|Jobs top priority list for black officials|
|Conference details expectations for putting Americans back to work|
|Published Tuesday, February 23, 2010 6:26 pm|
Based on census data $400 billion in government money goes out nationwide to communities for things such as road, schools, and emergency services.
“This is about power and it’s about money,” Lisa Crawford of the U.S. Census Bureau, told a small group of elected officials and community leaders gathered at East Stonewall AME Zion Church on Feb. 20 for Alliance of N.C. Black Elected Officials winter conference.
“It’s in our hands to make sure our community is counted accurately. African-American males, 18-35, are the hardest group individually to count. We can change that.”
According to data from Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization, about $1,500 per person goes to communities in the state. The federal government requires the census every decade, and the next count starts next month.
The census was one of the main topics discussed at the conference held as a prelude to the N.C. Black Summit. Other topics included the status of black economic recovery and black participation, the pandemic flu and the black community, and plans for the summit.
“To address issues that plague the African-American community we cannot lean on old methodologies,” said Richard Hooker, vice president of the Alliance. “We need to shift the paradigm in order to be more successful.”
John Leaston, director of procurement, N.C. Office of Economic Recovery and Investment, discussed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He said Feb. 17 marked the first anniversary since President Barack Obama signed the ARRA into law.
A few of the goals of the act were to invest $150 billion into new infrastructure, to provide capital over three years to eventually double domestic renewable energy capacity, and to take a big step towards computerizing America’s health records.
Of that money, $8.6 billion is allocated and committed to North Carolina for federal agencies, universities, towns, cities, and nonprofit organizations to spend. According to a county-by-county report for 100 counties, Mecklenburg County received $394,262,147.
In terms of increased funding for minority businesses, Executive Order 13 signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue on May 7, 2009 set a 10 percent goal to aspire to for Historically Underutilized Businesses activity, and a coordinated effort to eliminate barriers for HUB.
“In the past, we hoped for the ‘trickle down effect,’” Leaston said. “It’s a different twist this time. Unprecedented dollars are being put into the local community.”
As of January, 28,118 fulltime jobs have been created, and moving forward the plan is to continue to reach out to HUB, preserve and create more jobs, and boost the economy.
Leaston said that all of the ARRA funds need to be spent by the Feb. 17, 2012 deadline first because “people are hurting,” and second, because they don’t want to have to send any money back to Washington.
After a break where lunch was provided, the group came back for a presentation on H1N1, which is an influenza virus that emerged in March 2009 and by June 2009 had reached worldwide pandemic status, and its impact on the black community. Evelyn Stitt, quality improvement coordinator, Mecklenburg County Health Department, who led the discussion asked people in the crowd to raise their hands if they had gotten the H1N1 shot, and only one person raised their hand. She said that as a registered nurse she would be available to give the shot that day to anyone who wanted to receive it.
“While African Americans have suffered disproportionately high rates of hospitalization and death with H1N1 influenza during 2009, it is a fact that disproportionately fewer African Americans have chosen to be vaccinated against HIN1,” a county health department survey distributed at the meeting states.
Stitt said that disparities in underlying conditions such as asthma and diabetes could contribute to the impact of 2009 H1N1 on African American communities. Some of the reasons African Americans do not want the H1N1 vaccine according to the data the department has collected so far include distrust of government, physicians and pharmaceutical companies, fear of side effects, and lack of time or transportation.
“When it comes to the pandemic, we distrust government, but we also suffer greatly when we don’t use the resources that are there to help,” said Brad Thompson, executive director of the Alliance.
Thompson also discussed preliminary plans for the fifth annual N.C. Black Summit “Assessing Goals – Measuring Success” to be held in Raleigh at the Marriott Crabtree Hotel from April 29–May 1. The event will include a pre-conference workshop on economic empowerment, a banquet with a nationally known speaker yet to be confirmed, and a prayer breakfast focused on faith-based issues relevant to the Alliance’s five commitment statements. These statements include:
• Political effectiveness and personal responsibility
• Initiatives to prevent youth violence and enforce fairness in sentencing
• Access to a quality education
• Economic empowerment by supporting living wages and affirmative action, and
• Access to health care and environmental justice.
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