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Updated: 1 hour 16 min ago

Tornado sirens sound in Licking County; no severe weather threat

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 04:33

LICKING COUNTY, Ohio -- The Licking County Emergency Management Agency is working to figure out why tornado sirens are sounding throughout the county.

10TV has received multiple reports from viewers of the sirens sounding since 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

No weather warnings were issued by the National Weather Service that would activate sirens.

The Licking County EMA is investigation the issue.

We are getting reports of the tornado sirens being activated in parts of Licking County. There is no tornado threat at this time and we are currently investigating the activation.

— Licking County EMA (@lcountyEMA) February 19, 2019

Categories: Ohio News

Judge to rule Tuesday in Chicago Obama Library lawsuit

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 04:18

CHICAGO — A federal judge will rule on the city of Chicago's request to toss a lawsuit aimed at halting President Barack Obama's museum and library from being built in a public park.

U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey heard oral arguments last week in the case and said he would issue a ruling Tuesday. Protect Our Parks wants to stop the $500 million Obama Presidential Center from being built in the selected location. A ruling in favor of the groupcould signal that the Obama Presidential Center is in real trouble.

The parks advocacy group accuses the city of illegally transferring park land to a private entity, The Obama Foundation. City lawyers say Protect Our Parks misread the law, has misrepresented how the approval process worked and exaggerated potential environmental disruptions.

Categories: Ohio News

Costume Designers Guild to honor Ruth E. Carter, Glenn Close

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 04:12

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Oscar nominees Glenn Close and "Black Panther" costume designer Ruth E. Carter will be honored Tuesday night at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards.

Close will receive the spotlight award at the ceremony Tuesday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The guild will pay homage to Carter's illustrious designs with a career achievement award .

Costume designer Betty Pecha Madden and screenwriter-director Ryan Murphy will be recognized for their work in film.

Actress Kate Walsh will host the awards.

Close is nominated for a best actress Oscar for "The Wife." Carter could become the first African-American to win an Oscar for best costume designer for her work in "Black Panther."

Halle Berry, Michael Chiklis, Danai Gurira and Christina Hendricks are expected to serve as presenters.

Categories: Ohio News

Cairo policeman dies, death toll in suicide blast now at 3

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 04:06

CAIRO (AP) — The death toll from a late-night suicide blast near Cairo's famed tourist market rose to three on Tuesday after a police officer died of his wounds, Egyptian security officials said.

All three fatalities in the attack near Khan el-Khalili bazaar in the heart of Cairo late Monday were policemen. The explosion also wounded two other policemen and a woman, the officials said.

The attack was a rarity for the central area of Egypt's capital, following progress from a security crackdown under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The Interior Ministry said the attacker, identified as 37-year-old al-Hassan Abdullah, blew himself up after police officers approached him with the intention to arrest him.

The man was wanted in a bombing last Friday near a mosque in Cairo's district of Giza and the police had been monitoring his movements, the statement said. The attacker's affiliation was not known and no militant group claimed responsibility for the bombings.

The ministry had blamed members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood for last week's attack, which it said targeted a security checkpoint and wounded three people.

Following Monday's explosion, which shattered windows and blew curtains off nearby balconies, Egyptian police and soldiers cordoned off the narrow streets around the bazaar. A body, presumably of the attacker, covered with a white sheet stained with blood, was seen lying on the ground in the blocked-off area, close to Egypt's renowned Al-Azhar mosque.

In a house nearby, police found a bomb and bomb-making material, which prompted the evacuation of the whole building, said the security officials.

In the restive north of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, security forces killed 16 militants and seized explosives and weapons in two raids, security officials said Tuesday. The raids involved clashes with Islamic militants in the desert outside the city of el-Arish, they said. It was unclear when the battle took place.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Egypt has been battling Islamic militants for years, but the insurgency gained strength after the 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. The militants have mainly targeted security forces and Christians.

Egypt last year launched a wide-scale security operation focused on northern Sinai, where an Islamic State affiliate has carried out many attacks in recent years.

Categories: Ohio News

Detained Mexican migrant dies in Texas hospital

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 04:03

MCALLEN, Texas — A Mexican man detained by Border Patrol for illegal re-entry died Monday at a hospital in Texas.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Andrew Meehan says the 45-year-old man was initially apprehended Feb. 2 and requested medical attention. He was taken to a medical center and later cleared to return to the Rio Grande City Border Patrol Station. The next day, he requested medical attention again and was taken to a hospital where he stayed until he died Monday.

Meehan says the official cause of death is not yet known, but the medical center diagnosed him with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure when he was admitted.

The death is under investigation.

Categories: Ohio News

Voters will get the chance to test new voting machines in Franklin County

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 03:12

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio - If you're one of the 851,000 registered voters in Franklin County, the way you vote is about to change.

The Franklin County Board of Elections is introducing new voting machines to make the voting process simple and secure.

"The one we're replacing, it's getting older," said Franklin County Board of Elections Director Edward Leonard. "It's getting harder to maintain. So it just made sense. And the state of Ohio was also willing to provide funding. And now seemed to be the right time, before the presidential election, for us to make this implementation so that when 2020 does come, that we'll have the system in place."

Voting with the new machines is a simple, three-step process. You mark your ballot, verify your ballot, and cast your ballot.

After you check in at your polling place, you'll be given a blank ballot. Voters will insert that sheet of paper into the machine. Next, voters will make their selections on the touchscreen. Upon finishing, the machine will prompt people to double-check their selections.

To cast your vote, select "print" on the screen to print your ballot. On stand-alone machines, the ballot is printed and scanned internally. For table-top machines, voters will take their printed ballot and insert it into the ballot counter to officially cast their vote.

Leonard says all of the votes are physically tabulated. None of the machines is able to connect to the Internet to help prevent any sort of hacking or outside interference.

The new machines will be in place this spring, in time for the upcoming May primary.

Click here for more information about the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Categories: Ohio News

CPD cruiser involved in crash during overnight police chase

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 03:01

COLUMBUS, Ohio (10TV) -- A police chase that involved a Columbus police cruiser being damaged still has lanes closed more than four hours after it happened.

Columbus police say the southbound lanes of Olentangy River Road near state route 161 are still closed due to a police investigation.

Police say around 11:45 p.m. on Monday, police tried to pull someone over for a traffic stop at the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Genessee Avenue, but at some point they took off.

Police say a cruiser was involved in a crash during the chase, but it's unclear how it happened at this time.

Police say the chase ended 30 minutes after it began near the intersection of Olentangy River Road and state route 161, where the suspect was arrested.

Police say nobody was injured during the chase.

Categories: Ohio News

Columbus police issue hundreds of tickets to stop speeding in school zones

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 00:19

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The early morning hours in west Columbus are a big problem when it comes to speeders, especially in school zones.

In front of West Broad Elementary, Columbus police have clocked speeders going through a 20-mile-per-hour school zone at 35 and even 45 miles per hour.

"It's just dangerous, that's all," concerned parent Arthur Smith said. Smith escorts his son and granddaughter to school every day. He says he does it because he believes too many drivers are distracted and too many drivers are speeding.

Arthur Smith is concerned about it. "Just dangerous that's all". Smith escorts his son and granddaughter to school every day. He does it because he believes too many drivers are distracted and too many drivers are speeding.

"Some people just don't care," Smith said. "They drive the way they want to."

The motorcycle unit of the Columbus Division of Police is taking note of those drivers speeding through the school zones in Columbus. This school year alone, police say they have written 760 tickets.

Over the past month, a pair of school zones have surfaced as two of the more dangerous areas for children to cross. One of the zones is off of East 7th Avenue in front of Weinland Elementary School. In the month of January, police say they have issued 51 tickets to drivers speeding. The other school zone is located along Livingston Avenue. It's a school zone in front of All Saints Academy. Police have also issued 51 speeding tickets in that zone for January.

The latest school zone speed enforcement report by Columbus police shows other speeding trouble spots in front of schools like Walnut Ridge High School, Woodward Park Middle School, and Woodcrest Elementary School. Two of those schools are located on Livingston Avenue which police say has become a real trouble spot for officers and for children. Police say what makes this area even more dangerous is that some of the school zones are activated when it's still dark.

For parents like Arthur Smith, he says he is happy that police try to enforce the 20 mile-per-hour limit in front of his child's school. But when police aren't there, he says drivers appear to go back to their same old habits by speeding and putting children in danger.

"The traffic is kind of wild in the morning, so I have to make sure I'll be here," Smith said.

Categories: Ohio News

Police: More than a dozen people trapped on SeaWorld ride

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 22:04

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Police say more than a dozen people trapped on a ride at SeaWorld in San Diego have been rescued.

San Diego police tell FOX5 News that around six gondolas stopped functioning Monday night after a big gust of wind tripped a circuit breaker on "Bayside Skyride." Authorities had estimated that between 15 and 30 people were trapped, some of them in gondolas suspended above water. Sixteen were actually rescued.

The riders were lowered by harnesses and rescued by lifeguard boats. They were then evaluated by medical crews.

SeaWorld said in a statement that it will conduct a thorough inspection of the ride prior to reopening.

The National Weather Service says it was about 49 degrees in San Diego at the time.

SeaWorld said the gondolas had blankets on board.

Categories: Ohio News

Richland County mother closes store to breastfeed, gains support on social media

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 20:25

RICHLAND COUNTY, Ohio - Emily Edgington said she had no choice but to close the Family Dollar store earlier this month where she was working so she could pump.

Another mother saw the sign at the store in the 1200 block of Ashland Road just outside Mansfield and posted a picture to social media.

Edgington told 10TV's Lacey Crisp it is important to her to breastfeed her three-month-old daughter Eliana. She was scheduled to work alone at the Family Dollar.

“I didn't pump that day. I ended up engorged. This had been the 3rd day I worked by myself and hadn't been able to pump,” she said.

10TV reached out to Family Dollar for comment and did not receive a response.

Federal law says employers have to give people time and a place to pump.

“No mother should have to go through this,” said Edgington.

Edgington called human resources, and they told her to pump between customers.

“You cannot pump for two minutes, run back up, spend 10 minutes check out customers, then pump for two more minutes. It doesn't work like that,” Emily said.

That's when Edgington posted a sign on the door so she could take a break to pump.

She did not know a mother of three, Codey Burghard, had taken a picture of the sign and posted it to Facebook.​

What would you do if you were the mom who needed to pump, but were working alone in a store? pic.twitter.com/FXUqE6icum

— Lacey Crisp (@LaceyCrisp) February 19, 2019

“I saw the sign that was posted. I said, I'm not even that mad we got out in the cold for nothing because this is awesome,” Burghard said.

Within an hour, the picture had more than 300 likes, and plenty more now. Burghard took the picture back to the store to show the mom, she had support.

“She did what she needed to do as a mother,” said Burghard.

“I felt really good knowing other mothers were supporting me,” Edgington said.

Edgington told 10TV she did stop working at the store. She said she is afraid of what would happen if she tried to go back. She is considering taking legal action.

Categories: Ohio News

Family remembers first female police officer at Ohio State

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 20:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A decorated officer of the law. A marksman behind the short barrel of a snub-nose 38. A trailblazer in the field of law enforcement.

That describes Norma Jean Walker who was the first female police officer at the Ohio State University.

"My grandfather actually talked her into it," Chuck Miller said.

Miller's grandfather, Vernon, who worked for the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, saw potential in his wife.

He knew she could handle a workforce predominantly ran by men. In 1960, Vernon's wife Norma Jean became one of the first women to join the Columbus Police Department.

Vernon and Norma Jean Walker won more than 40 pistol shooting competitions.

Then, in 1962, she became the first female officer at the Ohio State University Police Department.

It was a task, Miller said, filled with trials and tribulations but she kept with it.

"She never let it get to her," Miller said. "She worked through them. She overcame the adversity and she prospered from it."

She was not issued a handgun until 1964.

Norma Jean Walkers' handbag with her badge, handcuffs and gun.

The picture above shows where she put it, along with her badge and handcuffs, inside the handbag she wore with her uniform.

A cover of the Sunday Magazine from The Columbus Dispatch on Feb. 23, 1964, proudly shows Walker in an article titled "Campus Lady Law."

"To know that she paved the way for other people...not many people have the opportunity to say that," Miller said. "I'm proud that I have the opportunity that I can say my grandmother paved the way."

Grandma Norma Jean certainly did. Miller is now in law enforcement and has been with the South Bloomfield Police Department the last two years.

Chuck Miller talks about his grandmother, Norma Jean Walker.

His drive and motivation comes from her, he said.

Norma Jean Walker passed away last week at the age of 87.

Inside the OSU Police Department are memories thanking Walker.

Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt, who is the first female chief at the department, recognizes that.

"Ms. Walker is an important part of Ohio State University's history," she said. "She was a trailblazer in law enforcement and especially for me."

She loved her family and her church, but Miller said above all else she loved being an officer.

She was kind. She was accepting. Miller said her persistence continues to spark drive and motivation for a new generation.

"She had the don't quit attitude," he said. "And, that's what you needed back in the day to survive in a man's world if you're going to be a female trying to do something. Same as today."

Categories: Ohio News

16 states sue Trump administration over national emergency declaration

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 19:13

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California and 15 other states filed a lawsuit Monday against President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released a statement Monday saying the suit alleges the Trump administration's action violates the Constitution.

"President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt," Becerra said. "He knows there is no border crisis, he knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court."

Joining California in filing the lawsuit are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia.

Trump declared a national emergency to fulfill his promise of completing the wall.

The move allows the president to bypass Congress to use money from the Pentagon and other budgets.

California has repeatedly challenged Trump in court.

"President Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up 'national emergency' in order to seize power and undermine the Constitution," said California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement. "This 'emergency' is a national disgrace."

Categories: Ohio News

Illinois "honor system" in question after deadly workplace shooting

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 18:14

AURORA, ILLINOIS — West of Chicago, workers returned Monday to a plant in Aurora where five co-workers were killed Friday. Russell Beyer worked there for more than 20 years. Vicente Juarez was a father of three, and grandfather of eight.

Clayton Parks had a wife and a son. Josh Pinkard was the manager. Trevor Wehner was on his first day as an intern. Five police officers are recovering.

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said suspect Gary Martin shouldn't have had the gun he allegedly used to kill five of his colleagues, after he was fired Friday.

"Some disgruntled person walked in and had access to a firearm he shouldn't have access to," Ziman said.

Pinkard texted his wife, "I love you, I've been shot at work."

In a Facebook post, Terra Pinkard wrote, "It took me several times reading it for it to hit me that it was for real."

Another victim was Diana Juarez's father — Vicente, a forklift operator.

"He is never going to come home ... never," she cried.

Police say Martin legally bought the handgun in 2014 after passing a background check for a Firearms Owners Identification Card (FOID). The screening should have turned up a 1995 felony, making him ineligible. The conviction did surface when he applied for a concealed carry permit, which requires fingerprints.

"Once this conviction was discovered, the offenders concealed carry permit was rejected and his card was revoked by the Illinois State Police," Ziman said.

Ziman was asked if Martin is supposed to volunteer the weapon, or if he doesn't show up with the weapon, should someone from state police go to his house.

"The letter states that he needs to voluntarily relinquish the weapons," Ziman replied. "We are looking into whether we followed up on that and if other agencies followed up on that."

By law, Illinois State Police are not required to seize firearms, if they're not returned.

"This is a bizarre honor system is what this is," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told CBS News. "It doesn't work and it's never worked."

Dart from neighboring Chicago launched a task force — on the county level — to pursues those guns.

He said hundreds of potential cases in Illinois involve people who have had FOID cards revoked, but still have their guns.

CBS News asked him why Illinois State Police doesn't take away guns.

"I couldn't imagine the state police would have the resources to do that," he said.

Dart said change is needed statewide to avoid another shooting like Aurora.

Categories: Ohio News

3 children among 4 found dead after west Michigan shooting

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 17:58

SOLON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Authorities say three children and a woman were found dead of apparent gunshot wounds at a home in western Michigan.

Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young says authorities responded Monday to a property near Cedar Springs, a community about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Grand Rapids. She says someone discovered the bodies and called 911.

LaJoye-Young said the three children were elementary school-aged and younger but declined to provide further information about the victims' relationships to one another. She said authorities were still confirming the victims' identities.

LaJoye-Young called the scene "a horrific thing to be called to" and said "my heart goes out to the families involved here and the community."

Authorities don't believe there is a shooter at large. An investigation is ongoing.

Categories: Ohio News

Light snow and a messy commute expected Wednesday morning

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 16:22

Another weather-maker has its sights set on central Ohio and it'll arrive at a rather inopportune time. By Wednesday morning a warm front will approach the area and some snow will be possible out ahead of it.

Weather Resources: Interactive Radar | Weather Warnings | Closings, Delays

As warmer air move in first just above the surface, some sleet and possibly freezing rain will mix in before it gets warm enough for all rain sometime late Wednesday morning. That means slick spots will definitely be possible by Wednesday morning's commute.

It's still a little difficult to pinpoint exactly how much snow we'll see but 1-3" are possible through the commute. Throw on top of it some sleet and a light icing and delays driving into work are definitely be likely.

Then soaking rain will take over through the afternoon which means the commute home could be dicey as well, but right now it's not looking as bad as the drive into work.

10TV wants to get you ready for the next weather system. That's why we're starting 10TV This Morning a half-hour early on Wednesday morning. We'll be on from 4 - 7 a.m. with cut-ins until 9 a.m. to help you get to work on time.

Keep tuning back to 10TV on-air and online as we get closer to the event. We'll have updates and the forecast will become more detailed as we get closer to the event.

Categories: Ohio News

Columbus groups join national protest against national emergency

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 15:12

Monday, Columbus groups joined a national protest against President Trump's declaration of a national emergency in an effort to gain federal financial support for a border wall.

"There's too much going on politically and I'm getting sick and tired of Trump, Portman and all these people taking over our rights," said Bob Wright, a voter from Lancaster, Ohio.

Friday, President Trump declared a national state of emergency along the border of Mexico noting the flow of drugs, illegal immigrants and criminal activity posed a threat to national security.

"I couldn’t believe he did that," Wright said. "There’s no emergency! Every single representative along the border said they don’t want a wall, but Trump definitely wants to have a wall of something to build his legacy. If he could build a Trump tower on the border, he’d prob do that."

Jennifer Asif is one of the people who protested outside of U.S. Senator Rob Portman's office in downtown Columbus.

"My husband, he is an immigrant from Spain, and he is here legally," she explained. "But because of an error ICE's system, he was stopped at a checkpoint in Texas where he was working as a semi-truck driver."

Asif says her husband now faces possible deportation and has been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for six weeks.

"It's terrible. He was our main source of income, to begin with," said Asif. "Just not having him here and not knowing what's going to happen that's really hard."

A group of activists in Westerville also held a protest Monday. The group called Indivisible Westerville met at City Hall. They were supported by state senator Tina Maharath, the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Ohio Senate.

"This is appalling that our president is out here abusing powers that he wants to build a wall and not welcome immigrants," Maharath said. "As a child of refugee parents, I should be standing up for rest of the refugees and immigrants out here in Columbus."

According to a recent poll conducted by CBS News, 66 percent of Americans are against a national emergency declaration for the border wall.

Categories: Ohio News

New Albany police investigating attempted burglaries

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 15:02

Police in New Albany are investigating four reports of a person attempting to break into homes. Police said it happened between the hours of 6 to 8 a.m. on Sunday, February 10 in the New Albany Links community on the northeast side of the city.

In at least two cases, people were home when the suspect tried to get in through a back door. A potential victim posted images captured by a surveillance camera, which shows the suspect dressed in a camouflage jacket.

New Albany Police Sergeant Kris Daniels says the would-be burglar is searching for unlocked doors.

"As with any theft or burglary, it's a crime of opportunity," said Sgt. Daniels.

CrimeTracker 10 obtained one police report which suggested the suspect did enter one home, where a person upstairs heard footsteps go part way up the stairs, then go back downstairs, and out the front door.

Police said they're working to identify a possible suspect, and said it's important for homeowners to take precautions.

"Lock your doors, if you do let your dog out, lock your door, set your alarm in the day time, even when you're home," said Sgt. Daniels.

Police urged homeowners to make sure exterior lighting is working properly and said if residents see someone who looks out of place, they should call and report suspicions right away.

Police said they're also investigating a burglary that occurred during the same time frame, but several miles away.

Police said it's not clear whether that crime is related to the four attempted burglaries.

Categories: Ohio News

Central Ohio schools find different ways to make up snow days

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 14:38

Between snow, ice and freezing temps, many districts have had to call off school several days this year.

At Logan-Hocking Schools, they were in class this Presidents Day, one of the district's designated make-up days.

The district has called off eight days so far to meet the state's requirements for hours of instruction, it has to make up anything past five days.

“Today is one of them, Presidents Day is our first one,” said Superintendent Monte Bainter. “We’re making up April 18 which is the Thursday before Easter, then the Monday after Easter. Then its tacked on at the end of the school year.”

Some other districts send blizzard bags home with the kids which is at-home instruction.

Pickerington and Clear Fork Schools were in session as well on Presidents Day, making up lost time.

Categories: Ohio News

Blue Jackets hosting “Hockey Is For Everyone” Night to celebrate diversity and inclusion

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 14:37

The Columbus Blue Jackets will be celebrating diversity and inclusion in the sport of hockey when they take on the San Jose Sharks on February 23.

“Hockey Is For Everyone” Night will be highlighted by themed recognitions, fundraisers and an exit giveaway.

During pregame warmups, Blue Jackets Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador Seth Jones and teammates will use rainbow colored Pride tape on sticks and practice with Pride-themed pucks.

The Blue Jackets will auction off signed sticks with proceeds benefiting You Can Play and its efforts to ensure safety and inclusion of all in sports – including LGBTQ athletes, coaches and fans.

Fans can bid in the signed sticks at www.cbjauction.givesmart.com or texting CBJAUCTION to 52182. The auction opens at noon on Saturday, February 23 and closes at the end of the 2nd intermission that evening.

A limited amount of the pucks used during warmups will be on sale for $40 each at the Blue Jackets Foundation kiosk.

Also, the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus will accompany anthem singer Leo Welsh to perform the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Categories: Ohio News

Employer-paid student loan repayment help could be coming

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 11:49

With U.S. student loan debt totaling a staggering $1.5 trillion nationally, it's second only to outstanding home mortgage debt for American households. But one idea that could provide some relief for indebted students is now gaining bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Under legislation reintroduced in the Senate last week, employers could contribute up to $5,250 tax-free annually to employees' student loan debt repayments. Companies can already get this tax break for employer-paid tuition reimbursements, but the new bill expands the coverage of existing tax codes to include student loan debt repayment.

"That takes an existing legislation and just makes a slight tweak to make it the cover the cost of taking class or covering a student loan," said Mark Kantrowitz, president and vice president of research at Savingforcollege.com. "That might be an elegant way to do this."

Sen. Mark R. Warner, D.-Va., and 18 co-sponsors introduced the Senate bill. Companion House legislation was also reintroduced last week with 100 co-sponsors.

A trillion dollar problem

It's not the first time that iterations of these bills have appeared on the legislative floor, but they're gaining traction with lawmakers as constituents look for solutions to this financial massive problem.

For Kaliym Toppin, 28, saving for a big purchase, like a home, is frustrating when he has to put about one-third of his monthly paycheck toward his student loan payments. Toppin, who graduated with about $62,000 in student loan debt, earns about $2,400 per month as an IT support analyst. After student loan payments, rent and groceries, he rarely has anything left to put into savings.

"I wish I had been more knowledgeable," Toppin said.

Similarly, more and more young workers mired in student loan debt are holding off on financial milestones, like saving for retirement, buying homes or getting married. It's also causing a strain on mental health, causing anxiety for Americans over personal finances.

"Paying off student debt is something all of America is going to decide to get aggressive on and go after. It's a huge number. We can only hope to contain it and hope to get it down," said Aaron Pottichen, president of retirement services at Texas-based CLS Partners.

A recruitment and retention tool

While only 4 percent of companies currently employ the benefit, experts expect that number will climb once the benefit is a tax-advantaged incentive for businesses. For employers, it's a valuable recruitment and retention tool in a low-unemployment economy.

The plan is also cost-efficient. At $50 or $100 per month for lifetime maximum contributions of several thousands of dollars, the bills simply reallocate money that companies would have budgeted for other benefits.

Kantrowitz believes the bills will likely pass, given the increasing public frustration about student loans and because they're both bipartisan and bicameral.

"Republicans love tax cuts, and Democrats love making college more affordable," Kantrowitz said. "This fits in the center of their Venn diagram."

They also put the onus of this student loan debt relief on employers, rather than on the federal government, making it an attractive option for each. "The financial contribution from the federal government is just excluding it from taxes," Kantrowitz said.

For employees who are trying to make their monthly payments, however, the benefit shows that their employers both identify with and are in touch with their concerns. Kasee Kinzler, a senior associate at Andersen Tax, found this to be true when she signed up for her company benefit program, administered through Gradifi, back in October.

The $100 monthly employer contribution toward her $700 monthly payment gave the 29-year-old peace of mind. Said Kinzler: "I think every little bit helps."

Categories: Ohio News

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