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WESA's Inbox Edition: May 10, 2021

Today's top stories on Pittsburgh, the state, and the world, from WESA, NPR, and public radio partners.

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1. Nearly 7,000 Pennsylvanians apply for COVID-19 funeral reimbursements through new FEMA program
Federal funding is available to help cover funeral expenses for people who died of COVID-19. Julia Zenkevich reports the Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering up to $9,000 per burial.

2. Primary ballot measure seeks to curb solitary confinement at Allegheny County Jail
An-Li Herring reports voters of any party affiliation will have a say next week on restricting the use of solitary confinement at the county jail. Jail officials say they don’t use the practice as punishment: They say they only segregate those who threaten their own or others’ safety, or who interfere with jail operations.

3. Study finds patients near US Steel plant had worse asthma after 2018 fire
A new study found residents living near a US Steel plant in the Pittsburgh area experienced worse bouts of asthma and increased their use of breathing aids after a 2018 fire caused elevated air pollution in the area. The Allegheny Front's Reid Frazier reports the blaze knocked out sulfur pollution controls for three months.

4. Found in translation: Pittsburgh's newest literary festival crosses cultures
The inaugural Pittsburgh International Literary Festival starts this week and features 30 speakers from 20 countries, including a Nobel laureate and two Pulitzer Prize winners. Bill O'Driscoll reports the virtual festival is organized by the nonprofit City of Asylum.

5. Activists propose civilian council to oversee Pittsburgh Police spending, discipline
Police accountability activists are launching a ballot initiative campaign to create a democratically elected civilian council with full powers over the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Christopher Ayers reports the creation of such a council would require an amendment to the city’s home rule charter.

6. Federal dollars give hope to mental health advocates aiming to launch treatment programs
Some people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia don’t recognize that they have a problem — making it difficult for family and friends to get help for their loved one. WITF’s Brett Sholtis reports newly available federal funds may help launch programs designed to deal with this problem.

7. Pennsylvania can't fine addiction treatment facilities that break rules. Some lawmakers want to change that
The ability to charge fines or fees could weed out bad actors and prevent ongoing harm, experts say, but there's already pushback from the provider industry, reports Spotlight PA's Ed Mahon.

8. A look at the GOP from inside a Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene rally
The Gaetz/Greene rally at The Villages, the enormous retirement community in Florida, comes at a time when a battle for control of the party — and for the party's very identity — is coming to a head. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben reports House Republicans are set to vote as early as Wednesday on removing Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House.

On The Confluence

  • Pennsylvania’s rate of COVID-19 vaccinations dropped about 90% in a month — a look behind the steep decline
  • The state Department of Transportation is asking for feedback about people's perceptions of autonomous vehicles

Tune in at 9 a.m. for The Confluence with Kevin Gavin.Listen here.