Newswire: Warnock, McEachin introduce legislation establishing voucher program to help close Digital Divide

Young people using a computer laptop

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent


In the increasingly digital world, internet services and the devices to access them have quickly become essential to participate in the 21st-century economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated this need and underscored the stark disparities that currently exist in our country.

Against that backdrop, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Congressman Donald McEachin (D-Va.) have introduced the Device Access for Every American Act to ensure more Americans can afford connected devices.

The bicameral legislation would authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a program to administer up to $400 vouchers for low-income Americans to purchase laptops, tablets, and desktop computers.

“It is nearly impossible to get by without access to a laptop or tablet—especially after a year of adjusting to virtual learning, working, and more,” Sen. Warnock stated.

“For that, I am incredibly proud to introduce the Device Access for Every American Act, which ensures that every American – regardless of income or zip code – can participate and thrive in our increasingly digital economy.”
Sen. Warnock continued: “This legislation also ensures students stay on track, especially following a year of learning loss, with the necessary devices at their disposal.”

Sen. Warnock and Congressman McEachin said more than 11 percent of American households are without computers. They noted that millions of Americans migrated to virtual learning and teleworking since the outbreak of the pandemic. Still, many households struggled to connect because of a lack of or an insufficient number of connected devices.

Further, while computer access is nearly ubiquitous for high-income households, 40 percent of those making under $30,000 a year lack a desktop or laptop computer. Statistics show that 1 in 3 African American and Hispanic households lack access to a computer in their homes – twice the number of white families.

Most concerning, the lawmakers said 4.4 million households with students lack consistent access to a computer at home, with more than 9 million schoolchildren struggling to participate in class and complete schoolwork.

“Laptops, tablets, and other connected devices are indispensable in our increasingly digital world. Many students’ homework assignments now require laptops, more employers are exploring telework models, and more doctors’ offices are migrating toward telehealth services as the new standard of care,” Congressman McEachin explained.

The Device Access for Every American Act would:
• Allocate $2 billion in federal funding for the establishment and implementation of the voucher program
• Authorize the FCC to administer up to $400 vouchers for eligible individuals and families to purchase a connected device
• Permit up to two low-income individuals per household to receive a voucher so that families can receive multiple devices
• Direct the FCC to collaborate with connected device retailers, promote the program to eligible Americans, and provide individualized technical assistance to assist in enrollment

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated this need and underscored the stark disparities that currently exist in our country. Unfortunately, for too many low-income Americans, prohibitive costs pose unnecessary challenges and hardships for them and their families,” McEachin concluded.

Five bingo facilities distribute $614,266.48 for August; Greenetrack distributes additional $71,000

On Friday, September 10, Greene County Sheriff Department issued a listing of the distributions for August, 2021, totaling $614,266.48 from five licensed bingo gaming facilities. The August distribution reported by the sheriff does not include the additional $71,000 from Greenetrack, Inc. distributed to the same recipients, independent of the sheriff.
The bingo facilities distributing through the sheriff include Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace, Bama Bingo and Marvel City. The recipients of the August distributions from bingo gaming include the Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, and 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, the Greene County Library and newly added Eutaw Housing Authority.
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, $1,133.33.
Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $157,301.50 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.
Marvel City 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.

 

 

 

Dallas County Courthouse Annex named and dedicated to Attorneys J. L. Chestnut and Bruce Carver Boynton

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

On Tuesday, September 14, 2021 there was a ceremony held in Selma, Alabama, to dedicate and name the Dallas County Courthouse Annex for two civil rights attorneys who were born and worked much of their lives in Selma and the Alabama Black Belt.

The dedication was attended by more than 200 people from the area and others whose lives were touched by the two men. This program culminated a ten-year effort by Black community groups and leaders to name the judicial building for the two pioneering attorneys, who paved the way for many other Black lawyers, judges and clients to be successful in their life endeavors.

The Dallas County Commission, elected in November 2020, which had a Black majority for the first time in modern history, agreed to the naming of the Courthouse Annex for the two attorneys, at their first meeting. It took an additional nine months to complete the task and hold the unveiling ceremony. 

The five Commission members, including Chairperson, Jimmy Nunn, the Probate Judge, and Commissioners Connel Towns, Vivian Rogers, Curtis Williams and Jan Justice (the only white member) were all present and along with family members from the Chestnut and Boynton families, pulled a plastic covering off the naming lettering on the Courthouse wall, to unveil the shining new name of the facility.

Attorney J. L. Chestnut returned to Selma in 1958, from Howard University Law School, to practice law for half a century in his home town.
During the 1960’s Chestnut represented many civil rights and voting rights leaders who were involved with and arrested as part of the Civil Rights Movement.

4th. District Circuit Judge Collins Pettaway Jr. noted in his remarks that 

“Attorney Chestnut sued to have Blacks seated on juries, in this very building, where we now hold jury trials, which is now named for him.” At one point in the program there were fifteen Black judges in robes, from around Alabama, who stood up to honor the two attorneys for whom the building is now named. Chestnut headed the largest Black law-firm in the state of Alabama, Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders and Pettaway in the 1990’s and paved the way for many Black lawyers to practice in the state.

J. L. Chestnut was the lead attorney in the Pigford I and II class action cases by Black farmers against the U. S. Department of Agriculture for discrimination in agricultural lending. He won this largest discrimination settlement against the Federal government of over $2.5 Billion, for thousands of Black farmers. His work on the Pigford cases inspired Native Americans, Hispanics and Women farmers to sue and reach settlements with the Federal government.

Bruce Carver Boynton also attended Howard Law School. On his way home at Christmas 1958, he went to the white-only lunch counter, because it was cleaner, in the segregated Richmond, Virginia bus station to get a snack. He was arrested and convicted for trespassing. Attorney Thurgood Marshall appealed his case to the U. S.  Supreme Court and won a judgement in 1960 which opened the way to desegregate bus stations and other facilities linked to interstate travel. It took the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s to enforce the decision that Boynton had won from the Supreme Court.

After Boynton graduated from Howard Law School, he returned to Alabama, but the State Bar denied him a license for six years, while they supposedly investigated his case. He practiced in Chattanooga, Tennessee,

Washington, D. C. and Selma, Alabama.

Many speakers and dignitaries who had worked with both attorneys spoke on the program, including Selma Mayor James Perkins, retired Judge John H. England, who was master of ceremonies for the program, former Governor Don Siegleman, Melinda Williams, Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Terri Sewell and many others. Attorney Fay Rose Toure, a partner of Attorney J. L. Chestnut, led a litany to honor both, which involved the audience in praising their character and accomplishments.

The Freedom Riders Museum in Montgomery and the Alabama Historical Commission presented framed resolutions to the Boynton family for his working in integrating public accommodations. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund presented a framed resolution to the Chestnut family for his work on behalf of Black farmers.

Senator Malika Sanders-Fortier of Selma was the final speaker. She thanked everyone for coming to honor the two attorneys and then said, “Today we celebrate making the impossible possible! It was a miracle from God that enabled these lawyers to do what they did and make the changes they made. Little Black girls and boys today still need miracles. Their work and our work is not yet done. Despite every obstacle put in our path, we must keep working to make the impossible possible.”

Eutaw Chamber receives grant for signage for local offices and businesses

The Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce has received an Alabama Power Gateway Grant to create and install hanging signs for various entities in the city, according to Chamber President, Carrie Logan. The announcement was made at the Chamber’s board meeting held Thursday, September 8, 2021. Logan noted that the Chamber has already provided hanging signs for the Chamber’s office and the Industrial Development Authority which share the same facility and the Greene County Board of Registrars. Signs will be provided for the newspaper offices of the Greene County Democrat and The Independent. “ Hanging signs have greater visibility and will aid in directing visitors to those offices,” Logan stated.
Carrie Logan introduced the new Chamber decal that is being printed.  “Soon, all members will receive theirs and can display them to show their support of the Chamber,” she stated. 
The Chamber board also discussed hosting a virtual Christmas Parade on its web site. The board is seeking photos of previous Christmas parades. Digital copies may be sent to the Chamber at eutawareachamber.org. Photo submissions should have identifications of individuals, groups and various floats.
The board discussed other events the chamber might sponsor, but all this is dependent on the status of COVID positive cases in the area.
Logan announced that the membership drive is continuing. “The Chamber currently has forty members. If  you haven’t joined, please contact the Chamber at 205 372-9974 and request an application. Membership for an individual, church, school, or non profit group is $75. Membership for a business with up to 25 employees is  $100; 26 – 50 employees is $150; and over 50 employees is $200.  Those membership prices will cover the remainder of 2021 and through December 2022,” she explained.
The board also stated that a group interested in using the square for an event, should call the Chamber at 205-372-9974 to book an available date.  The Chamber’s office on the square is open from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm on Tuesday or Thursday.
The Chamber board members present at the Sept. 8 meeting included President Carrie Logan, Vice President Delphine McKenzie, Secretary Latesha Daniels, Treasurer Cynthia Cooper,  Board Members Margaretta Bir and Reverend Julia Lyons. 

County Commission grapples with contracts to assure payment for supplementary staff for Sheriff’s Department

In a meeting which featured approval of routine business matters, the Monday, September 13, 2021 regular County Commission meeting, spent considerable time discussing two agreements for payment of Sheriff’s Department staff.

These agreements for payment of School Resources Officers and supplemental staff for the Sheriff’s Department are for the coming fiscal year, beginning October 1, 2021, were negotiated by a committee including Commission Chair Rashonda Summerville, CFO, Macelroy Underwood and Atty. Mark Parnell, County Legal Counsel.

The agreement for School Resource Officers was negotiated with the Greene County Board of Education and requires direct payment to the County Commission for officers in the schools. The Board must deposit two months of salaries in advance with the Commission to pay these employees, who provide safety in the schools.

The agreement for supplementary staff for the Sheriff’s Department, which requires a three month’s advance payment to restore these employees to the Commission’s payroll, benefits plan and liability insurance coverage, generated significant discussion. The Sheriff employed a number of staff beyond his approved budget to handle law enforcement, jail and electronic bingo supervision.

The Sheriff was supposed to reimburse the County Commission for these additional expenditures during the current 2020-2021 fiscal year, out of funds he received from monthly bingo machine fees. The Sheriff did not pay all of these past staff expenses, dating back several fiscal years. In response the Commission ceased paying these additional staff and the Sheriff continued to pay them as contracted employees.

Mac Underwood said, “We wanted to bring all these staff back under the Commission’s payroll and insurance benefits for fairness and safety reasons. This is why we negotiated this payment arrangement. If the Sheriff does not put up the three months advance funds, then we will once again have to cut off these employees.”

District 1 Commissioner Lester Brown asked about the past monies the Sheriff owes the Commission for salaries paid to his staff but not reimbursed. “Did you give him a waiver on the past due monies? When will we receive these monies?” asked Brown.

Underwood said, “This agreement is for going forward starting October 1, with the new fiscal year. We will have a separate negotiation with the Sheriff on the past due funds owed. The Sheriff has paid some of these funds, there was a period in the Spring of 2020 when bingo was closed down, and we will have to calculate and agree on exactly what is owed back to the Commission and make a plan, with the agreement of the Sheriff for repayment.”

Commission Brown said, “I do not trust the Sheriff to pay this money back. I hope we get the three months advance payment before we put his staff back on the payroll.” Commissioner Brown and Tennyson Smith voted against approval of the budget supplement agreement. Commissioners Cockrell, Turner and Summerville voted in favor and the proposal was adopted.

The Commission approved a request for $26,652.50 for E-911 to purchase radio equipment for their new building from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation.

The Commission agreed to spend $23,000, with a matching contribution of $20,000 from ALDOT, for the HRRR project for guide rails on two bridges on County Roads 133 and 199. These funds will come from the Capital Improvement Fund, supported by bingo revenues. The Engineer was authorized to grade a quarter mile off County Road 11 for the State of Alabama. The Engineer was also authorized to provide technical assistance to the Board of Education and to advertise for two temporary positions.

In other business, the Greene County Commission:

• Approved advertising for a Real Property Clerk (Revenue), Appraisal Trainee (Apprisal), and a License Clerk (Probate Office).

• Ratified a contract with BCBS for 2021-2022 for health insurance for employees.

• Approved a proposal from the Alabama Department of Youth Services for Long Term Detention, at no cost to the county.

•Approved a contract with Digital Information Systems for $25,628 for IT services.

• Approved the schedule of county employees beginning October 4, 2021 and allowed employees to carry over unused vacation time from December 2021 to April 2022.

• Appointed Walter Beck to the Water Authority Board.

Macelroy Underwood, CFO reported that the county had paid $456,157 in claims for August and September, including an additional $76,012 in electronic claims paid. He reported $5,045,515 in deposit accounts in Citizens Trust Bank, $4,177,157 in Merchants and Farmers Bank, for a total of $9,222,673 in banks as of July 21,2021. He also reported $1,092,638 in bond sinking funds and $450,175 in the Bank of New York for payment of bonds.

Newswire : Howard University closed after ransomware attack

Howard University

By Breoona Randall, Howard University News Service

WASHINGTON – Howard University, one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious historically black universities and the alma mater of Vice President Kamala Harris, was shut down Tuesday due to a ransomware attack.
The FBI and District of Columbia city government have been working with the university about the attack, the university said. The university did not mention who conducted the attack or what they are asking for to release the university’s networks.
University officials said Howard’s Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) became aware Friday of a potential cyberattack. In response, ETS shutdown all the university’s networks to further investigate.
On Monday, the university said, the computer and technology interruption was a ransomware attack. Consequently, all in-person and online classes were cancelled Tuesday, Howard’s Office of University Communications said.
“ETS and its partners have been working diligently to fully address this incident and restore operations as quickly as possible,” the Office of University Communications said in an email Monday.
The university will reopen Wednesday, but only in-person. Howard University’s wi-fi, however, will still be unavailable.
Ingrid Sturgis, chair of the Department of Media, Journalism and Film in Howard’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications, said the ransomware attack “has been very disruptive.”
“Over the weekend, I had some faculty members emailing me about what they should do, because their students could not turn in their work, because they did not have access to blackboard and other tools they usually use for class,” Sturgis said.
She said she’s been through several malfunctions at the university, but this one is different.
“It’s kind of scary to me knowing how many student and faculty records there are, and these kinds of attacks are happening more and more frequently,” she said. “In a way, we are fortunate the university has beefed up its ability to detect these kinds of things.
Jennifer C. Thomas, an associate professor and journalism sequence coordinator in the Department. of Media, Journalism and Film, said working through the shutdown is example for one of the lessons she teachers her students on overcoming the problems face as they pursue a story.
“The thing I have said in the past when we have had issues on campus with the system being down is we are in the journalism sequence,” Thomas said. “As journalists, we know that a deadline doesn’t care if the internet is down. We have to be resourceful, so we can complete the current task at hand under that certain deadline.”

 

COVID-19

As of September 6, 2021 at 10:00 AM

(according to Alabama Political Reporter)

Alabama had 724,688 confirmed cases of coronavirus,

(14,959) more than last week with 12,416 deaths (133) more

than last week)

 

Greene County had 1,153 confirmed cases, (14 more cases than last week), with 40 deaths

Sumter Co. had 1,198 cases with 35 deaths

Hale Co. had 2,751 cases with 81 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.

COVID-19

As of August 31, 2021 at 10:00 AM

(according to Alabama Political Reporter)

Alabama had 699,729 confirmed cases of coronavirus,

(34,076) more than last week with 12,283 deaths (283) more

than last week)

 

Greene County had 1,139 confirmed cases, (66 more cases than last week), with 39 deaths

Sumter Co. had 1,182 cases with 34 deaths

Hale Co. had 2,692 cases with 8i 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.

Newswire: NAACP, Black Leaders demand Congress act on voting rights

Derrick Johnson, President of NAACP

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

With voter suppression laws taking shape in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and just about every GOP-led state in the nation, NAACP President Derrick Johnson is pleading for Democrats and the White House to show a sense of urgency. In a scathing op-ed, Johnson said, “we cannot out-organize voter suppression.”“We organized in November to put people in office to address the issue of voter suppression. We did not organize in November to let elected officials off the hook to organize again and overcome a new hurdle. Voters did their job as citizens, and now they’re simply asking elected officials to do their job to protect our right to vote,” Johnson remarked. Nearly six decades after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights activists led the 1963 March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom, that helped establish voting rights for millions of Black Americans, African American leaders will again descend on the nation’s capital to demand Congress protect the rights. Martin Luther King III, Yolanda King, Andrea Waters King, and others plan to march with more than 140 organizations and thousands of Americans on Saturday, August 28, to advocate for eliminating the Jim Crow filibuster and passing three critical voting rights bills – the For the People Act, John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Washington D.C. Admission Act. The mobilization comes just months after Black voters overcame significant barriers to the vote and organized their communities to change the course of the country — “and now ask that the White House and Congress do their part to protect our democracy and stand on the right side of history,” the leaders said in a news release. In his op-ed, Johnson declared that “voting rights shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Yet the contentious dispute on whether to defend every American’s right to vote has taken center stage in Congress, and for an unnecessary amount of precious time.” He continued:“With time not on our side, there is no reason we should still be debating whether to pass a civil rights bill that will indubitably strengthen our fractured democracy by achieving the one goal our nation’s essence depends on – lending a voice to the people.” Johnson contradicted Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who infamously and erroneously stated that “it is easier for eligible Americans to vote than ever before in American history.” “State legislators around the country have introduced more than 400 bills that will make it more difficult for Americans to exercise their constitutional voting rights, and at least 18 states have passed such legislation,” Johnson wrote. “Ingrained in these attacks on voting rights are generations-long patterns of discrimination targeting communities of color, particularly Black communities. The overwhelming evidence of voter suppression speaks to this truth: It is easier for privileged, eligible Americans to vote than ever before in American history.” Any decision not in favor of significant voting legislation under consideration by Congress will cost the lives of millions of Americans whose very voices are jeopardized, Johnson insisted. “For instance, in May, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation to ban curbside voting, consequentially forbidding poll workers to set up curbside voting centers and preventing voting machines from being stationed outside a polling place,” Johnson noted. “While many proponents argue that this restriction is rightfully erected to honor the integrity of our elections, this rationalization completely disregards the lack of accommodating resources for the elderly and people with disabilities – and the overall safety and wellness of voters who reside in a state where COVID-19 vaccinations are abysmal and infection rates are rising.” When signing the 1965 voting rights legislation, President Lyndon B. Johnson understood that the right to vote is an issue of human dignity, Johnson continued. “He once said, ‘It is wrong, deadly wrong, to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of states’ rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.” “Elected officials hold the invaluable key to ensuring that our future elections are fair and accessible. Those in power who have given an oath to serve their district, their state, and inherently their country have a responsibility to commit to their purpose of guaranteeing that the people they represent and champion will be heard and not be silenced.”

COVID-19

As of August 24, 2021 at 10:00 AM

(according to Alabama Political Reporter)

Alabama had 665,653 confirmed cases of coronavirus,

(24,267) more than last week with 12,000 deaths (168) more

than last week)

 

Greene County had 1073 confirmed cases, (38 more cases than last week), with 39 deaths

Sumter Co. had 1,1632 cases with 34 deaths

Hale Co. had 2,549 cases with 80 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.