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Governor Nixon Declares State of Emergency in Missouri
JEFFERSON CITY, MO, (SLFP.com), July 24, 2012 - Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in Missouri because of the impact that the prolonged severe heat and drought are having on both agriculture and public health.
Executive Order 12-07, signed by the Governor this afternoon, activates the State Emergency Operations Plan, which authorizes state agencies to assist local jurisdictions with their emergency response.
"The high temperatures and dry conditions across the state are taking their toll on Missourians," Gov. Nixon said. "Our farmers are suffering tremendous losses in crops and livestock, and we're seeing more heat-related deaths and emergency room visits, particularly among seniors. In addition, we continue to see a high risk of fire from tinderbox conditions, and we are monitoring how the drought is affecting public water supplies and distribution.
"We're going to continue to work with public health officials, public safety officials and agricultural leaders to alleviate the impact of the heat and drought, but the long-range forecast shows our preparation and response will likely be needed for the foreseeable future," Gov. Nixon said.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has confirmed 25 heat-related deaths in the state, including 20 in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The department also has received hospital reports of 829 heat-related emergency department visits from May 1 through July 22.
On June 29, Gov. Nixon issued an executive order activating the Missouri State Operations Center in response to the severe heat, dry conditions and fire risks. Last Friday (July 20), he called on the State Soil and Water Districts Commission to take emergency action allowing livestock producers to conduct flash grazing, haying and watering on livestock exclusion areas currently under contract.
US Fidelis Settlement Secures $14.1 Million in Consumer Restitution
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), July 22, 2012 - Attorney General Chris Koster and 11 other state attorneys general have announced an agreement with US Fidelis, Inc., the defunct marketer of vehicle service contracts, which paves the way for the creation of a $14.1 million consumer restitution fund. The agreement also provides injunctive relief.
"When I realized the scope of the fraud US Fidelis was perpetrating on consumers across the country, I made stopping it, punishing it, and deterring any future conduct a major priority in my office," Koster said. "I am pleased that, in addition to sending the owners of the company to prison, we are now able to return some of US Fidelis's ill-gotten gains back to consumers."
US Fidelis filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 after being accused by Koster and others of routinely misleading consumers. Missouri indicted the company's owners, Darain and Cory Atkinson, in June 2010. Both have pleaded guilty to criminal violations and are set to be sentenced later this year.
In March 2008, Missouri became the first state to sue US Fidelis. Missouri's lawsuit was amended twice to include allegations of deceptive mailings, misleading sales calls, illegal telemarketing, millions of illegal robo-calls, and misleading TV ads.
In March 2010, after US Fidelis filed for bankruptcy protection, the Attorney General's Office filed for the appointment of a trustee to manage the company. Eleven states joined in that motion, which was ultimately settled in exchange for various provisions that ensured that the Atkinsons would not be involved in the management of US Fidelis in the future.
Eleven other states filed suit in April 2010. The lawsuits alleged that US Fidelis's solicitations misled consumers into believing their auto warranties had expired or would soon expire and that they were being contacted by a manufacturer or other entity affiliated with their original vehicle warranty. Consumers were also routinely misled into believing that the contracts they were buying covered far more repairs than they actually covered.
In November 2010, the bankruptcy court approved a settlement in which the Atkinson brothers agreed to turn over substantially all of their assets to the bankruptcy estate.
Since 2010, the multi-state steering committee - including Missouri, Ohio, Texas, and Washington - has been working with US Fidelis, its creditors, and others involved in the bankruptcy case to reach an all-encompassing settlement that would account for all consumer claims.
That settlement, announced today, along with a settlement with Warrantech Corporation, whose contracts US Fidelis sold, establishes a $14.1 million Consumer Restitution Fund to provide compensation to eligible consumers who submit a valid proof of claim with the bankruptcy court. To be considered for restitution, most consumers must file a proof of claim by October 5, 2012. Consumers whose contracts expire after this deadline have additional time.
Missouri also negotiated with a number of former employees to return their share of funds they were to receive under Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act claims. Six former sales managers and the chief marketing officer have agreed to return $55,116.82 to the consumer fund. The settlements also have netted an additional $7,430.30 that will be distributed to Missouri consumers.
The Attorney General's Office has also filed a lawsuit in St. Charles Circuit Court against two sales managers, a general sales manager who trained most of the sales people, and the general manager to try to recover additional money for consumers.
HEAT ADVISORY Issued for the City of St. Louis Until 8 pm Thursday
The worsening drought conditions and hot weather are causing increased fire weather. Several counties have posted bans that prohibit any open burning. There is currently a ban on all open fires in state parks and conservation areas in Missouri. Residents are urged to be extremely cautious with cigarettes, matches, and other open flames or activity that could create sparks. These weather conditions are favorable for grass and brush fires. Graphic courtesy noaa.gov
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), July 22, 2012 - The City of St. Louis is under an EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING through Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 7 PM.
Peak afternoon heat indexes of between 100 and 110 degrees are expected each day throughout this warning. Please continue to exercise caution when participating in outdoor activities. Citizens are encouraged to continue to check on neighbors who may be vulnerable to the heat. Special caution is also urged for anyone with small children and pets.
Heat related illness such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke are a real threat. The threat will increase through the week as the heat continues to build.
The effects of excessive heat are cumulative. Take extra precautions of you must work or spend time outside. Reschedule strenuous activities to the early morning or evening hours. Know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Wear light and loose fitting clothing. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages.
People in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area can get information about cooling centers or energy assistance by calling the United Way at 2-1-1 or Cool Down St. Louis at 314-241-7668.
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