Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!
CDC reports: The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.
Northside Community Development Fund Ready to Support Business Owners in the Second Round of the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program Round Two of the $225 Million Grant Program Opens August 10
Northside Community Development Fund (The Fund) is ready to help small and historically disadvantaged business owners in Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties apply for the second round of the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program. Those who qualify for this grant program are encouraged to visit The Fund’s website at NSCDFund.org/PABusinessGrants to receive more information and support with the application process. The grant opens on August 10, 9:00 a.m. and stays open for 15 business days, closing on August 28, 11:59 p.m.
“After a strong first round of applications, we are ready to support small business owners, especially those who are historically disadvantaged, in the second round of this grant program,” says Mark P. Masterson, Executive Director, Northside Community Development Fund. “By administering these grants through local CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions), we have the opportunity to help those businesses who need the resources most and may not have received the support they’ve needed through other programs. However, it’s important to note that this will likely be the final round for this grant program, unless the state provides more funding for this vitally important program.”
In the first round, close to 5,000 small businesses throughout the state of Pennsylvania were approved for funding, with 51% being owned by historically disadvantaged business owners. In addition, more than 2,400 of the total small businesses approved are located in rural or disadvantaged communities with over 1,200 in communities targeted by state government programs like Main Street and Elm Street.
Grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000 for businesses with 25 or less employees and revenues less than $1 million. Eligible business owners must apply online through the application portal. If they need assistance with their application, please visit The Funds website for more information on how to receive support. The PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program will accept applications for 15 business days following the opening. All applications submitted through the online portal before the end of the second round on August 28 at 11:59 p.m. will be considered for funding.
To learn more about the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program and access the resources the Northside Community Development Fund is providing, visit NSCDFund.org/PABusinessGrants.
About Northside Community Development Fund
The Northside Community Development Fund is a neighborhood-focused community loan fund that started on Pittsburgh’s Northside 20 years ago. We make thriving communities for all by promoting economic opportunity and community revitalization. We help underserved populations by providing capital to spur business and job growth, the creation of affordable housing, and the redevelopment of Northside neighborhoods. All of these activities must include opportunities for all members of the community, including racial and ethnic minorities and women.
With the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program, they are one of 17 CFDIs to help administer the $225M of grants. They will be expanding beyond their Northside roots to serve all applicable businesses, including historically disadvantaged business owners in Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties.
During international supply chain issues and a community internet void
Committed to transparency, Superintendent Anthony Hamlet has released the Pittsburgh Public Schools Tackles the Digital Divide in the Era of Covid-19 report. The report encapsulates the arduous task the District has undertaken to regroup, reassess and distribute its computer tech inventory during an international technology supply shortage. Released to the Board yesterday, the accountability report spells out the District’s current computer inventory, what devices are usable for educational instruction, how many devices need reimaging and updating, how many devices have been distributed, and how many new devices are on the way.
“Through the red, yellow and green phases of the pandemic, our administration has remained transparent and proactive in all things related to our technology challenges and new purchases, we intend to remain crystal clear through this accountability report of our progress to becoming a 1:1 device district,” said Superintendent Anthony Hamlet. “The District has not received a request from the City Controller’s Office; however, we are aware of media reports related to his interest in our tech distribution plan. Preparing and planning a safe and effective reopening of schools is our number one priority.”
The Pittsburgh Public Schools Tackles the Digital Divide in the Era of COVID-19 report tracks the District’s timeline for distribution during the 2019-2020 school year, including the District inventory of laptops collected and reimaged and iPads collected per school, and reset for distribution. The report additionally recaps the 2019-2020 distribution schedule.
“We want to assure the public that all devices have been ordered to meet our goal of becoming a 1:1 school district. Even so, an international tech supply shortage has PPS, like districts across the country, waiting for back-ordered device purchases. We will continue to prioritize the distribution of devices to students who need until the purchased devices are delivered to fulfill the 1:1 need.”
The full Pittsburgh Public Schools Tackles the Digital Divide in the Era of COVID-19 report is available on the District’s website at www.pghschools.org/ALLIN. The District will provide an additional update on device distribution as part of its All-In to Reopen Our Schools report August 4.
Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today reminded Pennsylvanians that help is available and encouraged for anyone affected financially by the COVID-19 public-health crisis by taking advantage of rent and mortgage assistance programs available to help people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of losing their housing.
“The COVID-19 emergency and economic insecurity have caused many people to lose income or employment altogether and those individuals may now be struggling to make their monthly rent or mortgage payments,” DHS Sec. Miller said. “Anyone who is worried about losing their housing should know that assistance is available and should not hesitate to reach out for help. Access to safe and secure housing is essential, especially now. We want to be sure that any Pennsylvanian who is struggling to pay rent or utilities has the help that they need and knows that they are not alone during this time.”
A U.S. Census Bureau survey foundOpens In A New Window that since mid-April, the percentage of Pennsylvania adults who consider themselves housing insecure has risen by 2.4 percent. The most recent survey – which defines housing insecurity as missing last month’s rent or mortgage payment or having slight or no confidence that a household can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time – found that nearly 24 percent of Pennsylvanians, or 1.6 million people, are living with housing insecurity.
DHS has released $10 million in CARES Act funding to counties’ Homeless Assistance Programs (HAP) to aid in serving the increased needs of Pennsylvania citizens at risk of homelessness. HAP helps to ensure that homelessness can be avoided by offering rental assistance, emergency shelter, supportive housing services, and case management services to individuals and families. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, HAP provided these services to more than 28,000 individuals and families experiencing or at risk for homelessness.
Questions on eligibility and requests for help can be made by contacting a county HAP here. HAP services vary in each county, and counties can set their eligibility limits as they choose within 100 to 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines. HAP benefit limits are set at $1,500 maximum for a family with one or more children, and $1,000 for a single person.
More information on HAP can be found here. Other homelessness assistance programs can be found at the National Alliance to End HomelessnessOpens In A New Window, the National Coalition for the HomelessOpens In A New Window, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentOpens In A New Window.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) is also offering housing-related financial assistance. Applications are available at www.PHFA.org for both rental and mortgage assistance (look for the red CARES banner). All 67 counties have local organizations helping PHFA by processing the rent relief applications. PHFA will process the mortgage relief applications.
Renters who qualify may receive assistance equal to 100 percent of their monthly rent up to $750 a month for a maximum of six months of assistance for the time period between March 1 and November 30, 2020. For renters to be eligible for financial assistance, they will need to document at least a 30 percent reduction in annual income since March 1 related to COVID-19, or they must have become unemployed after March 1.
The assistance available for homeowners can be up to $1,000 a month for a maximum period of six months. The time period eligible for assistance is for mortgage payments owed from March 2020 through December 2020. Homeowners who became unemployed after March 1 or who suffered at least a 30 percent reduction in annual income due to reduced work hours and wages related to COVID-19 may be eligible for financial assistance to help with missed mortgage payments.
For more information on public assistance programs available through DHS, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
“Math Problem: High School student with Corona rides the bus, capacity 60; enters gym class with 40; goes to seven classes with 24 in each class; eats lunch with 200, while passing between classes multiple times. How many students will be sent home for 14 days because of exposure?” (Attributed to a Retired School Teacher)
For the past three dangerous years, we have witnessed POTUS 45 and his crew do their best to turn the American democracy into an Idiocracy --a dumbed down alternative universe based on lies and ignorance that place American citizens at risk! Their latest reckless disregard for the truth as well as people’s lives consists of their idiotic statements and actions regarding our children, teachers, and staff returning to school in a few weeks. Some of their recent asinine statements are as follows:
· “We know that children get the virus at a far lower rate than any other part of the population, …And again, there is nothing in the data that would suggest that kids being back in school is dangerous to them.” (Betsy DeVos, reported by the Washington Times, July 12, 2020)
· “We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open, and it’s very important, … young people do extraordinarily well with the disease caused by the virus.” (POTUS 45).
“The risk is extremely low that anything will happen to them” (school age children) if they don’t have underlying conditions.” (Morgan Griffith, Republican from Virginia). He also said the risk would also be low for school staff under the age of 60.” (Politico, July 9, 2020)
Obviously, as with nations around the world, America must come to grips with one of its most difficult decisions in centuries, i.e., when and under what conditions to have children go back to school. As reported by Laurel Chor (NPR July 10, 2020), “Hong Kong offers a cautionary tale of how difficult these decisions can be. Schoolchildren were sent home at the end of January; …When Hong Kong appeared to be winning its war against COVID-19, schools started to reopen. That was the end of May. …But the city is now fighting a third wave of infections, and the education bureau announced that the school year would end on Friday…”
In Israel, there was a major surge in new COVID-19 cases when the schools opened prematurely. From a low of 50 new cases per day, the country went to 1,500 per day. As reported by the Wall Street Journal(July 15, 2020), “The surge followed outbreaks in schools that by Monday had infected at least 1,335 students and 691 staff since the schools reopened in early May, according to the education ministry.” Belatedly, one Israel principal stated, “It’s pretty clear that in coronavirus conditions, you cannot continue t teach in full classrooms without a massive outbreak.”
With ignorance determined to be bliss, POTUS 45 repeatedly refuses to learn from the experiences of others. Instead, in a scenario reminiscent of the 1978 Jonestown mass murder-suicide led by cult leader Jim Jones in Guyana where 900 died, POTUS 45 arrogantly uses the full weight of the presidency to force schools to reopen sooner than they should. Should he succeed, it could result in America’s largest mass murder, surpassing Jonestown. He does so with no regard for the widespread concerns repeatedly expressed in, for example, a popular Facebook post, e.g.,
· If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine for 2-3 weeks? Is their sick leave covered, paid?
· If that teacher has 5 classes a day with 30 students each, do all 150 of those students need to then stay home and quarantine for 14 days?
· Do all 150 of those students now have to get tested? Who pays for those tests? Are they happening at school? How are the parents being notified? Does anyone in each of those kids’ families need to get tested? Who pays for that?
· Where is the district going to find a substitute teacher who will work in a classroom full of exposed, possibly infected students for substitute pay?
· What if a student in our kid’s class tests positive? What if your kid tests positive? Does every other student and teacher they have been around quarantine?
· What is the stress going to do to our teachers? How does it affect their health and well-being? How does it affect their ability to teach?
The foregoing questions are the mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to the matters that must be addressed before putting children, teachers, school staff, and, in turn, parents and other family members at risk of the deadly virus. Anya Kamenetz (June 9, 2020) succinctly stated, “What's at stake: An unknown number of lives, the futures of tens of millions of children, the livelihoods of their caregivers, the working conditions of millions of educators, and people's trust in a fundamental American institution.” Yet, the leaders of the Idiocracy are as devoid of valid and reliable plans as they were when it came time to handle the Covoid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, more than two-thirds of people polled no longer trust what POTUS 45 says about the virus and they, along with school personnel, will protect the lives of our children.
No matter who demands what about schools reopening, classrooms will be relatively empty if the current virus surge continues. Parents and teachers will resist putting their children in deadly situations. Those needing to work and requiring child care will remain at home –especially given that  underpaid yet essential childcare workers will refuse to put themselves as well as children in danger; and  it is estimated that 50% of childcare facilities will soon go out of business.
Meanwhile, as we face the distinct probability that schools will not open in full force, there remains another issue begging to be addressed. Privileged parents will be able to assist their children with on-line learning and, if necessary, home-school their children whereas those less fortunate won’t be able to do so and, in turn, the achievement gap will widen. Therefore, now is also the time to do things such as make educational technology available to those families on the downside of the digital divide. Higher education scholars should turn their attention to what must be done to prevent all children from losing a year or more in terms of their educational development.
Without delay, steps should be taken to provide essential educational workers, at all levels, with the salaries they deserve for serving simultaneously as educators as well as social service providers. Similarly, now is the time to address the schools’ infrastructure needs, everything from proper ventilation and classroom spacing to essential educational supplies. All parents should study carefully the science-based implementation plans for their respective school districts. Finally, in November, 2020, right-minded citizens must take steps to end the current Idiocracy.
Jack L. Daniel
Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society
Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media
Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black
July 19, 2020
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The City of Pittsburgh, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Management Agency are working in consultation with the Allegheny County Health Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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