Legislative Auditor Allows Town of Jonesboro to be Temporarily Removed from Non-Compliance List

Apparently Jonesboro is moving in the right direction in regard to financial stability.  This is evidenced by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor agreeing to temporarily remove the town from their non-compliance list. Now the town can move forward with attempting to fix the problems associated with the utility system.

In June Mayor Leslie Thompson sent a request to the Auditor’s office to take Jonesboro off the list so it would be eligible to apply for available grants so that the town’s utility system could be brought up to required standards set forth by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LEDQ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“I am pleased that the Legislative Auditor has agreed that we taking better care of our finances” said Thompson. “There is still a lot of work to be done but this proves that the efforts we have made to be accountable have been well received.”

According to a correspondence received from the Auditor’s office the reprieve was granted under the following conditions.

  1. The Town of Jonesboro can only seek funding necessary to bring the utility system into compliance with LDH, LEDQ and EPA regulations.
  2. All grants received must be expended only in accordance with requirements set forth.
  3. The Town of Jonesboro must report the use of the funding to the Legislative Auditor’s office on a monthly basis.
  4. The Town of Jonesboro must continue to work with state auditors to complete the 2019 fiscal year as soon as possible.

Police Jury Votes to End Recycling Program

A notice will be sent to customers that on August 31, 2020 the Recycling Program for plastic, aluminum and paper/cardboard materials will end in Jackson Parish. Included in the announcement will be a statement that the program may be brought back in the future.

President Amy Magee, John McCarty, Regina Rowe, Lynn Treadway and Todd Culpepper agreed on the suspension of the program at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Jackson Parish Police Jury held on July 13th at the Charles H. Garrett Community Center in Jonesboro. Tarneshala (Niki) Cowans and Lewis Chatham were not present.

“It is our hope that eventually we will be able to re-instate this but at present the cost of this program is simply too much to continue,” said Juror Todd Culpepper.

The meeting opened with public comments where Mr. Walter May addressed the panel and announced his candidacy for District Judge in Jackson, Bienville and Claiborne parishes. The approval of minutes from June meetings and payment of all bills followed.

Minutes of the Road, Finance, Operations, Policy and Personnel, Project and Economic Development Committee meetings were then approved and reports from the heads of the Road, Solid Waste, Maintenance, Office of Emergency Preparedness and Finance departments were heard.

In additional business Mr. Paul Riley of Riley Company in Ruston gave the June Engineering report and 2020 Road Program I & II was awarded to the successful bidders. Amethyst Construction Inc. won the Road Program I award with a bid of $789,470.00 while Dreher Contracting LLC nabbed Road Program II with a bid of $438,265.00.

Employment considerations were then taken with Mathew Conner, Paul Aldy, Jeremy Davis and Ju’Won Jack being hired as Level 1 General Laborers in the Road Department and Jack Williams being promoted from Operator Level 1 to Operator Level II. Lisa Nunn was also appointed to the Library Board for a five year term effective 1/1/2020 to 12/31/2024.

The meeting was adjourned following the announcement that the next JPPJ would be held on August 10th and panel members providing their closing comments.


Public Hearing Date Set to Discuss Salary Increases for Jonesboro Board of Aldermen and Tax Collector

In the regular monthly meeting of the Jonesboro Board of Aldermen held on July 14th at the Jonesboro City Hall the date of August 11th was set for a Public Hearing to allow residents to discuss raises for the Town Council and Tax Collector.

Council persons Devin Flowers, Pete Stringer, Robbie Siadek, James Ginn and Nia Evans-Johnson agreed to introduce the Ordinances regarding the potential raises. Three additional Ordinances in relation to the Town of Jonesboro Water and Sewer Budget and the declaring of a Juneteenth Holiday were also introduced. Each will also be able to be discussed at the same Public Hearing.  

The meeting was opened by Jonesboro Mayor Leslie Thompson bringing welcome news that the town has been temporarily removed from Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s non-compliance list. Thompson, who requested the action a month ago, said this was done so the town can move forward with attempting to gain funding to repair the utility system.

In other action the contract for Obstruction Removal at the Jonesboro Airport was awarded to Womack and Sons Construction Group, who submitted a bid of $136,032.00. Dr. Herbert Simmons was named Airport Manager and LOTT Oil was awarded the fuel purchase contract.  

Additional action taken was the agreement to allow Fire Chief Brandon Brown to pursue bids for two pre-owned fire apparatus’s and to declare two old fire trucks as surplus property pending the purchase of new fire trucks. David Thompson’s bid for two lots of surplus property was also agreed upon.

The normal paying of monthly bills, acceptance of meeting minutes from the prior month and approval of department head reports also took place as well as Public Works Director Calvin Wortham announcing a letter is set to be sent to town residents about infiltration issues in the utility system.


Jonesboro Police Chief and Mayor Respond to Perception of A Supposed Rift

Perception is reality” – American political strategist Lee Atwater

Most people believe this is true but is it really? According to Ph. D Jim Taylor, a contributing columnist for Psychology Today, in actuality this aphorism is often used to justify a perception that may be objectively unjustifiable or just plain out of touch with reality.

“Perception acts as a lens through which we view reality,” said Taylor. “Our tendency is to assume that how we perceive reality is an accurate representation of what reality truly is.

Among the residents of the town of Jonesboro there is perception that there is a serious rift between Mayor Leslie Thompson and Police Chief James “Spike” Harris. This was brought to the forefront during the most recent meeting of the Jonesboro Board of Aldermen held on July 14th. In this instance, even if the perception is a reality, both agree that they must work together for the betterment of the town.

“It is no secret that in the past our Mayor tried to defund the Police Department which caused us to have opposite opinions,” said Harris. “Regardless, our opinions don’t matter. My only focus is to enforce the laws and ordinances of this town that have been set forth and this is what I intend to do.”

Mayor Thompson echoed those sentiments in a statement he made during the Town Council meeting.

“As stated in the Larson Act the Police Chief does not answer to the Mayor but to the people of the town he was elected by” Thompson responded to a person commenting at the meeting. “Any problems between the Chief and I would only impeded progress so it is my hopes that we can work together to continue to move the town forward.”


An Old Lake Made New Again – Bussey On The Rebound

By: Glynn Harris

            It’s been a long time ago, 26 years ago in fact, but I can still remember my first and only visit to Bussey Brake and I came way anything but impressed. I watched a pair of commercial fishermen come to the launch ramp with their boat filled with carp and buffalo. When I looked out across the lake, it certainly didn’t look like a lake I’d enjoy trying to fish for bass, crappie or bream.

            Bussey was constructed in the mid-1950s by International Paper Co. to be used as an alternate water source for the company’s paper mill. Once the mill closed, the lake was donated to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) some eight years ago. Since that time, the state agency has been at work on creating a new lake out of the original impoundment.

            First off, the lake was basically drained and the abundance of “trash” fish, such as common carp and buffalo were removed and the work to give the lake a new lease on life began.

            Mike Wood, retired fisheries biologist with the LDWF spent many hours on Bussey both professionally and as an angler who loved the lake.
            “At one time,” Wood said, “Bussey was a nationally recognized area with some great fishing and was a blessing to International Paper Co. which allowed public access to the lake.”

            As years passed, the lake started developing a serious problem; it became infested with what some call “trash” fish such as common carp and buffalo.

            “These fish became abundant so much so that the water stayed muddy and fishing in general declined. The removal of these undesirable fish was one spoke in the wheel of getting the lake back to where it originally was,” Wood said.

            One problem that has always faced anglers occurs right at the launch ramp. Steady breezes have made launching and getting a boat on a trailer a major problem.

            “The boat ramp was in dire need of protection from heavy wave action. All it took was for a storm to blow up out of the southwest that created a serious hazard to boats trying to launch or leave the lake. A beautiful wave-break levee has been constructed in front of the ramp leaving calm water for launching. In addition, there is a pretty deep hole in the lake where material was extracted to build the levee. This deep area should be a fine crappie fishing spot especially during winter time,” Wood said.

            Although there are still some “rough” fish in the lake, their numbers have been reduced to the point that game fish that were released and are growing in the lake should have a good chance to create healthy populations of fish. The lake has been restocked with largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie and channel catfish.

            Since Bussey is actually a wildlife management area, certain requirements must be met for anglers to enjoy fishing the lake. A self-clearing permit will be used and wildlife enforcement agents will be on the lake to insure that proper regulations are in order. For example, the lake will have certain limits and length regulations in effect. For bass, there is a five fish limit with a 16 inch maximum length with one fish over 16 inches allowed in the creel. Crappie limit is 25 with a 10 inch maximum length while the bream limit is 50 with no maximum.

            There are now clearly marked boat lanes that will keep boaters from slamming lower units into stumps. These lanes are of particular importance because the lake still lacks some two feet reaching pool stage.

            Oh, there is one more problem. There are no rest room facilities around the lake. A word to the wise might be to GO before you GO.

Commercial fisherman, the late Paul Turner, is shown with his catch of buffalo and carp from Bussey Brake years ago


Jackson Parish to See Dangerous Heat Index Values

There is nothing like having fun in the sun but you have to be careful as well. The National Weather Service (NWS) in Shreveport has announced that throughout the remainder of July that Heat Index values will be in the dangerous level in Jackson Parish.

 The Heat Index (HI) is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature.  To determine the actual Heat Index temperature, look at the Heat Index Chart below. As an example, if the air temperature is 96°F and the relative humidity is 65%, the heat index–how hot it feels–is 121°F.

The red area without numbers indicates extreme danger. The NWS issues a heat advisory when the HI reaches 105° and a heat warning when 105°F for more than 3 hours per day for 2 consecutive days. Exposure to full sunshine can increase heat index values by up to 15°F.

With prolonged exposure and/or physical activity you can expect the following:

Caution level:  General Fatigue

Extreme Caution: Sunstroke, muscle cramps and heat exhaustion possible

Danger level:  Sunstroke, muscle cramps and heat exhaustion likely

Extreme Danger: Sunstroke, heat stroke likely


PEOPLE, IT’S TIME TO BE REAL – Part II of II

Let’s be real!  America is in a state of metamorphosis, a change that is long overdue.  America is not in a good place as President Trump would proclaim, certainly not for people of color, when they are being attacked, rebuked and scorned, threatened and demeaned for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement that is currently taking place across the world.  The truth of the matter is that no nation can lay claim to “greatness” until all of its citizens are included as full participants in the American experiment.  We can no longer live a lie, touting to the world that America is the land of the free.  People of color will and must not submit to second and third-class citizenship. I want to believe that America is at a turning point, not because of a desire, but because of the deafening cries or demands for justice for ALL people.  The old guard cannot and will never accept the fact that America is changing demographically, culturally, socially and economically.  America must become a nation of one people where justice and equality is afforded to all.  The plea that is being heard from protesters all over the nation and the world is that communities of color are here to stay.  America’s greatest tragedy, most public national embracement and greatest divide has never been about what African Americans have done to white America, but it is all about what white America has done and continues to do to Black, Brown, and Yellow America 

As a side bar, in my research I came across an article entitled “Guam Residents Get Payments for Suffering During Occupation.”  The article goes on to note that the U.S. Territory of Guam was attacked and captured by Japanese forces in December 1941, and thousands of native islanders suffered horribly at the hands of their captors.  In 1951 a peace treaty relieved Japan of the burden of paying reparations, and early this year (2020) the US government began making payments ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 to certain residents of Guam as compensation for the hardships they or their family members endured during the occupation, as reported by the Associated Press.

Wow!  When I read this article, I began to reflect upon and weep at the dismal plight of slaves ancestors and their descendants who have fought long and disappointing battles to be respected, to be treated as humans, and compensated for the pain, humiliation, anger and suffering endured for more than four hundred years.  While a federal review commission determined that the nation had a “moral obligation” to offer compensation for the suffering and loyalty of the residents of Guam, African Americans have been given no such consideration.  They have been in a holding pattern waiting for a commission to review requests for reparations to members of the Back community for the years of suffering and ill treatment at the hands of white Americans with the government having taken the lead in the mistreatment of Black Americans.

Please do not misunderstand me, (I am grateful for the generosity extended to the residents of Guam), however, my frustrations and concerns are that the United States of America is quick to  dismiss or discuss any claim(s) advanced by the descendants of African Americans, of slaves, who were subjected to forced labor, personal injury, rape and murder, separation of families, denial of education and of the most basic human rights, while claims are being funded and awarded to citizens of Guam for far less atrocities than those suffered by Black Americans!.

Even more interesting, conflicting, confusing and disturbing, I came upon another article revealing the fact that slave owners received reparations from America for losing slaves when slavery finally ended.  ln April 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill, known as the District of Columbia Act, which paid loyal unionists up to $300.00 for every lost or freed slave. Yes, reparations are nothing new to America!  Slave-owners received reparations and enslaved African Americans got nothing for their broken, strapped, beaten and worn bodies, for their years of misery and suffering, for their free labor, and their years of frustrations in being forced to build a nation that they would never be truly welcomed in, compensated for or accepted as equals.  The only benefit that African American slaves received was the appearance and symbolism of freedom from legal bondage.  It is amazing that slave owners were the beneficiaries of public outrage and of having enslaved humankind and were rewarded for having abused innocent slaves.  Slave owners were also compensated throughout the nation by local, colonial and state legislatures for any loss of slave labor, (chattel as slaves were commonly referred to). The only benevolence extended to African Americans following slavery was a trip “back to Africa” ($100 per person back to Liberia or Haiti).  Wow!  Unbelievable but true!!

Back to “getting real;” again I stress that we are in the midst of a major health crisis, a life and death situation, a pandemic where more than three thousand citizens in the US are dying each day, no cure in sight, and a time when we are experiencing more than 10 thousand new COVID infections per day, yet citizens are seemingly taking these phenomena for granted.  It is evident and quite shameful that many citizens are saying I don’t care, I will not be forced to wear a mask, it will happen to someone else, not me, no it won’t happen to me, or I am too young to contract the virus, it only affects older citizens, I am white, the disease is killing more African Americans than any other race, so why should I be that concerned.  Citizens are refusing to adhere to the basic recommendations and warnings of public health experts for limiting the spread of and defeating this virus, an enemy that if not stopped, could be around for many years to come.

We must begin to view this virus for what it is, acknowledge that it is real, it’s not fake news or something that will be gone in a few days, it is a serious and deadly virus, a life and death situation, one that encourages citizens not to gather in large groups, to practice public health guidelines, to wear masks when in public settings, practice social distancing, wash and sanitize hands and affected surfaces frequently and staying at home to avoid contact with the individual who may be vectors of the virus.  More people must be tested to determine the level of the virus, and contact tracing must become more aggressive.  The virus is controlling us at this moment and while there is hope that a vaccine may be available at the end of the year, the public is growing more skeptical about seeing an end to the pandemic any time soon.  Other countries have flattened the curve in the spread of the virus by adhering to mask wearing, social distancing, lockdown at home, and not reopening governments too soon.  We encourage citizens to remember the wisdom from an old African saying that “fools do last what wise men do first and wise men do last what fools do first.”  Let’s get real, wise men are following social distancing, wearing masks, staying at home, staying away from large gatherings, for these are the measures, the formula and prescription that America must ultimately mandate and follow if we are to overcome this pandemic.

Dr. Herbert Simmons, Jr. is an Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Grambling State University, former President, Grambling State University Faculty Senate and former Chair, Department of Consumer Education and Resource Management, Howard University, Washington, D.C.


Stormie Snowden Recognized by KTVE – Channel 10 Program “Senior Night”

This past week recent Quitman High School graduate Stormie Snowden was recognized by KTVE – Channel 10 sports anchor Chris Demirdjian and the website myarklamiss.com in their segment called “Senior Night”. 

Snowden, who was a member of the national champion Quitman High School Cheerleader squad and individual All-American award winner, becomes the second senior  from QHS to be recognized this year. She was also a member of the QHS Beta Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“Senior Night” is sponsored by Creed & Creed Law Firm and spotlights special 2019-20 high school from northeast Louisiana. Congratulations Stormie!


Qualifying for November Elections Begin July 22nd

Qualifying for the November 3, 2020, election begins Wednesday, July 22, 2020 at 8:30 a.m. and continues through Friday, July 24, 2020, until 4:30 p.m. at the Jackson Parish Clerk of Court office located in the Jackson Parish Courthouse in Jonesboro. 

Payment must be in the form of CASH or MONEY ORDER. All persons qualifying will need to go by the Registrar of Voters office and pick up a certificate of registration prior to qualifying in the Clerk’s Office. Everyone entering the Courthouse will be required to wear a face mask upon entry. More information can be obtained by calling 318-259-2424.


Remember This? Magnificent Mayor Stubbs

Just over one hundred miles north of Anchorage, Alaska, sits the small, picturesque, historic town of Talkeetna.  It is a small town with a population of about 900 residents.  Talkeetna is the last stop for tourists and climbers destined for North America’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley.  Much of the village’s income comes from tourist who visit for hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, hunting, rafting, and flightseeing.  Local artists, craftsmen, and musicians sell the products of their crafts in shops throughout the town.   

The candidates for the 1997 Talkeetna mayoral race were not popular with the villagers.  They longed for a good, honest candidate.  One of the villagers suggested they nominate a well-liked villager nicknamed Stubbs.  Secretly, the residents spread the word that on election day they would write in their vote for their preferred candidate.  Stubbs made no political speeches, never asked the people to vote for him, nor did he do anything other than his normal day-to-day routine.  One supporter proudly told anyone who would listen that “He’s everybody’s guy.”  Without do so much as a handshake to gain a vote, Stubbs became mayor.    

Stubbs spent most of his time, not in a stuffy office away from the public, but in Nagley’s General Store where he mingled with locals and tourists alike.  Well-wishers who were unable to find Mayor Stubbs at the General Store only had to look next door at the West Rib Pub and Cafe where he always had his choice of seats and drank water from a wine or margarita glass.  Mayor Stubbs never drank alcohol.  Mayor Stubbs loved socializing with tourists and hammed it up for cameras.  Everyone who met him said “He’s got a great personality.” 

Shortly after becoming mayor, word spread beyond Talkeetna of his charisma and charm.  His popularity grew into fame when newspapers around the nation reported on his vibrant personality.  People flocked to the town to meet Mayor Stubbs and have their picture taken with him.  Mayor Stubbs was always happy to oblige them. 

Mayor Stubbs always oversaw but never participated in the yearly Wilderness Woman and Bachelor Auction and Ball.  During this charity event, local bachelors were auctioned off to the highest bidders and spent an evening with the winning bidders.  Not to be left out of the festivities, they held a wilderness woman contest which consisted of several tests of strength and endurance “to show these bachelors what women are made of…Alaskan grit!”  As always, Mayor Stubbs socialized with everyone present.  Local residents could not have been happier with Mayor Stubbs.  When a reporter asked Geoff Pfeiffer, waiter at the West Rib Pub and Café, how he liked the mayor, Geoff replied, “We all love him.”  He explained that he and his coworkers vied for their chance to wait on the mayor. 

On the night of September 7, 2013, a vicious dog attacked Mayor Stubbs as he was taking an evening stroll through town.  After what must have seemed like an eternity, Mayor Stubbs escaped from the dog’s clutches.  Mayor Stubbs suffered a punctured lung, a long deep gash on his side, and several bruises.  Bleeding and weak, a local resident loaded Mayor Stubbs into his vehicle and drove an hour to the nearest hospital.  Staff at the hospital were afraid that Mayor Stubbs would not survive what turned out to be a three-hour surgery.  Word quickly spread of the vicious attack on Mayor Stubbs.  People from all over the world wished him a speedy recovery on his Facebook and Twitter pages.  Many of them sent donations to help pay his exorbitant hospital bills.  The residents of Talkeetna did their part as well.  Mayor Stubbs’s donation jar at the general store soon overflowed with coins and folding money.  To their relief, Mayor Stubbs made a full recovery.

As soon as his health returned, Mayor Stubbs returned to his position in Talkeetna.  Once again, he spent most of his time making pleasantries with locals and tourists.  Mayor Stubbs held the office of mayor until he died in his sleep on July 22, 2017.  People all over the world mourned his death and posted letters of condolence on his Facebook page.  Mourners also shared pictures of themselves with the beloved mayor.  They noted that for him to have been mayor at all was an amazing achievement.  Normally, a candidate had to be eighteen years of age to run for office, but the overwhelming support for Stubbs made officials take drastic action.  You see, Mayor Stubbs was elected when he was just sixteen years old.  Mayor Stubbs was also…a cat.

Sources:

  1. Decatur Herald and Review, September 4, 2013, p.22.
  2. The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) September 7, 2013, p.2.

The “Remember this?” book is available for preorder on my website…BradDison.com


BESE Sets Health and Safety Standards for the Reopening of Louisiana Schools

The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved minimum statewide health and safety standards for the reopening of K-12 schools in the 2020-2021 school year amid the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.

The policy shifts will help ensure the protection of students, faculty, staff, and others on school property to the maximum extent possible and practical, and apply to all traditional public, charter, and nonpublic schools in Louisiana.

BESE’s action is in response to House Bill 59 (now Act 9) of the 2020 First Extraordinary Session, which required the Board to adopt emergency rules informed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to provide minimum standards, policies, medical exceptions, and regulations to govern the reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The standards approved were developed by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) in coordination with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) in accordance with the latest CDC guidance.

“The safety of students and educators is on everyone’s mind as Louisiana prepares to reopen school facilities this fall, and it is an issue that BESE takes very seriously,” said Sandy Holloway, Board president. “The standards unanimously adopted reflect the extensive collaboration between education stakeholders and public health leaders. The result is a practical framework of required safety measures upon which school systems will build the best reopening plan for their communities.”

The policies outline baseline public health requirements for school boards and local governing authorities to follow when reopening facilities to students in fall 2020. Each Local Education Agency (LEA) is required to adopt policies in accordance with the state’s standards prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year and submit a plan to the LDE addressing each phase of reopening.

“I’m grateful to BESE for their thoughtful, steady leadership during this uncertain time,” said Dr. Cade Brumley, State Superintendent of Education. “This sets minimum health and safety standards for every school in the state, while also allowing for local decision making by system leaders.”

The complete set of standards is available for public viewing online. Specific requirements within the policy are defined according to the state’s current reopening phase (phase 1, phase 2, or phase 3). A general summary of the standards follows:

Group sizes: The maximum group size that may convene indoors in a single room or outdoors at any time are 10 individuals (phase 1), 25 individuals (phase 2), and 50 individuals (phase 3).

Group composition: Younger students unable to wear face coverings or maintain physical distancing should be assigned static groups, which must include at minimum, students in grade 2 or lower. The composition of a group may change if students are able to maintain physical distancing. Students with disabilities must continue to receive special education services in the least restrictive environment possible.

Physical standards for use of school facilities: Groups that convene indoors must do so in a room enclosed by a wall or partition. If groups convene outdoors, each group must remain separated. Schools must limit crowding at entry and exit points to the greatest extent possible. Maximum group sizes and physical distance recommendations must be maintained. High-touch surfaces in rooms used by multiple groups must be cleaned before and after use by each group.

COVID-19 symptoms monitoring: Upon arriving at the school facility, each student and adult must be assessed for symptoms of COVID-19 as defined by the CDC, to include an initial temperature check. Each school must establish an isolation area for anyone showing signs of being sick, which must be cleaned after being occupied by a sick individual.

Face coverings: While inside the school facility, all adults and students in grades 3 through 12 must wear a face covering to the greatest extent possible and practical within the local community context. Students in grades pre-K through 2 may wear a face covering. Children under age 2 and individuals with breathing difficulties should not wear a face covering.

Facility cleaning: High-touch surfaces must be cleaned multiple times a day, including bathrooms.

Personal hygiene: Students must wash or sanitize hands upon arrival at the school, at least every two hours, before and after eating or using outdoor play equipment, and before exiting the school facility.

Hygienic supplies: School employees must be provided adequate access to supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, paper towels, tissues, and face coverings when needed. Appropriate quantities are to be provided according to the role, number, and age of students served by the employee.

Student transportation: Buses must not exceed 25 percent capacity in phase 1, 50 percent in phase 2, and 75 percent in phase 3, spaced to the greatest extent possible according to the current reopening phase.

Determinations of student placement in a distance or in-person education program: Determinations are made in consideration of the student’s unique academic, social, emotional, familial, and medical needs, in consultation with the student’s parent or custodian.

Exceptions: LEAs will address medical or disability exceptions on an individual basis in accordance with local policies.

The standards reflect the Strong Start 2020 guidance issued by the LDE in June 2020, developed in partnership with the LDH and the Resilient Louisiana Commission, which include best practices and reopening guidance for local school districts.

BESE approved the policies as emergency rules in accordance with R.S. 49:953 and are effective immediately. The emergency declaration remains in effect for 120 days or until the permanent rules are promulgated in accordance with state law through the regular Notice of Intent process.

As research and information about COVID-19 is updated, or if the LDH or CDC revise guidance regarding school settings, the LDE will review the standards and propose revisions to BESE as appropriate and necessary.


Louisiana Rental Assistance Program Taking Applications

Some renters can now apply for rental assistance if they can’t pay their rent due to impacts from COVID-19. Governor John Bel Edwards announced the new $24 million Emergency Rental Assistance Program this past Thursday afternoon.

“This program is designed to help renters who have faced financial hardship as a result of shutdowns, closures, layoffs, reduced working hours or unpaid leave due to the pandemic,” said Edwards.

The first-come-first-serve payments depend on income, household size, and fair market rent prices. It assists households whose income does not exceed $13,500 for one individual, up to 25,450 for a household of eight people.

“The program is available to individuals who are at 30 percent or below average medium income,” said Keith Cunningham, Executive Director for the Louisiana Housing Corporation. “That benefit will allow for three months of rental payment moving forward and three months of back rental payment as additional emergency solution grant dollars are made available.”

Income Eligibility Requirements:

  1. 1 Person $13,500
  2. 2 Person $15,450
  3. 3 Person $17,350
  4. 4 Person $19,300
  5. 5 Person $20,850
  6. 6 Person $22,400
  7. 7 Person $23,900
  8. 8 Person $25,450

Andreanecia Morris with Housing Louisiana believes this is only a start. The program provides $24 million in assistance, but she estimates at least $250 million is needed to keep Louisiana renters in their homes.

“It’s just not good enough,” said Morris. “If you’re a family of four you can’t make more than $19,000 to qualify for this rental assistance program and you have to have lost income because of COVID to access the funds, so this is a sliver,” Morris said.

You can apply now by calling 211 or at: larenthelp.com.


Frontline Workers Eligible for COVID-19 Hazard Pay Rebate Program

Governor John Bel Edwards declared a statewide public health emergency on March 11, 2020 due to the imminent threat posed to Louisiana citizens by the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 13, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards signed Act 12 of the 2020 First Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature, which provides for a one-time hazard pay rebate of $250 to essential critical infrastructure workers.

The Louisiana Department of Revenue (“Department”) will implement and administer the Frontline Workers COVID-19 Hazard Pay Rebate Program. The purpose of this bulletin is to provide information on eligibility requirements, the application process, the rebate program cap, and related issues.

To be eligible for the rebate, an applicant must meet all of the following requirements:

  1. The applicant submits an application to the Department between July 15 and October 31, 2020;
  2. The applicant is a Louisiana resident individual;
  3. The applicant was employed on or after March 11, 2020, in one of the jobs listed in the Eligible Job Categories section of this bulletin; and
  4. The applicant was required by his or her employer to provide in-person services outside of the applicant’s home and was in contact with customers, patients, or the general public for at least 200 hours between March 22, 2020, and May 14, 2020.1 Call center personnel or persons whose jobs are conducted exclusively via telephone, computer or other remote or virtual means are not eligible for the rebate.

 

Eligible Job Categories:

  1. Nurses, assistants, aides, medical residents, pharmacy staff, phlebotomists, respiratory therapist, and workers providing direct patient care in inpatient and outpatient dialysis facilities;
  2. Housekeeping, laundry services, food services and waste management personnel in hospitals and healthcare facilities;
  3. Long-term care facility personnel, outpatient care workers, home care workers, personal assistance providers, home health providers, home delivered meal providers, and childcare service providers;
  4. Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, fire and rescue personnel, law enforcement personnel, and public health epidemiologists;
  5. Bus drivers; retail fuel service personnel; sanitation personnel; residential, commercial and industrial solid waste and hazardous waste removal personnel; storage and disposal personnel;
  6. Grocery store, convenience store, and food assistance program personnel;
  7. Mortuary service providers; or Veterinary service staff

Independent contractors, self-employed individuals, and gig workers may be eligible for rebates if all of the same eligibility requirements are met. In the Employer Information section of the application, these types of workers must list their client, service recipient, or other type of payee, the address where the work was performed, and a description of services provided. The worker must also attach an explanation of how their services were substantially dedicated to responding to or mitigating the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Application Process:

Applicants are encouraged to submit their applications electronically by visiting http://frontlineworkers.la.gov/. Alternatively, applicants may submit their application via a printed form downloaded from the Department’s website and mailed to the address on the form.

Once the application is submitted, the Department will review the applicant’s information and verify it against available employment and tax return data. For expedited rebate payments, applicants are requested to submit employer pay stubs for the pay periods from March 22 through May 14. Before issuing a rebate, the Department may send a request by mail for additional information. The applicant should review the letter carefully and respond as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary delays.

Applicants may request direct deposit of the rebate by completing the required banking information on the application. If banking information is not provided, unreadable, or incomplete, the rebate payment will be issued by paper check.

Rebate Program Cap

The Department urges all eligible frontline workers to apply for their rebate as soon as possible. Based on current program funding, the rebates are limited to the first 200,000 applicants. While additional funding may become available later, there is no guarantee that each applicant will receive a disbursement, as rebates are approved on a first-come, first- served basis.

Rebate Offsets

Rebates are generally exempt from seizure by creditors. However, the Department will reduce a rebate payment for outstanding child support obligations as reported by the Department of Children and Family Services or for spousal support obligations.

Additional Information

For additional information on the Frontline Workers COVID-19 Hazard Pay Rebate Program, please visit http://frontlineworkers.la.gov/, review the Department’s Emergency Rule in LAC 61:I.1919, or contact the Department at (855) 307-3893.

1 Per LAC 61:I.1919, applicants will be presumed to have been responding to or mitigating the COVID-19 public health emergency as required by LA R.S. 47:1787(K) if the applicant meets all other requirements. This presumption is rebuttable by evidence or documentation obtained from the applicant’s employer.

A Revenue Information Bulletin (RIB) is issued under the authority of LAC 61:III.101.D. A RIB is an informal statement of information issued for the public and employees that is general in nature. A RIB does not have the force and effect of law and is not binding on the public or the Department.


LHSAA Clarifies ‘Phase Four’ Statement Regarding High School Football Season

There was definitely a bit of confusion when LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine said that the state had to get to Phase 4 before football season could begin just one week after he stated that the fall prep football season was on go.

“I said phase four yesterday,” Bonine said on the “Off the Bench”  radio show on ESPN 104.5 in Baton Rouge. “People are losing their minds at the fact that they can’t find a phase four. I get it. At the end of the day, I could’ve said post-phase three.”

What you could take from that is a miscommunication. To be clear, phase four is strictly on the LHSAA timeline. Bonine says that they will follow the state through each phase, and that once Louisiana reaches phase three, then if numbers are still trending in the right direction, the LHSAA can give their own green light on their own phase four, which would allow contact sports like football.

“What we need is for the state to go back to doing whatever we were doing that got us out of phase one to get us into phase two that we’re in right now,” says Bonine. “It seems like we’ve been in phase two for a long time with the state. Whatever we were doing back then, we need to continue to get back to that.”

On June 26th the original Phase 2 reopening of the state order expired but Governor Jon Bel Edwards said it would stay in place for at least another 28 days due to a tremendous amount of new outbreaks of the Coronavirus around the state.