On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, Greene County Sheriff’s Department issued a listing of the distributions for May, 2021, totaling $500,813,28 from four bingo gaming facilities licensed by Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison. The May distribution reported by the sheriff does not include the additional $71,000 from Greenetrack, Inc., which distributes to the same recipients, independent of the sheriff. The bingo facilities distributing through the sheriff include Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace, Bama Bingo. A distribution for May from the recently licensed Marvel City Bingo was not included in the Sheriff’s report. The recipients of the May distributions from bingo gaming include the Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System). Sub charities include Children’s Policy Council, Guadalupan Multicultural Services, Greene County Golf Course, Branch Heights Housing Authority, Department of Human Resources and the Greene County Library. Bama Bingo gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500, and the Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities, each received $1,132.50 Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,132.50. River’s Edge (Next Level Leaders and Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $114,994.98 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,333.33. Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $155,838.30 to the following: Greene County Commission, $41,358; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $45,765; City of Eutaw, $12,543; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $5,254.50; Greene County Board of Education, $14,238 and the Greene County Health System, $16,950; Sub Charities each, 1,536.80.
By Rebekah Barber, first published in Facing South, the on-line magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern states have been among those that have done the least to protect their residents from contracting the deadly virus. They were some of the last to impose mask mandates and among the first to reopen after temporary shutdowns. And many sectors in the region, like poultry processing, never shut down at all. That makes it particularly striking that essential workers in Southern states disproportionately fall in the Medicaid coverage gap. Not provided health insurance through their jobs and unable to afford it in the private market, these workers risk their lives to keep the economy running — and disproportionately die in the process. Eight of the 12 states that have refused to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are located in the South: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina. All have Republican-controlled legislatures. A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) looked at data from 2019, the year before the pandemic hit, and calculated that over 550,000 people working in essential or frontline industries fall in the Medicaid coverage gap. The states with the greatest number of essential workers in the coverage gap are Texas (209,000) and Florida (98,000) — GOP-led states that have had notoriously ineffective public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, over 2 million people living in Southern states fall into the gap. “A large body of research demonstrates that Medicaid expansion increases health insurance coverage, improves access to care, provides financial security, and improves health outcomes,” the report states. CBPP also documented glaring racial disparities, finding that people of color make up 60% of those in the Medicaid coverage gap even though they account for only 41% of the non-elderly adult population in non-expansion states. In Texas, 74% of those in the coverage gap are people of color, while Black people account for a majority of people in the coverage gap in Mississippi and 40% in Georgia and South Carolina. At the same time, people of color face a higher risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death. In Alabama, 48% of the 11,300 people who have died to date from the coronavirus, did not have health insurance (that is over 5,400 people). The report notes that about three in ten adults in the coverage gap have children at home. And a third are women of childbearing age, meaning that if they get pregnant, they can apply for existing Medicaid coverage. However, the coverage would not begin until they are determined to be eligible, meaning they could miss out on critical prenatal care during the first months of pregnancy. CBPP points to an Oregon study that found Medicaid expansion was associated with an increase in early and adequate prenatal care. In addition, CBPP calculates that about 15% of people in the Medicaid coverage gap have disabilities. That includes 7% with serious cognitive difficulties, and more than 6% who have difficulty with basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, carrying, or reaching. In the years leading up to the pandemic, states that expanded Medicaid cut their uninsured rates by half. That made them better prepared for both the ensuing public health crisis and consequent economic downturn, which resulted in an estimated 2 million to 3 million people nationwide losing employer-based coverage between March and September. Efforts are now underway in the Democratic-controlled Congress to find a way to bring Medicaid to more essential workers — and Americans in general — despite Republican resistance at the state level. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, recently proposed the “Cover Outstanding Vulnerable Expansion-Eligible Residents (COVER) Now Act.” The bill, which already has over 40 cosponsors, would authorize the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to work directly with counties, cities, and other local governments to expand Medicaid coverage in states that have refused to do so. It’s based on previous successful demonstration projects in several counties in California, Illinois, and Ohio, and it’s won the endorsement of groups including the American Diabetes Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. “The COVER Now Act empowers local leaders to assure that the obstructionists at the top can no longer harm the most at-risk living at the bottom,” Doggett said in a statement. Counties and municipalities would be able to get Medicaid coverage for their citizens on the same basis as initially offered to states – the first three years free and the next four years, the local contribution would rise to 10% of costs. No explanation is given of where the local funding would come from, to pay for the matching contributions over time. And over in the Senate, Raphael Warnock of Georgia this week announced that he is drafting a proposal that would bypass his state’s Republican leadership while calling on the White House to include a “federal fix” in the next jobs package. Warnock told reporters that he’s hoping to introduce legislation soon. The Georgia Recorder has reported that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is pushing a plan to expand Medicaid to about 50,000 additional Georgians, but the Biden administration has put the brakes on it over concerns that it requires participants to rack up 80 hours of work, school, or other qualifying activity every month to gain and keep their coverage. In a letter sent last month to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Warnock and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia suggested that one possible solution could be a federal Medicaid look-alike program run through the CMS. “We have a duty to our constituents and a duty to those suffering from a lack of access to health care to provide for them when they are in need,” Warnock and Ossoff said in the letter. “We can no longer wait for states to find a sense of morality and must step in to close the coverage gap and finally ensure that all low- and middle-income Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.” The details of the Warnock-Ossoff proposal for a “Medicaid look-alike”, available through the ACA marketplace, have not been spelled out. The critical details of coverages and costs remain to be worked out and also face the question of who bears the 10% matching costs. In Alabama, 300,000 or more working poor people are caught in this Medicaid coverage gap. These people who need healthcare the most and who have been shown to be most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, could be provided with healthcare if Governor Ivey were simply willing to sign the agreements with CMS/HHS to expand Medicaid. Resources are available in the American Recovery Act to incentivize and pay Alabama’s initial three years of costs to expand. After three years, health experts project that the state could realize new tax revenues, from the thousands of new jobs created, to pay for the continuing 10% matching cost of providing this desperately needed coverage to those who most need it. The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy has waged a seven-year unrelenting campaign, including some acts of civil disobedience, to try to persuade the Governor of Alabama to Expand Medicaid. Leaders of SOS say they will not stop their campaign until the goal is reached. Some additions, relevant to Alabama, were made to this article by John Zippert, Co-Publisher and Editor of the Greene County Democrat.
Douglas (Doug) Fulghum, a native of Sumter County and a graduate of Livingston High School, is the new County Extension Coordinator for Greene County. He completed his B.S. Degree in Forestry Science at Alabama A&M University in 2003. Fulghum began his professional career as a Southern Pine Beetle Forester for the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources. In 2005, he returned to Alabama to work with the Alabama Forestry Commission. He was employed with this agency for 14, serving as a Forester and a County Supervisor. While employed there, he became familiar with the needs of landowners throughout West Alabama. After 14 years with the Alabama Forestry Commission, Mr. Fulghum transitioned to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in 2019 as a Regional Extension Agent in the Specialty Area of Forestry/Wildlife. After two years as a REA, serving Greene as one of his counties, Fulghum was chosen to serve in a new capacity, Greene County Cooperative Extension Coordinator (CEC). According to Doug, this new position gives him the opportunity to focus on one county and go beyond forestry services. “I am now in a position to connect with various Regional Extension Agents (REA) and bring added services to Greene County, including 4-H and Work Force Development for youth; Food and Nutrition and AlProHealth. We have plans to provide new playground equipment for residents at Eutaw Housing Authority, as well as other community service projects,” he stated. Doug held his first Advisory Committee meeting, Friday, June 25, which drew representatives from local governments, service agencies, non-profit organizations, the farming community and other interested and supportive groups and individuals. His goal is to continue serving Greene County by bringing needed programs to the area. His plans are to work with the county and city governments, the school system and other entities to help bring this county to a new dimension. “There is so much I want to do, but I recognize that I am still learning. My approach is to serve through collaboration and cooperation,” he said. Doug is married to Danielle Harper Fulghum and they have two daugthers, Madison and Melonie. Mr. Douglas Fulghum stands ready to assist. He can be reached on the office phone at (205) 372-3401, on his cell at 205-609-0347, or via email at email@example.com.
Grand Ethopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River in Africa
By: Doyinsola Oladipo
July 6 (Reuters) – The United Nations called on Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on Tuesday to recommit to talks on the operation of a giant hydropower dam, urging them to avoid any unilateral action, a day after Ethiopia began filling the dam’s reservoir. The U.N. Security Council will likely discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) this week after Arab states requested the 15-member body address the issue. Ethiopia says the dam on its Blue Nile is crucial to its economic development and to provide power. But Egypt views it as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent. Sudan, another downstream country, has expressed concern about the dam’s safety and the impact on its own dams and water stations. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres backs the role of the African Union in mediating between the countries, Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. Report ad “What is also important, that there be no unilateral action that would undermine any search for solutions. So, it’s important that people recommit themselves to engage in good faith in a genuine process,” Dujarric said on Tuesday. Egypt’s irrigation minister said on Monday he had received official notice from Ethiopia that it had begun filling the reservoir behind the dam for a second year. Egypt said it rejected the measure as a threat to regional stability. The U.S. State Department on Tuesday said Ethiopia’s filling of the GERD had the potential to raise tensions, as it also urged all parties to refrain from unilateral actions on the dam. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States called for all parties to commit themselves to a negotiated solution acceptable to all sides. Report ad Solutions needed to be guided by example, said Dujarric. “Solutions… have been found for others who share waterways, who share rivers, and that is based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and the obligation not to cause significant harm,” he said.
Congresswoman Eleanor Norton
By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has joined two of her House of Representatives colleagues in filing bipartisan legislation to improve the federal government’s vehicle safety testing practices, specifically those involving the use of crash test dummies. The Furthering Advanced and Inclusive Research for Crash Tests Act would order a comprehensive Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of current federal vehicle safety tests and how those tests impact the safety of all drivers and passengers. Co-authored by Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL), the measure requires a GAO evaluation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) failure to use crash test dummies that represent the driving public, especially women, while assessing vehicle safety through its 5-star safety rating program. Congresswoman Norton provided statistics to show that current tests fail to use crash test dummies representing women, especially in the driver’s seat, even though research suggests that women have a higher likelihood of being killed or significantly injured in a car crash. “Alarmingly, 8,500 women were killed in car crashes in the U.S. in 2018, with 61 percent of the women being in the driver’s seat,” the Congresswoman noted. The total number of traffic crashes in the District of Columbia have steadily been on the rise since 2013 with the highest number of crashes occurring in 2016 at 26,525, after which the total number of crashes remained relatively steady, according to the most recent D.C. Traffic Safety Report. The bipartisan legislation would also require the GAO to compare NHTSA’s practices to other safety rating programs, such as in Europe, and evaluate options for strengthening the agency’s vehicle safety testing to reduce gender-based disparities in car crash outcomes. The bill requires NHTSA to submit an interim report to Congress explaining what new advanced crash test dummies it is currently studying for potential use in its 5-star safety rating program. In the Senate, companion legislation has already been filed by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who serves as Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE). The Peters-Fischer legislation has been included as part of the Senate Commerce Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill.“When a vehicle has met or exceeded national safety standards- consumers should have every confidence the product has truly earned a safety seal of approval of the U.S. government,” Congressman Bilirakis wrote in a statement. “I was startled to learn of allegations related to the gender inequality of auto safety tests. I think of my wife, my mother, my sister-in-law—and all the women in my life who have made what they believed to be informed purchases for their family automobiles.” Congressman Bilirakis continued: “I guarantee you none of them are aware of any gender disparity in the testing of the cars they purchase. The idea that physiological differences between men and women can impact crash safety is pretty intuitive. “It seems logical to me that the required safety tests should reflect current demographic information regarding gender driving patterns: meaning that the number of female drivers and the vehicles they want to drive should be used to determine how frequently female crash dummies are used in safety tests. This important legislation will modernize the tests being used and improve safety for all drivers.” The NHTSA is failing in its mission, and it tragically costs thousands of lives every year, Congresswoman Castor added.“Women are almost 75 percent more likely than men to die or receive a serious injury when they are involved in an automobile crash, and it’s time we modernize tests and save lives,” she continued. “Millions of American women get behind the wheel of a car every day, and we must swiftly act to correct the inequalities in current tests and improve standards, so that female drivers are as safe as their male counterparts. This bill is a good first step to ensuring women are safe in cars and holding NHTSA accountable.” Congresswoman Norton asserted that women had achieved equality on the road when it comes to driving.Still, when it comes to safety testing to keep them safe while driving, they are nowhere near achieving equality. “Crash test standards are so antiquated that we must update these standards now, especially as more people return to their daily commute in the next few months,” Congresswoman Norton declared.
By Charlene Crowell
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In recent years, consumer finance protections withered through a series of harsh attacks that either outright rejected or significantly diminished financial guard rails in the marketplace. But a new consumer victory, urged by a groundswell of support from everyday people, academicians, and bicameral legislators signals an important step toward fair financial rules. On June 30, President Joe Biden’s signature ended an ill-advised rule that favored predatory loans instead of America’s consumers. Predatory loans, such as payday loans, disparately impact African-Americans and other people of color. “These are so called ‘rent-a-bank’ schemes”, said President Biden at the June 30 signing ceremony. “And they allow lenders to prey on veterans, seniors, and other unsuspecting borrowers tapping in the — trapping them into a cycle of debt. And the last administration let it happened, but we won’t.” Days earlier on June 24, a bipartisan vote of 218-208 in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a key financial rule change to the President’s desk. Just a few weeks earlier the Senate had passed the same bill with a bipartisan vote. Using authority from the Congressional Review Act, the votes sought to eliminate a recently passed regulation. In this case, the goal was to nix the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) “fake lender” rule issued late in the Trump Administration. As the nation’s seat of government, Capitol Hill is a place where an array of interests vies for both attention and influence. Lean-budgeted but principled public interest organizations can often find themselves disadvantaged by deep pocketed interests. That’s why it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate overcoming stacked odds to forge changes that result in real life benefits for everyday people and small businesses alike. Especially for Black America and other communities of color, solid steps toward ending billion-dollar financial exploitation are particularly deserving of attention. Historically, we have already borne the brunt of predatory greed. “Eliminating this harmful OCC rule will prevent more people from being exposed to high-interest loans that pull borrowers down deep into debt and despair,” said Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Director of Federal Campaigns Graciela Aponte-Diaz.“Nixing the rule will curb the spread of predatory loans that target Black, Latinx, and low-income individuals – many of whom are struggling from the economic downturn. This action will allow states to protect their residents by enforcing their state interest rate laws.” As reported previously in this column, OCC’s “True Lender” rule gave a green light to predatory lenders. By effectively overriding a string of state laws in almost every state enacted to prevent abusive payday, car-title, and installment loans with explosive interest rates of more than 100 percent took effect in late December 2020. Payday and high-cost installment lenders paid fees to banks for use of their name and charter to dodge state interest rate laws by claiming the bank’s exemption from those laws for itself. Consumer advocates referred to the rule change as a ‘Fake Lender’ as the real lender is the predatory non-bank lender – not a bank. Reactions to the successful consumer challenge soon followed. One of the first public comments came as a joint statement from two key U.S. Senators. “Striking down the Trump ‘Rent-a-Bank’ rule will help prevent predatory lenders from ripping off consumers and charging loan-shark rates under deceptive terms”, noted Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and co-sponsor of the resolution. “The OCC, when it allowed banks to evade state interest rate caps, betrayed hard-working families and attacked states’ ability to protect their citizens from predatory loans,” added Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee’s chair. “Congress showed the people we serve that we’re on their side.” For California’s Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, the resolution rids the nation of financial rubbish. “The Trump-era ‘True Lender’ rule is a back-door way for nonbanks to charge triple-digit interest rates on loans at the expense of consumers in states where voters turned out to pass interest rate cap laws,” said Waters. “No wonder some call this the ‘fake lender’ rule.” Just how much financial harm resulted from the ill-advised rule has been documented by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), a member of a diverse coalition that advocated repeal. According to NCLC, predatory small business lenders are using the fake lender rule to defend a 268% annual percentage rate (APR) rate on loans totaling $67,000 to a Black restaurant owner in New York, where the criminal usury rate is 25%, and secured by property in New Jersey, where the legal limit is 30%. The lender pretended that the nominal participation of a bank based in Nevada justified its astronomical rate. Nevada has no interest limits on loans. In another example, OppLoans (also known as OppFi), an online lender offers 160 percent APR loans in 26 states that prohibit triple-digit rate loans. This lender has also cited the OCC’s fake lender rule to defend its loan to a disabled veteran in California, where the usury rate on the loan is 24 percent. OppLoans is also evading state rate cap laws supported by broad majorities of voters in Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Even in states where legislatures have enacted rate caps, the fake lender rule would have essentially negated those rate cap protections. For consumer advocates, along with their partners in the civil rights, faith, and veterans’ communities, revoking the fake lender rule is a step towards a national loan rate cap of no more than 36 percent. Years ago, bipartisan enactment of the Military Lending Act awarded double-digit rate cap protections for men and women in uniform. It’s time for all of America to have the same financial protection.
Charlene Crowell is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached A tCharlene.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nikole Hannah Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates
After a battle with UNC, Hannah-Jones will be tenured professor at Howard University’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications.
By Bruce C.T. Wright, NewsOne Howard University just added two more notches to its HBCU championship belt when it caught everyone off-guard Tuesday morning with its latest high-profile hires. Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose public dispute over tenure at the University of North Carolina may have prompted Howard to make her an offer, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, an award-winning writer in his own right, are joining the Cathy Hughes School of Communications as professors effective immediately, the school announced. Jones who is known for her work on the New York Times “1619 Project” illuminating the impact of the enslavement of Black people on American history, was selected for the position at the University of North Carolina, her alma mater, but not given tenure because of conservative opposition to her appointment. Hannah-Jones will serve as the newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University — a tenured position — and Coates will be a faculty member in Howard’s College of Arts and Sciences. Together, they will work to establish the Center for Journalism and Democracy. Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick said the appointments of “two of today’s most respected and influential journalists” who are also experts on race and culture is a necessity for the future generation of journalists. “At such a critical time for race relations in our country, it is vital that we understand the role of journalism in steering our national conversation and social progress,” Frederick said in a statement. “Not only must our newsrooms reflect the communities where they are reporting, but we need to infuse the profession with diverse talent. We are thrilled that they will bring their insights and research to what is already a world-class, highly accomplished team of professors.” The positions are being funded by a donation of nearly $20 million from the Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation and one anonymous donor. The announcement about Hannah-Jones was especially a surprise given her public battle after her offer to be the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism for the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media did not include tenure. After pressure from Black faculty and the community, the UNC board of trustees finally voted, 9 to 4 last week, to grant Hannah-Jones tenure. Hannah-Jones, who is a graduate of UNC’s journalism school, explained why she decided against accepting UNC’s amended offer. “Historically Black colleges and universities have long punched above their weight, producing a disproportionate number of Black professionals while working with disproportionately low resources,” Hannah-Jones said Tuesday in a statement e-mailed to NewsOne. “It is my great honor to help usher to this storied institution these significant resources that will help support the illustrious, hardworking, and innovative faculty at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and the brilliant students it draws.” She added: “Many people, all with the best of intentions, have said that if I walk away from UNC, I will have let those who opposed me win. But I do not want to win someone else’s game.” Coates, for his part, is no slouch, either. The Howard graduate made a name for himself as a music and culture journalist before being recognized for his historic work at the Atlantic, including a seminal piece in 2014 making the case for reparations. The author of three books has also won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2015 for “Between the World and Me,” which was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
As of June 30, 2021 at 10:00 AM (according to Alabama Political Reporter) Alabama had 550,983 confirmed cases of coronavirus,(1,609) more than last week with 11,352 deaths (24) more than last week)
Greene County had 937 confirmed cases, (3 more cases than last week), with 34 deaths
Sumter Co. had 1,062 cases with 32 deaths
Hale Co. had 2,266 cases with 78 deaths
Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccination for COVID-19; Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 18 and up.
The Greene County Board of Education, at its June 28, 2021 meeting, approved the renewal of the Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones’ contract for an additional three years, beginning July 1, 2022. Dr. Jones’ current contract contains a provision that required the board to inform him one year in advance on whether his contract would be renewed, including the terms and conditions. Jones was hired July 1, 2019. The board also approved a three year contract for CSFO LaVonda Blair beginning July 1, 2021. She was hired August 1, 2018. Both contracts were approved on a three-two vote of board members, in spite of the fact that Superintendent Jones and CSFO Blair had received composite average scores, in their evaluations by the board, indicating that their performances Exceeded Expectations. The superintendent’s report to the board included a summary of the ESSER II Plan (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) that was submitted to the Alabama State Department of Education. According to Dr. Jones, the system’s $3,319,901 ESSER II allocation will focus on the following four components: High Quality Instructional Materials, budgeted at $476,450; High Quality Professional Development, budgeted at $81,780; Unfinished Learning Supports, budgeted at $1,561,889 and Facilities, budgeted at $1,200,000. In the ESSER II Plan each component is specifically detailed with proposed activities and follow-up as well as related costs. ESSER II funds must be expended by September 30, 2023 Dr. Jones also announced that the 2021-2022 school year will open with full face-to-face learning, baring any public health order warranting the school system to return to virtual learning approaches. “Our main concern is the safety of all school personnel, as well as our community, and utilizing every means available to provide the best learning opportunities for our students,” he stated. Jones gave updates on the renovations to the central office. He noted that the second phase will include painting and carpeting inside the facility. CSFO LaVanda Blair presented the following Financial Snapshot as of April 30, 2021: General Fund Balance – $2,886,119.30; Accounts Payable Check Register – $258,470.35; Payroll Register – $815,310.53; Combined Fund Balance – $5,777,622.22; Total Local Revenue – $1,782,544.14, including property and sales taxes and bingo revenue. Blair noted the budget amendments relative to the ESSER II – CRRSA (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act). The CSFO also presented an overview of the streamlining process in various components in the central office, including implementation of the Follet Inventory System, technological advances, ClassWallet, KissFlow, and MySchoolBucks. Blair stated that the financial department works closely with Superintendent Jones to maintain the operating reserve; eliminate any unnecessary spending and reduce and/or refinance debt. In other business, the board ratified the listing of summer school personnel, the superintendent had been authorized to employ in the program. On the superintendent’s recommendation, the board approved the following personnel recalled for the 2021-2022 school term: •Eutaw Primary School: Gwendolyn Webb, Trakayla Brown, Tara Thomas, Danielle Sanders-Williams, Quenterica White, Domonique McDaniels, Sherita Pickens, Chandra Toney, Valarie Moore, Hillary Bruner. •Robert Brown Middle School: Alisa Allen, Brandi Eubanks, Tammy Barber, Leanita Hunt, Alison Newton, Kalyn Gray, Quentin Walton, Nkenge Reynold, Demelia Snyder, Ashley Moody. •Greene County High School: Tyler Mitchell, Elroy Skinner, Josef Stander, Clifford Reynolds. The board approved employment of the following: Monquell Wigfall, Special Education Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School, for the 2021-2022 school year; Whitney Hampton-Finch, 4th Grade teacher, Robert Brown Middle School; Gloria Watkins McGhee, Pre-K Teacher, Eutaw Primary School; Paula Calligan, Cosmetology Instructor, Greene County Career Center. The board approved Catastrophic / FMLA Leave for Larry Burnette from April 27, 2021 – August 1, 2021; Resignations of Jacob Sullivan, Robert Brown Middle School, effective June 3, 2021 and Lurena Smith, Kindergarten Teacher, Eutaw Primary School, effective June 25, 2021. The board approved the following administrative service items: * Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll. * Bank reconciliations as submitted by Ms. LaVonda Blair, CSFO. * Contract agreement between Greene County Board of Education and Albireo Energy Control * System Maintenance Program. * 4-day work week for all extended employees beginning June 7 – July 30, 2021. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Behavior Aide Eleanor Smalls. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Behavior Aide, Denise Horton. * Approval of Follett School Solutions Software. •Approval of unused school buses to be sold for scrap. The following are the board agenda items which do not require a recommendation of the superintendent. * Approval of Contract for Chief School Finance Officer. * Approval of Notice to Superintendent as Required by Superintendent Contract.
MADISON, Wis. –– On behalf of the Rural Coalition, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project and 23 additional farm, rural, environmental, health and civil rights groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed an amicus brief last week asking a federal court in Wisconsin to allow the distribution of $4 billion in loan forgiveness set aside by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to correct decades of injustice, systemic racism and admitted discriminatory behavior by the federal government.The assistance package was part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. On June 10, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) subverting the will of Congress and stopping relief to over 17,000 Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color who have suffered historic, systemic and ongoing discrimination in USDA lending programs. “Debt relief is something that minority farmers desperately need as they try to recover from the damage that COVID-19 has disproportionately inflicted on their businesses and families,” said Keisha Stokes-Hough, senior supervising attorney for the Economic Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Congress granted this relief because farmers of color have borne the brunt of the economic downturn due to systemic and current discrimination. As a result, farmers of color are at the greatest risk of failure. The American Rescue Plan is an important first step in addressing decades of lending and aid discrimination in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the will of Congress must not be subverted.” The USDA has a decades-long track record of discriminating against Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color. For example, USDA distributed $9.2 billion in aid to farmers in 2020 under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Less than 3% of that relief went to a category of producers defined by the USDA as being underserved by federal farm programs and which includes farmers of color. With this loan forgiveness plan, Congress directed the USDA to provide relief to socially disadvantaged farmers. The groups supporting the brief say delaying the distribution of these funds puts more BIPOC farmers in danger of going out of business or falling even further behind their white counterparts. The brief includes statements from BIPOC farmers who will experience irreparable harm from this delay in federal support. Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued a preliminary injunction to further delay the relief to BIPOC provided by Congress in the ARPA. This decision and the additional lawsuits that are continuing to be filed only seek to further put our producers of color further in financial peril, take them off their lands, and inhibit their centuries long struggle for equity in agriculture. Our representative organizations will be exploring further action to protect our BIPOC producers’ rights, as well as their equity and inclusion to receive the relief they have long been denied. More than 200 groups have signed a statement in support of immediately distributing the relief, saying that this landmark piece of legislation is desperately needed to correct ongoing systemic discrimination and to restore the rights of BIPOC farmers to pursue landownership and agriculture on an equal playing field. Organizations joining the Rural Coalition, the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project on the brief include: •NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) •Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund •National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association •American Indian Mothers, Inc. •Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation •Cottage House Incorporation •Family Farm Defenders •Kansas Black Farmers Association •Land Stewardship Project •National Young Farmers Coalition • Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc. •Operation Spring Plant, Inc. •Texas Coalition of Rural Landowners •World Farmers •Farm Aid •The Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor (HEAL) Food Alliance •National Family Farm Coalition •The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition •The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA •California Farm Link •Community Farm Alliance •Women, Food and Agriculture Network •Steward Holdings These groups will continue to work together to assist USDA in fighting these lawsuits now being filed in as many as ten states. “We plan to file this amicus brief or a stronger amended brief, as well as possibly intervening in the cases as they move along through the Federal court system,” said Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition Executive Director. Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund said, “We support this amicus brief effort but we wanted to hold the option to intervene in the case to represent our members.” The USDA is continuing to send letters about the loan forgiveness program to farmers and encouraging farmers to respond so that when the injunction is lifted the government will proceed with the payments to end the indebtedness. Persons who need more information on the brief may contact the http://www.ruralco.org website for more information.