As Delta variant cases surge, 221 Community Health Workers reach out to 1.8 million people in rural underserved areas to promote vaccination

Special to the Greene County Democrat

Home call nurse or doctor vaccinating a man at home – wearing face mask


Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (Alianza), Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN), Rural Coalition (RC) and 23 more organizational partners and members have mobilized 221 community health outreach workers across 20 states and Puerto Rico to encourage vaccination within Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) rural communities.
Funded by an $8.1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the effort aims to raise vaccination rates among immigrant and migrant farmworkers, and rural communities of color.
Across the country, since June 15 of 2021, more than 1.8 million people have been reached, and 23,963 people have reported receiving the vaccine as a direct result of such contact. The outreach has occurred through culturally relevant, community-health based approaches including one-on-one conversations, door-to-door canvassing, informational and Q&A sessions on COVID-19 and vaccine efficacy, cultural events, food distribution drives, and through mobile and static vaccination clinics, as well as T.V, radio, and social media.
“The 15 Rural Coalition partner groups have employed their deep network of trusted relationships in the Black, Tribal, and Latino communities they serve,” said Rural Coalition Director Lorette Picciano. “In a short window of time, RC groups have hired and trained over 140 outreach and other staff who live in 95 of the most vulnerable rural counties in the nation.”
The Alabama State Association of Cooperatives (ASAC) is one of the Rural Coalition member organizations that is implementing this program in eight counties of the western Alabama Black Belt including: Greene, Sumter, Choctaw, Pickens, Hale, Marengo, Perry and Dallas. ASAC has two part-time health workers in each of its eight counties, working on outreach, education and promotion of vaccinations.
These leaders know how to reach their communities – during farmer events and to mayors of historic Black towns, and at barber shops and a Blues Fest in Oklahoma; at tribal events in the Carolinas, Maine, Minnesota, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin; with a Mobile Vaccine van in southeast Alabama that also supplies check-up and prescriptions; and at summer fairs in Kansas.
In farmworker communities in Florida, the Imperial Valley of California, and at the border in Texas and New Mexico they are using one-on-one outreach combined with community events; and in El Paso, using a radio station run by the local organization to interview workers about the vaccines. Also in El Paso, women workers are reaching out in neighborhoods and community centers they organized after the garment factories left.
In southeast and west Alabama, newspaper coverage is combined with flyers distributed door-to-door, or at community events. In Puerto Rico, over 100 community members in a hard to-reach rural community were able to get connected to vaccines. A college student who struggled to get the vaccine needed to return to college is now organizing vaccine access for other students in NC. Also in NC, a Sunday vaccine caravan also brought vaccines and information to numerous churches and community centers. In rural South Carolina, the local pharmacy temporarily ran out of vaccines due to the effective community outreach to Black and Latino families via youth programs and visits to local apartment complexes.
Community health outreach workers are members of the same communities – they are farmworkers, small and beginning farmers and ranchers, spiritual and local leaders, former and current health professionals, parents, and caretakers. With weekly trainings and technical guidance from Migrant Clinicians Network, organizational members of Alianza and the Rural Coalition are bringing the vaccine to their communities and engaging in challenging conversations at the roots of vaccine hesitancy – from fear and distrust, to domestic violence and structural and financial barriers, including language access, concerns related to immigration status, racism, xenophobia and misogyny.
As of August 25, 2021, 936,000 farmworkers have contracted COVID-19 according to the Purdue Food and Agriculture Vulnerability Index. Preliminary findings estimate that food and agriculture workers have a 38% higher risk of COVID-19 induced mortality – the highest amongst essential workers. At the same time, rural communities, and especially rural BIPOC communities, have experienced greater barriers to treatment and care during the pandemic, with fewer hospitals, fewer physicians specializing in critical care, and fewer Intensive Care Units.
A study by APM Research Lab found that, by March of 2021, 1 in 475 Indigenous people and 1 in 645 Black people had died from COVID-19 compared to 1 in 665 White people. Although only 20% of U.S. counties are disproportionately Black, they accounted for 52% of COVID-19 diagnoses, and 58% of COVID-19 deaths nationally, including in rural communities in the Southeast with higher than average unemployment rates and inadequate access to healthcare.
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Migrant Clinician’s Network, and Rural Coalition are proud to join forces to support and resource local BIPOC rural communities in raising vaccination rates, and, as such, combat long-standing structural health inequities that have plagued BIPOC communities for centuries. In the end, it is these same communities that are mobilizing, organizing, and caring for each other to a cure.

Newswire: New Smithsonian exhibit shows racism against Emmett Till continues today

Emmett Till and Desecrated sign from site where his body was found

By Hamil R. Harris

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In the middle of the night, 14-year old Emmett Till was snatched from his great uncle’s home in Drew, Mississippi. Then an angry White mob beat, tortured and then shot Till before they used wire to connect a fan blade to his head to sink his young body to the bottom of the Tallahatchie River. The brutal lynching of Emmett Till on August 28, 1955 was on the mind of 13-year-old Yolanda Rene King at the March On Washington for Voting Rights rally Saturday, Aug. 28. During her speech, Martin Luther King’s only grandchild asked for a moment of silence in honor of Till, who she said, “was about my age.” Only blocks away from where she stood, a brand new exhibit was about to pay homage to that same memory. Although thousands have filed past the casket of Emmett Till displayed at the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture, on September 3, a new exhibit was set to open in “Flag Hall” of the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History that shows the recently bullet-riddled road markers where Till’s body was found. This is desecration that starkly indicates the level of racism and White supremacy still infesting America. “These signs were part of a long-standing history that has intentionally been suppressed and in some ways attacked,” said Tsione Wolde-Michael, 34, the Smithsonian’s curator for African American Social Justice. She added, “The community has shown its resilience in erecting a new sign every time it is shot up.” Wolde-Michael continues, “Till’s murder and open-casket funeral became a catalyst for the civil rights movement…And now in what would have been Emmett Till’s 80th year, this vandalized sign demonstrates the ways histories of racism and violence continue into the present. Our Mississippi community partners have continuously risked their lives to commemorate and interpret this history, and we are honored with the trust they have placed in the Smithsonian to steward the sign and bring its story along with Emmett’s to the public.” The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will open “Reckoning with Remembrance: History, Injustice and the Murder of Emmett Till” as a monthlong display of the bullet-ridden sign that was placed by the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi in remembrance of Emmett Till beginning Sept. 3. Smithsonian Curator Nancy Bercaw said Jerome G. Little, who died in 2011, pioneered the effort to preserve the Till story and the signs. He was the first African-American to serve as the president of the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors. “The signs were shot up, people defaced them with acid. But every time the Emmett Till Memorial Commission pulled themselves together and raised the funds and put up another sign,” Bercaw said. After Little died, his friend, Jesse Jaynes-Dimming has been working with the Emmett Till Memorial Commission to keep Till’s legacy alive. Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D., Elizabeth MacMillan director of the National Museum of American History, said the museum will present a program on Sept. 2 entitled, “The Long Battle: The Work of Preserving Emmett Till’s Memory, a Conversation with Community Leaders from Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.” Reverend Wheeler Parker, a civil rights activist and Till family member and Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Money, Mississippi, teamed up with curators and officials from the Smithsonian to hold the conversation and present the exhibit which will go on public display Sept. 3. The Museum is located on D.C.’s Constitution Avenue N.W. between 12th and 14th streets. Access information can be found at Americanhistory.si.edu or by calling 202-633-1000. Wolde-Michael said that In 2019 she and a group of historians traveled across Mississippi looking to learn more about the Emmett Till sign story. The reception was positive toward having the national exhibit. “This is about establishing long-term relationships in the community. This is just the beginning.” The sentiment is mutual. “We are thrilled to partner with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History,” said Weems. “The citizens of Tallahatchie County have struggled to keep Till’s memory on the physical and cultural landscape. We are honored that the Smithsonian has taken an interest in this important American story.” The exhibit is deliberately placed in the museum’s most prominent location, across from the Star-Spangled Banner exhibition at the building’s center. The Till sign works to preserve the memory of an African American boy’s murder while demonstrating the ongoing nature of anti-Black violence in America. A companion webpage will also become available Sept. 3. In 2008, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission erected nine historical markers to commemorate Till, but the signs have been stolen, riddled with bullets or thrown in the river. The 317 bullet punctures on the sign collected by the museum, the second of four placed at the river site, serve as a reminder that the racism that caused Till’s death still exists today. The commission erected a new bullet-proof marker in 2019 and donated this historical marker to the museum. “The National Museum of American History is deeply honored to collaborate with the Tallahatchie community to preserve and present the legacy of Emmett Till,” said Hartig, “The history of racial violence is often erased and highly contested in the battle to define American memory, and this vandalized sign demonstrates the ramifications of ongoing efforts of remembrance and social justice. Racism does not only reside in the past. It inhabits our lived reality.” The installation of the Till Historical Marker is part of the museum’s new vision outlined in its strategic plan, which is centered in outreach and commitment to communities and provides a place for people to explore the complexity of the country’s shared history. “The Emmett Till Memorial Commission has been working for 15 years to change the physical and cultural landscape of Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and the road to remember has not been easy,” said Weems. “So it is with great appreciation that we are partnering with the Smithsonian to honor and remember Emmett Till and the struggle that our community has faced to commemorate his life and legacy and to create the conditions for racial healing.” As Delta variant cases surge, 221 Community Health Workers reach out to 1.8 million people in rural underserved areas to promote vaccination Special to the Greene County Democrat Insert photo of Black man getting COVID 19 vaccnation

Greene County school system’s chief financial officer resigns

The Greene County Board of Education met in a special call meeting, Thursday, September 2, 2021, for matters involving the system’s CSFO, Lavonda Blair and for personnel matters. Following an executive session, the board voted unanimously to accept the CSFO’s resignation, effective September 16, 2021. The board did not disclose reasons for the resignation. Ms. Lavonda Blair was hired as Chief School Financial Officer for the Greene County School System, on a three year contract, beginning August 1, 2018. In June of this year, the board renewed Blair’s contract effective July 1, 2021, expiring June 30, 2024. The board authorized the President, Dr. Carol Zippert, with the assistance of the Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, to seek temporary personnel to continue the tasks in the system’s CSFO Department, especially regarding the closeout of the books for the current fiscal year ending September 30. The board further authorized President Zippert and Vice-President Kashaya Cockrell to initiate the search for a qualified CSFO for the system. Regarding personnel items, the board approved the superintendent’s recommendation to hire the following: Mary Henderson as Secretary for the Department of Transportation; Cyontai Lewis as Physical Education Teacher at Robert Brown Middle School. Following the close of the board meeting, Superintendent Jones announced that Greene County Schools would continue the remote learning program for approximately another two-weeks, up to the next regularly scheduled school board meeting, September 20, 2021. Dr. Jones noted that his decision is based on the rising number of COVID virus cases in Greene County and the surrounding region. According to Jones, each school would prepare lesson packages for students not yet able to participate in the on -line virtual classes. “We had to secure more tablets or repair existing ones as well as purchase more hot-spots for students in areas not accessible to the internet. Even with the hot-spots, some students are having difficulties logging-on. To address this, the system is arranging for log-on spots (crater points) that students can access,” he said. Dr. Jones urged everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. “The low vaccinated rate in our county, including among parents, school personnel and eligible students, is the main reason the COVID virus is attacking us,” Jones said. It was also announced that beginning with the September 20th meeting, the board will hold its regular monthly meetings at 5:30 pm in the Central Office.

Newsire: Guinea coup leader to form new government in weeks

Col. Mamady Doumbouya

BBC News Africa

The leader of the coup which ousted Guinea’s President Alpha Condé has said a new “union” government would be formed in weeks.  Col Mamady Doumbouya told ministers who served in Mr Condé’s government that there would be no witch-hunt against former officials. President Condé remains in detention, but his fate is unclear.  The UN, African Union, and regional body Ecowas have condemned the coup and called for a return to civilian rule.  “I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres tweeted. Col Doumbouya, who heads the army’s special forces unit, did not say on Monday when the new government would be in place. “A consultation will be launched to set down the broad parameters of the transition, and then a government of national union will be established to steer the transition,” he said in his statement. He told former ministers that they could not leave the country and had to hand over their official vehicles to the military.  After the meeting Col Doumbouya drove around the capital Conakry, which has been tense since Sunday when heavy gunfire was exchanged near the presidential building for several hours.  The BBC’s reporter in the city says crowds chanted the military leader’s name.  “They were just happy. Some people undressed and shouted “Doumbouya, Doumbouya, Doumbouya” and “freedom, freedom, freedom,” Alhassan Sillah reported.  It captures the feeling of many who are relieved that President Condé has been deposed, he said.  Col Doumbouya also urged mining companies to continue their operations in the country, adding that they would be exempt from the ongoing nationwide curfew.  Guinea is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of bauxite, a necessary component of aluminium. Following the coup, prices of aluminium climbed to their highest in more than a decade due to concerns over supplies.  In a broadcast on state TV on Sunday night, a group of soldiers announced the dissolution of the constitution, the closure of the borders and a nationwide curfew.  They said regional governors had been replaced by military commanders, and the ousted 83-year-old president was safe but in detention. Col Doumbouya said his soldiers had seized power because they wanted to end rampant corruption, human rights abuses and mismanagement.

Federation holds 54th Annual Meeting; honors Marian Wright Edelman

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund held its fifty-fourth Annual Meeting, on a virtual basis over three days, August 19-21, 2021. The Federation started in 1967 by cooperatives and credit unions that were developed during the Civil Rights Movement is now the premier organization representing 75 cooperatives and 10,000 remaining Black farmers in the South. On Thursday evening, the Federation honored Marian Wright Edelman, emeritus director of the Children’s Defense Fund, with its Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award, for her service to low-income people, especially children. Edelman is also a long-time columnist in the Greene County Democrat. This was the twentieth time the Federation awarded its highest award, named for Estelle Witherspoon, former Manager of the Freedom Quilting Bee of Wilcox County and an original incorporator of the Federation. The award was accepted by Oleta Fitzgerald, a long-time colleague of Marian Wright Edelman. On Friday, the Federation hosted a panel of representatives of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on programs and benefits available to Black and family sized farmers, like those in the Federation’s membership. The panel was highlighted by its first speaker, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack said he was working to “include more equity and diversity in the internal operations, staffing and programs of USDA. He introduced several Black and people of color, that he had selected to serve in leadership positions within USDA. The Secretary also announced the availability of $67 million in funding for an “Heirs Property Re-lending Program” which will assist families facing problems in clearing title to agricultural land, left by deceased relatives, who did not make wills. The Federation worked to get provisions for this program included in the 2018 Farm Bill but the Trump Administration failed to issue regulations to implement the program. The Secretary indicated that he expected the Federation, among others groups, to apply for these funds to implement a stronger program of heirs property assistance. The Secretary also spoke to the assistance for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers in Sections 1005 and 1006 of the American Rescue Plan. The $4 billion of debt relief promised in Section 1005 has been held-up by lawsuits filed by White farmers in 13 Federal Court districts, who charge that the program discriminates against them. Vilsack said USDA was fighting the lawsuits and would continue the moratorium on foreclosures until the legal matters were resolved. He also said that he was working to implement Section 1006 which will provide benefits to BIPOC farmers as Congress intended. Agency heads from Farm Services Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Forestry Service, Rural Development, APHIS, Agricultural Marketing Service and others also spoke about their programs, services and benefits tailored to BIPOC farmers. On Saturday, the Federation held a prayer breakfast followed by a business meeting. Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director, reported that despite many challenges the organization was financially stable, staffed and ready to assist its members in growing and having greater success as farmers, fishers and workers in the coming post-pandemic economy. The Federation also award six young people, affiliated with Federation member organizations with a $1,000 college scholarship, named for Anulet Pat Jackson, a former staff member. The scholarships have been funded on an annual basis for the past ten years by Sharing Inc. Pam Madzima, Alabama State Coordinator for the Federation, said, “We have awarded 75 young people scholarships through this program. Many have gone on to complete their studies and serve their communities.”

Newswire : FBI reports sharp rise in hate crimes targeting Black and Asian people

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA

Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Law enforcement agencies submitted incident reports involving 7,759 criminal incidents and 10,532 related offenses motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity. Further, the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics, 2020, reported 7,554 single-bias incidents involving 10,528 victims. Percent distribution of victims by bias type shows that 61.9 percent of victims found themselves targeted because of the offenders’ race, ethnicity, or ancestry. Further, 20.5 percent fell victim because of bias toward the offenders’ sexual orientation, 13.4 percent because of the offenders’ religion, 2.5 percent because of the offenders’ gender identity, 1 percent the offenders’ disability, and 0.7 percent because of the offenders’ gender bias. Specifically, in its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s latest compilation about bias-motivated incidents throughout the nation, the FBI noted that the number of hate crimes in the United States rose to the highest level in 12 years, driven by assaults targeting Black and Asian people. The rise in hate crimes occurred in a year of renewed protests for racial justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. “The rise in hate crimes is sad but predictable given the well-documented efforts by elected officials and political candidates to foment hate and division for partisan gain, especially during the 2020 election season and amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated in a news release. Hewitt noted that The Lawyers’ Committee filed several lawsuits within the last year to address hate incidents by people emboldened by an atmosphere in which blatant lies flourish and the truth often questioned. “Our clients were assaulted by racially motivated mobs, beaten by police using racially charged language, and targeted with thousands of racist robocalls delivering misinformation,” Hewitt added. “While horrific on their own, all indications are that these incidents are still grossly underreported. Although hate crimes prey on historically disenfranchised groups, our government should treat these crimes as a threat to the very foundations of our democracy – a threat that we dismiss at our own peril.” The FBI’s report revealed that of the 7,426 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons in 2020, 53.4 percent were for intimidation, 27.6 percent were for simple assault, and 18.1 percent were for aggravated assault. Of the 2,913 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property, most (76.4 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. Robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses accounted for the remaining 23.6 percent of crimes against property. Law enforcement classified 193 additional offenses as crimes against society. The FBI said this crime category represents society’s prohibition against engaging in certain types of activity such as gambling, prostitution, and drug violations. They said those crimes typically are victimless where property isn’t the object. Of the 6,431 known offenders, 55.2 percent were White, and 20.2 percent were Black or African American. Other races accounted for the remaining known offenders: Ethnicity was unknown for 47.5 percent of these offenders. Of the 5,915 known offenders for whom ages were known, 89.1 percent were 18 years of age or older.

Newswire: Thousands march this past weekend for Voting Rights, D.C. Statehood

Marchers in Washington, D. C.

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Like the suppressive bills passed and on the table in Republican-led states and the reluctance by some Democratic senators to abolish the filibuster, the sweltering heat and suffocating humidity only proved as two more obstacles that thousands of Americans refused to let stand in their way. Marchers rallied in the nation’s capital and cities across the country, demanding passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the For the People Act, and for D.C. statehood. The march came on the 58th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Led by King’s eldest son, Martin Luther King III, the “March On For Washington and Voting Rights” highlighted how laws and proposed bills in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and other states disproportionately affect people of color. Organizers and attendees also made it clear that D.C. statehood must happen and would be another mechanism to blunt voter suppression efforts. “Our country is backsliding to the unconscionable days of Jim Crow,” King III told the cheering crowd gathered at the National Mall in Washington. And some of our senators are saying, ‘Well, we can’t overcome the filibuster,’” he continued. “I say to you today: Get rid of the filibuster. That is a monument to white supremacy we must tear down.” Nearly a dozen state representatives from Texas also took the stage. Those lawmakers were part of a Democratic contingent who fled the Lone Star State to break a quorum that prevented Republicans from moving forward with voter suppression bills. “Texas is the worst state to vote in, in the entire nation,” U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) told the crowd. Joined by his wife, Arndrea, and daughter Yolanda, King declared that “we are marching to protect our power, to protect our voice, to protect our voting rights.” Black Lives Matter banners decorated the crowd, as marchers took to the streets demanding action on the Senate filibuster that has hampered efforts to pass the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and other laws that would protect voters. At least 18 states have already enacted voter suppression laws this year. With Republican opposition to equal rights laws, many have demanded an end to the filibuster, which would enable Congress to pass laws by a simple majority vote. As it stands, Democrats in the Senate must vote unanimously in favor of the legislation and have at least 10 Republicans join them. “I know activism works. I’ve seen it in my own family,” Yolanda King, the 13-year-old daughter of King III, told the crowd. “The torch is being passed to us, and it’s time for our generation to wake up the world so we can stop talking about the dream and start living the dream,” she continued. “We will be the generation that earns and wins our freedom once and for all.”

Eutaw City Council approves application for $500,000 to repair roof at old Carver School

The Eutaw City Council met for a partially virtual meeting on August 24, 2021, that was also broadcast to the public on Facebook-Live due to the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in Greene County. The Eutaw City Council received reports from a number of city departments and paid regular bills for the month. The Council approved a resolution for Mayor Latasha Johnson to apply for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the State ADECA office, to repair the roof on the Robert H. Young Community Center, formerly the Carver Elementary School. The city acquired the school from the Board of Education several years ago and uses it to house non-profit and small business entities. There are no matching fund requirements for this grant. The grant is due before the next regular meeting of the Council. Corey Martin for the Water Department reported that the department had collected $1,039,398.32 in water, sewer and garbage payments since the October 1, 2020 start of the fiscal year. For the last full fiscal year, the Water Department collected $585,592.17, a difference of $453,806.15. The Department has 1,394 customers and added 8 customers this month in the city and 9 customers on Boligee routes. The Water Department has been working to find and fix meters, find and repair leaks and generally to improve the system to increase revenues and reduce water leakage. This includes collection of past due receivables and closing accounts for non-payment or unwillingness to agree to payment plans to settle past-due accounts. Torris Babb, City Engineer reported on his work to evaluate streets that need major repaving work to be funded by state and local funds. He urged the Council to approve a contract for a company to clean out the sludge in the city lagoon to allow its pumps and pipes to work more efficiently. Babb also reported on FEMA financed drainage repairs, a new building code ordinance, GPS mapping of city utilities and other work. Babb also said he secured permission from ALDOT to close a bridge at the end of Springfield Avenue until it could be redone. Linda Spencer, Magistrate and Court Clerk reported that she was working on plans and procedures to hold City Court virtually beginning next month in September. Ralph Liverman, fiscal consultant presented the city with a financial report for the period October 1,2020 through July 31, 2021. The report listed numerous bank accounts that the city has and transactions made during the fiscal year. Liverman also reported he was working on a budget for the coming 2021-2022 fiscal year and wanted to review this in detail with the finance committee. At this time, subject to changes, Liverman projects a budget with $4,057,856 in revenues and $3,616,191 in expenditures with a surplus of $441,665. Liverman said, “This budget would allow for payment of all long-term loan payments like the water system, lighting at the Interstate Exit, and matching fund requirements for various grants. It also would allow us to consider a leasing arrangement for four new police cars, a knuckle-boom truck, a street sweeper and several pick-up trucks needed to improve the ability of the city’s staff to serve residents.” Mayor Johnson reported that negotiations were on-going with IRS to remove a tax lien on the city for employee taxes during the period 2015 to 2020. “We settled with IRS on some years – 2016 and 2017 – and we are awaiting the final charges for 2018 and 2019, to settle this debt,” she said. The Mayor also reported that she had spoken with Waste Management about delays in collecting city garbage. The company says it has staff shortages resulting in delays in garbage collection. The mayor asked City Attorney Zane Willingham to communicate with Waste Management in writing about their service and contractual violations. In other business, the City Council:

• Approved payment of $1,200 each, to three employees, who were sick with COVID-19, from remaining CARES funds.

• Approved travel for city staff to a training for Municipal Clerks and Administrators in Orange Beach in November; and for a BBI Software conference in Meridian, Mississippi on September 2, 2021.

• Approved a contract of $12,720 with Supreme Electrical LLC to replace light fixtures with LED fixtures throughout City Hall, from the Capital Improvement Fund.

Greene County schools return to virtual classes as COVID positive case rise

The Greene County Board of Education met in a special called meeting, Friday, August 20, 2021 to address the school system’s need to revert to virtual classes due to the number of positive COVID cases among students and school personnel. Subsequently, the board approved Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones’ recommendation to end in-person classes from August 20 until September 7, and further authorized the superintendent to extend the virtual program beyond that date, up to the September board meeting, if pandemic health issues warranted the same. At the time of the board meeting, 32 positive cases in the school system had been reported. According to Dr. Jones, the tracing procedures indicated that these positive cases did not originate in the school system. The August 20 Greene County High School football game scheduled in Aliceville was cancelled due to one player testing positive, which may have exposed others. To date, the number of reported positive COVID cases among students is 32, with 12 in quarantine and 8 positive cases among school personnel. The GCHS football team is scheduled to play Keith in Orrville, Friday, August 27. The Alabama Athletic Association stated that athletes who are vaccinated and become exposed may still play. According to Dr. Jones, school officials have prepared educational packets for students to avoid a gap in learning as the technical devices are distributed or upgraded. “Some students did not return their tablets at the end of the previous school term as requested, and some tablets turned in were damaged and had to be sent out for repairs. The tablets that were returned in good order were re-issued.” he stated. Dr. Jones noted that students’ school issued tablets would be activated and hot spots would be provided for those students needing the device. The board also approved the revised School Resource Officer Contract for 2021-2022, as recommended by the superintendent. Once the board meeting had adjourned, GCHS Coach Corey Cockrell and some football players expressed concerns regarding the school’s football program.

Rep. Sewell Praises Passage of H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) praised the House passage of H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which she introduced last week. This critical legislation would restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and keep the promise of our democracy for all Americans. Amid the most coordinated state-level effort to restrict the right to vote in generations, H.R. 4 would prevent states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote by requiring these jurisdictions to obtain federal preclearance before changing their voting laws. Supported by every House Democrat, H.R. 4 passed in the House of Representatives today by a vote of 219-212. “Today, the House took an important step in our continued struggle to keep the promise of our democracy alive for all Americans,” said Rep. Sewell. “With the passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act today, we’re preserving and advancing the legacy of those brave Foot Soldiers like John Lewis who shed blood on that bridge for the right of all Americans to vote.” “The passage of H.R. 4 couldn’t come at a more critical time,” continued Sewell. “As states and localities erect deliberate barriers to the ballot box at an unprecedented pace, the need for federal oversight has never been more urgent. The Senate must now use every tool at its disposal to pass this bill and ensure it lands on President Biden’s desk. There is absolutely no time to waste.” For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) prevented states and localities from restricting the right to vote. However, in its disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the law, invalidating Section 4 and striking down the formula used to determine which jurisdictions are subject to federal oversight. In July 2021, the Court further weakened the law in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC, making it more difficult to challenge discriminatory voting laws under Section 2. Since 2013, there has been a steady increase in the number of restrictive voting laws that disproportionately suppress turnout among minorities, young adults, and the elderly. This accelerated in 2021 with the Big Lie of a “stolen election.” Just this year, 18 states have enacted at least 30 laws to restrict access to the vote. Named for the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Robert Lewis, H.R. 4 restores Section 4 of the VRA by establishing a modern-day formula that requires states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. For areas to qualify for judicial pre-clearance, they must have the following qualifications: States with a history of 15 or more violations at any level in the previous 25 years States with a history of 10 or more violations, if one violation occurs at the state level in the previous 25 years Subdivisions with 3 or more violations in the subdivision in the previous 25 years H.R. 4 also restores Section 2 of the VRA by clarifying congressional intent and eliminating the heightened standard created by the Supreme Court in Brnovich v. DNC that makes it more difficult to challenge discriminatory voting laws. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also: Allows federal courts to immediately halt questionable voting practices until a final ruling is made. This provision recognizes that when voting rights are at stake, prohibiting a discriminatory practice after the election has concluded is too late to truly protect voters’ rights. Gives the Attorney General authority to request that federal observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat. Increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes. Includes a retrogression standard for already-enacted but not-yet-implemented measures. Help plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief for voting rights violations in the lead-up to an election. Establishes a grant program for small jurisdictions to help them comply with the bill’s various notice requirements. H.R. 4 now heads to the Senate for consideration.