Greene County Emergency Medical Services
faces financial and operating crisis

Zack Bolding, Acting Director of GEMS, presented a report at EMS meeting

At its regular monthly meeting, on May 3, 2022 at Eutaw City Hall, the Greene County Emergency Medical Services (GEMS) Board of Directors heard a dire report of financial and operating crisis facing the county’s ambulance service.

Zack Bolding, Acting Director of GEMS, presented a report of difficult conditions facing the ambulance service, in terms of its equipment, personnel, inadequate base of operations, low reimbursement rates and overall operational finances. The picture he painted was one of imminent collapse and curtailed services unless the County Commission, municipal governments, major employers and others in need of the ambulance service do something to help support the operating and physical equipment budgets of the GEMS.

Joe Lee Powell, current Board Chairperson indicated, “We called this meeting, invited sponsoring organizations and we need to hear the situation and try to act to save our ambulance service. We have used contributions to the GEMS Board over the past few months to help make the payroll. We know there are financial and equipment problems, which we can solve if we work together.”

Bolding presented a detailed written report of the status of the ambulance service. “We are providing an ALS-1 ambulance service (a vehicle with a driver and paramedic on board), on a 24/7 basis. We are doing this with one usable ambulance and two other transport vehicles, which are well behind their safe-service life, in terms of mileage and wear and tear.”

Bolding indicated that the ambulance service must operate under the laws of Alabama, which have minimal vehicle and personnel standards, which they are barely meeting, to meet state requirements and standards.

Bolding said, “Greene County is the second most rural county in Alabama, behind Wilcox County. We have 660 total square miles, including 13 square miles of water with a 2020 population of 7,730 or 12 per square mile. It is very difficult to serve such a large county in and area, coupled with roadways like Interstate20/59 and State Highways 43,11,14 and 39,
which traverse our county and bring accidents and other situations that require ambulance services.”

“Beyond the emergency services, we also transport patients to hospitals, specialists and other regular treatments, like dialysis, wound care and cancer care. We need three (3) running modern equipped and staffed
ambulance vehicles to handle the demand. We have one 2018 ambulance in running order; we have a second ambulance box, which is awaiting remount and replacement on a new body, which will be ready this summer; a 1995 ambulance and a 1981 ambulance that are past their safe-service life,” said Bolding.

Bolding also pointed out that he had to recruit new staff since he took over the system from Nick Wilson, who in turn was selected as director when Bennie Abrams and Stanley Lucius retired in 2020. “ Abrams and Lucius ran the service as best they could without a lot of help and support, including in effect volunteering a lot of their time, instead of being paid. To run a modern efficient system, you must pay all of your staff under Fair Labor Standards, with minimums and overtime, The staff must also receive health and life insurance benefits, which we have arranged for the first time, ” said Bolding.

Bolding also decried the condition of the old Warrior Academy site, which the GEMS is using as its base of operations. He complained of inoperable toilets, no showers, inadequate food preparation services,
no areas for staff to clean and wash their clothes, which are often contaminated by blood, mud and other things, as part of daily operations.

Bolding included a chart in his report indicating that the service rates, charged by GEMS are below allowable Medicare, Medicaid and third-party insurance payer reimbursement rates and could be raised to bring in greater revenues. The GEMS Board approved a contract with Capstone Claims in Tuscaloosa to remedy some of these problems by raising service rates for ambulance services, to bring in greater revenues.

Bolding report indicated service revenues of $617,179 for calendar year 2021, although he estimated that the operational budget, including all costs was around a million dollars a year. This leaves a deficit of $300,000 to $400,000 in expenses over revenues, not including cost for capital improvements, ambulances and equipment.

Powell said, “The Greene County EMS needs help and support from the county, municipalities, employers, bingos and others to save the ambulance service. One quarter of a mil in property taxes, per year, about $40,000, is not enough to cover the full costs of this service.”

Powell suggested a meeting on May 17, 2022 at 3:00 PM at the Eutaw City Hall with the GEMS Board, County Commissioners, Mayors, large employers and other to work on the problems of the ambulance service. The GEMS Board passed a motion for this meeting and requested that Zack Bolding prepare an operating budget and a capital improvements budget for the sponsors and partners of the ambulance service to review at that time and make commitment to save the ambulance system for Greene County.

Newswire : Sierra Leone police arrest teacher activists over demands for living wages

Teacher in Sierra Leone

May 2, 2022 (GIN) – Schoolteachers in Sierra Leone say they’ve had enough after the arrest this week of Mohamed Salieu Khan, interim chair of the Teachers Solidarity Movement. He was grabbed by police outside the popular AYV TV station after speaking about the dismal plight of schoolteachers and their unequal conditions of service.
Two other TSM leaders were subsequently arrested despite President Bio’s claim to have expunged a law that hinders free speech.
Members of the Teachers Solidarity Movement in Bo, southern Sierra Leone, said they were seeking “living wages”, harmonization of salaries in the civil/public service, and improved employment conditions for all public sector workers in Sierra Leone. 
In an open letter dated April 21, the teachers group cited “the perennial hardship that political leaders from the Sierra Leone People’s Party and the All Peoples Congress, the country’s two major political groups, have inflicted on Sierra Leonean teachers.”
For sixty years since Independence, teachers were treated recklessly and left to starve with impunity, the group stated in their letter.
“Don’t we deserve a better living like the lawyers we taught, the doctors we prepared, the bankers we raised, the engineers we schooled, the police and the Army we instructed and the very politicians we inspired?” they asked rhetorically. “Enough is enough”!
Teachers were destitute, they said, lacking transport, medical, rent or leave benefits, and the Education Minister had failed to relay this fact to the President.
They called on President Bio, the Teaching Service Commission and the international community, including the European Union representative, the Department for International Development (DFID), the US Embassy and the British High Commission to come to their aid.
National Security Coordinator, Abdulai Caulker, called their press release “unfortunate.”
The arrests were swiftly condemned by TV station AYV, which responded: “Mr Khan was a guest on the program and was arrested just outside AYV’s premises soon after he left the show…  AYV would like to remind the Sierra Leone Police that our work is protected by statutes including the most supreme law – the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.”
The Sierra Leone Bar Association also took a stand, condemning the police for arresting the schoolteachers for speaking out against the poor working conditions of teachers in Sierra Leone. 

 

Newswire: Karine Jean-Pierre selected as first Black woman White House Press Secretary

Karine Jean-Pierre

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent



Karine Jean-Pierre, whose long career in Democratic communications led her to the podium last year as the second Black woman to hold a White House daily briefing, will regularly host those news conferences.
On Thursday, May 5, President Joe Biden announced that he has selected the Martinique native as his next White House press secretary.
“Karine not only brings the experience, talent, and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people,” Biden said in a statement.
He added that outgoing press secretary Jen Psaki set the standard for returning decency, respect, and decorum to the White House Briefing Room.
Meanwhile, the historic nature of the appointment wasn’t lost on the President and others. “Karine is a lifelong public servant and fierce LGBTQ advocate,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute.
When Jean-Pierre steps to the podium on May 13, she’ll become the first Black woman and first openly gay person to hold that job.
“We are proud to have advocated for her historic nomination. As White House press secretary, she will not only be able to use her podium to represent the Biden administration but also the LGBTQ community during a time of unprecedented anti-LGBTQ hate and attacks,” Parker stated.
“As the first out LGBTQ person and the first Black person to hold this office, her appointment will inspire countless young people looking for hope and motivation during a dark chapter in our nation’s history,” Parker continued.
“Shattering this lavender ceiling is a testament to Karine’s grit, power, and commitment to our country’s potential. We are confident she will continue to be a strong ally and partner as she works in the highest office of the land.”
Psaki described Jean-Pierre as passionate. “She is smart, and she has a moral core that makes her not just a great colleague but an amazing mom and human. Plus, she has a great sense of humor,” Psaki tweeted.
National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. said Jean-Pierre’s selection demonstrates that the Biden-Harris administration has held up its promise of a diverse staff.
“The NNPA, representing the Black Press of America, resolutely congratulates Karine Jean-Pierre, elevated as senior assistant to the President and White House press secretary,” Chavis stated.
“This is another historic step forward by the Biden-Harris administration in fulfilling their promise of equity and equality in the White House.”
In a 2021 appearance on The Chavis Chronicles, the Dr. Chavis-hosted PBS-TV show, Jean-Pierre said representation matters. “We’ve seen that from the first day of this administration, the President signed an executive order to deal with racial inequity and making sure that we saw diversity and inclusion across the board in the federal government,” Jean-Pierre said during her appearance on the show with Dr. Chavis.

“We’re living in a polarized country right now, and the one thing that President talked about when he was running, he wanted to make sure that he was the President for all,” Jean-Pierre remarked.

Newswire: Ethel Payne, First Lady of the Black Press, and Alice Dunnigan, pioneering White House correspondent, honored at White House Correspondents Dinner

White House correspondents honored – Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne

by Dr. Barbara A Reynolds

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Alice Dunnigan, a southern-born granddaughter of slaves, and Ethel Payne, the renowned “First Lady of the Black Press,” received posthumous honors recently during the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Ethel Payne, the crusading globetrotting journalist, was my friend and mentor. When she made her entrance into journalism in the 1950’s the doors for her to achieve acclaim as a war correspondent and global activist were closed. She had to knock them down as she became one of the first Black women to be credentialed as a White House correspondent.
Payne first received public acclaim when as a host for the Army Special Services in Korea in 1950, she began writing about how Black troops were segregated in the U.S. Army even after President Eisenhower, issued an order to desegregate. She reported how Black troops were sent into battle without proper training which led to high casualties among them. For her reporting, about the conditions there and the flaunting of a presidential order, top U.S. government officials accused her of disrupting the morale of the troops. She had opened a bag of worms.
As a reporter for the Chicago Daily Defender, known as the Blacks’ fighting machine, for three decades, beginning in 1951, she continued her activism as a White House correspondent often irritating President Eisenhower. When the GOP invited choirs from Duke, Emory, and Howard to participate in its annual Lincoln Day celebration, the Howard choir arrived but were turned back. Payne critically raised the issue at a White House press conference, which so angered the President, that the flack made the New York Times. And after that people were asking ‘Who is that Black woman?” She was also a commentator on national radio, but her heart was always with the Black press and from that platform launched her to become one of the most trusted voices and viewpoints in America.
During her 30-year career at the Defender, she traveled with presidents and heads of state, filing important stories about African countries achieving liberation, such as Ghana in 1957, covered the Vietnam War, and worked to show the parallels with South Africa apartheid and segregation in the USA.
It was never lost on her that she sprang from humble beginnings. Born in 1911 in Chicago, her father was a Pullman Porter, but died young, leaving Ethel’s mother with six children to raise mostly on the salary of a domestic worker. She and the family worked and struggled together. “I worked in white folks, kitchens, I did factory piecework, any thing to keep us together.” She eventually attended Northwestern University, taking journalism courses, and recognized she had a flair for writing. She said she saw her role as an advocate for the weak, and that is how she used her talent. “Until I close my eyes,” I am going to be involved,” she told me.
Payne befriended me when I became one of the first Black women to cover the White House for the White Press. She saw that most of the white Colleagues I worked with resented and hindered me, rather than helped me and she came to my rescue and mentored me. In 1975, when I received death threats after writing an unflattering book about a popular civil rights leader, she, and other Black journalists, such as Vernon Jarrett, called a press conference, defending my first amendment right to report and write my own truths. The threats ceased.
She was the Grand Dame of journalism, having exquisite dinner parties at her home, where she served up news tips and wisdom, along with her salacious menus. I was honored, to be one of the journalists, who worked with Fisk University to establish a professorship in her name, where she published her book in 1979, entitled Roots, Rewards and Renewal, a study of Black colleges. The Ethel L. Payne U.S. postal stamp was issued on September 14, 2002.
As someone soon to be 80 years old, her thoughts on aging, I still hold dear. “Age is not a handicap. Age is nothing but a number. It is how you use it.” She also shared with me the three words she wanted to pass on to future generations: “agitate, agitate and agitate.”

Alabama Civil Rights Freedom Museum celebrates Black History and Political Rallies around the county

Alabama Civil Rights Freedom Movement Museum in Eutaw, Alabama has been sponsoring a series of Black History and Political rallies since February leading up to the May 24th primary elections in Alabama.

Pictured above, Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Museum, presents award to Attorney Ida Tyree-Hyche Hill at Sunday’s meeting at the Knoxville Fire Department. Tyree-Hyche Hill is an attorney in Birmingham, who is a native of the north Greene County area and serves as Legal Counsel for the Town of Union.

In her talk Attorney Tyree-Hyche Hill discussed some of the voter suppression legislation enacted in Alabama and other states since the Shelby vs Holder decision in 2014, which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Museum has been holding these programs weekly to present information on Black History and allow candidates who are running in the upcoming May primary to speak with voters. Meetings have been held in Eutaw, Union, Mantua, Springfield, Forkland, Knoxville and others are planned for other communities.

At the meeting, Spiver reminded people that Monday May 9, is the last day to register before the May 24th primary; Tuesday May 17 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot; all absentee ballots must be returned by May 23, properly signed and witnessed to be counted in the election on May24, 2022.

COVID-19

As of April 19, 2022, at 10:00 AM
(According to Alabama Political Reporter)
Alabama had 1,298,473 confirmed cases of coronavirus, (1,422) more than last week with 19,513 deaths (134)
more than last week)
Greene County had 1,871 confirmed cases, (2) more cases than last week),
with 48 deaths
Sumter Co. had 2,578 cases with 51 deaths
Hale Co. had 4,722 cases with 106 deaths
Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has testing and vaccination for COVID-19; Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 5 and up.

Eutaw City Council seeks new engineer, passes zoning ordinance for Courthouse Square, plans for next round of ARPA funding

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher and Editor

The Eutaw City Council met for two regular meetings on April 12 and 26, 2022 to carry out city business and deal with the physical and financial health of the city.

At the April 12th meeting, the City Council approved a motion, originated by Councilman LaJeffrey Carpenter and approved by all the members to terminate the contract of Babbs Engineering and request return of unspent funds on a $40,000 contract for a mapping the city’s utility systems. Carpenter said, Babbs took too long in generating the promised maps.

Torris Babbs of Babbs Engineering, an African-American firm, in an interview with the Democrat said he had completed the mapping paid for by the $40,000 contract. “We located more than 10,000 points of digital information to construct our maps. The city did not have the computer software until recently to read and display our maps, that was part of the delay,” said Babbs.

Babbs said he continued to work on coordinating the map he developed of above ground and underground utilities with the Google Earth Maps to insure they were congruent, up-to-date and showed the proper location and elevations of properties in the city. “There is a misunderstanding of the engineering work I did and the work I continued to do, under my monthly retainer. I will still give this information to the city, but I do not think the Council understands or appreciates the task we were doing and the complex map we were developing, which would help the city with planning and projects into the future.”

The Mayor said the City of Eutaw was advertising for a new engineering firm. At the April 12 meeting, the Council authorized the Stan Nelson and Jonathan R, Bonner of Insite Engineering of Tuscaloosa, to pursue two $30,000 grants from USDA Rural Development to evaluate the city’s water and sewer systems. To this reporter, the work that these engineers were seeking to do was very similar to the work that Babbs says he has already done.

These engineers said they did not charge a fee but would be paid out of the grants if they were obtained. These engineers said that the city needed to get audited financial statements to enhance the chances for government grant assistance going forward.

At the April 26, 2022 Council meeting an agenda item: “Approve Engineer Services Agreement between the City of Eutaw and Craig P. Williams, P. E.” was tabled because council members said they wanted to meet and speak to this engineer before he was employed. Mayor Latasha Johnson said she would arrange the meeting and that it may require a special called meeting because an engineer was needed to help with the many grant applications that the City planned to submit.

Zoning Ordinance change

At the April 12 meeting, the City Council approved a recommendation from the Eutaw Planning Commission on an Ordinance amending Chapter 98, Section 98-5 and Section 98-87 of the Code of the City of Eutaw. This ordinance would amend the zoning of the business area of the Thomas E. Gilmore Square (old Courthouse Square) to prohibit businesses that derived more than 50% of their revenues from the sale of alcoholic beverages from locating in this downtown area, adjacent to the William M. Branch Courthouse and Eutaw City Hall.

This ordinance raised some controversy, because the REACH Inc. church related corporation, has purchased a number of vacant properties on the Courthouse Square and around Eutaw, for the purpose of rehabilitating the properties and leasing them to businesses. REACH purchased three adjoining buildings of the Square including the ‘John’s Bar Building’, which they were planning to lease to some people to open a “sports bar”.

Sandra Walker of REACH says, “We feel this ordinance was adopted to prevent us from using the properties we purchased, to help the city’s growth and development, be used for its best purposes.” Mayor Johnson said that the John’s Bar property had never been issued an alcoholic beverage license.
However, the Greene County Democrat newspaper reported that the Eutaw City Council voted at its February 27, 2018 meeting to grant Raymond Steele, former mayor, a “liquor license for John’s Bar”.

At the 12th.meeting, in the Public Comments section, Fanny Granthum also of REACH, read a December 7, 2020 letter on City of Eutaw stationery, signed by Mayor Latasha Johnson, confirming that Steele had been granted a liquor license for John’s Bar and Grill in Eutaw. The Democrat has received a copy of this letter. Steele never utilized the permission to get a liquor license or opened John’s as a bar for the public.

Walker said, “REACH is disappointed by the actions and statements of the Mayor and Council. It seems that they adopted the ordinance to prevent us from opening a sports bar on the Square. They went to the Planning Commission not the Zoning Commission to get the recommendation for the ordinance. They never really officially had a hearing where the public could make its views known. The Mayor denied that a license had been issued but we have a letter from her saying the City did approve the license and placed it in its official minutes.”

“REACH has been trying to help revitalize the city by buying up vacant properties, rehabilitating them and leasing the buildings to attract new businesses to Eutaw. We will locate the sports bar in one of our other buildings or we will open a combination restaurant and sports bar that will comply with the new zoning requirements,” said Walker.

At the April 26th meeting the Council approved a budget for $309,000 of city improvement projects to be paid for with the city’s second installment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) COVID relief funds from the Federal government. The budget proposal may be revised based on the most pressing needs. The City also adopted a list of nine storm sewer and street repair and improvement projects to recommend for infrastructure funding from ALDOT, ADECA and ADEM state agencies. Before the council meeting ended, other needed road and street projects were recommended for the list.

In other actions, The Eutaw City Council:

• Opening of bids and sale of surplus items, with some exceptions where the bids were too low.
• Authorized the Mayor and City attorney to negotiate contract with the Town of Boligee on water and sewer services; and a water/sewer billing with Consolidated Catfish Company.
• Approved Lease-purchase with John Deere Sun South for 4 mowers, tractor, bushhog and accessories.
• Approved quote to repair/replace values for Armory Water Tank.
• Approved payment of claims for Anthony Taylor and Earl Purse Jr.
• Approved “Strength in Numbers”, A Black Belt Gathering for Sexual Assault Victims, on Saturday, April 30 at Carver School, starting at 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM.
• Approved 2022 “Back-to-School” sales tax holiday.
• Approved 2022 Spring Clean-up Day for Saturday, April 30, 2022 from 8:00AM until Noon.
• Set May 17, 2022 at 4:00 PM for City Handbook Work Session.
• Approved payment of all bills.

Long awaited verdict handed down for murder of Thomas Sankara, leader of Burkina Faso, who was known as ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’

Miriam Sankara, widow of Thomas Sanka

 

 
Apr. 11, 2022 (GIN) – In what appeared to be a “cold case” after a standstill of over 30 years, a military tribunal has finally ruled in the case of Thomas Sankara, one of the youngest presidents in modern African history, whose life was brutally ended in 1987 by a one-time close friend and ally.
 
Blaise Compaore, who grabbed power upon Sankara’s death, was sentenced for the killing in absentia. Toppled by public protests in 2014, he fled to the Ivory Coast where it is believed he continues to hide out. The tribunal found him guilty of an attack on state security, complicity in murder and concealment of a corpse after his body was found buried in an unmarked grave.
 
As the verdict was read, the heavily protected courtroom in the capital, Ouagadougou, erupted in applause, bringing an end to the six-month trial that came after years of campaigning for justice by his family and supporters, BBC West Africa correspondent Lalla Sy reported.
 
Sankara’s widow, Mariam Sankara, who attended the trial throughout, said the verdict represented “justice and truth” after a 35-year wait.
 
A firebrand Marxist revolutionary in a military red beret, Sankara was known to many as the African “Che Guevara”. He led the nation for four years from 1983, campaigning against corruption while authorizing huge increases in education and health spending.
 
He cut his own salary and that of top civil servants and sold off a range of luxury cars.
 
He promoted pan-Africanism, self-sufficiency, real independence from former colonial power France and gender equality by banning female circumcision, forced marriage and polygamy. He rolled out mass vaccination campaigns against polio and was one of the first African leaders to publicly recognize the growing AIDS epidemic as a threat for the continent.
 
Saying “he who feeds you, controls you”, he opposed foreign aid, denounced  “the neocolonialist penetration of Africa through Western trade and finance,” and called for a united front of African nations to repudiate their foreign debt. He argued that the poor and exploited did not have an obligation to repay money to the rich and exploiting.
 
He changed the name of his country from its colonial one, Upper Volta, to Burkina Faso, meaning the Land of Honest People.
 
In their closing statement on April 2, the prosecution recounted in grim detail how Sankara and his closest followers were ambushed at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council.  His body was riddled with bullets, according to ballistics experts who testified during the trial.
 
Compaoré’s security chief Hyacinthe Kafando and Gilbert Diendere, were also sentenced to life in prison.
 
Sankara’s spirit was also behind a protest movement known as “the citizens’ broom” or Le Balai Citoyen, which opposed efforts by Campaore to extend unlawfully extend his time in power. Of the 14 men prosecuted, three were acquitted while the others received sentences ranging from three years to life in prison.

Newswire: Elon Musk buying Twitter: 5 reasons why Black people should be wary

By Bruce C.T. Wright, NewsOne

The sale of Twitter to Elon Musk has prompted a number of questions about what will become of the popular social media platform once the ultra-billionaire gains complete control of the micro-blogging app. Both sides closed the deal on Monday afternoon to allow the world’s wealthiest man agreed to buy Twitter for a whopping $43 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Black Twitter, a group of influential users whose tweets spotlight issues affecting Black people, is among those who have reason to be concerned about the direction in which Musk could take the app now that the sale is official.
Musk’s intentions for Twitter remained unclear. But if his past commentary and the way he’s run his other businesses are any indications, Black people who use Twitter — and there are millions of them — have reasons to be wary.
Twitter moderation
There are fears Musk could change the way Twitter moderates content from its users, whose words have been policed more aggressively in recent months and resulted in permanent suspensions, like former President Donald Trump. (More on that later.)
The Washington Post described Musk’s social media ambitions in part as wanting “a free speech utopia,” but that could mean allowing misinformation, lies, racism and threats of violence with impunity.
“What Musk seemingly fails to recognize is that to truly have free speech today, you need moderation,” said Katie Harbath, a former Facebook public policy director and CEO of consultancy Anchor Change, recently told the Post. “Otherwise, just those who bully and harass will be left as they will drive others away.”
Racial discrimination
Musk’s main company, automaker Tesla, has been accused and sued by its workforce of and for racial discrimination for years now in a situation that has not been corrected. The implication for Twitter is that same administrative approach that prompted accusations of racism against Tesla will come to Twitter, which already has a disproportionately white workforce. At worst, that suspicion could become true as Musk —  allows racists like Marjorie Taylor Greene to not only regain access to their banned accounts but also resume spewing their white supremacy drivel.
Social media accountability
The free press and other groups have been pushing for accountability on social media platforms for a while now to no avail. But making any inroads in that area with Twitter is not likely to happen if Musk takes over, a prospect that is especially concerning since we are just months away from the pivotal midterm elections.
Political implications
Building off the above sentiment, without any accountability in place, the potential for the aforementioned misinformation could run rampant. Twitter is a major part of the political infrastructure now, but without any accountability for misinformation that has been proven effective, it could revert back to its former Wild Wild West-like environment that fostered the type of propaganda that helped hand Trump his presidency. Conversely, Black Twitter and its attempts to highlight political issues affecting people of color could be censored.
Donald Trump
And speaking of Trump, it’s no secret that his own social media endeavor has been a spectacular flop. If Musk buys Twitter, chances are likely that the racist narcissist and accused traitor will be handed the keys back to his shuttered account that was banned two days after the deadly Capitol Riots for what Twitter called “the risk of further incitement of violence.”This is America.

Advocates call for Student Debt Forgiveness despite new pause on loan repayments

By Charlene Crowell


(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In recent days, student loans and other higher education programs have been the focus of multiple initiatives. On April 6, President Biden extended the current pause on federal loan repayment through August 31. That announcement brought obvious appeal to the 44 million consumers who together owe an estimated $1.7 trillion.

“I’m asking all student loan borrowers to work with the Department of Education to prepare for a return to repayment, look into Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and explore other options to lower their payments,” said President Biden.

Days earlier on March 28, the Biden Administration submitted to Congress its FY2023 budget proposal with a promise to “grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out”, including more funding for the Education Department’s higher education appropriations.

For example, an estimated 6.7 million students from low- and middle-income backgrounds eligible for Pell Grants would benefit from increasing maximum awards by $2,175 in the 2021-2022 academic year. Similarly, an increase of $752 million over the 2021 enacted level would enhance institutional capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs). Another $161 million for the Department’s Office for Civil Rights – a 23 percent increase compared to the 2021 enacted level – would strengthen the agency’s capacity to protect equal access to education through the enforcement of civil rights laws, such as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Increased higher education funding was predictably welcomed by HBCU stakeholders.

“[T]he request for the Pell Grant to be increased by $2,000 in the upcoming year is nothing short of landmark,” said Lodriguez V. Murray, United Negro College Fund (UNCF) senior vice president for public policy and government affairs. “If Congress follows through on President Biden’s UNCF supported request, it would be the largest single year increase to the Pell Grant, putting us on course to double the Pell Grant this decade, and be one of the biggest game-changers for low-to-moderate income students in our country in modern times.”

Also noting the importance of Pell Grants as the “primary vehicle to make college affordable” for 75 percent of HBCU students, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) that includes both publicly supported HBCUs – over 80 percent of all students attending HBCUs – and Predominantly-Black Institutions (PBIs) — also called upon Congress to support the request to double the maximum Pell Grant award.

“TMCF looks forward to working with Congressional leadership, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus to adopt these historic proposals for the betterment of our institutions and their students,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, the organization’s President and CEO.

Yet other advocates raised other issues beyond annual budget appropriations.

“While we applaud the Administration for allowing borrowers who were in delinquency or default to receive a ‘fresh start’ on their repayment plans and reenter repayment in good standing, their debts remain the same,” noted Jaylon Herbin, Outreach and Policy Manager with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). “Extending the payment pause once more is not enough to ensure financial fairness for the millions of Americans who were disproportionately affected by the burdens of the pandemic.”

Herbin’s reaction repeated CRL’s earlier calls for debt forgiveness as well as reforms to income-driven repayment (IDR). This same goal is also shared by other consumer advocates.

Months earlier CRL along with the Student Borrower Protection Center, and the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Division jointly issued a policy brief entitled, Restoring the Promise of Income-Driven Repayment: An IDR Waiver Program Proposal, that calls attention to the unmet need to correct key players and programs that also share responsibilities for the nation’s student debt dilemma.

“The historical failure of student loan servicers to keep low-income borrowers in over the long term presents an immediate policy problem,” states the brief. “Because of these failures, millions of borrowers remain trapped in the student loan system for decades on end. For many, their only prospect for relief is to begin again and spend additional decades awaiting debt cancellation as if they had just entered repayment.”

“[O]ut of a total of 4.4 million borrowers in repayment for more than two decades, fewer than 200 student loan borrowers will benefit from debt cancellation under IDR between 2020 and 2025—or a 1-in-23,000 chance,” the paper continues. “Borrowers also report that they have encountered an array of problems arising from servicer incompetence, including processing delays and extensive periods in administrative forbearance, inaccurate denials, lost payment histories, lost paperwork, and insufficient information or guidance. These barriers have profound and long-lasting implications for millions of families.”

In other words, to resolve unsustainable student debt, increased higher education funding must be matched by corrective efforts that hold loan servicers accountable, and finally makes true the promise to manage IDR as originally intended. Actions such as these would make real the dreams of a college education as the bridge to a middle-class life and financial independence. Without these reforms, higher education will continue to bring deepening debts and loan defaults.

“The Administration should provide student debt relief in the form of $50,000 in student loan cancellation per borrower, an amount that would eliminate or significantly reduce the debt burden for lower income, Black and Latino borrowers, provide a critical boost to the national economy and help bridge the racial wealth gap,” concluded Herbin.


Charlene Crowell is a senior fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.