Black Belt Community Foundation announces the 2021 Community Grant Cycle

SELMA, AL – June 14, 2021: The Black Belt Community Foundation is announcing its 2021 Community Grant Cycle. Community-based organizations from Bullock, Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, and Wilcox Counties are encouraged to apply. The BBCF invites organizations based in and serving Alabama’s Black Belt to apply for one-year grants for community-led activities. Grant awards will range from $500 to $3,000. The BBCF supports community efforts that will contribute to the strength, innovation, and success of Black Belt citizens and communities. BBCF seeks organizations engaging the Black Belt citizens in addressing community issues. In this round, grant awards will be available for project focusing on: •Community Economic Development that builds and strengthens community. •Education which focuses on reading literacy. •Health with an emphasis on healthy living, nutrition, and physical activity. While following the CDC recommendations, the BBCF will host five Virtual Grant Seeking Workshops for the organizations who are interested in applying for a 2021 Community Grant. Attendance at one of the virtual workshops is mandatory to be considered for a 2021 Community Grant. The Virtual Grant Seeking Workshops will be held via Zoom on the following dates: •Zoom, Thursday, June 17th from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm •Zoom, Monday, June 21st from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm •Zoom, Tuesday, June 22nd from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm •Zoom, Thursday, June 24th from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm •Zoom, Tuesday, June 29th from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pmPlease contact Christopher Spencer at 205-499-8924 (cspencer@blackbletfound.org) or Erica Williams at 334-874-1126 ext. 111 (ewilliams@blackbeltfound.org) for more information about the workshops. The grant application link will be available at each virtual workshop and Black Belt Community Foundation’s Facebook page. Grant applications are due on or before 12:00 PM (NOON) Central Time on Monday, July 12, 2021. Follow Black Belt community developments and more online at http://www.blackbeltfound.org and via our social media outlets at BBCF Facebook, Instagram, Youtube Channel, or Twitter.

Commission authorizes expenditures from ARPA funds for ambulance; payments to employees and designated service groups

 the Greene County Commission’s regular session, held Monday, June 14, 2021, considerable time was spent adjusting the agenda before approval. Commissioner Lester Brown questioned why the purchase of an ambulance for the county’s EMS component was not on the agenda. Commission Chairperson, Roshanda Summerville responded that there is still ongoing discussions in that regard. Brown noted that the Commission could act on the allocation and then follow the required federal guidelines and state bid law requirements. Commissioner Tennyson Smith voiced his support for adjusting the agenda to include the ambulance purchase. This discussion was followed by a unanimous approval to add to the agenda consideration of purchasing an ambulance with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The commission later in the meeting revised this action to include a cap not to exceed $90,000 for the ambulance. Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. proposed, as another addition to the agenda, payments of $2,000 each to several other county entities, including each Volunteer Fire Department, E911, and Rural Alabama Prevention Center (Greene County COVID group). Turner’s proposal was approved for the agenda. These added agenda items were considered as 3b and 3c and were subsequently approved. CSFO Macaroy Underwood emphasized to the commission that all ARPA funds must be spent in accordance with the federal and state guidelines. “When the commission gives money to a third party, the entity or agency must present documentation on how the funds will be spent. Use of the ARPA funds must comply with guidelines, or the county becomes liable for the repayment,” he said. The commission also approved a one time payment of ARPA funds to all employees working during the COVID pandemic, with $1,100 going to each full time employee and $550 for each part time employee. The commission noted that this would meet the guidelines since all county employees are considered as essential. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession. Greene County Commission received $787,734 for 2021. In other business the commission acted on the following: *Approved payment of services to Attorney Hank Sanders. *Approved ratifying asphalt treating from TTL, Inc. for road material used for County Road 133 at a cost of $2,976. *Approved replacing #2 air conditioner at the courthouse and one unit at the Eutaw Activity Center. *Approved opening Eutaw Activity Center to the public. *Approved ABC License for Boligee Food Mart. *Approved paying Grant Management LLC for administration of CDBG grant to pave dirt roads, not to exceed $32,000, to be reimbursed by ADECA. The commission acted on the following open board appointments: Mark Odom was re-appointed to the Board of Equalization; George Hall was re-appointed to the Water Authority Board; Margret Carpenter was re-appointed to the PARA Board from District 3; and LaJoycelyn Davis was appointed to the Library Board from District 3. In his finance report, CSFO Underwood noted the following bank balances as of May 21, 2021: Citizen Trust Bank – $5,382,919; Merchants & Farmers Bank – $9,539,751.48; Bank of New York – $450,170.64; total Investments – $1,088,674.22. In claims paid for May, accounts payable totaled $304,167.34; payroll transfer – $216,468.60; fiduciary – $38,718.90; electronic claims – $78,661.76. Underwood noted that 21% remains in the general fund budget. Commission Attorney, Mark Parnell, proposed that the commission go in executive session as a continuation of the executive session held at the commission’s work session, Wednesday June 9. He stated the purpose was to discuss matters that may relate to litigation. Several commissioners had questioned the appropriateness or legality of holding an executive session during a work session when the same had not been given public notice or formally voted on by the commission. This concern was not presented or discussed further in the open session. The commission did retire to executive session and the meeting was formerly adjoured upon their return to open session.

Organizations deplore Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) stopping relief for Black, Indigenous and People of Color Farmers and Ranchers

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

On Thursday afternoon, June 10, 2021, Federal District Judge William C. Griesbach in the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Green Bay) issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), to assist BIPOC farmers in paying off their loans from USDA and Farm Credit Service agencies. Judge Greisbach made his ruling in a lawsuit, Faust vs. Vilsack, brought by white farmers, who claim this coronavirus relief targeted to BIPOC farmers is a violation of their Constitutional rights. In response to this TRO, which temporarily blocks Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack from actually spending Federal resources to forgive the loan balances of BIPOC farmers, several major organizations representing these farmers including the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, Intertribal Agriculture Council, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Association, Rural Coalition and twenty more submitted a press statement deploring the actions of this Trump appointed Federal judge.The statement says,” We, the undersigned, are organizations whose membership and service constituency is composed of Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and Asian, and Pacific Islander family farmers. With our allied farm and environmental organizational signatories, we jointly deplore the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act, to assist BIPOC farmers in paying off their Farm Service Agency direct or guaranteed loans. The underlying case, and related cases, reflect a flagrant attempt to overturn an act of Congress and the over 30 years of history of a definition that acknowledges and enables USDA to meet the urgent and particular needs of socially disadvantaged producers. During this pandemic, our producers have been unable to access the level of support and service provided to other groups of farmers and ranchers and will be further harmed by this relief being delayed. We see these lawsuits as undemocratic actions designed only to frustrate and defeat the justice long denied to BIPOC farmers and ranchers and their communities. Many of the undersigned have worked for decades to assist tens of thousands of producers who have endured decades of disparate and discriminatory treatment by the USDA with huge barriers to relief–situations that continue today. This includes establishing a definition and provisions providing targeted USDA program resources in credit, conservation, marketing, cooperative development and other services for these socially disadvantaged farmer applicants–all which have been included, without legal challenge, in Farm Bills over the past 30 plus years.  Congress took into account this sad and sordid history when it consciously added Sections 1005 and 1006 of the American Rescue Plan. These sections targeted assistance to help BIPOC farmers to recover from more than a year of calamitous and disruptive conditions in producing and marketing of agricultural products. If Congress is denied the remedy of lifting from the bottom and targeting the problems of those most affected by the current disease pandemic and the longer-term pandemic of racism and disparate treatment of BIPOC people, they will never be able to meaningful address the underlying problems holding America back from realizing its potential for “liberty and justice for all”.  No serious observer of USDA’s role in American agriculture can doubt that the Department has engaged in decades of intentional, and systematic, discrimination based on race and ethnicity. The results have been catastrophic and have completely reshaped farming by eliminating a wide swath of farmers. If ever there was a constitutional basis for taking race into account when making policy this is it.  In its decision the Court appears oblivious to this history, and hostile to efforts to achieve true racial justice.   We urge and support USDA to continue its vigorous defense of this critical relief and to assure the TRO does not prevent USDA from continuing to implement the eligibility and application process for this loan payment assistance, pending a favorable decision against a permanent injunction on this critically needed assistance for BIPOC farmers.   Our organizations further pledge to work to assure the intent of Congress is fulfilled and the rights of our producers are not extinguished.   We urge all other farmers and people of good will to educate themselves about this basic, fundamental, and continuing struggle for justice and equity by BIPOC farmers and their communities.”  Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation, pointed out that “ The TRO does not prevent USDA from continuing to contact BIPOC farmers to inform them of this program. USDA is in the process of sending out thousands of letters to BIPOC farmers to inform them of their outstanding loan balances and the process for getting their loan balances forgiven. We urge farmers to continue to respond to these letters and keep the process moving forward, so when the TRO or a more permanent injunction is lifted, USDA will be ready to implement the program and make the actual payments to pay off the loans and give farmers a payment to cover the Federal income taxes on these benefits.” White farmers, assisted by right-wing think tanks and legal groups have also filed lawsuits in Fort Worth, Texas and Jacksonville, Florida against USDA’s implementation of this assistance in the American Rescue Plan Act. The Greene County Democrat will be following these cases closely to report to our readers on these continuing developments. For more information, contact Federation of Southern Cooperatives at info@federation.coop or http://www.federation.coop or call 404-765-0991

Newswire: Acutely malnourished Tigrayans were intentionally starved, U. N. official says

Tigray families affected by famine

June 14, 2021 (GIN) – Famine is staking out its young victims in the Tigray region of Ethiopia where some 33,000 severely malnourished children are trapped in inaccessible areas beyond the help of aid agencies and relief workers.   For the Tigrayans and their neighboring province of Wollo, it is a tragedy they know well.  The region was the epicenter of the famine of 1984. About six million Ethiopians were affected; the number of deaths is estimated at around one million. Another famine, eleven years earlier, denied and ignored by Haile Selassie’s government, led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.   Since the latest conflict began in November 2020, Tigray has been devastated by fighting between government forces and rebels, with 1.7 million people displaced since the conflict began in November 2020.   A UN-backed study released on Thursday found that 353,000 people in the region were living in “severe crisis”. “There is famine now,” said UN Humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, adding: “This is going to get a lot worse.”   In some of his strongest public comments to date on the crisis, Lowcock accused forces from neighboring Eritrea of “trying to deal with the Tigrayan population by starving them.”    In an interview with Reuters, Lowcock said Eritrean soldiers and local fighters are deliberately blocking supplies to the more than 1 million people in areas outside government control. “Food is definitely being used as a weapon of war.” The Ethiopian government says aid is getting through.   The Eritrean forces that joined the conflict have been accused of widespread pillage and, along with the Ethiopian army, of burning crops, destroying health facilities, and preventing farmers from ploughing their land.    Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel maintains that accusations that Eritrean soldiers are blocking or looting aid are “fabricated.”   The UN conservatively estimates that 22,000 survivors of rape will need support. Fear of sexual violence means that women and girls stay in hiding, unable to seek food.   Meanwhile, general elections are scheduled to take place on June 21 despite continuing human rights abuses in Tigray where the government and Eritrean forces are accused of war crimes, including multiple massacres, and under a government that is starving a significant portion of the population.    The United States is “gravely concerned” about the environment in which the elections in Ethiopia will be held and urged politicians and other community leaders there to denounce violence.

Newswire: President Biden announces first nominees for Board to Review Civil Rights Era Cold Cases

Poster for three murdered Civil Rights Workers in Mississippi

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Fourteen years ago, thesent the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice a list of 74 cold cases involving African Americans allegedly murdered in racially motivated circumstances by White people between 1952 and 1968. Most of the crimes took place in Mississippi, which contained nearly half of the 74 cases. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee all made up the rest. All went cold, and the victims’ families never received justice. Today, a new path to justice has opened to crack these cold cases. On Friday, June 11, President Joe Biden announced the first set of nominees for the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board. The panel would have the power to declassify government files and subpoena new testimony that could reopen cases and reveal publicly why many racially motivated lynchings and killings of Black people were never adequately investigated. “The White House hopes that the Senate moves quickly to [confirm] these nominees,” an administration official told the National Newspaper Publishers Association. “The Board was established with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in 2019,” the official noted. President Biden’s nominees are: • Clayborne Carson has devoted most of his professional life to the study of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movements Dr. King inspired. Since receiving his doctorate from UCLA in 1975, Dr. Carson has taught at Stanford University as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor of History (Emeritus). • Gabrielle M. Dudley, an Instruction Archivist at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University. In this role, she partners with faculty and other instructors to develop courses and archives research assignments for undergraduate and graduate students. • Hank Klibanoff, a veteran journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in History in 2007 for a book he co-wrote about the news coverage of the civil rights struggle in the South. Klibanoff is the creator and host of Buried Truths, a narrative history podcast produced by WABE (NPR) in Atlanta. • Margaret Burnham has served as a state court judge (appointed by Governor Michael Dukakis, 1977), civil rights lawyer, and human rights commissioner. A graduate of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Burnham has been on the Northeastern University faculty since 2002. She was named to the 2016 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows, an honor recognizing a select group of scholars for their significant work in the social sciences and humanities. The panel could consider cases like the three civil rights workers in Mississippi – James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner – killed by the Ku Klux Klan in June 1964. Two months later, the activists’ bodies were riddled with bullets, burned, and buried in a dam in Neshoba County. The “Mississippi Burning” case has largely gone unsolved and primarily unpunished. In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years in prison, but authorities closed the case and put an end to hopes of prosecuting others involved. In Lowndes County, Alabama, there is the case of 18-year-old Rogers Hamilton. On a brisk night in October 1957, two white men arrived at Rogers’ home, summoned him outside, and put him in a truck. His mother, Beatrice Hamilton, trailed the truck on a dusty road and watched in horror as they pulled Rogers out of the vehicle and shot him in the head. When she notified the sheriff, he told her she didn’t see what she “thought she saw” and closed the case. “No one cared, except his extended family, now scattered from Chicago to New York,” John Fleming, an editor at the Center for Sustainable Journalism, wrote in a 2011 column. “The case remains open, though the reality is that this case will never be prosecuted,” Fleming decided. “Though the family wants justice, even if it means getting the local district attorney to indict a dead deputy, what’s equally important to them is the fact that the story of a long-dead [man] in faraway Alabama has finally been told.”

Newswire : Supreme Court ruled against lowering sentences for crack cocaine convictions

Supreme Court building

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

On Monday, June 14, the Supreme Court ruled that those convicted of possessing small amounts of crack cocaine are prohibited from seeking sentence reductions. Activists complained that the ruling is just another slap in the face to minority defendants who were disproportionately sentenced to lengthy prison sentences during the 1980s crack epidemic. Congress passed laws in the 1980s in response to the crack epidemic that mandated that anyone arrested and convicted for possessing small amounts of crack would face sentences as long as someone caught with heavier weights of powder cocaine. African Americans and Latinos found possessing small amounts of crack received sentences longer than White suspects who had power cocaine. “This is still White America, and the Supreme Court reflects this ‘White privilege’ mindset,” stated Tremaine Powell, an Alexandria, Va., resident who recently was released after a 15-year-to-life sentence for crack cocaine possession. “I’m on probation for the rest of my life,” Powell complained. “Some White Wall Street executive caught with zip-lock bags full of cocaine only gets probation.” Tarahrick Terry, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, brought the case to the Supreme Court. Terry served a little more than 15 years for possessing less than 4 grams of crack cocaine, which reports noted weighs about the same as four paper clips. Terry sought relief from his sentence under the First Step Act, but a lower court ruled that the law did not apply to low-level offenses. In December of 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act, and the law was viewed as a measure to correct the injustice tied to crack cocaine sentences and other criminal activity that otherwise should not have led to long prison terms. According to the nonprofit Red Restorative Justice Program, the goal of the law was to “give deserving prisoners the opportunity to get a shortened sentence for positive behavior and job training and giving judges and juries the power that the Constitution intended to grant them in sentencing.”

Newswire: Senate confirms Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson to powerful DC Appellate Court

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire National Correspondent

The U.S. Senate on Monday, June 14, confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. President Joe Biden nominated Judge Jackson to fill one of the vacancies on the District appellate court, considered one of the most powerful courts in the nation. Most view the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia as a kind of farm system for Supreme Court justices. President Biden stated his desire to fill any Supreme Court vacancy with a woman of color throughout his campaign. Judge Jackson’s nomination cleared the Senate with a 53-44 vote. Three Republicans – Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – voted with Democrats to confirm. “I think she’s qualified for the job,” Graham conceded, noting that “she has a different philosophy than I do.” Since 2013, Judge Jackson has served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where she has written more than 550 opinions. A 2013 nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Jackson previously served as an assistant federal public defender, and vice chair for the U.S. Sentencing Commission. “We applaud the Senate’s confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit,” stated Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Her extensive litigation experience, service as a federal public defender, and distinguished career as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia make her preeminently qualified for this position.” Hewitt continued:“Judge Jackson, who has clerked at every level of the federal judiciary and is a champion for justice, will be an excellent addition to what is considered the nation’s second-highest court. “For too long, the Senate has gone without confirming Black women to the federal appellate bench. The Biden administration’s commitment to appointing fair-minded jurists committed to equal justice and the rule of law, and who represent the rich racial and ethnic diversity of America, is a welcome departure from the past four years and signals a brighter future for our nation.” Judge Jackson fills the seat of Merrick Garland, who now serves as U.S. Attorney General. With Republicans controlling the Senate at the time and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) serving as Majority Leader, the chamber declined to consider Garland’s nomination by President Obama to the Supreme Court. Under President Trump, McConnell and Republicans confirmed two Supreme Court nominees, including one pick just weeks before Trump lost to Biden in the November election. This week, McConnell now the Sen. Minority Leader, said he won’t consider any Supreme Court nominations from President Biden. “I’m methodically and intentionally setting aside personal views, any other inappropriate considerations, and I would think that race would be the kind of thing that would be inappropriate to inject into my evaluation of a case,” Judge Jackson told senators during her confirmation hearing. “I’ve experienced life in perhaps a different way than some of my colleagues because of who I am, and that might be valuable – I hope it would be valuable – if I was confirmed to the court.”

Newswire: Pulitzer Board issues special citation to Darnella Frazier, the teen who recorded George Floyd’s murder

Darnella Frazier takes video of George Floyd’s murder

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 Pulitzer Prize to the list of awards and recognition bestowed upon Darnella Frazier, the teen who bravely videotaped the murder of George Floyd in 2020. The Pulitzer Prize board issued a special citation to Darnella, who is now 18. “For courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice,” the Pulitzer Board wrote. For her efforts, Darnella is also receiving the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s (NNPA) highest journalism award and a monetary scholarship at the NNPA’s annual convention, which begins on Wednesday, June 23. NNPA is the trade association of the hundreds of African American-owned newspapers and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America. NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., applauded Darnella and called her a “freedom fighter” who ensured justice was finally done in the case of a police officer killing an unarmed African American. “We salute this brave young woman, who had the courage to keep on filming even as the officers tried to intimidate her,” Dr. Chavis stated. Floyd family Attorney Benjamin Crump told the Black Press that there would be no civil settlement or a trial and conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin had it not been for Darnella’s actions. “It was Darnella Frazier who stepped up,” Crump asserted. Officials in Minneapolis reached a record $27 million civil settlement with Floyd’s family, and Chauvin faces as much as 40 years in prison when he’s sentenced on June 25. “We wouldn’t have any of that without Darnella Frazier taking that video,” Crump reiterated. The video was the most damning piece of evidence during Chauvin’s trial, and Darnella took the witness stand and offered powerful testimony to back up the recording. “Even though this was a traumatic life-changing experience for me, I’m proud of myself,” Frazier wrote in an Instagram post on the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder. “If it weren’t for my video, the world wouldn’t have known the truth.” “My video didn’t save George Floyd,” she added, “but it put his murderer away and off the streets.”

Newswire: Republican opposition to Biden’s Infrastructure Plan puts truck drivers at risk

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) — Trucks began arriving here to pre-position water, military rations, ice and tarps for the post-hurricane relief effort. The trucks, which began arriving Oct. 20, have delivered supplies from Key West to northern Miami-Dade County since the storm passed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lisa M. Macias).

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

President Joe Biden proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan beyond improving dilapidated roads and bridges across the country. Commonly called the American Jobs Plan, the President’s proposal earmarks $115 billion on repairing bridges and 20,000 miles of highways and roads. Approximately $85 billion would go toward public transportation improvements while $20 billion would improve road safety to reduce crashes, something the National Transportation Safety Board has on its latest Most Wanted List. The safety board noted that truck crash fatalities are rising on America’s highways, and implementing a comprehensive strategy to eliminate speeding-related crashes must occur. Protecting vulnerable road users through a safe system approach and preventing alcohol- and other drug-impaired driving also top the Most Wanted List. The board also wants lawmakers to craft legislation requiring collision-avoidance and connected-vehicle technologies on all vehicles and eliminate distracted driving. While most Democrats back the President’s plan, it doesn’t appear that there are enough Republican votes for passage. “We’re going to have discussions in our committee about safety and infrastructure regarding trucking, probably a variety of things on safety,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told NJ.com. “We’ve got a lot of congestion and growth and issues,” said Cantwell (D-Washington). “We have some things that are infrastructure investments, and there’s some that are just very specific safety.” Reportedly, bipartisan talks are on the brink of collapse. “We continue to think there needs to be major progress by Memorial Day,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN. “All that is not going to happen by Memorial Day. But we really need to get this done this summer, which is why we continue to want to see, even just in the few days between now and the holiday, some real progress if we’re going to pursue this path.” The NTSB’s push for legislation comes as truck driver deaths sit at their highest level in more than three decades. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent report showed that 885 large truck occupants died in 2018 – an increase of about 1 percent compared to the prior year. It is the highest since 1988 when 911 occupants of large trucks died. Trucking industry groups have offered both their support and skepticism about President Biden’s infrastructure plan. “We commend President Biden for leading on infrastructure and putting forward his Administration’s vision to modernize and revitalize our nation’s aging transportation networks,” said Chris Spear, the president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “The health of our economy, the strength of our supply chain, and safety of the motoring public require us to make big, bold investments in our nation’s roads and bridges, and this plan would steer much-needed critical projects along our National Highway,” Spear stated. However, Spear added that the associations did not believe the administration’s funding proposal is politically tenable nor a reliable long-term solution to the shortfall facing the Highway Trust Fund, which is responsible for ensuring that America’s roads and highways continue to be among the safest and most technologically sound in the world. NATSO, the trade association representing the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas, offered its approval for the President’s plan. “We are pleased to see that the Administration’s plan did not incorporate tolling existing interstates and commercializing rest areas, which would harm off-highway businesses and highway users,” stated NATSO president and CEO Lisa Mullings. “NATSO is encouraged by the Biden Administration’s commitment to the nation’s immediate and long-term infrastructure needs as outlined in today’s proposal. “NATSO and its member locations are eager to work with the Administration to advance its infrastructure objectives, including building a reliable and safe nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations.”