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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Tips, COVID-19

Here’s how to address bill payment challenges during COVID-19

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has left many Americans wondering how they’re going to pay their monthly bills. U.S. PIRG Education Fund new advice on how to negotiate with banks, utilities delaying payments, waiving of overdraft fees and other ways to stay financially secure.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Attorneys general demand online marketplaces end coronavirus price gouging

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not join in the call to the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. A bipartisan group of 33 attorneys general, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro along with co-leading Attorneys General Hector Balderas (NM), William Tong (CT), and T.J. Donovan (VT), sent a letter today urging the companies -- Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart -- to quickly implement preventative measures on their platforms to ensure that consumers don’t get taken advantage of during this public health crisis.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Governor worries about coronavirus spread, advocates offer solution

As the coronavirus continues to spread across Texas and the nation, advocacy groups and health professionals sent a letter today to Governor Abbott asking him to protect state employees by requiring non-essential state employees to switch to telework.

Today, Governor Abbott expressed concern over compliance with his measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Yet as Texans across the state adjust to telework, online school and social distancing there were several reported instances of pressure from state agencies for employees to go into their office or field or take vacation time.

“Governor Abbott must lead by example and deliver a clear message that requiring remote work can save lives,” says Lauren Banister, TexPIRG Associate. “While we don’t know the extent of the problem, we are disappointed to see that any state employee has to choose between their job and public health.” 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Updated Student Resources during COVID-19 Pandemic | Lauren Banister

As the second week of spring break begins, I wanted to update the student resources I sent last week and give you some ways to help others during this unprecedented moment. 

As you know, on March 30th, all classes will resume online and students who live on campus are asked to move out throughout this week. 

Here are a few resources to turn to if you need them:

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Here’s how we’re protecting consumers amid the pandemic | Bay Scoggin

The spread of coronavirus across the country is a serious threat to our health and financial security. We here at TexPIRG are working from home and wishing everyone health, calm, and plenty of hand-washing.

During this time, we must ensure that consumers are protected from those who would take advantage of the pandemic situation and that everyone has access to what they need to stay healthy and prevent the spread of this disease. 

The changes occurring to our daily lives and the whole country is overwhelming. We’ll get through it by working together, so we wanted to offer some information on what TexPIRG is working on.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Coronavirus worry triggers most surgical mask, sanitizer prices to spike at least 50% on Amazon

As the Coronvirus outbreak became more widespread, the price of most of the sanitizers and masks rose at least 50 percent higher than the 90-day average. Even one in six products sold directly by Amazon saw prices rise at least 50 percent higher in February

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin." CapMetro chooses light rail, downtown tunnel

AUSTIN--Today, CapMetro’s plan for a generational investment in public transit for the city came out. The plan, the details of the long-awaited Project Connect vision map, include light rail recommendations for the two key high capacity corridors, one for the Guadalupe/Lamar corridor and one out to the airport, as well as an underground tunnel through the downtown business district. 

"Welcome to the 21st century, Austin. It’s absurd that one of the largest cities in America still lacks high capacity public transit, and that’s why I’m so excited CapMetro is submitting this transformational proposal. Project Connect will help us get around, improve our quality of life, and mitigate the worst aspects of climate change,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the advocacy organization TexPIRG Education Fund. “The best time to build transit was 20 years ago, but the second best time is right now.”

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

TexPIRG Statement on I35 Expansion Boondoggle

On Wednesday, the Texas Transportation Commission came out with a plan to fully fund the proposed expansion of Interstate 35 through downtown Austin. The following can be attributed to Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund Director. 

“Time and again, we see Texas’ transportation priorities are headed in the wrong direction.For eight billion dollars, we could do far better than a project that won’t solve congestion, will increase our burden on the environment, and will exacerbate our reliance on cars.”

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New investigation: Supermarkets failing to warn public about food recalls

Americans are not hearing about food recalls, and that communication breakdown is having serious repercussions for public health. For example, less than two years ago, people kept getting sick for months after 12 million pounds of Salmonella-contaminated beef was recalled. The pattern has repeated for other recalls even when news outlets have publicized warnings from food safety agencies.

A new report finds that most grocery stores -- which should be some of the best sources for consumers to learn about recalls -- don’t make it easy for consumers to find. TexPIRG Education Fund’s Food Recall Failure: Will your supermarket warn you about hazardous food? scorecard gave a failing grade to 84 percent of the nation’s 26 largest supermarket chains. Chains receiving a failing grade include HEB,and Whole Foods. Shoppers can search for their grocery store on the organization’s website.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Hack doesn’t absolve Equifax of being careless with consumers’ data

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

A Citizen's Guide to Reducing Energy Waste

The future is here—but we’re living in the past.

Clean energy from the sun and wind can provide for our energy needs without the global consequences of pollution, yet we’re still producing and consuming virtually all of our energy in ways that do lasting damage to our environment, our health and our climate. To make matters worse, much of the dirty energy we produce goes to waste.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 4

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses

More than 60 percent of the transit buses run on diesel, while just 0.2 percent of buses are all-electric. Numerous studies have shown that inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from buses poses a particular public health risk; buses primarily travel where there are lots of people, including in the more densely-crowded areas of cities, on the busiest roads, and near schools.

 

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Follow the Money 2018

Texas Public Interest Research Group Education Fund will release a new report, “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” evaluating each state on how well it provides spending information online and assigning them letter grades from “A” to “F.” The report will reveal Texas’ letter grade, compare its public disclosure of spending information to other states, and provide recommendations for improvements.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Public Health

In Your Face

The negative health effects of asbestos are well-known. Most people may associate asbestos contamination with the workplace or decades-old construction material, but alarmingly, recent media reports have found asbestos contamination in kids' makeup from popular stores. PIRG decided to do its own asbestos testing at an accredited laboratory.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Tips and FAQ about the Equifax Breach | Mike Litt

Hackers gained access to the personal data of over 145 million Americans in the Equifax breach. Here are some recommended actions consumers can take to protect themselves and answers to frequently asked questions.

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Blog Post | Public Health

During This Intense Hurricane Season: Some Reports and Information On Storms, Chemicals and Public Safety | Kara Cook-Schultz

Hurricane Harvey was a natural disaster, and a devastating one at that. During and after the hurricane, we learned anew that it’s not only the initial storm that threatens life and limb, but also chemical facilities that are hit.  As Irma bears down on Florida, we hope for the best outcome for the people of Florida. We also want the state to prepare for the worst. In that spirit, here are some resources and information on storms, chemicals and public safety.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

EPA’s Pruitt Met with Dow Prior to Favorable RulingDev GowdaKara Cook-Schultz

On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts. The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials, but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.

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Blog Post | Food

Shrinking the Dead Zone, Reducing Fertilizer Use | Bill Wenzel

Last week, scientists predicted that this year’s hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico will be the 3rd largest since monitoring began 32 years ago. The “dead zone” will cover about 8,185 square miles — an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

This coming Monday, June 1, will mark the third full month that bills are due since COVID-19 was declared a national state of emergency in March. To help Americans manage their finances, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has published an updated guide with tips on what to do about paying bills during the crisis.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Consumer complaints to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to the coronavirus approached 50,000 on Tuesday. U.S. PIRG Education Fund has documented the actions taken by the FTC and 14 other federal agencies in response to coronavirus scams.

Blog Post

Public health experts have made it abundantly clear that to safely lift stay-at-home rules we must have four key things we don’t yet have. We need fast, accurate and widely available testing. We need a better plan for isolating and supporting people who have COVID-19. We need sufficient hospital capacity, including medical and protective equipment, to treat all patients safely. And we need more contact tracing. This blog explains U.S. PIRG's support for automated warning and contact tracing, subject to appropriate privacy and civil liberties protections, which can provide critical information quickly about who has potentially been exposed.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

Desperate for a cure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many Americans are turning to the internet for answers. What they’re finding, however, is a minefield of dubious products posted by unscrupulous sellers. False claims are tricking worried people into paying for fake solutions that give them a false sense of security. The federal government hasn’t approved any product that prevents or treats COVID-19.

While myriad fake COVID-related products exist online, a new analysis from TexPIRG Education Fund found that the most common were for products using claims of antiviral or immune-boosting properties. The group looked at 34 warning letters issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

AUSTIN-- In the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, American consumers are experiencing numerous public health and financial challenges, including virus-related scams, fake products promising cures and price gouging. To help address concerns as they arise, TexPIRG Education Fund is publishing new tip guides each week to help people navigate this crisis.

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