Governor Urges N.C. Families to Sign Up for Discounts on Internet, Computers
More than 180,000 North Carolina households are getting critical assistance affording high-speed internet service thanks to a federal relief program that helps families in need pay internet bills and fully participate in the digital economy.
With 182,473 households enrolled in the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP), North Carolina’s level of enrollment ranks sixth among the 50 states. In April, Governor Roy Cooper sent letters to the state’s internet service providers (ISPs) asking them to participate in this effort to get more North Carolinian’s connected to high-speed internet. A number of ISPs responded to the Governor’s call to participate and enroll their customers in this program.
Read the text of the Governor’s letter.
"Affordability is essential to access the internet and digital equity," Governor Cooper said. "This subscription support empowers North Carolina families to access the online educational, business and healthcare resources they need to compete in today's digital society."
The EBBP, which opened May 12, discounts an eligible household's monthly internet bill by as much as $50 per month. The discount increases to $75 per month for those living on tribal lands. Eligible households can also get a one-time discount of $100 toward the purchase of a laptop, tablet or desktop computer through participating providers.
"The pandemic highlighted digital inequities and the struggle of many families to afford quality internet," Jim Weaver, North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) secretary and state chief information officer, said. “We encourage all eligible North Carolina families to sign up for this benefit."
Households with an income at or less than 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines are eligible for the EBBP. A household also qualifies if at least one member participates in a federal benefits program such as Medicaid, SNAP or Lifeline, receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program, lost a job or a significant amount of income in the past year, received a Federal Pell Grant or is part of an internet service provider’s low-income or COVID-19 program.
The program is slated to continue until the $3.2 billion appropriated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 runs out or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares the pandemic is over, whichever happens first.
Governor Cooper urges Congress and the North Carolina delegation to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to make the monthly discount permanent for eligible households in North Carolina. The act would reduce the monthly discount to $30 and give $14.2 billion to the program, renamed the Affordable Connectivity program. The act has been passed by the U.S. Senate but must also be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed by the president to take effect.
Governor Cooper's Closing the Digital Divide plan would continue the $50 monthly discount for four years with $420 million from the state’s allocation of American Rescue Plan fiscal recovery funds. Governor Cooper’s plan to address affordability will make North Carolina a top-five state for internet adoption and hit a target of 80 percent of North Carolinians subscribing to high-speed internet service. An estimated 380,000 North Carolinians could benefit from the continued subscription support.
As Adult ICU Patients Hit Record Highs for the Pandemic, New Report Shows Unvaccinated People Are More Than 15 Times More Likely to Die From COVID-19 Compared to Vaccinated People
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services yesterday released new data in the weekly respiratory surveillance report showing that unvaccinated people were 15.4 times, or 1,540 percent, more likely to die from COVID-19 during the four-week period ending Aug. 21, 2021. This comes as the state hit a pandemic high on Aug. 26 with 912 adults in the ICU with COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators also reached a record high at 574.
This week’s respiratory surveillance report is the first to provide age-adjusted death rate data for COVID-19. Adjusting for age is a way to make fairer comparisons between vaccinated and unvaccinated people because the vaccinated population is older than the unvaccinated population and older people are more likely to die from COVID-19. Data is preliminary and is subject to change as additional cases and deaths are reported.
During the week ending Aug. 21, 2021, unvaccinated people were also 4.4 times, or 440 percent, more likely to catch COVID-19 than vaccinated people. The difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated teens was even greater during the week ending Aug. 21, 2021, with unvaccinated people aged 12 to 17 being 6.3 times, or 630 percent, more likely to get COVID-19 than vaccinated people in the same age group.
There is urgency to get vaccinated now. North Carolina has been experiencing the fastest acceleration in cases and hospitalizations since the pandemic started. The COVID-19 vaccines authorized and approved in the United States continue to be remarkably effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant.
"The vast majority of people dying with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. If you are not vaccinated please don’t wait until it is too late," said Mandy K. Cohen, M.D., Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services. "The authorized and approved vaccines have been through rigorous clinical trials and met scientific standards. Millions of North Carolinians have been safely vaccinated."
There were 29 deaths among unvaccinated persons younger than 65, compared with one death among vaccinated persons younger than 65 during the four-week time period. There were 30 deaths among unvaccinated persons older than 65, compared with seven deaths among vaccinated persons older than 65.
Vaccines are widely available in North Carolina. Through Aug. 31, anyone 18 and older who gets their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a participating location will receive a $100 Summer Card* in the form of a Prepaid Mastercard® while supplies last. To get a free vaccine near you, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call 888-675-4567. You can also text your zip code to 438829 to find vaccine locations near you.
Anyone who has symptoms of or has been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible. To find a testing site in your community, go to www.ncdhhs.gov/GetTested. People who are not experiencing serious symptoms should not go to the emergency department for routine COVID-19 testing. People should seek medical attention immediately for serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.
While vaccines are the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death, monoclonal antibody therapy can reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and decrease the likelihood of hospitalization, especially in high-risk patients. If you test positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy must be administered within 10 days of your first COVID-19 symptoms, so it is crucial to get tested early.
In addition to getting vaccinated, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our communities, NCDHHS recommends everyone wear a mask in indoor public spaces if you live in area of high or substantial levels of transmission as defined by the CDC until more people are vaccinated and viral transmission decreases. In North Carolina, that is now all 100 counties.
Read the full respiratory surveillance report.
On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive.
N.C. State Highway Patrol (NCSHP), N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and Mothers Against Drunk Driving North Carolina will continue their combined campaign, “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” with events and safety checkpoints throughout the state on Labor Day Weekend.
The multi-agency safety initiative works to reduce alcohol-related incidents on the state’s roadways and waterways, both of which see increased traffic during holidays.
“If your Labor Day weekend plans include drinking alcohol, it’s imperative to designate a sober driver whether you’re in a vehicle or on a boat,” said Lieutenant Forrest Orr of the Wildlife Commission. “A sober operator greatly improves your chances of a safe and incident-free experience on both the road and in the water.”
While wildlife law enforcement officers will be patrolling public waterways, the NCSHP will be working in concert on the roads.
“Our continued partnership with N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is essential to ensuring this Labor Day weekend is a celebration for all and not one that ends in tragedy,” said Colonel Freddy L. Johnson Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “Whether it is a Trooper on the roadways or a Wildlife Officer on the water, our combined lifesaving efforts through education and enforcement make a difference every day and this dedicated work is undoubtedly saving lives.”
In North Carolina, a driver or vessel operator with a blood-alcohol concentration that meets or exceeds .08 or is substantially impaired by alcohol and/or drugs is subject to arrest.
For more information on boating safety and regulations, visit ncwildlife.org/boating or call 919-707-0031.
Young Harris College has been approved by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) to provide a new financial planning minor program.
“CFP Board is pleased to approve the program at YHC as a CFP Board Registered Program,” said Douglas S. King, CFP®, chair of CFP Board’s Board of Directors. “As student interest in financial planning as a career continues to grow, we anticipate that YHC’s program will contribute significantly to the number of qualified candidates seeking to attain the CFP® certification, the standard of excellence for competent and ethical financial planning.”
CFP Board is a Washington, D.C.-based independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to benefit the public by granting, upholding, and promoting the Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) certification. Those who earn the certification are distinguishing themselves among their peers by meeting CFP Board’s education, examination, experience, and ethics requirements. Students completing the financial planning program at YHC will have met the Education requirement for CFP® Certification Examination administered by CFP Board.
CFP Board currently oversees more than 300 programs at more than 200 institutions. CFP Board-Registered Programs are financial planning education programs at the college or university level that meet specific criteria for educating individuals who wish to fulfill the education component for obtaining CFP® certification.
“CFP Board has completed a review of the initial application of the undergraduate program at Young Harris College titled ‘Financial Planning Minor,’” wrote Mary Kay Svedberg, Ph.D., who serves as the Director of Education for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. “CFP Board is pleased to establish this important partnership.”
“We are proud to offer our students an accredited and well-respected financial planning minor program,” said YHC President Drew L. Van Horn, Ph.D. “Like all program additions YHC makes, we trust that this program will allow the College to better serve our students, our alumni, and the communities served by YHC graduates.”
“This new program in financial planning provides our students, regardless of their choice of major, with an exciting career-oriented minor that offers numerous employment opportunities in a fast-growing field,” states Dr. Todd Jones, YHC’s CFP® professional.
If you or someone you know is interested in YHC’s financial planning minor program, please contact Dr. Todd Jones at (706) 379-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to serving as YHC’s CFP® professional, Dr. Jones serves as Dean of the Division of Professional Studies, Associate Professor of Business and Public Policy, and Director of YHC’s Institute for Leadership, Business, and Public Policy.
About Young Harris College
Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires, and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science, and Technology; and Professional Studies. More than 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the prestigious Peach Belt Conference. For more information, visit yhc.edu.
About CFP Board
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is the professional body for personal financial planners in the U.S. CFP Board sets standards for financial planning and administers the prestigious CFP® certification – one of the most respected certifications in financial services – so that the public has access to and benefits from competent and ethical financial planning. CFP Board, along with its Center for Financial Planning, is committed to increasing the public’s awareness of CFP® certification and access to a diverse, ethical, and competent financial planning workforce. Widely recognized by firms as the standard for financial planning, CFP® certification is held by more than 86,000 people in the United States.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
Organic producers and handlers can now apply for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds to assist with the cost of receiving or maintaining organic certification. Applications for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) are due Nov. 1, 2021.
“USDA is here to help all producers, including those who grow our nation’s organic food and fiber. Many farmers have told us that cost was a barrier to their ability to get an organic certification,” said Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “By assisting with the costs, this program can help organic farmers get their certification along with the benefits that come with it.”
OCCSP provides cost-share assistance to producers and handlers of agricultural products for the costs of obtaining or maintaining organic certification under the USDA’s National Organic Program. Eligible producers include any certified producers or handlers who have paid organic certification fees to a USDA-accredited certifying agent during the 2021 and any subsequent program year. Producers can be reimbursed for expenses made between Oct. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021 including application fees, inspection costs, fees related to equivalency agreement and arrangement requirements, travel expenses for inspectors, user fees, sales assessments and postage.
For 2021, OCCSP will reimburse 50% of a certified operation’s allowable certification costs, up to a maximum of $500 for each of the following categories (or “scopes”):
· wild crops
· State organic program fees.
Organic farmers and ranchers may apply through an FSA county office or a participating state agency.
This funding will be complemented by an additional $20 million for organic and transitioning producers through the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. More information on that funding will be available in the coming weeks.
To learn more about organic certification cost share, please visit the OCCSP webpage, visit usda.gov/organic, or contact your local USDA Service Center.
In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit http://www.usda.gov.
In response to Tropical Storm Fred, Governor Roy Cooper issued a State of Emergency today to activate the state’s emergency operations plan and waive transportation rules to help first responders and the agriculture industry.
“This state of emergency will allow our first responders to get into our affected communities quickly to save lives, restore power, remove debris and bring supplies,” said Governor Cooper. “North Carolina is strong and resilient, and we’re committed to helping people and businesses recover as quickly as possible.”
Executive Order 227 waives the size and weight requirements for vehicles carrying emergency relief supplies or services to assist with the restoration of utility services, debris removal and emergency relief efforts. The Order also helps North Carolinians harvest and transport their crops more quickly, by temporarily suspending weighing of vehicles used to transport livestock, poultry or crops ready to be harvested. The Council of State concurred with the Order today.
Nearly a foot of rain has fallen over the past three days in some areas of Western North Carolina, from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred and the rains that preceded it, and record flooding is occurring. Haywood County appears to be the most severely impacted, where historic flooding is happening along the Pigeon River. More than 98 people have already been rescued from floodwaters in western counties. Local officials in Haywood County estimate approximately 30 people are currently missing, and water systems in Canton and Clyde have been impacted and boil water advisories are in effect.
North Carolina Emergency Management has deployed swift water rescue teams from across the state to Western North Carolina, and National Guard and Highway Patrol helicopter crews are conducting searches. More than 250 responders from across the state are involved in the search and rescue effort.
Haywood, Jackson, McDowell, Madison, Mitchell, Rutherford, Transylvania and Yancey counties have all declared local states of emergency. Utility companies are working to restore power after outages peaked at about 50,000 customers Tuesday night. There are currently approximately 11,600 outages reported.
Read the Executive Order.
Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH) is hosting a Collective Goods book and gift fair August 17 and 18. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the EWCH Auxiliary.
The pop-up event will feature a variety of merchandise and will take place on Tuesday, August, 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday, August 18, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Collective Goods creates retail events around the country that support local communities, specifically in the areas of education, healthcare and non-profit organizations.
“The auxiliary members are eager to bring this popular fundraiser to the community,” said Bob Bessey, EWCH Volunteer and Gift Shop Supervisor. “Collective Goods never disappoints in the variety of merchandise that they bring.”
The fair will take place in the former nursing home dining room. Parking is available at the hospital back entrance. Cash, debit cards and credit cards will be accepted. Payroll deduction will also be available for EWCH employees who wish to purchase items. All individuals must wear a mask while inside the building.
For more information about volunteer opportunities available at EWCH, please visit erlanger.org/volunteering.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ vaccine data dashboard now includes county-level vaccination information from federal providers, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Prisons and Indian Health Service.
The data is included on the dashboard’s "People Vaccinated by County of Residence" map. The new data provides a more accurate representation of vaccinations in North Carolina’s counties.
The new data is only available for vaccine totals at the state and county levels. It is not yet available for the "Doses Administered by Week" or the "Demographics Data" sections. Data for these two sections comes only from North Carolina's COVID-19 Vaccine Management System, which only includes information from providers who report data directly to the state. Therefore, these sections of the dashboard undercount the true number of doses administered to North Carolina residents.
Additionally, a new dropdown will be available on the county map allowing users to view data for the following demographics: Total Population, Population 12+ Years of Age, Population 18+ Years of Age and Population 65+ Years of Age. The vaccine data dashboard is updated every weekday. For more information and to view the NCDHHS vaccine data dashboard, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/vaccinations.
Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH) welcomes Bob Bessey as volunteer services and hospital gift shop supervisor.
Bessey has worked in various health care roles for over 30 years, and the last 15 of which he served working with and leading a group of hospital volunteers in Greensboro, N.C. In his new role as volunteer services supervisor, Bessey is responsible for operations of the hospital’s Giving Tree gift shop and the auxiliary group, as well as overseeing volunteer services and its community relations activities.
Volunteer roles at EWCH are currently available. Volunteers are asked to serve at least one day per week for two to four hours. Areas in which volunteers are needed include the gift shop, nursing units, radiology, cardio-pulmonary rehab, and general support roles. All volunteer roles require basic mobility and problem-solving skills, as well as a health screening conducted by EWCH.
“I’m thrilled to be able to work with such an amazing team of volunteers at EWCH,” said Bessey. “This community is full of compassionate and caring people who have all welcomed me, and I hope we can engage some of those individuals as volunteers as well.”
The Giving Tree gift shop is managed by EWCH volunteers. Profits generated by the shop are given back to the local community in the form of gifts to assist special programs and services at the hospital. The gift shop is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Bob brings terrific experience to our program,” said Emilia Jones, Erlanger’s volunteer services director. “We are eager to grow the program in western North Carolina, and we look forward to continuing to support the needs of the local community.”
For more information about volunteering at Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital or to apply, visit erlanger.org/volunteering or call 828-837-8161.
When Mountain Heritage Day makes a triumphant return to the Western Carolina University campus on Saturday, Sept. 25, it will come with a full day of live music.
The annual festival of Southern Appalachian traditions and culture is renowned as a showcase of bluegrass, old-time and traditional music, as well as family activities, vendors and the region’s finest arts and crafts. The 2020 festival was an abbreviated, virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have the perfect lineup for us to get back in front of a live audience. Many of our favorites are returning and we get to welcome some new artists, too,” said Christy Ashe, WCU special events director and festival chair. “We will be following COVID-19 protocols and are actively encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, so we can actually return to being together in this celebration.”
Ashe announced the schedule for the Blue Ridge Stage:
“Mountain Heritage Day allows us to share culture,” said Uncle Ted White of the Whitewater Bluegrass Band. “It is so important that it includes children, so we can keep traditions alive. That is what Mountain Heritage Day does every year, bringing us together and creating a legacy for coming generations.”
There will also be the Circle Tent and the Children’s Tent with continual performances, including workshops, sing-alongs, storytelling, and a community square dance, along with children’s play-party activities. Ann Woodford will bring alive local stories of the African American community; the Deitz Family, who played bluegrass and mountain folk songs at the first festival up until now; the Pressley Girls, an authentic Appalachian duet from Brasstown who have tight harmonies in classic tunes; and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker tell stories of their southern Appalachian roots and the African American component, with Jack Tales, ghost stories, preacher yarns and Br’er Rabbit stories. Will Ritter will play interludes and provide music for the square dancing.
For more information and updates, go to www.mountainheritageday.com.