks and Recreation after-school program popular

When Vancouver Parks and Recreation staff announced they were opening their doors for after-school activities, they knew families would jump at the chance. They didn’t know quite how high demand would be.

“We filled within 15 minutes,” said Stacey Allington, the department’s recreation specialist.

The city launched free after-school services for small groups of students this month, providing an outlet for masked, socially distanced children to burn off energy — and give their parents a break from their children being stuck at home.

Marshall and Firstenburg community centers are opening their doors to children ages 6 through 12 for two hours every weekday. About 32 children are able to attend each center, which in turn splits its children into smaller groups to keep them safe.

Allington said from day one, it was obvious kids were happy to be there.

“You can see the smiles through their masks,” she said.

Schools are still closed for in-person learning. Clark County’s COVID-19 transmission rate at last report was 95.6 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period, according to data released by Clark County Public Health on Oct. 5. State health officials recommend schools in counties with a transmission rate higher than 75 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period remain closed for in-person instruction.

However, child care services may operate with daily health screenings, small group sizes and regular cleaning.

After-School Program

Families can register for the city of Vancouver’s after-school program by visiting www.cityofvancouver.us/afterschool. Families do not need to live within city limits. The program is only available to children 6 to 12 years old. Families can register for a week at a time. Registration for November dates opens Oct. 14.

In a large gymnasium at Firstenburg Community Center on Thursday, half a dozen 6- and 7-year-olds squealed as they hurtled across the floor on scooter boards.

Among them was 6-year-old Clara Sellers, a Grass Valley Elementary School student. She scooted along with a new friend, giggling as other students hurtled past them.

Remote learning hasn’t been all fun and games for students like Clara.

“I miss my friends,” she said.

Firstenburg center director Angela Brosius, however, is optimistic that giving children a chance to socialize and work out pent-up energy will help them feel happier and healthier.

“Parents are going to see a difference when their kids get in the car,” she said.

At the other end of the community center, 10-year-old Mason Johnson and 12-year-old Alex Schmidt were locked in a game of pingpong, laughing and chasing after the ball as they missed.

Mason admits he’s been having a hard time focusing on his virtual classes at Ellsworth Elementary School. This is a welcome break.

“I met him,” he said, gesturing at Alex. “And have someone to play with.”

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CDC Says 13-Year-Old Girl Spread COVID-19 to 11 Relatives During Summer Vacation

In the last few months, children have vacillated between unlikely vectors and walking biological weapons depending on who you asked and on what day. The CDC is underlining the fact that yes, children can spread coronavirus by sharing a new report on a 13-year-old girl who passed COVID-19 on to 11 of her relatives across four states.

The transmission in question came after the unidentified girl traveled with her family to a summer family gathering in a large house. The child had been tested after being exposed, with her test falsely coming back negative ahead of the trip. After the teen took the test, she started to experience nasal congestion, which was the only symptom she had.

The family, which included people that were aged 9 to 72 years old, came together from disparate parts of the country with 14 people staying in the house that contained the teen. The family reportedly did not practice social distancing or wear masks. “Fourteen relatives, including the index patient, stayed in a five-bedroom, two-bathroom house for 8–25 days,” the CDC’s report stated. “These relatives did not wear face masks or practice physical distancing.” 11 people contracted the virus and two needed to be hospitalized, though all have recovered.

Another branch of the family visited the home, but wore masks and remained outside the house. None of those people contracted the virus. As numbers in the US continue to rise, flu season adds a complicated wrinkle and the vaccine still appears far off, it’s important to remember that there are practices, such as wearing a mask, that can reduce the risk of spreading or contracting coronavirus.

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On first anniversary of Hard Rock Hotel collapse, developer sues contractors, insurers | Courts

The company that owns the ill-fated Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans filed suit this week against a host of construction contractors, subcontractors and insurance companies over the 2019 building collapse that killed three workers and injured dozens more.

The suit was filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court late Monday, the first anniversary of the collapse of the upper floors of the 18-story building.



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The ownership group, 1031 Canal Development, is led by Mohan Kailas. But company officials have said principals of two of the project’s main contractors — Denzel Clark, owner of general contractor Citadel Builders, and Todd Trosclair, owner of electrical contractor All-Star Electric — also owned a share.

The development company blames the building’s failure on Citadel, All-Star, Heaslip Engineering, architect Harry Baker Smith and 15 other subcontractors. Because of the company’s contract with Citadel to build the hotel at Canal and North Rampart streets, it also sued the insurance providers of each contractor and subcontractor.

The lawsuit takes particular aim at Heaslip, whom investigators for the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration have cited for several key violations. The development company’s suit asserts that Heaslip failed to design the proper support beams and columns or to calculate the proper loads that each floor could support. It branches out from there to the lead contractor, Citadel, and the various trades subcontractors.

Nearly a year after the top floors of the Hard Rock Hotel collapsed, killing three workers, injuring 18 others and straining city resources, N…

“Just as Heaslip did not run appropriate load calculations and analyses, neither did the general contractor or any subcontractor or supplier,” 1031 Canal alleges.

The owners also blame steel subcontractor Hub Steel for the way it fabricated and installed beams and metal decking on the upper floors. Metal decking was used like pans for pouring concrete on the top 10 floors of the building. An investigation by WWL television and The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate in November showed how the gage of metal decking was changed and the spans required to support the decking with steel beams did not match what was in the structural plans.

“The decking system designed, manufactured and installed by Hub Steel was improperly erected and installed and/or was inadequately designed for the building,” 1031 Canal alleges.



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Demi Searls, 7, and Harlo Cartozzo, 8, write notes to their uncle Anthony Floyd Magrette who died in the Hard Rock Hotel construction site collapse in New Orleans, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




The suit says the decking system caused too much weight to be placed on the 16th floor, which contributed to the collapse. It also asserts that “load calculations and analyses would have established that the building had structural problems,” but that no alarms were raised because the subcontractors either did not do the analyses or ignored the red flags raised by the tests.

Citadel either knew or should have known

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HSN, QVC unveil new travel and cooking show with Curtis Stone

HSN and QVC rolled out a new travel and cooking show on its digital streaming platforms on Tuesday.

The show titled “Travel, Cook, Repeat with Curtis Stone” is a shift from their typical sales programming.

Rather than pushing Stone’s products infomercial-style, the celebrity chef will travel and cook diverse food using his cookware that is up for sale on HSN’s website.

The new six-episode series is a push to connect with audiences who are quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic.

DISNEY SHIFTS FOCUS TO STREAMING CONTENT WITH REORGANIZATION OF MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS

The aim is to give viewers a more interactive experience and excite them into buying products during a time when people are spending less time shopping.

“I’m so excited to be creating this show for the Qurate Retail Group’s QVC and HSN streaming service. As a chef, it is a real joy to be able to introduce exotic flavors to home cooks across America, in straightforward recipes that our audience can actually prepare themselves,” Stone said in a press release.

JENSEN AND DANNEEL ACKLES’ PRODUCTION COMPANY LANDS WARNER BROS. TV DEAL

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He continued: “We’ll travel together, from New South Wales in Australia to Rioja, Spain, and beyond, and then create some amazing dishes at home. We’ll have some laughs, and I’ll post each recipe to HSN.com, with complete instructions.”

Maya Bowie, the general manager merchandising vice president at QVC and HSN, said, “Our long collaboration with Curtis Stone and the relationships he has built with consumers created the opportunity to try this amazing new concept.”

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She added: “Curtis joined HSN in 2012 and quickly became HSN’s #1 brand in the kitchen. He started with cookware and kitchen tools and expanded from there. Now, he’s giving our customers an introduction to new cultures and cuisine, while bringing those very recipes to life using his own HSN products.”

Liberty Interactive, the owner of QVC, inked a $2.1 billion deal in 2017 to acquire full ownership of HSN, the parent company of the Home Shopping Network.

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CT’s Coronavirus Travel Advisory List: 3 States Added

CONNECTICUT — Gov. Ned Lamont added Ohio, Michigan and Virginia to Connecticut’s coronavirus travel advisory list Tuesday. No state or territory fell from the list, bringing the number of restricted areas to 38.

Under the most recent regulations released by Lamont, travelers from those areas either have to self-quarantine for 14 days or have proof of a negative coronavirus test result within 72 hours of arriving in the state.

States are put on the advisory list if they have a daily positive coronavirus test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a 10 percent or higher positive rate over a seven-day rolling average. Failure to complete a travel health form carries a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation.

A total of 49 people have been fined so far, Hearst Connecticut reported. The fines total in excess of $53,000 and mostly involve people coming from Florida and North Carolina, Hearst reported.

Travelers who are required to self-quarantine may do so at their home, a hotel or other temporary lodging. Connecticut, New York and New Jersey asked hotels to communicate the quarantine requirements to guests who have traveled from one of the affected states.

There are some exceptions to the rule. Workers traveling from affected states to Connecticut and vice versa who work in critical infrastructure as designated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including students in exempt health care professions, and any state, local and federal officials and employees, are exempt from the quarantine requirement when such travel is work-related. Such essential workers are required to complete the travel health form, however.

While there currently are no Connecticut-imposed restrictions on international travel, the federal government continues to provide international travel recommendations for anyone living inside the United States. For guidance on international travel, see the “COVID-19 Travel Recommendations” published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See Also: CT Officials Warn Of Possible Coronavirus Spreading Scenarios

As of Tuesday, the following 38 states and territories are included in Connecticut’s travel advisory:

  1. Alabama

  2. Alaska

  3. Arkansas

  4. Colorado

  5. Delaware

  6. Florida

  7. Georgia

  8. Guam

  9. Idaho

  10. Illinois

  11. Indiana

  12. Iowa

  13. Kansas

  14. Kentucky

  15. Louisiana

  16. Michigan

  17. Minnesota

  18. Mississippi

  19. Missouri

  20. Montana

  21. Nebraska

  22. Nevada

  23. New Mexico

  24. North Carolina

  25. North Dakota

  26. Ohio

  27. Oklahoma

  28. Puerto Rico

  29. Rhode Island

  30. South Carolina

  31. South Dakota

  32. Tennessee

  33. Texas

  34. Utah

  35. Virginia

  36. West Virginia

  37. Wisconsin

  38. Wyoming

This article originally appeared on the Across Connecticut Patch

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Red Roof Inn charges guest for smoking cleanup, but she doesn’t smoke. Money refunded

A Red Roof Inn.

A Red Roof Inn.

Q: My husband and I recently stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Gallup, New Mexico. We checked in late in the evening. We asked if they had any first-floor rooms because we are senior citizens, and they accommodated us.

When we got to the room, it had an awful odor, but we didn’t want to complain because they put us on the ground floor and we were tired and didn’t want to move. So we opened the door and tried to air it out the best we could.

After returning from our trip, I checked the credit card activity and noticed that there was a charge of $100 for a smoking fee. I called a manager at the Red Roof Inn. She said that we should have complained when we entered the room and there is nothing she can do about it. She said we were lucky they only charged us half the fee. I told her we requested a nonsmoking room, because we do not smoke. Why would we then smoke in the room? She said the cleaning lady said the room smelled of smoke and so we were guilty of smoking.

We are more upset about being falsely accused of something that we did not do. We are starting to think that this is some sort of scam. Please help us. — Mindy Haggerty, Pueblo West, Colorado

A: You didn’t smoke in your room. Therefore, you should not have to pay a smoking fee — or half a smoking fee. Goes without saying, right?

So what went wrong here? Easy. I think you were too polite. When you checked into a room that smelled like smoke, you should have said something. You were still being polite when you referred to it as an “odor.”

The last time I wrote about smoking fees in hotels, I had the audacity to say that if you smoke in your room, you should pay the cleaning fee. Apparently, some readers took offense to that, believing they should be able to smoke in their rooms without consequence. But that’s the world we live in.

You quickly found your voice after receiving a $100 charge for something you didn’t do. When the hotel refused to reverse the charge, you posted warnings on several websites and filed a BBB complaint. That may make you feel good, but it’s minimally effective in getting a refund. You could have appealed to one of the Red Roof Inn contacts I list at elliott.org/company-contacts/red-roof-inn/.

Red Roof did respond to you in writing about your complaint. It said when its housekeeper opened the room to clean it, “there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke.” The housekeeper contacted a front desk representative, who then accompanied the housekeeper to the room and verified that there was indeed a strong smell of smoke. Your room had to be closed for a few days while the hotel cleaned it. Still, Red Roof notes that it only charged you

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Chicago adds Indiana to travel quarantine list; city health commissioner says neighbor ‘is a state that is wishing that COVID were over, and it’s not’

Chicago made it official Tuesday, adding neighboring Indiana to its emergency travel order that requires travelers returning to the city from there to stay inside for two weeks because of high COVID-19 case counts.



a person posing for the camera: In this file photo, Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady answers questions during a news conference at the Greater Western Community Development Project in Chicago, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.


© Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
In this file photo, Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady answers questions during a news conference at the Greater Western Community Development Project in Chicago, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.

The Hoosier state’s inclusion on Chicago’s self-quarantine list was expected.

The city last week “strongly advised” Chicago residents against traveling to Indiana, pointing to the fact the state had already passed the bench mark of more than 15 new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period that warrants getting added.

“I am very concerned that Indiana is a state that is wishing that COVID were over, and it’s not,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said then.

Starting Friday, people traveling into Chicago from Indiana will be expected to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Violators can face fine, though the city has taken few steps to enforce the rules.

Indiana joins Wisconsin, which was placed back on Chicago’s travel warning list three weeks ago amid skyrocketing coronavirus numbers there.

And like with Wisconsin, people who commute across the Indiana state line to or from Chicago to work or go to school will be exempt from the quarantine rule, a nod to the symbiotic relationship between the neighboring states. But workers in Chicago from Indiana will be expected to avoid restaurants, bars and other public spaces in the city.

In all, there are now 26 states on the quarantine list: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Check back for updates

[email protected]

Twitter @_johnbyrne

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©2020 the Chicago Tribune

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Waynesboro Parks and Recreation, YMCA, Office on Youth host “Bike It”



a group of people riding on the back of a bicycle: It doesn't matter if you know how to ride a bike or not, all children are welcome.


© Provided by Harrisonburg WHSV
It doesn’t matter if you know how to ride a bike or not, all children are welcome.

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) — The Waynesboro Parks and Recreation Department partnered with Waynesboro YMCA and the Office on Youth to host “Bike it,” a program teaching children how to ride their bikes safely.

The program teaches a number of ways to safely ride their bikes with confidence. From adjusting helmets and bike safety checks to signaling and braking, children are taught the ins and outs of their bikes.

Every class involves social distancing, is outside and everyone is required to wear a mask.

The bikes were purchased through the national Safe Routes to School grant. The grant provides safe ways for students to get to and from school.

Susan Lendermon is the Safe Routes to School coordinator for Waynesboro. She said the program is for everyone, whether they know how to ride a bike or not.

“It’s just a great opportunity to get kids outside and connect them with the natural world. They are inside on their screens all the time, so getting them out and enjoying biking and watching a child who’s never biked before is just so rewarding,” Lendermon said.

Bike It is held on Tuesdays at the Waynesboro YMCA. Lendermon said if the weather permits, they will continue the program into November.

More information on Bike It can be found here.

Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.

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