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Tennessee paid more than than $850M to unemployed in April

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's labor department says unemployed workers received more than $850 million in benefits in April as the number of jobless surged with employers letting go hundreds of thousands of people during the new coronavirus outbreak response. Since mid-March, more than 474,000 Tennessee residents have sought unemployment benefits. During the week ending Saturday, more than 37,000 people filed for state benefits and funds distributed under the federal CARES Act. That's the emergency assistance package created to deal with financial effects from the virus response. Unemployment filings have spiked since cities, counties and the state issued orders closing nonessential businesses in March.


Smoky Mountains National Park to reopen over weekend

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set to reopen on Saturday, becoming one of the biggest federal attractions to reopen amid the national lockdown prompted by the coronavirus crisis. The nation’s most visited national park has been closed since late March in response to the pandemic. The park says some of its most popular trails will remain off limits for now. It says new safety measures will be implemented in facility operations and services to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most national parks remain closed, though Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and the Everglades National Park in Florida have also announced phased reopenings.


Nashville to begin 1st economic reopening phase on Monday

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville is set to begin the first phase of reopening its economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor John Cooper said Thursday that the first steps of reopening will start next week. Beginning Monday, dine-in restaurants, bars serving food, retail stores and commercial businesses will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Workers will be required to undergo daily screenings and wear face masks. Bar areas will stay closed, with no live music allowed yet. Nashville-Davidson County and five other counties have been allowed to reopen more slowly than the rest of the state, which began phase one on April 27 by allowing restaurants to provide dine-in service.


Judge blocks Tennessee from implementing voucher program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee judge has blocked the state from implementing a contentious school voucher program just days after ruling the program unconstitutional. The attorney general’s office and school choice advocates had sought permission to continue processing applications while the legal battle over the state’s voucher program — also known as education savings accounts — moves its way through the courts. However, Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin on Thursday denied the request and instead ordered the state Department of Education to post on its website that the voucher program was currently enjoined.


Trucker charged in serial killings faces scrutiny across US

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Investigators from multiple states are looking into whether a long-haul trucker from Iowa who's implicated in three women's slayings in the 1990s could be responsible for other unsolved homicides. Officers arrested 58-year-old Clark Perry Baldwin in Waterloo on Wednesday after new DNA evidence allegedly tied him to three women whose bodies were dumped in Wyoming and Tennessee in the early 1990s. Court documents allege that he also raped and choked a woman in Texas in 1991. A spokesman says detectives with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are “looking at any connections” that Baldwin may have to cold cases from that era. He says other agencies are also scrutinizing Baldwin.


Police identify remains found in Tennessee tornado search

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Police in Tennessee have identified skeletal remains found during a March search for victims of a deadly tornado as a man they believed to have been homeless. The Cookeville Police Department on Wednesday identified the remains found March 4 in a collapsed tent in a wooded area as 34-year-old Brian Matthew Keserich. Police say he was originally from Kentucky with no last known address. Police say the death remains under investigation but no foul play is suspected. In March, tornado-producing storms tore through Middle Tennessee, killing 25 people, including 19 in Putnam County, which includes Cookeville.