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Good Morning, Portland! Let’s see how those headlines are looking this morning…

In local news:

• Amidst Portland’s exasperated housing crisis, Multnomah County leaders are calling for private landlords to lease apartments to unhoused Portlanders. According to a plan announced Wednesday, the county would cover the rent for one year and be responsible for any damages that occurred during that time. The model has already been successfully utilized by some local landlords (with great success) and the county is now hoping to expand the effort.

• Despite previous conversations that declining enrollment may trigger teacher layoffs, Portland Public Schools staff proposed a $1.87 billion budget this week that would avoid cutting teacher positions next year. Due to increasing expenses, the district is facing a $40 million deficit next year, which the school board approved to be taken from the district’s reserves.

• Have you noticed new purple-clad passengers on the Portland Streetcar lately? That’s the streetcar’s Rider Ambassadors, a safety team that aims to keep riders safe by deescalating potential onboard conflicts and providing resources to the region’s most vulnerable riders, like homeless passengers. While the program is four months into its pilot year, streetcar leaders are already planning on making it permanent after receiving positive feedback.

• Multnomah and Washington County voters won’t receive a secrecy sleeve with their ballot this year. The paper slip used to exist so that election officials couldn’t see how a person voted when they opened a ballot, but now that ballots are opened by machines, about half of Oregon’s counties are getting rid of them. In Multnomah County, the change will save about $15,000 in printing costs.

In national and international news:

• Moderna asked US regulators to approve its COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 6 Thursday. If approved, the vaccine could be available for 18 million children in time for summer. Pfizer is also expected to submit a vaccine for young children for approval soon.

• The New York Mets have been hit by baseball pitches 19 times in the first 20 games of the season—an unusually high number. Some, like Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt, are blaming it on “bad” baseballs, while others think it has more to do with the cold weather making the balls less sticky which eliminates some of the control pitches have. Science! Baseball!

• Sabotage! The Paris prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the possible sabotage of fiber optic cables that disrupted internet service throughout France on Wednesday. The cable cuts were assumed to be intentional, but did not impact any vital services like hospitals.

• A federal investigation found that tens of thousands of people covered under private Medicare Advantage plans are regularly denied necessary care that should be covered under their plan. Medicare Advantage plans, a privatized version of Medicare, are increasingly popular among older Americans because they are usually less expensive and provide more benefits than standard government programs. The report also a exposes a pattern of behavior; in 2018, it was discovered that Medicare Advantage was reversing about three-quarters of its care denials upon appeal—an insurance company tactic that aims to get out of actually providing the insurance people are paying for. Let’s give a round of applause for healthcare in America, everybody!

• Speaking of healthcare...