Soon after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced felony murder charges would be brought against former Atlanta Police officer Garrett Rolfe, the man who shot and killed 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks outside an intown Wendy’s ...
Customer Mask Distribution, State-of-the-Art Cleaning Technology Part of Authority’s Commitment to Providing Safe Public Transit By MARTA MARTA is reinforcing its commitment to do everything possible to fight COVID-19 by distributing free masks to customers at transit stations beginning on Monday, July 6. MARTA will deploy staff and volunteers to hand out as many as two million disposable masks at its rail stations and bus bays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend masks be worn to reduce the spread of coronavirus. “Since the onset of the pandemic, we have instituted safety precautions and new cleaning protocols in order to continue providing essential transit service while protecting our customers and employees,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. “We are now asking our customers to join us in helping to stop the spread of this virus by wearing a mask while on MARTA. We appreciate those riders who are wearing masks and understand you may not have access to masks or there may be a day you forget yours. We want you to know we’ve got you covered and to please take and wear a mask before boarding a bus or train.” MARTA’s mask giveaway for customers will kick off between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. on weekdays. It will be expanded to weeknights and weekends, based on ridership demand. The program is expected to continue until further notice or public health recommendations change. Customers needing a mask should look for a uniformed MARTA station agent or Transit Ambassador wearing a red “Team MARTA” shirt. To ensure everyone’s safety, each customer will select an individual mask from a tissue-like dispenser. Volunteers from transit advocacy groups including the MARTA Army and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition are also planning to participate. MARTA is constantly working to prevent the spread of the virus by requiring all employees, contractors and visitors to wear masks while on MARTA property or in a MARTA vehicle, and by using state-of-the-art cleaning technology to thoroughly disinfect all buses, trains, and facilities. MARTA uses electrostatic sprayers to clean and sanitize its entire fleet of approximately 500 buses every evening and disinfect high touch surfaces on 200 buses throughout the day. MARTA’s rail cars are lightly cleaned while in-service and disinfected each night. The sprayers make frequent daily sanitizing of high touch areas in MARTA’s 38 rail stations easier and more efficient than the standard wipe down method. As we work together to provide a safe transit experience, MARTA asks that all customers wear masks, either their own or one provided by MARTA, and practice social distancing while on the system. This is sponsored content.
Insurance Provider Donates $180,000 to Promote Atlanta’s Economic Stabilization By Metro Atlanta Chamber CareSource, a leading multi-state managed care plan, announced Monday a donation of $180,000 from the CareSource Foundation for the RESTORE ATL Fund, created by the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC). The Fund will support black-owned small and medium-sized businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement was made by Bobby Jones, Georgia market president at CareSource. The RESTORE ATL Fund will provide immediate gap assistance to affected businesses in metro Atlanta through the distribution of grants in the amounts of $5,000-$10,000. The funds can be used for operating expenses including rent, utilities, payroll and other business-related needed. The grants will be reviewed and awarded within two to three weeks of the application deadline of July 6. The Fund builds on the work of MAC’s RESTORE task force, a diverse group of business leaders which aims to provide a blueprint for how metro Atlanta and Georgia might accelerate economic recovery. Applications for the Fund open on Monday, June 22 and will close on Monday, July 6. “While we recognize that this fund will be a small step to restoring our region’s economy, we are proud to build on the work of RESTORE, as well as our understanding of the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on our region’s black community,” said Metro Atlanta Chamber president and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick. “Atlanta has long been known as a place where black entrepreneurs have had success. We want to honor this important part of our legacy and support black-owned businesses. We appreciate the CareSource Foundation for its generous donation as we position our region for the future.” “CareSource’s history of supporting both the health of our members and the surrounding communities made our choice to support small businesses with the RESTORE ATL Fund an obvious decision,” added Jones. “We are proud to support our fellow Georgians through these unprecedented times as a partner of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.” MAC established the RESTORE task force in April to deliver a comprehensive list of policy solutions that federal, state and/or local governments in Georgia can apply to rapidly recover from the economic recession. The group took on this important task while prioritizing the health of Georgia’s families and neighbors, and taking into account the state’s most vulnerable populations. The Dayton-based health plan has pivoted their charitable resources to support both front line health care providers, to meet the variable community needs around social determinants of health and, most recently, to support small businesses in their local markets. Last month, CareSource, in collaboration with the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, announced a program to support Dayton local businesses affected by the economic disruption amid the pandemic. This economic program is being replicated in CareSource’s four additional markets. For more information on the RESTORE ATL Fund please visit: https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/restore-atl-fund About CareSource CareSource is a leading nonprofit multi-state health plan serving government sponsored programs and is nationally recognized as an industry leader in providing member-centric health care coverage. Founded in 1989, CareSource administers one of the nation’s largest Medicaid managed care plans. Today, CareSource offers individuals and families comprehensive health and life services including Marketplace and Medicare Advantage plans. Headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, CareSource serves over 1.8 million members in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Georgia. CareSource understands the challenges consumers face navigating the health system and works to put health care in reach for those it serves. For more, visit caresource.com, follow @caresource on Twitter, or like CareSource on Facebook. About the Metro Atlanta Chamber The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) serves as a catalyst for a more prosperous and vibrant region. To advance economic growth and improve metro Atlanta’s quality of place, MAC is focused on starting, growing and recruiting companies to the 29-county metro Atlanta region. The Chamber is also focused on growing the region’s innovation economy by promoting and strengthening connections to drive Atlanta’s innovation and entrepreneurial culture. MAC is committed to being an active voice for the business community, serving as an advocate for a competitive business climate and telling Atlanta’s story. For more information, visit www.metroatlantachamber.com Media Contacts: Natalie Jones Senior Manager of Marketing, Brand Communications [email protected] ; 404-586-8458 Joseph Kelley Manager, Media Relations [email protected] ; 513-509-8466 This is sponsored content provided by Metro Atlanta Chamber.
By Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School When an entrepreneurial, innovative high school offering a college-prep education and a corporate work study program to underserved students opened its doors in 2014, The Coca-Cola Company was one of the first corporate partners to join Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School’s mission. Today, Coca-Cola remains a dedicated advocate in providing Cristo Rey students an opportunity to be introduced to the corporate world and to envision their own professional careers. The Cristo Rey model is designed to address the issues of education, access, and opportunity for students with limited financial resources. The school recruits industrious, dedicated students who work five days a month at partner companies to fund much of the cost of their education. In 2019, 99% of the school’s 525 students were students of color. Cristo Rey’s curriculum has enabled all 356 alumni from three graduating classes to earn 100% acceptance into college and $45 million in scholarships. Through the Corporate Work Study Program, partners like Coca-Cola provide jobs for the students to help prepare them to be competitive in the future job market. Impressive resumes are built while in high school. Working in a corporate setting motivates students, inspires them to think big, and opens doors to the possibilities available to them. Peyton Davie, a freshman at Cristo Rey, was eager to get started when she was assigned her placement at Coca-Cola. “I expected the Corporate Work Study program to be an eye opener to the workforce and an example of a possible career in the corporate world.” Coca-Cola Vice President Marie Quintero-Johnson notes the intentional investment in hiring Cristo Rey students makes their college-prep education a reality while providing value both to the students and the corporate partners. “Students get the opportunity to experience a professional environment. They learn about working in a global company. The experience often helps shape what they want to study in the future and makes them aware of the broader opportunities that can be available to them.” Peyton says her time at Coke will influence her future. Her co-workers inspired her and taught her how to be part of a productive team. From the partner perspective Quintero-Johnson observes, “It’s incredibly rewarding to take the time to participate in the growth and learning of these students.” Join Coca-Cola and Cristo Rey to provide opportunities for deserving students. Contact David O’Shea at d[email protected] for information. About Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School is a Catholic learning community that educates young people of limited economic means, of any faith or creed, to become men and women for and with others. Through a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, integrated with a relevant work study experience, students graduate prepared for college and life. About the Cristo Rey Network The Cristo Rey Network provides a quality, Catholic, college preparatory education to young people who live in urban communities with limited educational options. Our mission is clear – college success for Cristo Rey Network students. Member schools utilize a rigorous academic model, supported with effective instruction, to prepare students with a broad range of academic abilities for college. Cristo Rey Network schools employ an innovative Corporate Work Study Program that provides students with real world work experiences. Every student works five full days a month to fund the majority of his or her education, gain job experience, grow in self-confidence, and realize the relevance of his or her education.
By Shane Totten, Southface Institute UPDATE: Since the time of this article’s original publication, HB 777 passed the Georgia Senate on June 16 and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on June 29. HB 1015 did not move out of the Senate, but Southface and our partners continue to work together to bring it back to the table next year. In the weeks before COVID-19 disrupted daily life, the Georgia General Assembly was considering two bills which Southface believes may be able to accelerate the transition to a regenerative economy. House Bill 10151 (HB 1015) could update Georgia’s carbon sequestration registry2 to include building products that sequester carbon. (Did you even know Georgia already has a carbon sequestration registry? Me neither.). House Bill 7773 (HB 777) could instruct the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to investigate amending the state’s building codes to allow “tall” mass timber construction types to serve as an alternative to the typical steel and/or concrete construction commonly used in tall buildings. You may be aware that existing buildings impose a significant burden on the country’s energy systems. In 2018 buildings represented about 40% of total energy consumption generating about 40% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.4 5 You might not be aware that newly constructed buildings contain a substantial amount of embodied carbon because the energy, materials and processes they require to be constructed emit carbon before the building even begins to operate. That embodied carbon comprises about one-fourth of annual building related emissions. Ten percent of all US annual emissions come from constructing buildings! With Georgia’s population expected to grow substantially by 2050, and urban centers growing worldwide, embodied carbon in new buildings is going to have major consequences for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2050. It is anticipated that the world’s building stock will double in area by 2060.6 New buildings are certainly more efficient than most existing buildings, but the compounding nature of carbon means it’s critical that we reduce and eventually eliminate their embodied carbon if we are to hit our carbon-reduction goals. Mass timber can play a major role in getting us to carbon-neutral buildings. What is mass timber? Generally speaking, mass timber is assembled panels of wood that are six feet or more in at least one dimension. Most mass timber products are laminated assemblies where glue, nails or dowels are used to hold together individual members to form large panels strong enough to serve as structural building material, even high-rise structural building material. Buildings can be constructed almost entirely of wood when mass timber is combined with other engineered wood products, like glued laminated timber (or glulam) beams and columns.7 Design and construction benefits From a design and construction perspective, there are quite a few advantages to using mass timber. Constructing with mass timber is about 25% faster than constructing the same building with conventional reinforced concrete.8 Because the components are pre-manufactured in controlled conditions, quality is consistent and manufacturing is faster. Fewer construction crews are needed to assemble the components on the job site, and the wood panels can also be used for finished surfaces for floors, walls and ceilings. As an added bonus, the exposed wood grain also reinforces occupants’ connections to nature through biophilic design – a critical element for occupant well-being. Mass timber carbon-emission benefits vs. steel and concrete Concrete, the most common construction material on the planet, is an inherently intense carbon emitter. The curing process of concrete’s portland cement releases about one pound of carbon for every pound of cement. Some estimates indicate that portland cement accounts for 5% of total carbon emissions.9 Remember, most concrete construction includes both concrete—made of portland cement, sand and aggregate—and steel reinforcement. Steel is an even greater carbon emitter than concrete, releasing one ton of carbon per ton of steel. The manufacturing process globally drives some of these emissions, though local North American and recycled steel processes help to lower those emissions. Worldwide, steel contributes over 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions.10 Wood building materials present a very different carbon profile. As trees grow, they inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. One tree can sequester about 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and as much as one ton in 40 years.11 While we still need concrete and steel to construct our buildings, mass timber and engineered wood present an opportunity to use a building material that sequesters carbon rather than emits it. Forests as areas of carbon sequestration Forests and human-planted tree farms sequester carbon and hold it, but they also release carbon into the atmosphere, as trees die and decay. Old-growth forests may contain more sequestered carbon than younger forests or farms, but younger trees absorb it at faster rates. Given the density of most tree farms, there is great potential for sequestration. The need for statewide strategy Given current population and building stock growth projections, we will need to leverage as many statewide and regional strategies as possible to build efficiently and still achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2050. With Georgia containing over 22 million acres of commercial timberland—more than any other state—we have the potential to be a national leader in carbon sequestration as well as mass timber production and construction.13 Concrete cannot be recycled, but it can be crushed and re-used. Its steel reinforcements can be pulled and recycled. And, steel can be recycled almost infinitely; when it is recycled, it has a much lower carbon footprint than virgin steel. In contrast, trees can be planted on a regular basis, introducing new carbon sequestration sources while remaining a regenerative, reliable source of building material. With forestry as predominant as it is in the state, wood building materials are local building materials. Job (market) opportunities in mass timber Until very recently, mass timber was primarily manufactured in the Northwest and Northeast. The time, expense and transportation requirements of obtaining those supplies of mass timber products for the Southeast are currently limiting the region’s ability to move toward carbon neutrality. At the time of publication, there is only one …
By Michael Halicki, Park Pride Executive Director As our world has been thrown into chaos through a public health crisis and with racial injustice at the forefront, parks are among the few places people can go to achieve some semblance of balance, normalcy, and sanctuary. Or, at least that should be the case. Too often, studies have found that disenfranchised neighborhoods lack equitable access to parks and natural areas. Certain historical markers in parks can and do make many Black people and people of color feel uncomfortable and unsafe. And we have seen even more glaring examples of racism taking place in parks recently, like that experienced by Christian Cooper in New York’s Central Park. So, as we think about the need to build a more just and equitable society, local parks are a critical piece of this picture. Everyone deserves a quality park where they live. Parks should be safe, clean, and accessible to all. Parks should reflect each community’s unique character and meet their needs. For over 30 years, Park Pride has been working to make quality parks accessible for all communities. One of the most meaningful ways we do this is through our grantmaking program (made possible with funding from Atlanta’s philanthropic community) which supports park improvements awarded to local Friends of the Park groups and conservancies. The engagement of local communities is a critical component of our grant program; the community, after all, knows best what they need and what park improvements will help them achieve their goals. Beyond the physical changes, successful grant projects strengthen relationships between communities, their parks department, and their elected officials. We are building more than parks. We are building trust. Park Pride has always strived to distribute our grants broadly throughout our service area. The accompanying map shows the distribution of grants awarded within the City of Atlanta from 2004 to the present. The “growth line” (first introduced as part of Atlanta City Design, 2017) demarcates areas of strong or stable growth (above the growth line) and those areas of low or no growth (below the line). It would be a mistake not to acknowledge the racial and economic dimension of the growth line: areas north of the growth line tend to be whiter and include more middle and upper income areas, and areas south of the growth line tend to be middle and lower income areas comprised of higher percentages of Black residents and people of color. The map shows that over the course of our grant program, 65 Friends of the Park groups located north of the growth line received grants from Park Pride totaling $4.3M; and 65 Friends of the Park groups located south of the growth line received grants totaling $4.0M. We know that there is a need for Park Pride to play a larger role in communities with greater economic challenges, and we have a history of raising additional philanthropic dollars to support these communities. Since 2005, Park Pride has raised an additional $4.5M in philanthropic support for park improvements in Atlanta with $4.3M (96 percent) going to parks south of the growth line. Noteworthy examples of this support include Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park on the Westside, Coan Park on the Eastside, and Adams Park and Collier Heights Park in the Southwest. However, conversations that began in “Undoing Racism” workshops (conducted by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond) and that have continued through Park Pride’s ongoing work with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultant (Dr. Dietra Hawkins at Both And Partners), indicate that there is more we can do. Changes are needed within the grantmaking program. To date, a hallmark of Park Pride’s grantmaking program has been our matching component, which required communities to leverage our grant dollars to raise additional funds. Since 2004, $9M in Park Pride grant awards (which includes funding $650k in our other jurisdictions) have been matched with nearly $30M from local, public, and private sources, for a total of roughly $40M in community-driven park improvements. However, the structure of our grant program and its matching grant requirement has proven to be a barrier for many communities (a reality that we attempted to circumvent by raising additional philanthropic dollars—the $4.2M referenced above—outside our grant programs to support community-led efforts in under-resourced communities). But now, with the support of our Legacy Grant funder, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, we have taken the next step to change the structure of the program. Moving forward, we will deploy 1/3 of our grant dollars through awards that waive the matching requirement for Friends of the Park groups in low-income neighborhoods within the City of Atlanta.* Working together with local communities, philanthropic supporters, and government partners, I am confident we can build upon Park Pride’s work connecting communities to their parks and we can do so in ways that are responsive and supportive of considerations of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will continue to refine our programs and to make them more accessible to communities in each of our jurisdictions. We will also look to diversify our board and staff and explore other ways to make Park Pride more accessible to all communities. Parks present an increasingly crucial opportunity to bring communities together. We invite you to join us in this effort. PS: Presently, the City of Atlanta is working on ActivateATL: Recreation and Parks for All (a Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Master Plan) that prioritizes equity in the plan’s outreach, development and implementation. I would encourage you to take the survey and to attend one or more of the virtual public meetings to ensure your voice is heard. *These neighborhoods will be defined by the Community Development Impact Areas where at least 51 percent of the population are at or below 80% of the Atlanta area median income.
By Operation HOPE For many Americans, navigating the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming. We are proud to serve as a financial advocate and intermediary for these affected homeowners, renters, and small business owners in facilitating financial recovery. Since our HOPE Inside Disaster COVID-19 response began five weeks ago, we have provided over 14,500 virtual financial recovery services, including credit and money management coaching, small business counseling and loan application assistance, and mortgage and student loan deferment. Many thanks to our corporate and alliance partners for their ongoing support! Organizations that wish to provide financial or in-kind support to HOPE Inside Disaster may contact Mary Ehrsam, President of HOPE Partnerships, at [email protected] Last week, our response efforts were featured by several mainstream news outlets. On Wednesday, Chairman John Hope Bryant joined host Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” to discuss the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on the financial health of minority communities. Click the video below to watch Chairman Bryant speak on the ongoing work of Operation HOPE and our response to the coronavirus pandemic. Find more resources at www.hopeinsidecovid19.org
Introduction to Global Health Action In 1972, Dr. Ada Fort and Miss Virginia Proctor, two administrators at Emory University’s Woodruff School of Nursing, recruited and inspired a group of leaders from Atlanta’s health, religious, business, and education communities, to establish Global Health Action’s precursor, the International Nursing Services Association (INSA). Founded to help foster healthier communities around the world, INSA initially focused on health education and management training for nurses from developing countries. The idea was to not only improve the participants’ technical skills but, more importantly, to build their administrative and leadership skills enabling them to return to their home countries and multiply their impact within the communities they served. In 1993, the organization’s name was changed to Global Health Action (GHA) to better reflect the organization’s broader purpose and global outreach. Today, GHA builds on this history by linking evidence to policy and practice, expanding the knowledge and effectiveness of in-country health leadership, and by promoting community-driven solutions for addressing barriers to health, both locally and globally. GHA’s programs invest in affected communities with education, resources, and tools for mobilization and sustainable community-led solutions. GHA’s work consists of working alongside communities to identify and address the deeply rooted barriers to health for all. GHA currently is working in the US, the Caribbean, SubSaharan Africa, and Asia. Background 7% of Georgia’s general population have a serious mental illness compared to the population of Georgia’s Correctional Institutions which reports 17% of its population having a serious mental illness. Georgia moved its Pardons and Parole, which had been a separate state department, to fall within the Department of Corrections [and renamed it the Department of Community Supervision (DCS)]. Individual counties are adjusting their budgets and personnel to maintain the unique Community Coordinator positions, which are responsible for fostering maximum service provider coordination for returning citizens. According to Mental Health America of Georgia, Georgia’s overall mental health system ranks 34th in the US, and 6 of 10 young persons with clinical depression do not receive treatment. Most of Georgia’s Criminal Justice/Corrections improvements have focused on post-arrest with the exception of Fulton County which has a pilot pre-arrest program. For a jurisdiction to re-orient to a pre-arrest focus, there must be an adequate and integrated behavioral health, physical health and social services infrastructure. Georgia is currently lacking this. The current professional, institutional and general citizenry cultures are not reoriented to a bifurcated focus on restorative justice in the pre- and post-arrest arenas. Solution GHA, National Incarceration Association, Mental Health Alliance, Legal Action Center, Southern Center for Human Rights, Georgia Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Golden Memorial United Methodist Church partnered to conduct the No Health=No Justice series of community conversations (in Atlanta, Douglasville and Macon). The Georgia No Health=No Justice campaign is focused on helping state and local jurisdictions to prioritize health and mental health care as the primary response to decrease incarceration and recidivism in Georgia. As a follow up to the GHA co-sponsored Families Impacted by Incarceration event in April of 2018, and in alignment with the goal to conduct a Health Impact Assessment, GHA and lead partner National Incarceration Association saw this campaign as a strategic opportunity to combine and extend efforts to begin to collect data and generate community level conversations on the impacts of incarceration on families. The Legal Action Center’s No Health = No Justice Campaign, a multi state advocacy and organizing campaign to ground decarceration efforts in ensuring that people are no longer prosecuted and criminalized for their health needs, but are instead provided with real access to care. The campaign highlights the intersection of historic and ongoing racism in the health care and criminal justice systems, directly linking health inequities to the over-criminalization and disproportionate incarceration of Black and Latinx individuals. Together, these forms of discrimination continue to make life difficult and disempowering for many people of color and profoundly affect their communities. Justice means making sure people and communities are no longer criminalized for health-related conditions. Impact The partnership collectively facilitated local audiences of impacted individuals and their families, local organizations providing best practices, service providers (such as Grady Health, River-Edge, Douglas Community Service Board – all of whom are state or county contractors), and government agencies, including Department of Community Supervision, law enforcement, judges, district attorneys and public defenders, along with other community stakeholders. These intimate, highly interactive conversations allowed for honest open dialogue about what is working and where the gaps are in Georgia communities. In all three Georgia counties (Fulton, Bibb, and Douglas), stakeholder participants committed to working together to address the “silos problem” and identified a list of other solutions to improve health and justice in the community. These community-generated suggestions include: Increase and expand training on de-escalation tactics and other mental health crises management for all first responders (law enforcement and emergency personnel) and community supervision officers Create community wellness and safety centers to provide health and behavioral/mental health crisis management services, so law enforcement can escort individuals with immanent needs to appropriate services (diagnostic, treatment) instead of arresting them or burdening hospitals Increase and improve public transportation systems so more people can get to work and to treatment Provide more mental health crisis management training to family members Increase public service announcements (PSAs) to publicize the availability of publicly funded behavioral health services in the community, and to counter stigma/negative public perceptions of behavioral health challenges Fund incentives for persons to become educated in psychiatry in Georgia Colleges and Universities and then remain in Georgia, and to increase training for certification for more peer support specialists and health navigators Increase funding for Community Service Boards to provide prevention and pre-arrest services Increase access to affordable housing for families of incarcerated individuals and for formerly incarcerated people and their families Create strong practitioner coalitions to advocate for these policy changes at the state level Get Involved! In this time of unprecedented need, we ask that you join us at GHA to effect and sustain …
By Paul Donsky The news is dizzying these days, as we face a global pandemic and a recession. It can be hard to make sense of what’s happening. That’s frustrating for all of us, but especially challenging for metro Atlanta leaders who are working to respond to the crises and craft a path forward. Several new data tools from the Atlanta Regional Commission and Neighborhood Nexus put a local focus on the fast-evolving situation while helping to foster greater understanding and better decision-making. Read on.
Featured Image: In this 2014 file photo, as President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton mark the 20th anniversary of the AmeriCorps national service program, hundreds of new volunteers are sworn in for duty at a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP) Ed. note: This article was originally published in the New York Daily News on July 6, 2020. By Eric Tanenblatt and Annmaura Connolly Massive demonstrations and unrest stretching from America’s biggest cities to its smallest towns, a pandemic that’s already claimed the lives of more than 130,000 and a sputtering economy that’s displaced upwards of 21 million workers: By any measure, America is in a crisis. The country is stuck between fits of inconsolable grief and insatiable fury. Every new day brings a new dimension of trauma, more violence, more injustice, more deaths. It’s testing the full measure of our spirit. But our history proves crisis can also enrich us. From the earliest days of the new republic to the depths of 2020, America is a tapestry of crisis and stubborn perseverance. It’s a dualism that says Americans are at their very best when things are seemingly at their worst, banded together in common cause — serving as one people and one nation under God, indivisible. But we’re not going to meet this moment by serving in the same way we’ve done for generations. This crisis isn’t calling for Americans to storm beaches, but asking they staff virtual schools. We don’t need Americans building bombs and weapons of war to defeat this pandemic; we need them distributing food and conducting wellness checks for seniors. We don’t need Americans infiltrating enemy territory to right historic and systemic injustices; we need them rebuilding our communities and faith in one another. Just because we’re not asking Americans to don the uniform of the armed forces doesn’t mean we’re not asking — no, needing — them to come together in service. This crisis isn’t calling for Americans to storm beaches, but asking they staff virtual schools. We don’t need Americans building bombs and weapons of war to defeat this pandemic; we need them distributing food and conducting wellness checks for seniors. We don’t need Americans infiltrating enemy territory to right historic and systemic injustices; we need them rebuilding our communities and faith in one another. Just because we’re not asking Americans to don the uniform of the armed forces doesn’t mean we’re not asking — no, needing — them to come together in service. Last week, seven Republican and seven Democratic U.S. senators introduced the CORPS Act, which would expand America’s investment in national service programs to allow for the immediate, targeted deployment of tens of thousands of civilian service members in communities all across the country. Once deployed through programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, these civilian service members would address the widening achievement gap in the era of distance learning by tutoring and mentoring students and helping teachers program increasingly complex lesson plans; combat hunger in children and seniors by staffing food banks and pantries; and flatten the curve by organizing blood drives, staffing temporary isolation sites, and distributing personal protective equipment to healthcare and essential workers. The value to society is obvious. But the economic feature of national service — providing purpose-driven work when few economic opportunities exist — is also profoundly important. Recent college graduates are entering the least-inviting jobs market since the Great Depression. National service would tap this tremendous well for the good of the country while also providing service members real-world experience and the opportunity to pay down student loan debt. Voters overwhelmingly support the approach. A recent survey of 1,000 registered battleground voters found 70% of Republicans and 80% of all respondents support expanding federal support for national service to respond to this moment. Sixty-eight percent of respondents in the same survey said they would be more likely to reward leaders who support national service. The United States has two options before it: allow this painful episode to be defined by the challenges that haunted us, or how we responded to them. In 50 years, will we look back at what we’ve lost, or will we reflect in pride on what we built in its place? If Congress acts on the CORPS Act, 2020 won’t simply be a year of crisis — it’ll be the year of the civilian service member. Connolly is the president of Voices for National Service and the chief strategy officer of City Year Inc., an education nonprofit funded partly by AmeriCorps and dedicated to helping public schools. Tanenblatt is a former Republican board member of the Corporation for National & Community Service, the independent federal agency that administers AmeriCorps. He serves as the global public policy chair of the international law firm Dentons.
By Jonny Newburgh, impact investment associate, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta Small businesses are hurting. Black-owned businesses face added challenges. In good times, entrepreneurship is tough. The most recent Small Business Credit Survey, conducted by the Federal Reserve System in early 2020, found that in 2019 only 57% of small businesses enjoyed profits and 24% operated at a loss. When lockdowns began earlier this year, researchers found that the average small business had less than one month of cash on hand, leaving both small business owners and their employees – 47.5% of the private-sector workforce – at risk. Clearly, the good times have ended. We are currently living in a global recession during a pandemic. Due to reduced revenues, many businesses are closing permanently and many others are reducing costs, including labor costs, in a bid for survival. Programs designed to offer financial relief, such as those in the federal CARES Act, have been unable to provide the needed support to prevent layoffs and avoid unemployment from reaching historic levels. Worse, federal programs not only overlooked rural, minority and women-owned businesses, but they also did not address pre-existing barriers to capital in communities of color. Grantmaking for small businesses seeks to address inequities in accessing capital Knowing the impacts of the dual economic and public health crises would impact the region unevenly, the Community Foundation worked with the United Way of Greater Atlanta to fund small business and nonprofit support organizations that work with and serve primarily non-White entrepreneurs and clients. In part, our support for small businesses is a recognition of the importance of business for social purpose, a point advocated by the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC). To date, the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund has granted $995,000, and donors have invested an additional $106,600 through the end of May, to organizations in metro Atlanta that form the small business ecosystem. These organizations include the Center for Civic Innovation, which has long supported entrepreneurs leading civic enterprises that address inequities in Atlanta, and both of Georgia’s Small Business Administration (SBA) Women’s Business Centers – Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) and The Edge. ACE is also one of metro Atlanta’s leading small business Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), a nonprofit loan fund that has invested over $70 million in metro area small businesses since 1999. ACE is the largest and most impactful small business CDFI in the region. With a mission to invest in disinvested communities, in 2019 ACE invested 45% of its funds in Black-owned businesses, 37% in women-owned businesses and 16% in Hispanic-owned businesses. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census, only 6% of small businesses in metro Atlanta are Black-owned, 22% are women-owned and 4% are Hispanic-owned. As local governments announced lockdowns, ACE began surveying its clients to determine market needs. In just 12 weeks, it provided $8.5 million in emergency loan capital, including Paycheck Protection Program loans, for 300 businesses and business advisory support to hundreds more. Our impact investments provide low-cost, flexible capital to support an equitable recovery The Community Foundation developed the GoATL Fund, the region’s first impact investment fund, to address these disparities and support wealth building through entrepreneurship in the same communities that ACE works with. CDFIs like ACE need grants to fund technical assistance programs and to provide equity in their loan funds, but they also need investors – like GoATL – to provide capital for relending for longer term social outcomes. Since June 2018, GoATL has invested $1.25 million in ACE. ACE has used our investment to fund SBA Capital Advantage Program (CAP) loans and to fund loans for economic relief and recovery, such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. In 2019, ACE funded more than 90 loans, 49% of which financed Black-owned businesses. These loans, in turn, retained or created 831 jobs. As governments across the metro area announced lockdowns due to the pandemic, ACE began working with local governments, development authorities and investment partners to develop new financing tools, increase available capital and offer greater flexibility to borrowers until the economy recovers. But capital markets are racist, and they require anti-racist innovations Having recently committed to a strategic plan that advances equity of opportunity, the Community Foundation also recognized that CDFIs cannot fill every gap in the market – and that an inequitable recovery is no recovery at all. That’s why the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund granted $250,000 to the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI), which has long been working on alternative models of investment, such as character-based lending. AWBI was also quick to offer grants to small businesses in Southwest, Southeast and Northwest Atlanta to ensure that small businesses, especially those owned by people of color, do not fail as a result of COVID-19. Pictured: Takes a Village Transportation, ACE loan recipient
The COVID-19 Health Equity Dashboard, developed by Emory University, allows users to compare counties within the same state, aggregating key metrics that tell a story of a community’s social and economic health. By Emory University Although COVID-19 has swept across the entire country, its burden has not been spread equally. Some communities—particularly those with a large minority population—suffer high infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths. To shine a light on the virus’ differential impact, researchers at Emory University have developed the COVID-19 Health Equity Dashboard. “Our goal was to go beyond describing COVID-19 incidence in communities. We wanted to fill in the gaps about the interplay between the health outcomes and the underlying social determinants and other vulnerabilities, such as diabetes and obesity,” says Shivani A. Patel, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of global health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health who leads the team that developed the dynamic dashboard. On the homepage, users can see a snapshot of COVID-19 deaths across the country. Selecting a state brings up a map displaying COVID-19 mortality by county. Drilling down, users can select a county to see how it compares to the rest of the state and to the country in average daily cases and deaths, and in social characteristics, such as percentage of residents who are African-American, percentage who live in poverty, percentage who are obese, percentage who have diabetes, and more. The dashboard allows users to compare counties within the same state, aggregating key metrics that tell a story of a community’s social and economic health. For each state, dashboard users can select a COVID-19 outcome measure—total, average, or per-100,000 cases COVID-19 cases or deaths—and a social determinants measure—household income, population density, percentage African American, among others. The result is side-by-side color-coded maps that allow users to visualize the relationship between the virus’s health impact and social determinants of health at a county level. Going forward, Patel and her team plan to parse that data into a sub-county level to see how communities within the country are being impacted differently. In Georgia, for example, Patel is working with the Georgia Department of Public Health to break down COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by demographic categories, such as race, age, and neighborhood. “We see this as an evolving resource for a variety of audiences, including policy makers, public health practitioners, researchers, and maybe even clinicians,” says Patel. “This dashboard could help officials assess whether local response to COVID is equitable across communities, and tailor response accordingly. It will provide quick access to data to decide where it’s feasible to open business back up and where it’s not. Where should testing sites be located? When a vaccine becomes available, which populations should be prioritized? “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to combat this pandemic,” Patel continues. “To predict how it will unfold and to prepare for the future, it’s critical to understand the underlying risk factors that lead to higher incidence and mortality.” This is sponsored content.
By Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students Uncertain. Unprecedented. Unsettled. No matter how one might describe the times in which we live, one thing is for sure: our youngest Georgians are living through a summer unlike any we’ve seen in recent history. With schools closed since March, and many caregivers having to take on teaching duties on top of their full-time jobs, finding new and fun ways to engage with our children through reading has become especially challenging. The Mayor’s Summer Reading Club (MSRC) hopes to provide families with the books and resources they need. Now in its eighth year, this initiative promotes early literacy, family engagement, and vocabulary enrichment for children ages birth through five and their families living in the City of Atlanta. The program designates a city-wide book choice for infants and children ages three to five to share with families, at no cost to them. It comes at a critical time. This year, because of school closings and the difficulties of distance learning, some students could lose nearly a third more of their literacy skills than during a normal summer, according to a study from the Brookings Institution. GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will launch the 8th Annual Mayor’s Summer Reading Club (MSRC) with a virtual event hosted by the Alliance Theatre on Thursday, July 9. Led by GEEARS, the MSRC is a collaboration between the City of Atlanta, the PNC Foundation, the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Speech School and many other public-private partnerships. The event will be hosted by the Alliance Theatre and feature a story time with playwright and author Will Power reading his 2020 MSRC book, In the West End to the children, families, and partner organizations in attendance. It is free and open to the public. RSVP here. This year’s book selections are outstanding. The first, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, tells the story of a big construction site, where all the hardworking trucks say goodnight to each other before getting the rest they need for another hard day’s work. And In the West End takes place in the historic West End neighborhood. In it, author Will Power and illustrator R. Gregory Christie take the reader on a trip to explore the many places in the West End where one can find healthy, delicious food. This book was expressly written for the 2020 Mayor’s Summer Reading Club. A step-by-step reading guide created by the Atlanta Speech School to help families engage with their children while reading is available for each book. MSRC program partners joined a virtual Storytelling Training led by The Alliance Theatre and Atlanta Speech School in May 2020. This year, MSRC and our community partners have distributed more than 19,900 books to children, including 4,000 board books for infants and 15,900 books for children aged 3 to 5. For more information about the MSRC, the full list of partners, and a calendar of MSRC events, visit www.MayorsReadingClub.org If you aren’t able to make the launch event, Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) is also hosting the “McBath Summer Storytime” series. The program is designed to encourage reading for children and students during the summer months. Families can tune in to Rep. McBath’s Facebook page every Sunday at 7:30pm for a bedtime story with the Congresswoman, starting Sunday, June 28, 2020 at 7:30pm. The Fulton County Library has made virtual programming activities available, including a live children’s “Streaming Storytime” every weekday at 11am. This is sponsored content.