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February 25, 2021

THREE KILLED IN MADISON COUNTY, CHILD ABDUCTED; STATE POLICE TEAMWORK LEADS TO QUICK ARREST
FEBRUARY 24, 2021
The Arkansas State Police is leading a homicide investigation involving the deaths of three Madison County residents and the abduction of a child from the home where the killings occurred.  Late yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, February 23rd) the Madison County Sheriff’s Department made a request for Arkansas State Police Special Agents to conduct the investigation.

Sheriff’s deputies were contacted about 5 PM by an individual reporting three people were dead inside a residence at 3487 County Road 6041, southwest of Huntsville.  The homicide victims were identified as Tami Lynn Chenoweth, 51, James Stanley McGhee, 59, and Cheyene Chenoweth, 26.

Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division Special Agents called to the crime scene were able to begin developing leads in the case, prompting a statewide search for two particular vehicles known to have been at the residence earlier in the day and possibly driven away from the crime scene by the killer.  Information was also developed identifying a child believed to have been at the home who was abducted by the killer or a woman had also been at the crime scene.

State troopers assigned to the Arkansas State Police Highway Patrol Division found one of the vehicles abandoned in Faulkner County along Interstate 40 near Mayflower.  Troopers secured the truck and transported it to state police headquarters where special agents began searching for evidence associated with the Madison County homicides and child abduction.

At 10:10 PM Highway Patrol Division troopers spotted a van matching the description of the second crime scene vehicle traveling westbound along Interstate 30 near Benton.  As state troopers initiated a traffic stop, a passenger in the van exited the vehicle armed with a rifle and began verbally provoking the troopers who had made the traffic stop.  Simultaneously other troopers moved-in from behind the gunman and were able to arrest Hunter Chenoweth, 22, of DeQueen.

The driver of the van stopped by state police was a 25 year-old DeQueen woman.  Also in the van was the abducted infant, less than one year-old.

The child was unharmed and later released to Department of Human Services.  The female driver has been questioned by state police and released.

Chenoweth is being held at the Saline County Detention Center while the homicide investigation continues today.  Formal charges associated with the homicides will be determined by the Madison County prosecuting attorney.

The Ouachita County Extension Homemakers Council will once again present the Gladys Lindsey/Alphonso T. Denham Extension Homemakers Scholarship this spring. Scholarship guidelines and applications may be picked up high school counselors office or at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service located at 2760 Mt. Holly Road.  For more information call 231-1160. Application deadline is April 1, 2021. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. 

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 25, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,144
Confirmed Cases: 1,845
Probable Cases: 299
Total Active Cases: 29
Active Confirmed Cases: 19
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 2,064
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,786
Recovered Probable Cases: 278
Total Deaths: 50
Confirmed Deaths: 39
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,647
Confirmed Cases: 2,804
Probable Cases: 843
Total Active Cases: 53
Active Confirmed Cases: 34
Active Probable Cases: 19
Total Recovered Cases: 3,492
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,696
Recovered Probable Cases: 796
Total Deaths: 102
Confirmed Deaths: 74
Probable Deaths: 28

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,025
Confirmed Cases: 1,281
Probable Cases: 788
Total Active Cases: 45
Active Confirmed Cases: 8
Active Probable Cases: 37
Total Recovered Cases: 2,025
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,237
Recovered Probable Cases: 788
Total Deaths: 54
Confirmed Deaths: 36
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 716
Confirmed Cases: 630
Probable Cases: 86
Total Active Cases: 8
Active Confirmed Cases: 7
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 696
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 613
Recovered Probable Cases: 83
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 390
Confirmed Cases: 291
Probable Cases: 99
Total Active Cases: 6
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 381
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 285
Recovered Probable Cases: 96
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0
ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 317,396
Confirmed Cases: 250,725
Probable Cases: 66,671
Recovered Cases: 307,306

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/
For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

COTTON, BANKS INTRODUCE THE COUNTERING CHINESE PROPAGANDA ACT
Washington, D.C. – Today, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Representative Jim Banks (R-Indiana) introduced the Countering Chinese Propaganda Act. 

The bill is based on recommendations from the Republican Study Committee’s National Security Strategy and authorizes sanctions against the United Front Work Department (UFWD), which is an overseas influence arm of the Chinese Communist Party. 

 “The Chinese Communist Party expands its disinformation campaign each day–concealing information regarding the origin of COVID-19, lying about its oppression of Uyghurs and other religious minorities, and infiltrating American universities and businesses. The United Front Work Department (UFWD) is just another venue for the CCP to spread its propaganda and to coopt foreign groups to toe the CCP line. We must put an end to their tactics,” said Cotton. 

 “The United Front participated directly in the Uyghur genocide and the oppression of Christians in China—but its ultimate goal is to spread those persecutory tactics around the globe. The leadership in Washington may have changed, but China’s political warfare hasn’t. It’s fallen to Congress to expose and counter Communist Party disinformation. We can’t back down now,” said Banks.

The legislation: 
Creates a new sanctions authority against state backed disinformation networks.
Requires the Secretary of State to examine whether or not the United Front Work Department meets the criteria to be sanctioned under this new authority. 

Additional Background: 
On December 2, 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took the historic step of imposing visa sanctions on individuals active in the UFWD.  

Chairman Xi has described the United Front as a “magic weapon” that will help bring about “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” 

The United Front has led aggressive campaigns of subversion and espionage on U.S. college campuses through the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) and Chinese-language centers called Confucius Institutes. The United Front has also funded a number of think tanks in Washington D.C., and co-opted business leaders to squash criticism of China. Despite this information, there are currently over a hundred United Front organizations that openly operate in the United States.

Republican Study Committee Member Rep. Jody Hice sent a letter today to the Carter Center in Georgia expressing concern over the group’s decision to co-host an event with the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament, which is an organization affiliated with the United Front of the Chinese Communist Party. 

The text of the Countering Chinese Propaganda Act can be found here

 

COTTON, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE BILL TO END CHINA’S ACCESS TO MULTI-YEAR VISAS
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) introduced the Visa Security Act to end China’s access to 10-year multi-entry visas. Senator Cotton advocated for a similar provision in his recently released report, “Beat China: Target Decoupling and the Economic Long War.”

“Since 2014, the Chinese Communist Party has had access to 10-year business and tourist visas, which allow Chinese citizens to enter and exit the United States as they please. In issuing these visas, the U.S. has welcomed the CCP, its intelligence agencies, and those they have coopted with open arms. This was a bad decision in 2014 and it’s time we fixed this error,” said Cotton.

“The Obama/Biden appeasement of Communist China did nothing but bolster General Secretary Xi’s power. We know Communist China will stop at nothing to steal American technology and intellectual property in an attempt to dominate the world. There is no reason Communist China should have been given preferential visa treatment, and I’m proud to work with my colleagues to continue to hold them accountable,” said Scott.

“Until the Chinese Communist Party ends its systematic violations of human rights and religious freedom, the United States cannot remain complicit by offering 10-year multi-entry visas to Chinese nationals.  The Visa Security Act will stop the revolving door the CCP has used for half a decade and instead demand accountability in the global human rights effort,” said Blackburn.

“China poses the single greatest geopolitical threat to the United States. The Chinese Communist Party engages in propaganda and censorship to control what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think about China. It’s long past time to end the Chinese Communist Party’s abuse of our visa system. This bill counters China’s aggression and advances American security,” said Cruz.

“It is long overdue for the United States to fully address the imbalances in our relationship with China and stop the Chinese Communist Party from exploiting our programs and openness. Rubio said. Terminating China’s access to 10-year multi-entry visas is a logical step in overturning bad policy by the Obama Administration. China should not be given special treatment that is out of step with our relationship, the abuses they are committing, and its malign activities in the U.S.,” said Rubio.

Bill Summary:
The Visa Security Act would prohibit Chinese nationals from receiving 10-year B-1/B-2 visas until the Secretary of State certifies that the PRC has:
Ceased its campaign of economic and industrial espionage against the United States;
Ended its provocative and coercive behavior towards Taiwan;
Withdrawn its national security law with respect to Hong Kong and fully upheld its commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984;
Ended its systematic oppression of Uighurs, Tibetans, and other ethnic groups;
Retracted its unlawful claims in the South China Sea; and
Released foreign hostages and wrongfully detained individuals in the People’s Republic of China.
Under this legislation, Chinese citizens would be eligible for one-year multi-entry visas. This policy would represent a return to the pre-2014 visa status quo.

The legislation does not apply to Taiwan or certain residents of Hong Kong.


COTTON, GALLAGHER INTRODUCE IRAN SANCTIONS RESOLUTION
 Washington, D.C. – Today Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), and 44 other members of Congress introduced a resolution to oppose lifting sanctions on Iran. The members released the following statement after introduction:

 “The United States must maintain sanctions on the Iranian regime until it abandons its nuclear ambitions and ends its support for violence and terror around the region. Iran took advantage of weak policies during the Obama Administration, and President Biden must not repeat those same mistakes.”

 Cosigners of the resolution include: Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kevin Cramer (R- North Dakota), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), Todd Young (R-Indiana), and 20 members of the House of Representatives.

 Background:
In 2019, Cotton and Gallagher introduced a similar resolution to reaffirm support for U.S. policy barring Iran from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons and to reject sanctions relief.

February 24, 2021

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: DON’T GET SNOWED BY UTILITY BILL SCAMS
LITTLE ROCK – After Arkansas’s historic snowfall has melted away and the temperatures return to more consistent weather, Arkansans are left to deal with pesky scam callers pretending to be utility providers. Scam artists will pose as utility companies and prey on unsuspecting Arkansans then ask for immediate payment over the phone. This scam causes far too many Arkansans to lose their hard-earned money.

“Arkansans should be skeptical of unsolicited calls where the person is demanding immediate payment by phone and claiming that a water, electric or gas bill is late,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I urge Arkansans to hang up and reach out to the utility company directly, using the number on their last bill or the company’s website to determine the status of their bill.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to ensure payment is sent to the utility company safely, securely and timely:
Contact the utility company directly by calling the listed number and verifying the amount owed.
Drop off the payment at the utility office or an authorized payment location.
Pay online on the utility company’s website with a credit card or call the company directly.
Consider participating in an automated bank account draft system, if it is offered.
Mail the payment to the company directly.

The scammer may also request that the recipient purchase gift cards or prepaid debit cards to pay off the amount owed. The scammer will ask for the code on the purchased card, which gives them complete access to money on the card. In most cases, once the prepaid card money is depleted, it cannot be recovered. Remember, utilities will never require you to pay by gift card or prepaid debit card – only scammers do that.

Arkansans should notify the company if they have been contacted by one of these scammers. If Arkansans have paid money to the scammer, file a complaint with the Attorney General.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

 

13TH JUDICIAL DRUG TASK FORCE TO MEET
The Board of Directors meeting for the Thirteenth Judicial District Drug Task Force will meet via Zoom on February 24, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. If you would like to join the zoom meeting please email Mary Dempster @ maryde7l 70l@yahoo.com for the link.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 24, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,142
Confirmed Cases: 1,845
Probable Cases: 297
Total Active Cases: 35
Active Confirmed Cases: 26
Active Probable Cases: 9
Total Recovered Cases: 2,056
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,779
Recovered Probable Cases: 277
Total Deaths: 50
Confirmed Deaths: 39
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,625
Confirmed Cases: 2,801
Probable Cases: 824
Total Active Cases: 48
Active Confirmed Cases: 37
Active Probable Cases: 11
Total Recovered Cases: 3,475
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,690
Recovered Probable Cases: 785
Total Deaths: 102
Confirmed Deaths: 74
Probable Deaths: 28

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,122
Confirmed Cases: 1,281
Probable Cases: 841
Total Active Cases: 48
Active Confirmed Cases: 10
Active Probable Cases: 38
Total Recovered Cases: 2,020
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,235
Recovered Probable Cases: 785
Total Deaths: 54
Confirmed Deaths: 36
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 715
Confirmed Cases: 630
Probable Cases: 85
Total Active Cases: 11
Active Confirmed Cases: 10
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 692
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 610
Recovered Probable Cases: 82
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 388
Confirmed Cases: 290
Probable Cases: 98
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 4
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 376
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 283
Recovered Probable Cases: 93
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 316,593
Confirmed Cases: 250,266
Probable Cases: 66,327
Recovered Cases: 306,382

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/


USACE VICKSBURG DISTRICT ANNOUNCES NEW EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT BRANCH CHIEF
VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District has selected a new Emergency Management Branch chief to lead and inform throughout crises situations.

Robert Hess will serve as the principal advisor to USACE Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard on all matters relating to natural and technological disasters, national security emergencies, civil disturbances, and terrorism activities. He will also manage the Vicksburg District Emergency Management program.

Hess previously served as the deputy chief of Emergency Management and Force Readiness Department at the United States Coast Guard Sector Mobile in Mobile, Alabama. Throughout his tenure, he implemented and enforced of all aspects of Executive Order 10173, the Ports and Waterways Safety Act of 1972, Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002, Security and Accountability of Every Port (SAFE Port) Act of 2006 and other U.S. Coast Guard maritime security authorities for the Sector Mobile Area of Responsibility covering five deep-water ports located in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

In addition to various civilian assignments with the Department of Defense, Hess completed 27 years of service with the U.S. Coast Guard and retired in 2016. His operational assignments include Deepwater Horizon branch director, USCG State of Alabama, Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer, USCG Eighth District New Orleans, Louisiana, and Hurricane Katrina Operations section chief, and USCG Sector Mobile Incident Management Team (IMT).

A native of Indiana, Hess is a certified Masters Level emergency manager, exercise practitioner, professional continuity practitioner and Type 3 incident commander. Hess is also a fire, Emergency Management Services (EMS), Incident Command System (ICS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) instructor, as well as a paramedic and career firefighter. He is also an adjunct professor at Alabama Fire College, where he is one of few instructors permitted to teach the HAZMAT Awareness and Operations level, HAZMAT Technician level and HAZMAT Incident Commander Certification courses. Hess holds a master’s degree in Criminal Justice Management.

For more information, contact the Public Affairs Office at 601-631-5818.

The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The Vicksburg District is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.

 

ARKANSAS COUPLE SENTENCED TO A COMBINED FOUR YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR AGGRAVATED IDENTITY THEFT AND MAIL FRAUD
El Dorado, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that Patrick Wayne Watson, age 24, now of Conway, Arkansas, and Kennan Dane O’Bier, age 24, now of Nash, Texas, were sentenced in Federal Court for their roles in a Mail Fraud and Identity Theft scheme in Magnolia, Arkansas.  O’Bier was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release and Watson was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release, both on one count of Mail Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft.  They were each ordered to pay $200 in special assessments and to pay restitution in the amount of $42,113.12.  The Honorable Susan O. Hickey, Chief United States District Judge, presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in El Dorado, Arkansas.

According to court records, between August of 2018 through January 31st of 2019, Watson, who was employed at a local bank, used his position at the bank to review personally identifiable information and banking information of customers.  While doing so, Watson took photographs of the personally identifying information of over one hundred bank customers on his cellular phone.  Watson and O’Bier together then used at least six (6) of those customer’s information to open PayPal, Amazon, and Wayfair accounts in the names of the unsuspecting bank customers.

 Over the six months of the scheme, Watson and O’Bier then used those accounts to order thousands of dollars in products from Amazon and Wayfair and had them delivered to multiple addresses, to include their home in Magnolia, Arkansas.  On April 23, 2019, a federal search warrant was obtained by the FBI and executed on their Magnolia home.  Many of the shipped items were found as well as additional evidence of the Mail Fraud and Identity Theft scheme.  Subsequent to this search warrant, a search of Watson’s cell phone resulted in law enforcement discovering the photographs of additional bank customers’ information which were not, to date, used in the scheme.  

Watson and O’Bier were indicted on the scheme in August of 2019.  Watson entered a plea to Mail Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft charges on June 22, 2020.  O’Bier entered his plea to Mail Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft on July 20, 2020.  

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Hot Spring County Sheriff’s Office, the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office and the Miller County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Wulff prosecuted the case for the United States.
 

BOOZMAN: FOLLOW ARKANSAS’S EXAMPLE TO SAFELY REOPEN SCHOOLS
Arkansas has been allocated $686 million in Boozman-backed COVID-19 relief funding which it has used to safely reopen schools in August 2020. School districts invested in cleaning supplies, barriers and retrofitted classrooms.

“Educators thought creatively and found solutions to these new problems. And, although every school and community had different challenges, they moved ahead with the same goal: finding the best and safest way to get and keep children and teachers in the classroom,” Boozman said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research recommends schools reopen. Earlier this month the CDC issued new guidance to help schools safely open for in-person learning. While President Joe Biden pledged to reopen schools within his first 100 days in office, the administration is now backing away from the original goal.

Over the past year, Congress has delivered $113 billion to support education during the COVID-19 pandemic including $68 billion to help bring K-12 students back to the classroom. As of February 9, sates have spent just under $5 billion of the money allocated for elementary and secondary schools.

Getting students back in the classroom must be a priority not only for students, but for women who are shouldering much of the burden of this crisis.

In February 2020, women held the majority of non-farm payroll jobs. They outnumbered men in the workforce for the first time in American history. A recent analysis by the National Women’s Law Center shows today the number of women in the workforce is at a 33-year low.

— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) urged returning students to in-person classroom instruction nationwide and highlighted the success of Arkansas as an effective model of how it can be done safely.

“Arkansas is setting the example. The Natural State can be proud of the teachers, administrators and elected state leaders who continue to find ways to keep schools open and provide critical services children deserve. It’s time that students in other states have the same opportunities,” Boozman said on the Senate floor.

February 23, 2021

CADC ANNOUNCES OPENING OF CRISIS ASSISTANCE LIHEAP PROGRAM
Central Arkansas Development Council announced today Crisis Assistance applications for the 2021
Winter Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will be accepted beginning February 22, 2021

Both Regular and Crisis Assistance applications will continue to be accepted until funds are exhausted in the following counties: Calhoun, Clark, Columbia, Dallas, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Lonoke, Miller, Montgomery, Nevada, Ouachita, Pike, Pulaski, Saline, Sevier, and Union Counties. 

For additional information about dates, times and locations visit https://www.cadc.com/utility-assistance.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program assists low-income households with home energy costs by administering the Regular Assistance and Crisis Intervention Programs. Each program provides financial assistance to eligible households with a one-time per program payment to the household's energy supplier or, under certain circumstances, to the applicant. The Crisis Intervention Program only provides assistance to eligible households facing energy-related emergencies.
For Community Action Agency information for other Arkansas counties, visit  
http://acaaa.org/local-community-action-agencies

CADC is a nonprofit Community Action Agency, an equal opportunity employer and a United Way Agency.  The mission of CADC is to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty, to help vulnerable populations achieve their potential and to build strong communities in Arkansas through community action.
 

ARKANSAS BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD LAUNCHES VACCINATE THE NATURAL STATE
Little Rock, Ark. (February 22, 2021) — Vaccinate the Natural State, a new initiative led by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield in collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, Arkansas Minority Health Commission, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas Council, UAMS and Walmart, was announced today. The statewide initiative will educate Arkansans about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage individuals to get the vaccine as soon as possible – by doing so they will be taking a critical step toward helping end the pandemic. 

“The health of our communities relies on every eligible Arkansan getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them,” said Curtis Barnett, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Blue Cross. “Vaccinations offer our best path for eliminating the virus, ending the suffering, and starting the process of returning our lives back to some sense of normal. The organizations that have come together to fuel this movement represent best-of-class knowledge coupled with connected networks that can ensure the word gets out that Vaccinate the Natural State can be life-changing for all of us.”

“Vaccinate the Natural State will address the misinformation that has left many hesitant, or unsure how or when they can be vaccinated,” said Jennifer Dillaha, M.D., state epidemiologist for Arkansas, Arkansas Department of Health. “We want Arkansans to understand that the vaccine is the safest, most effective way to protect themselves and their communities. We are appreciative that Arkansas Blue Cross stepped forward to help the state during the earliest rounds of the vaccinations and now has convened these organizations to create a movement that will have a lasting effect on our state.”

Vaccinate the Natural State is a combined effort from a diverse set of organizations across every corner of the state – working to encourage all Arkansans to get the COVID-19 vaccine and help end the pandemic. 

The campaign, which launches in mid-March, will have two primary focuses: business-to-business engagement and hyper-local community engagement. 

“AFMC is proud to once again partner with Arkansas Blue Cross and the Arkansas State Chamber,” added Ray Hanley, president and CEO, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC). “AFMC supports the Arkansas Department of Health and their vaccination efforts across the state. AFMC is the state’s designated quality improvement organization and we will work to promote and educate Arkansans on the importance of this vaccine.”

To support Arkansas’ business community, Arkansas Blue Cross is partnering with the Arkansas State Chamber and AFMC to provide objective information and educational resources, video modules, communication toolkits, and outreach to help guide businesses through the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine. Through this effort, business owners and leaders will be equipped to confidently lead their organizations as more COVID-19 vaccines are made available and be armed with the knowledge to guide their employees through the vaccination process and getting employees back to work.

“As we’ve done with many critical issues, our role will be to mobilize and educate local chambers of commerce across the state and help them reach out to the businesses and industries in their hometowns,” said Randy Zook, president and CEO, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “All of the chambers across Arkansas will be asking businesses to join the movement through the ‘Power Over Pandemic Pledge.’”

Through the Power Over Pandemic Pledge, business leaders commit to their organizations joining the Vaccinate the Natural State movement. The pledge reads: 

As an Arkansas employer and business leader, I commit to helping fight COVID-19 and will do my part to end the pandemic. I pledge to:
·       Lead by example by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I am able,
·       Strongly encourage all medically eligible employees and others in my organization to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,
·       Provide the resources my associates need to make an informed decision in favor of being vaccinated, and
·       Make receiving a vaccine as easy as possible for those in my organization.

We are all in this together and we must all work together to help end the pandemic.

Through Arkansas Blue Cross’ work with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission, the NWA Council, UAMS and Walmart, a public service and grassroots campaign will be launched to educate Arkansans on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage them to receive the vaccine when it is available to them. Within this effort, a particular emphasis will be placed on rural, underserved communities and those with health disparities. In addition to education, this outreach will work toward getting vaccines to all communities.

“Arkansas Blue Cross is especially committed to addressing the health disparities of our state as they relate to the vaccine, at this critical time,” Creshelle Nash, M.D., M.P.H., Arkansas Blue Cross medical director for Public Programs and Utilization Management. “COVID-19 has uncovered and illuminated deep, long-term health and healthcare disparities, some more obvious than others, in our nation and here at home. We all have a responsibility to bridge the great disparity divides – racial, digital and healthcare access. Working together through Vaccinate the Natural State will take us a long way in that journey to end the COVID pandemic for our underserved communities now and begin to bring health equity to our state long-term.”

The state’s Minority Health Commission will be instrumental in the success of the Vaccinate the Natural State movement. Its role is to assure all minority Arkansans receive equitable access to preventive healthcare, including the COVID-19 vaccine. 

 “In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, our commission will be focused on educating the minority populations in Arkansas and removing barriers they may have to receive the vaccines,” said ShaRhonda Love, director, Arkansas Minority Health Commission. “We want every Arkansan to have confidence that the vaccine is a personal first step in protecting themselves, their families and friends from this pandemic.”  

 The Northwest Arkansas Council is committed to preparing organizations to return to work through the vaccination of its workforces and – through the Council’s Healthcare Transformation Division – continue to ensure the Latinx and Pacific Islander communities receive this protective immunization.   

“We are excited to have a role in this powerful collaboration of organizations working to better our state,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., vice chancellor, UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and Northwest Arkansas Council representative. “We are prepared to do our part to end the pandemic and that means ensuring Arkansans understand the benefits of vaccination in a language they understand and have access to this preventive measure. Arkansas is a ‘community,’ and it will take everyone working together to be successful.” 

Walmart will be supporting both the business and community engagement efforts of Vaccinate the Natural State as well.

“We’re committed to helping eligible Arkansans by administering vaccines in rural and underserved communities where it is most needed,” said Gerard Dehrmann, senior vice president of Public Affairs & State and Local Government Relations, Walmart. “It will take all of us working together to reach our neighbors in the furthermost areas of our state, and we are proud to help make it happen.”

To learn more about the Vaccinate the Natural State movement, visit VaccinateTheNaturalState.com.  

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 23, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,133
Confirmed Cases: 1,839
Probable Cases: 294
Total Active Cases: 33
Active Confirmed Cases: 25
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 2,049
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,774
Recovered Probable Cases: 275
Total Deaths: 50
Confirmed Deaths: 39
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,613
Confirmed Cases: 2,794
Probable Cases: 819
Total Active Cases: 49
Active Confirmed Cases: 37
Active Probable Cases: 12
Total Recovered Cases: 3,462
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,683
Recovered Probable Cases: 779
Total Deaths: 102
Confirmed Deaths: 74
Probable Deaths: 28

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,110
Confirmed Cases: 1,279
Probable Cases: 831
Total Active Cases: 50
Active Confirmed Cases: 14
Active Probable Cases: 35
Total Recovered Cases: 2,007
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,230
Recovered Probable Cases: 777
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 713
Confirmed Cases: 628
Probable Cases: 85
Total Active Cases: 12
Active Confirmed Cases: 11
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 689
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 607
Recovered Probable Cases: 82
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 387
Confirmed Cases: 290
Probable Cases: 97
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 5
Active Probable Cases: 4
Total Recovered Cases: 375
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 282
Recovered Probable Cases: 93
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 315,759
Confirmed Cases: 249,847
Probable Cases: 65,912
Recovered Cases: 305,470

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

LIFESHARE BLOOD DRIVE SCHEDULED AT GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH
There will be a Lifeshare Blood Drive at GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH, 1505 California Avenue in Camden on MONDAY, MARCH 01st from 3 to 7 PM. Someone will need blood every two seconds and just one donation can save up to three lives. With all the wonderful advances in modern medicine, there is no manufactured substitute for human blood. It must be provided by volunteer blood donors in the community.
One in three people need blood in their lifetime. If you don't need blood, it's almost certain that someone close to you will. As a community blood center, Lifeshare provides the blood components to hospitals and medical facilities in the community. 
You can sign up for a time slot in advance at https://donor.lifeshare.org/.../sch.../drive_schedule/221351\

COTTON, BISHOP TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: WITHDRAW BECERRA
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Representative Dan Bishop (R-North Carolina), and 73 other members of Congress today sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to withdraw California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s nomination to serve as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The letter may be found here. Full text may be found at the bottom of this release.

In part, the members wrote, “We write to express our grave concerns regarding the nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Mr. Becerra’s lack of healthcare experience, enthusiasm for replacing private health insurance with government-run Medicare-for-all, and embrace of radical policies on immigration, abortion, and religious liberty, render him unfit for any position of public trust, and especially for HHS Secretary.”

Cosigners of the letter include: Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), and 64 members of the House of Representatives. A full list of supporters can be found in the letter.

COTTON, ROMNEY BILL TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE, STOP EMPLOYMENT OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS 
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) released the details of the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, a bill that would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10 and mandate E-Verify to ensure the wage increase only goes to legal workers.

The bill will also index future minimum wage increases to inflation and includes protections for small businesses. Full details may be found here.

“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low—that’s unfair. Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans. Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both,” said Cotton.

“For millions of Americans, the rising cost of living has made it harder to make ends meet, but the federal minimum wage has not been increased in more than ten years. Our legislation would raise the floor for workers without costing jobs and increase the federal minimum wage to $10, automatically raising it every two years to match the rate of inflation. Additionally, our bill would protect American jobs by requiring employers to use E-Verify to ensure that businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants. We must create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs, while also eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration,” said Romney.

Bill Highlights
Minimum Wage Increase:
Gradually raises the federal minimum wage to $10 by 2025, and then indexes it to inflation every two years.
Creates a slower phase-in for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
Prevents any increase during the Covid-19 emergency.

Mandatory E-Verify:
Mandates E-Verify for all employers, phasing in implementation over 18 months to allow small businesses additional time to comply.
Raises civil and criminal penalties on employers that hire unauthorized aliens and/or violate I-9 paperwork requirements.
Prevents fraud by requiring workers 18 and older to provide a photo ID to their employer for verification, which will be cross-referenced if a photo is available through the E-Verify system.

February 19, 2021

ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF ARKANSAS PERSONNEL TO ASSIST WITH POWER RESTORATION IN MISSISSIPPI
Little Rock, Ark. — Feb. 19, 2021 — The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas have dispatched 51 line workers and equipment to assist Central Electric Power Association of Carthage, Miss., Southwest Electric Power Association of Lorman, Miss. and Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association of Yazoo City, Miss. with power restoration efforts in the aftermath of this week’s severe winter weather.

Crews from Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative of Ozark, Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI) of Little Rock, First Electric Cooperative of Jacksonville, Petit Jean Electric Cooperative of Clinton and Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Texarkana will provide construction and repair assistance.

Many of the crews that are headed to work in Mississippi dealt with power outages in Arkansas earlier this week.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.


COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 19, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,129
Confirmed Cases: 1,835
Probable Cases: 294
Total Active Cases: 58
Active Confirmed Cases: 49
Active Probable Cases: 9
Total Recovered Cases: 2,020
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,746
Recovered Probable Cases: 274
Total Deaths: 50
Confirmed Deaths: 39
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,611
Confirmed Cases: 2,792
Probable Cases: 819
Total Active Cases: 91
Active Confirmed Cases: 66
Active Probable Cases: 25
Total Recovered Cases: 3,422
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,655
Recovered Probable Cases: 767
Total Deaths: 98
Confirmed Deaths: 71
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,092
Confirmed Cases: 1,278
Probable Cases: 814
Total Active Cases: 59
Active Confirmed Cases: 20
Active Probable Cases: 39
Total Recovered Cases: 1,980
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,223
Recovered Probable Cases: 757
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 711
Confirmed Cases: 627
Probable Cases: 84
Total Active Cases: 20
Active Confirmed Cases: 18
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 679
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 599
Recovered Probable Cases: 80
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 387
Confirmed Cases: 290
Probable Cases: 97
Total Active Cases: 17
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 367
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 278
Recovered Probable Cases: 89
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 314,445
Confirmed Cases: 248,996
Probable Cases: 65,449
Recovered Cases: 301,772

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

February 18, 2021

DEFRANCE PREMIERES NEW LINEUP AT MAD BATTLE
Rock & roll mainstays deFrance return to the stage Saturday, February 20, with a refreshed lineup including the powerhouse vocal talents of Charlie Askew and the addition of Camden native Mitchell Lowe on guitar. The band will participate in the second annual MAD Battle in El Dorado, Arkansas.

“The great folks of South Arkansas are in for a surprise. The new lineup has already been compared to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple,” founder Drew deFrance said. Bassist/vocalist Connor Roach is “excited to debut a new take on the classic sound deFrance is known for.”

Lead singer Charlie Askew hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, and is an experienced touring vocalist. A semi-finalist on American Idol Season 12, the “mystery man” (Nicki Minaj) brings an impressive four-octave range to deFrance’s classic rock sound. Mitchell Lowe currently calls Magnolia home and is a seasoned session guitarist, ready to add his six-string skills to the band’s shred-tastic guitar lineup.

The second annual MAD Battle is hosted by the Murphy Arts District and takes place in the First Financial Music Hall in El Dorado, Arkansas, on Saturday, February 20. deFrance will go head-to-head with six other bands during a night full of live music. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. and the show starts at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 day-of-show, available at ElDoMAD.com/madbattle.

Learn more about deFrance at deFranceMusic.com.

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 18, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,129
Confirmed Cases: 1,836
Probable Cases: 294
Total Active Cases: 65
Active Confirmed Cases: 56
Active Probable Cases: 9
Total Recovered Cases: 2,013
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,739
Recovered Probable Cases: 274
Total Deaths: 50
Confirmed Deaths: 39
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,609
Confirmed Cases: 2,770
Probable Cases: 819
Total Active Cases: 98
Active Confirmed Cases: 72
Active Probable Cases: 26
Total Recovered Cases: 3,419
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,647
Recovered Probable Cases: 766
Total Deaths: 98
Confirmed Deaths: 71
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,091
Confirmed Cases: 1,278
Probable Cases: 813
Total Active Cases: 67
Active Confirmed Cases: 24
Active Probable Cases: 43
Total Recovered Cases: 1,971
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,219
Recovered Probable Cases: 752
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 711
Confirmed Cases: 627
Probable Cases: 84
Total Active Cases: 22
Active Confirmed Cases: 19
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 677
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 598
Recovered Probable Cases: 79
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 385
Confirmed Cases: 290
Probable Cases: 95
Total Active Cases: 17
Active Confirmed Cases: 10
Active Probable Cases: 7
Total Recovered Cases: 365
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 277
Recovered Probable Cases: 88
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 314,192
Confirmed Cases: 248,855
Probable Cases: 65,337
Recovered Cases: 300,613

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

COTTON CONDEMNS THE BIDEN AMNESTY PLAN
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement regarding President Biden’s immigration proposal:

“This immigration plan is a disaster. It would devastate our economy by flooding our workforce with millions of new workers during a pandemic. And it does nothing to secure our borders, yet grants mass amnesty, welfare benefits—even voting rights—to over 11 million people who came here illegally. It’s a nonstarter.”


COTTON PRESENTS STRATEGY TO NAVIGATE U.S.-CHINA RELATIONSHIP
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today released a report titled: “Beat China: Target Decoupling and the Economic Long War” detailing the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses to the United States. The report offers recommendations for how the United States can decouple key strategic sectors of its economy from China, mitigate the costs of decoupling, and reorganize parts of the federal government to wage the economic long war with China. You can read the report here.

“Our economy has become far too entangled with China’s, providing the Chinese Communist Party with leverage over the U.S. government and industry. It’s past time we decoupled from China. My report provides a detailed explanation of the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses and a strategy to beat them in the economic long war,” said Cotton.

Senator Cotton joined the Reagan Institute today to unveil his report. The event may be watched here. His remarks as delivered may be found here.

A breakdown of Senator Cotton’s report is below:

Section One: The State of the U.S.-China Economic Relationship

How are the U.S. and Chinese Economics Intertwined?

Key Points of Reliance

Section Two: Targeted Decoupling

Objectives and Considerations for Targeted Decoupling

Targeted Decoupling in Practice

Section Three: Mitigating the Costs of Decoupling

Section Four: Federal Government Leadership

A Flawed Status Quo

A Path Forward

February 16, 2021

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON COVID UPDATE – FEBRUARY 16, 2021
Gov. Asa Hutchinson started off his weekly COVID-19 update discussing a different challenge currently facing Arkansas: some of the coldest weather and heaviest snowfall in the state's recorded history.

Areas of the state have been slammed by winter weather over the past several days. As of Tuesday afternoon snowfall ranged from six inches for Southwest Arkansas to over eight inches in portions of central and northwest Arkansas. Temperatures have also dropped to some of the lowest levels in the state's recorded history. The conditions have made road conditions hazardous throughout much of the state. Weather forecasters predict more snow and frigid temperatures throughout the week.

In response Hutchinson announced the state is extending the National Guard's deployment in Arkansas. The National Guard has been assisting in recent weeks with the state's vaccine rollout but will now aid emergency responders as they deal with winter storm conditions.

Hutchinson also stressed the need for Arkansans to converse as much energy as possible. Energy providers in Arkansas performed several planned power outages across the state on Tuesday due to strain caused by the subfreezing temperatures. Hutchinson said the region is also experiencing a shortage in natural gas due to current high demand and wells made temporarily inoperable by subfreezing temperatures. Given more winter weather ahead, Hutchinson said energy conservation is critical right now in Arkansas.

Hutchinson then moved on the Arkansas Department of Health's daily COVID-19 report. The state reported just 177 additional cases of the virus over the previous 24 hours. Hutchinson cautioned against too much optimism regarding that low figure, however. Due to the weather very few tests were performed across the state on Monday and Tuesday. Arkansas' hospitalization is nonetheless continuing to decline, with just 638 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. Deaths increased by 12 on Tuesday for a total of 5,287. The Department of Health has recorded a total of more than 313,000 COVID-19 transmissions in Arkansas since the pandemic began. Of those around 299,000 have contracted the virus and since recovered. 

Hutchinson then made two announcements regarding the state's COVID-19 guidelines. The first is the lessening of restrictions in regard to large indoor events. Previously any indoor commercial event with the planned attendance of 10 or more people required state approval. That limit has now been raised to 100. Hutchinson added that spring school sports with two or more teams can now proceed after a plan has been submitted to the Arkansas Department of Health and approved.

Finally, Hutchinson reminded Arkansans they can view the latest road conditions in the state by visiting www.idriveArkansas.com.

We'll continue to keep you updated on all the latest developments, both locally and from across the state. 

ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF ARKANSAS STRONGLY REQUEST LIMITED ELECTRICITY USAGE
Little Rock, Ark. — The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas ask members to immediately limit the use of electric service through the next 24 hours to ensure that members will continue to receive at least a minimum of electric service. Additional appeals may be necessary.

According to Andrew Lachowsky, vice president of planning and market operations for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, this is an emergency situation and that rolling electrical outages are possible, unless electric consumption is reduced immediately. He said because of the extremely cold weather and the unusually high requirement for electricity, Arkansas’ electric cooperatives and other regional utilities have reached a point where demand for electricity has exceeded the supply. The western part of Arkansas is particularly impacted at the current time, and it is possible conditions may worsen state-wide.

Electric cooperative officials are working diligently with the reliability coordinator to restore normal service as soon as possible.
“This is an unprecedented time, and we urge electric cooperative members to immediately reduce the use of electrical requirements by turning off or not using non-essential lights and electric appliances, especially electric water heaters, clothes dryers, and dishwashers and to turn heating thermostats to lower settings,” he said.

Lachowsky emphasized that public cooperation is essential until the electric power issue has passed. If reductions are not sufficient to permit continuity of service, it may be necessary to begin temporary interruptions of electric service in specific areas across the state.

Cooperative representatives are also directly contacting large industrial and commercial members asking their cooperation as well. The interconnections of electric systems frequently make it possible for one system to secure additional electricity from neighboring systems. However, the present extreme cold weather is widespread in this region, making additional electric power very limited. Thus, conservation of energy is important to help insure a restoration of complete electric service. The cooperatives will continue to keep the public advised of further developments concerning cutbacks of electric power.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides various services to the distribution cooperatives; and AECC, a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to more than 500,000 members, or customers, in Arkansas and surrounding states.

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB CANCELS MEETING
The Camden Kiwanis Club has canceled their Thursday meeting this week due to the weather and road conditions.

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 16, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,123
Confirmed Cases: 1,834
Probable Cases: 289
Total Active Cases: 92
Active Confirmed Cases: 80
Active Probable Cases: 12
Total Recovered Cases: 1,980
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,714
Recovered Probable Cases: 266
Total Deaths: 50
Confirmed Deaths: 39
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,595
Confirmed Cases: 2,777
Probable Cases: 818
Total Active Cases: 151
Active Confirmed Cases: 121
Active Probable Cases: 30
Total Recovered Cases: 3,346
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,585
Recovered Probable Cases: 761
Total Deaths: 98
Confirmed Deaths: 71
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,086
Confirmed Cases: 1,278
Probable Cases: 808
Total Active Cases: 78
Active Confirmed Cases: 31
Active Probable Cases: 47
Total Recovered Cases: 1,955
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,212
Recovered Probable Cases: 743
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 711
Confirmed Cases: 627
Probable Cases: 84
Total Active Cases: 28
Active Confirmed Cases: 25
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 671
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 592
Recovered Probable Cases: 79
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 387
Confirmed Cases: 290
Probable Cases: 97
Total Active Cases: 25
Active Confirmed Cases: 15
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 359
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 272
Recovered Probable Cases: 87
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0
ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 313,348
Confirmed Cases: 248,351
Probable Cases: 64,997
Recovered Cases: 297,552

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/
For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

February 15, 2021

THE ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF ARKANSAS REQUEST CONSERVATION OF ELECTRICITY USAGE
Little Rock, Ark. — Feb. 14, 2021 — The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas ask members to voluntarily limit use of electric service immediately and through midnight Tuesday in order to ensure that electric service is not interrupted. 

Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas members are urged to reduce the use of electrical requirements by limiting use of non-essential electricity and appliances, especially electric water heaters, clothes dryers and dishwashers, and to turn heating thermostats to lower settings.

Due to the extremely cold weather and the unusually high requirement for electricity, electric cooperatives and other electric utilities across Arkansas and surrounding states have reached a point where electricity demand has nearly exceeded the capacity.

The cooperative emphasized that voluntary cooperation is essential. If voluntary reductions are not sufficient to maintain continuity of service, it may be necessary to begin interruption of electric service to specific areas for limited time periods. It is not presently anticipated that this type of rotating curtailments will be necessary.

Cooperative representatives are also directly contacting large and commercial users asking their cooperation as well.

The interconnections of electric systems frequently make it possible for one system to secure additional electricity from neighboring systems. However, the present extreme cold weather is widespread in the Arkansas region, making the strain on the electric grid much higher than normal. Thus, conservation of energy is important to help ensure continuous electric service.

Your local electric cooperative will continue to keep the public advised of further developments concerning voluntary reductions of electric power.

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides various services to the distribution cooperatives; and AECC, a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to more than 500,000 members, or customers, in Arkansas and surrounding states.


$24 MILLION IN PATRONAGE TO ARKANSAS FARM CREDIT MEMBERS
$24 million is going back into the hands of Farm Credit members across Arkansas in February.  As a financial cooperative, members share in the profits when their association has a profitable year.  

2020 was another strong year for Arkansas Farm Credit associations.  Members are receiving their share in the form of patronage checks being distributed in late February.  

$24 million back in members’ pockets demonstrates Farm Credit’s financial strength and commitment to the cooperative principle of providing value to members.  More than $266 million in patronage has gone to Arkansas members since 1997. 

Farm Credit finances all-size farms, homes, land, livestock, equipment, agribusinesses and more.  

With more than $4.6 billion in assets, the Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas (AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, Farm Credit Midsouth, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas and Delta Agricultural Credit Association) support agriculture and rural communities across the state.  

More information available at ARFarmCredit.com.

ADEM ANNOUNCES 2020 COMMUNITY PREPAREDNESS AWARD WINNERS
NORTH LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Division of Emergency Management is proud to announce the Regional and State winners of the 2020 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards.  These awards serve to recognize a local group or individual that has shown outstanding community preparedness efforts.  Individuals or groups are nominated by their local Office of Emergency Management Coordinators and forwarded to an ADEM area coordinator for regional review.  Each region can select a regional winner and that selectee is forwarded to ADEM to determine the overall state winner.  Categories of submission include Whole Community Preparedness and Youth Community Preparedness.

This year regional winners were selected from the Central and Northwest regions.  They are:
Central Area:  Cabot High School Emergency Preparedness Class
Northwest Area: ATU Emergency Preparedness Department Youth Preparedness Camp (Whole Community Award)
Northwest Area:  Sebastian County Youth Preparedness Council (Youth Community Award)

The 2020 Arkansas Individual and Community Preparedness Award winner is the Cabot High School Emergency Preparedness Class.  Students in the class were challenged to identify awareness and training deficiencies related to the school’s cardiac arrest event emergency action plan.  The students determined that the size of the CHS campus, 40 acres, was too large for the school’s three Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to efficiently be used in response to a cardiac arrest event.  Through the student’s initiative, the school received a grant that allowed another AED to be placed on campus.  This action reduced the probable response time to a cardiac event from almost three minutes to less than 10 seconds.

Individuals and groups of all ages are encouraged to increase preparedness in their communities.  Contact your local office of emergency management if you or your group would like to share your preparedness efforts!

#BePrepared #ArPrepares #PreparednessPartners

ARMTEC ANNOUNCES NEW CONTRACT
Armtec Countermeasures Co., Coachella, California, was awarded a $24,953,504 firm-fixed-price contract for Flare Aircraft Countermeasure M206 and Flare Aircraft Countermeasure MJU-7A/B.  Bids were solicited via the internet with three received.  Work will be performed in Camden, Arkansas, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2026.  Fiscal 2019 and 2020 aircraft procurement appropriations funds in the amount of $24,953,504 were obligated at the time of the award.  U.S. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, is the contracting activity (W52P1J-21-F-0101).

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 15, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,122
Confirmed Cases: 1,936
Probable Cases: 289
Total Active Cases: 99
Active Confirmed Cases: 84
Active Probable Cases: 15
Total Recovered Cases: 1,973
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,710
Recovered Probable Cases: 263
Total Deaths: 49
Confirmed Deaths: 38
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,594
Confirmed Cases: 2,776
Probable Cases: 818
Total Active Cases: 169
Active Confirmed Cases: 137
Active Probable Cases: 32
Total Recovered Cases: 3,327
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,568
Recovered Probable Cases: 759
Total Deaths: 98
Confirmed Deaths: 71
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,085
Confirmed Cases: 1,277
Probable Cases: 808
Total Active Cases: 96
Active Confirmed Cases: 34
Active Probable Cases: 62
Total Recovered Cases: 1,936
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,208
Recovered Probable Cases: 728
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 711
Confirmed Cases: 627
Probable Cases: 84
Total Active Cases: 31
Active Confirmed Cases: 26
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 668
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 591
Recovered Probable Cases: 77
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 387
Confirmed Cases: 290
Probable Cases: 97
Total Active Cases: 25
Active Confirmed Cases: 15
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 359
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 272
Recovered Probable Cases: 87
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 313,028
Confirmed Cases: 248,080
Probable Cases: 64,948
Recovered Cases: 296,050

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

COTTON CONDEMNS WORK REQUIREMENT REVERSAL
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement regarding President Biden’s decision to revoke Medicaid work requirements:

“Arkansans believe that if you’re a healthy adult without kids, you should try to work before receiving new government benefits. But President Biden doesn’t agree—he’s tearing up the Arkansas Works program, a modest plan that encourages able-bodied adults to seek employment. From the Keystone Pipeline decision to blocking work requirements, the Biden administration continues to put American workers last.”

February 12, 2021

CADC TO DISTRIBUTE USDA COMMODITIES FEBRUARY 16 & 17, 2021 IN OUACHITA COUNTY
The Central Arkansas Development Council will distribute USDA Commodities in Ouachita County Tuesday, February 16 and Wednesday, February 17, 2021.  Distribution will begin at 9 am.  

Food Items May Include: Apple Juice, Garbanzo Beans, Dried Blueberries, Rice Cereal, Instant Milk, Spaghetti, Raisins, Spaghetti Sauce, Orange Juice, Split Peas, Applesauce
In Ouachita County, commodities will be distributed at Carnes Park located at 955 Adams SE, in Camden .

ENTERGY ARKANSAS RESTORING POWER, MONITORING NEXT WEATHER EVENT
Sub-freezing temps forecast into next week
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The sleet and freezing rain that interrupted service to nearly 5,000 Entergy Arkansas customers over the last 24 hours had mostly passed through the state by Thursday afternoon. Crews were working to restore power to approximately 840 customers that remained without electricity, and those customers were expected to be restored by 10 p.m.  

“We had more sleet and less freezing rain than anticipated, so we had fewer outages than we planned for,” said Michael Considine, vice president of customer service, “which is always a good thing. We know that the loss of power disrupts our customers’ lives, and we will continue working until all customers have been restored.

“We are looking ahead and planning for sub-freezing temperatures and the possibility of snow and more freezing rain Sunday evening and overnight into Monday,” he continued. “We will be prepared, just as we were for today’s weather.”

Customers should be careful as they assess damages and debris around their home, and safely remove anything that looks like it could potentially cause problems before more winter weather moves into the state. Energy Arkansas advises customers to stay away from downed power lines and report those at 1-800-9OUTAGE or on the Entergy app.

To stay up to date on outages and restoration:

Download the Entergy app for Apple or Android operating systems at Entergy.com/app.

Register for address-specific alerts by texting REG to 36778. Customers will need an account number and ZIP code. Once registered, text OUT to 36778 to report an outage.

Visit “View Outages” page at EntergyStormCenter.com.

Follow Entergy Arkansas at Twitter.com/EntergyArk or Facebook.com/EntergyArk.

Follow updates in local news media, including radio, television and newspapers.

As the temperature continues to stay near freezing or below, there are steps customers can take to better prepare their homes with energy efficiency improvements. Information can be found at EntergyStormCenter.com, along with how to prepare an emergency plan and first-aid kits.

Considine said, “Energy consumption usually increases with colder temperatures, and we want customers to be aware that would be reflected in the next billing cycle. As a reminder, you can monitor your energy usage in near real time with the Entergy app if you have an advanced meter, which would be about 75 percent of our customers.”

The Entergy Arkansas service area covers 63 counties with approximately 715,000 customers in all regions of the state. Find more information online at www.EntergyArkansas.com.

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 10, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.

COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,098
Confirmed Cases: 1,810
Probable Cases: 288
Total Active Cases: 113
Active Confirmed Cases: 92
Active Probable Cases: 21
Total Recovered Cases: 1,936
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,680
Recovered Probable Cases: 256
Total Deaths: 48
Confirmed Deaths: 37
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,563
Confirmed Cases: 2,759
Probable Cases: 804
Total Active Cases: 165
Active Confirmed Cases: 139
Active Probable Cases: 26
Total Recovered Cases: 3,301
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,549
Recovered Probable Cases: 752
Total Deaths: 97
Confirmed Deaths: 71
Probable Deaths: 26

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,063
Confirmed Cases: 1,266
Probable Cases: 797
Total Active Cases: 102
Active Confirmed Cases: 37
Active Probable Cases: 65
Total Recovered Cases: 1,908
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,194
Recovered Probable Cases: 714
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 704
Confirmed Cases: 620
Probable Cases: 84
Total Active Cases: 36
Active Confirmed Cases: 30
Active Probable Cases: 6
Total Recovered Cases: 656
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 580
Recovered Probable Cases: 76
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 380
Confirmed Cases: 286
Probable Cases: 94
Total Active Cases: 26
Active Confirmed Cases: 18
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 351
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 265
Recovered Probable Cases: 86
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 311,043
Confirmed Cases: 246,589
Probable Cases: 64,454
Recovered Cases: 292,298

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

HOT SPRING COUNTY MAN DIES IN OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING; STATE POLICE CID INVESTIGATING
FEBRUARY 11, 2021
A Hot Spring County man, armed with a shotgun, who fired the gun on local sheriff’s deputies was shot and killed this afternoon. Jacob Aaron Thomas, 29, died at the scene of the shooting near his residence at 1374 Two Rivers Trail, southwest of Malvern (Hot Spring County).

Hot Spring County sheriff’s deputies had been sent to the location about 1:30 this afternoon following the report of a domestic disturbance at Thomas’ home.

After arriving in the area, deputies saw Thomas, armed with what was later identified as a shotgun, walking from a pasture toward the front of the residence.  As Thomas approached closer, he reportedly opened fire on the deputies who returned gunfire killing Thomas.  The deputies were not injured.

The Hot Spring County Sheriff’s Department has requested the assistance of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division to conduct an investigation of the incident.

Special Agents will present an investigative case file to the Hot Spring County Prosecuting Attorney who will determine whether the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer was consistent with Arkansas laws.

Questions that may relate to the identity of the sheriff’s deputies and their administrative duty status should be directed to the Hot Spring County Sheriff’s Department.

KATY HAYES TO LEAD SAAC'S CORKS AND CANVAS WORKSHOP
Ready to unleash your inner Picasso? Or just want to have a fun night out with your buddies? SAAC'S Corks and Canvas workshops are just what you need. The next workshop, entitled "Drinks and Inks", will be hosted on March 1 by artist Katy Hayes. Bring your favorite beverage and get ready to have some fun. SAAC will provide individually wrapped snacks and all the supplies waiting for you on stage at your individual table. Limit of 10 participants. The workshop fee is $40.
Corks and Canvas classes have something for everyone, from the newbie to the seasoned artist. Enjoy a time of relaxation with your friends re-creating Katy's featured projects of the night. Inks, brushes, and all the supplies are provided, and an experienced, award-winning local artist leads you step-by-step through the process complete a work of art in three hours.
Katy Hayes is an El Dorado native who is currently working remotely for DreamWorks Animation as a Character FX Artist. In her free time, she runs an Etsy shop selling anything from sketches to decorative resin coasters. She's taken art lessons since she was young and, after quickly realizing pre-med wasn't for her at Texas A&M University, decided to study animation. She went on to earn a Masters in Visual Effects from Savannah College of Art and Design. Katy uses traditional art to get back to the root of why she wanted to study animation in the first place--she loves art!
"I'm excited to be back in El Dorado, and I hope you'll join me in playing with some alcohol inks (while we enjoy a little alcohol)!" said Katy. "Participants will experiment with alcohol ink, in the form of paintings, coasters, and even a little fire!"
For more information or to register for this workshop, please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. In accordance with government regulations, masks will be required. Attendees must sign in at the door and have your temperature taken. Tables will be physically distanced and attendance will be limited for guest safety. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

 

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF ARKANSAS APPLAUDS BOOZMAN’S LEADERSHIP TO HELP VISION-IMPAIRED AFFORD ACCESS TECHNOLOGY
WASHINGTON— Arkansas members of the National Federation of the Blind praised U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) for his leadership to help reduce financial barriers to access technology that prevent blind Americans from fully participating in the workforce. 

Boozman helped introduce legislation to create a refundable tax credit to help blind Americans afford access technology. The Access Technology Affordability Act of 2021 would allow for more widespread access to adapted computers, text-to-speech screen access software and electronic Braille displays used to access computers, tablets, smart phones and digital content.

“As an optometrist, I understand how vital access technology is to enable blind Americans to engage in their communities,” Boozman said. “This bill is key to providing low-cost resources to help visually impaired individuals secure employment and realize their full potential.”

During a phone call with Arkansas members of the National Federation of the Blind on Wednesday, participants shared why passage of the Access Technology Affordability Act of 2021 is a priority for them.

“The National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas greatly appreciates the legislative leadership of Senator John Boozman,” said Nena Chadwick, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas. “Because he is working closely with the blind community, blind and low vision Arkansans will have greater opportunities for success in education, employment, and living the lives we want through the passage of the Accessible Technology Affordability Act.”

Boozman introduced the legislation with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).  “Technology is of little help if you cannot afford it. Making access technology affordable is key to ensuring that blind and seeing-impaired individuals can participate fully in our communities,” said Cardin. “I am proud to work with Senator Boozman on this legislation, which gives blind Marylanders, and all blind Americans, flexible economic support to help them lead full and successful lives.”

The Senate bill is cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Richard Burr (R-NC). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Mike Kelly (R-PA).


COTTON, COLLEAGUES WARN PRESIDENT BIDEN OF IMMIGRATION CRISIS, HEALTH RISKS
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) sent a letter urging President Biden to reassess and reverse his executive actions on immigration, which have led to increased illegal border crossings by unvetted and unvaccinated aliens in the middle of a pandemic. The letter may be found here. Full text may be found at the bottom of this release.

Cosigners of the letter include: John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Rick Scott (R-Florida), John Thune (R-South Dakota), and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina).

February 11, 2021

OUACHITA COUNTY EXTENSION HOMEMAKERS TO PRESENT SCHOLARSHIP
The Ouachita County Extension Homemakers Council will once again present the Gladys Lindsey/Alphonso T, Denham Extension Homemakers Scholarship this spring. Scholarship guidelines and applications may be picked up high school counselors office or at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service located at 2760 Mt. Holly Road, For more information call 231-1160. Application deadline is April 1, 2021. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

NEW DOLLAR GENERAL IN CAMDEN
Site preparation work has begun at the site of the new Dollar General store location in Camden located at the corner of Washington Street & Cash Road.

Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development (OPED), was happy to have assisted Dollar General in structuring this deal. OPED began working on this project in January 2020 with Dollar General and helped to facilitate the purchase of the locations in both Chidester and Camden.

The Chidester store location is nearing completion. It is always a positive thing to see new investment in our communities! 

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 11, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.

COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,085
Confirmed Cases: 1,799
Probable Cases: 286
Total Active Cases: 124
Active Confirmed Cases: 103
Active Probable Cases: 21
Total Recovered Cases: 1,913
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,659
Recovered Probable Cases: 254
Total Deaths: 47
Confirmed Deaths: 36
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,537
Confirmed Cases: 2,741
Probable Cases: 796
Total Active Cases: 170
Active Confirmed Cases: 149
Active Probable Cases: 21
Total Recovered Cases: 3,270
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,521
Recovered Probable Cases: 749
Total Deaths: 97
Confirmed Deaths: 71
Probable Deaths: 26

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,055
Confirmed Cases: 1,263
Probable Cases: 792
Total Active Cases: 112
Active Confirmed Cases: 43
Active Probable Cases: 69
Total Recovered Cases: 1,890
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,185
Recovered Probable Cases: 705
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 700
Confirmed Cases: 616
Probable Cases: 84
Total Active Cases: 33
Active Confirmed Cases: 27
Active Probable Cases: 6
Total Recovered Cases: 655
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 579
Recovered Probable Cases: 76
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 375
Confirmed Cases: 284
Probable Cases: 91
Total Active Cases: 25
Active Confirmed Cases: 20
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 347
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 261
Recovered Probable Cases: 86
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 309,940
Confirmed Cases: 245,865
Probable Cases: 64,075
Recovered Cases: 290,548

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCAMMERS TURN TO SOCIAL MEDIA TO STEAL FROM BROKEN-HEARTED
LITTLE ROCK – With Valentine’s Day approaching, it is important to remain cautious of suitors trying to gain access to your personal information online. Con artists are getting more creative now than ever by targeting those Arkansans looking for love. Scammers will befriend someone online, slowly gaining trust and access to more personal information, including financial information, birthdates, and social security numbers. This is commonly referred to as a “sweetheart scam.”

“Scammers will use whatever means they can to steal from Arkansans,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Guard your heart, bank account and personal information from cons trying to become friends to steal your hard-earned money.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for social media users:
Share your hopes and dreams, not your salary and bank information.
Be honest about your expectations, not your pin number.
Reveal your hobbies, not your passwords.
Open your heart to love, not your wallet to a sob story.
Plan to meet in public, not in a private, secluded or an unknown place.
Talk about your favorite vacations, not when you’re leaving town.
Hope for the best in others, but don’t ignore red flags.

The Attorney General’s Office provides a tip card for consumers, how to spot phishing scams, information for parents to spot cyberbullying and tips on internet safety.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Attorney General’s Office at consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

February 10, 2021

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, February 11th at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by SAU Tech Representatives. You are required to wear a mask was entering and leaving the building, if you do not have one they will provide you with one. Your temperature will be taken, and you'll sign in and report your temp. All the chairs in the meeting room will be spaced out as required.

DANSONS SET TO OPEN PELLET MILL IN HOPE
335,000-square-foot facility will be the largest barbecue pellet mill in the United States

HOPE, Ark. (February 10, 2021) – Dansons USA will open the country’s largest barbecue wood pellet mill and distribution center in Hope, Ark., the company announced today. The facility, which is approximately 335,000 square feet and sits on 143 acres, will initially start with three pelleters and a 100,000-ton capacity, but has the infrastructure for eventual expansion to 300,000 tons and nine pelleters. The site will also serve as a distribution center for wood pellets as well as wood pellet barbecue grills and will be responsible for creating approximately 50-100 new jobs in the next three years.

“Dansons is setting the barbecue world on fire with its high-quality wood pellets and top-flight pellet grills,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “Dansons and Hope are a perfect match. Dansons needs wood. Arkansas has wood. Dansons needs a first-rate workforce. Arkansans are the hardest working and smartest employees anywhere. Dansons and Arkansas will set the standard for barbecue wood pellets, and soon grill masters will be serving barbecue with the distinctive taste of Arkansas.”

The site, which will be the crown jewel of Danson’s pellet creation and distribution operation, is a former Georgia-Pacific facility and has a strong infrastructure for wood processing. The town of Hope also has extensive fiber processing abilities, with several sawmills, paper mills and particle board plants already in the area. For Dansons, the pellets will be manufactured for the Pit Boss® Grills and Louisiana Grills® brands and are a 100% all-natural product that are free of artificial flavors, spray scents and binders.

“This is a great day for the city of Hope,” Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. “Dansons is renowned for their exceptional products and community involvement, and I know they will have a huge impact on economic and community development in Southwest Arkansas. I look forward to continuing to work with them as they join Arkansas’ diverse business community.”

“We are blessed to be able to expand our operation and open our new pellet mill location in Hope, Arkansas,” said Dansons President Jeff Thiessen. “The state of Arkansas has been the most welcoming, most friendly and most encouraging location we’ve ever done business in. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission, from the town, county and state level, has welcomed us with open arms from the onset of this project. As a family-owned business, the personal touches that have come from Governor Hutchinson and Secretary Preston’s offices, as well as those from Jack Thomas and Steve Harris with the state and local EDC, have meant a lot to us. We believe in relationships and people and we really like the people we are working with.”

“Dansons conducts business with both integrity and excellence, and we are thrilled to welcome them to our community,” Hope Mayor Don Still said. “Dansons’ family-focused values are a great fit for Hope, and I look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with the company in the future.”

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 10, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,073
Confirmed Cases: 1,791
Probable Cases: 282
Total Active Cases: 128
Active Confirmed Cases: 108
Active Probable Cases: 20
Total Recovered Cases: 1,897
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,646
Recovered Probable Cases: 251
Total Deaths: 47
Confirmed Deaths: 36
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,523
Confirmed Cases: 2,729
Probable Cases: 794
Total Active Cases: 173
Active Confirmed Cases: 150
Active Probable Cases: 23
Total Recovered Cases: 3,253
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,508
Recovered Probable Cases: 745
Total Deaths: 97
Confirmed Deaths: 71
Probable Deaths: 26

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,051
Confirmed Cases: 1,260
Probable Cases: 791
Total Active Cases: 116
Active Confirmed Cases: 43
Active Probable Cases: 73
Total Recovered Cases: 1,882
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,182
Recovered Probable Cases: 700
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 696
Confirmed Cases: 614
Probable Cases: 82
Total Active Cases: 37
Active Confirmed Cases: 29
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 6437
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 575
Recovered Probable Cases: 72
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 374
Confirmed Cases: 284
Probable Cases: 90
Total Active Cases: 28
Active Confirmed Cases: 22
Active Probable Cases: 6
Total Recovered Cases: 343
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 259
Recovered Probable Cases: 84
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 308,848
Confirmed Cases: 245,433
Probable Cases: 63,615
Recovered Cases: 288,774

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

UNPAID LEAVE THROUGH THE FMLA IS INACCESSIBLE FOR 63 PERCENT OF WORKERS IN ARKANSAS
Arkansas Analysis Shows the State’s Workers and Families Urgently Need a National Paid Leave Program Following the Expiration of Emergency Benefits

 An analysis of demographic data in Arkansas released today by the National Partnership for Women & Families demonstrates the urgent need for a national paid family and medical leave plan. A comprehensive and inclusive paid leave plan must allow every American worker to take time off work to address an illness or to take care of a loved one, without missing a paycheck.

 The new Arkansas analysis sheds light on the gaps in access to paid family and medical leave.
●      Lack of Access to Paid and Unpaid Family and Medical Leave: Unpaid leave through the FMLA is inaccessible to 63 percent of workers in Arkansas because they either are not covered by the law or cannot afford to take the unpaid leave provided;
●      Without Access to Paid Leave, Women and People Of Color Are Leaving the Workforce: Women, especially Black, Latinx, AAPI and Native American mothers, have been hit the hardest by pandemic closures. Women of color work in many of the most-affected industries and are bearing the brunt of increased caregiving without the support of in-person schooling or childcare. In Arkansas, more than two-and-a-half times as many women were unemployed at the end of 2020 as one year earlier.
●      Paid Leave is Good for the Economy: A national paid leave plan would reduce the number of working families in Arkansas facing significant economic insecurity when they need to take family and medical leave by 79 percent.
●      Paid Leave is Good for Public Health: More than 265,000 Arkansans contracted COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic. Moreover, an estimated 10 to 15 percent – 26,500 to 39,700 – will experience long-term symptoms including difficulty breathing, chest pain or fatigue that may require care from a loved one or interfere with work. Paid leave allows people to take time off work to care for themselves and their family members during the pandemic and beyond.

 “Even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge, millions of Americans across the country risk missing a paycheck if they need to take time off work to care for themselves or a loved one.” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The pandemic has exacerbated the inequities across our economy that disproportionately impact women and people of color, who are least likely to have access to paid family and medical leave. As Americans continue to struggle with the impact of the pandemic, Congress must prioritize enacting emergency paid family and medical leave in the short term, as a down payment for a national program in the future.”

The state-by-state analysis comes after the emergency paid leave provisions that were enacted as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and amended by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act expired at the end of last year.

 Momentum is growing in support of enacting paid family and medical leave with President Biden including expanded emergency paid family and medical leave in the American Rescue Plan. In addition to the federal emergency paid family and medical leave policy that was enacted in 2020, Colorado voters supported a ballot initiative that provides paid family and medical leave of up to 12 weeks for all workers in the state - bringing the total number of states with paid family and medical leave to 10, including Washington, D.C. Importantly, paid leave is supported by voters across the political spectrum as well as the majority of small business.

TREASURER OF STATE DENNIS MILLIGAN ANNOUNCES 2ND QUARTER EARNINGS
Treasury maintains stable foundation despite pandemic
Little Rock, Ark. – The State Treasury earned $8.39 million during the second quarter of fiscal year 2021, which was from October through December 2020. The receipted earnings now total $408 million since Milligan took office in 2015. Like many investment portfolios, the global pandemic is still affecting the state’s returns, Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan told the State Board of Finance today.

“Before Covid first impacted the United States and the Fed took interest rates down to 25 to zero basis points, our short-term portfolio was getting a weighted average yield of roughly 200 basis points, or 2 percent. In comparison, our short-term portfolio is now getting less than 20 basis points, or less than one-quarter of a percent,” Milligan said. “This is just one example of the unfortunate effect of the pandemic on our portfolio.”

The treasury’s $4.5 billion investment portfolio consists largely of commercial paper and mortgage-backed securities backed by the federal government. However, Milligan has diversified the portfolio over the past several months, allowing it to remain stable and see positive growth amid the economic uncertainty of the pandemic.

“We have been able to maintain a solid-performing portfolio despite the current interest rate environment,” he said, yet cautioning that the economic recovery would be slow. Since the state is statutorily limited to investing strictly in the fixed-income market, it will not see as sharp of a recovery as the stock market has in recent months. 

“We operate within the fixed income market where the risks are less and the investments are more secure, but the return on those investments are lower than they are in a booming stock market,” Milligan explained. “So while people might be seeing some good strides in their retirement accounts, it’s likely because it includes a mixture of stocks and bonds. And since we operate in the fixed income market, which consists of only bonds or fixed-return securities, we’ll see a much slower recovery.”

But while slower to achieve, the recovery will likely be more secure, he added. “In the meantime, we’re continuing to lay a solid foundation that the State Treasury can rely upon for years to come, and that’s something we’re proud of.”

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE RANKS AS A TOP CONSERVATIVE STATE IN NEW ANALYSIS
CPAC Host Releases Scores of Arkansas State Lawmakers
Alexandria, VA—Lawmakers of the Arkansas Legislature kept alive a streak as one of the most conservative state legislatures in the country, according to new analysis by ACUF, the host of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Arkansas has previously ranked as the second-most conservative legislature behind Tennessee. Early results from the 2020 analysis indicate Arkansas will be in the running for Most Conservative Legislature in the country.

Review the scorecard to see the ratings of all Arkansas state lawmakers and find out which votes ACUF (American Conservative Union Foundation) scored.
Arkansas lawmakers maintained a 71% average conservative score, meaning lawmakers voted for the conservative position on roughly 7 of 10 votes scored by ACUF. While Arkansas Republicans (78%) scored 16 points below 2019’s most conservative Republican conference (Wisconsin, 94%), the overall average score was buoyed by Arkansas Democrats (48.5%) who outscored their Massachusetts (1.6%) and New York (3.9%) counterparts by nearly 50 points.

“Arkansas is a rarity among state legislatures in that Republicans and Democrats actually share some of the same sensibilities about good governance,” said ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp. “The budgetary session saw wise financial planning during the economic shutdown and conservatives won a key vote to deliver the tax cuts that were promised in 2019. We encourage conservative and liberal lawmakers alike to continue their efforts to advance reforms that lift government burdens from taxpayers.”
ACUF’s Ratings of Congress and Ratings of the States are initiatives of ACUF’s Center for Legislative Accountability (CLA). These ratings are designed to reflect how over 8,000 elected officials across the nation view the role of government while illustrating the differences between chambers of the legislature and revealing lawmakers’ positions on a wide variety of issues that directly affect citizens.

ACU Foundation reviewed each piece of legislation voted on in both chambers of the legislature to produce average scores of each chamber as well as individual scores for each sitting member.

ENTERGY ARKANSAS PREPARES FOR POSSIBLE WINTER STORM
Customers in some areas may experience power outages due to ice accumulation
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Forecasts call for rain, freezing rain and sleet over a large portion of the state and Entergy Arkansas is prepping for potential outages. Those areas are likely to see ice accumulations, ranging for one-eighth to one-half inch, with below freezing temperatures and very low wind chills through Saturday.  

“This storm could quickly result in ice forming on trees and power lines, which may cause power outages,” said Michael Considine, vice president of customer service. “Entergy Arkansas is preparing now by staging crews in strategic locations for quick response, including the use of additional resources from outside the state. They are equipped with the material necessary to repair broken poles and downed lines as soon as it’s safe to do so and will continue the work until power is restored to all our customers.

“It is unclear how severe the damage may be, but customers should be prepared to be without power in dangerously cold weather,” he continued, “as we also have more safety protocols in place due to COVID-19, which may extend the time necessary for restoration. We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, and we ask that our customers do the same. We have several ways to help our customers weather the storm with access to the most current information at their fingertips.”

To stay up to date on outages and restoration:
Download the Entergy app for Apple or Android operating systems at Entergy.com/app.
Register for address-specific alerts by texting REG to 36778. Customers will need an account number and ZIP code. Once registered, text OUT to 36778 to report an outage.
Visit “View Outages” page at EntergyStormCenter.com.
Follow Entergy Arkansas at Twitter.com/EntergyArk or Facebook.com/EntergyArk.
Follow updates in local news media, including radio, television and newspapers.

Customers are encouraged to plan for the possibility of extended power outages, but some simple tips for preparing the home for storms and potential damages can be found at EntergyStormCenter.com. It includes winterizing water pipes, insulating windows and doors, removing potentially dangerous limbs and overhead structures from rooflines, and temporary fixes for damages caused by winter weather.

A storm kit should include flashlights, a battery-powered radio, fresh batteries, canned food and a can opener, a fresh water supply for several days, a first-aid kit with all necessary medications, and emergency chargers for electronic devices and cellular phones.

Entergy Arkansas customers should follow these safety tips if power is lost:
Call 800-9OUTAGE (800-968-8243) to report outages but also to report downed power lines or electrical equipment that is sparking and dangerous.
If connecting a portable generator to the home, do so only if the connection has been installed by a licensed electrician.
Do not use in an enclosed space.
Stay clear of Entergy Arkansas crews as they work, for your safety and theirs.
The Entergy Arkansas service area covers 63 counties with approximately 715,000 customers in all regions of the state. Find more information online at www.EntergyArkansas.com.

 

COTTON CONDEMNS CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE RULE REVERSAL
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement after the Biden administration withdrew a rule that would have required schools and universities in the United States to report their relationships with Confucius Institutes:

“Confucius Institutes are front groups for the Chinese Communist Party on American campuses. The federal government ought to shut down these regime-run institutes or, at a minimum, require colleges to disclose their secret agreements with them. Instead, the Biden administration is allowing a foreign influence operation to continue in the shadows.”

February 09, 2021

QUARANTINE RELIEF PROGRAM FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
The Quarantine Relief Program (QRP) was developed to help individuals that are quarantined due to COVID-19.  After a positive test, the patient is subjected to social isolation and separated from society.  If patient has lack of family or financial support, social isolation can lead to patient re-entering society and spreading the virus.  Also, the people that patient has come in contact with will be quarantined for 2 weeks.  This person may also need assistance through this program.

This program is not income based; it is assistance based. This program is for anyone who needs help while quarantined.  If you or someone you know needs help obtaining necessary supplies while quarantined, please call 231-1111.

GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON’S COVID UPDATE – FEBRUARY 09, 2021
Arkansas health officials reported just shy of 1,500 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday while also noting a consistent decline in the state's active caseload.

During his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state marked a one-day growth of 1,475 cases on Tuesday. That raises the state's cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to nearly 309,000. Active cases saw another consecutive day of decline with 422 less. Currently the state is reporting just under 15,000 active cases in Arkansas. Deaths increased by 42, raising the death toll from COVID-19 in Arkansas to 5,148 since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations decreased by two, leaving 775 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. 

In his vaccine report, Hutchinson said the state has so far received more than 651,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Of those around 413,000 have been given, or around 63 percent. Hutchinson then stated the state was prepared to follow possible new guidance from the CDC recommending second doses be reallocated if individuals do not return for their required booster shot. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second follow-up shot three to four weeks after the initial dose. Hutchinson urged those who have received their first dose to follow up on their second.

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero shared a positive milestone during the conference with Arkansas' COVID-19 testing positivity rate falling below 10 percent for the first time in months. The 10 percent marker is the goal set forth by the CDC in terms of reducing positivity rates of the virus.

In review, the state reported 1,475 new cases of the virus for a cumulative total of nearly 309,000 since the start of the pandemic. Deaths increased by 42 to 5,148 while hospitalizations fell by two to 775. Total recoveries numbered around 290,000 as of Tuesday. Active cases fell by 422 for a current total of 14,898. 
We'll continue to keep you updated on all the latest developments, both locally and from across the state.

FEDERAL COURT RULES LAWSUIT CHALLENGING ARKANSAS VOTING RESTRICTIONS CAN MOVE FORWARD
(CHICAGO) –  A federal court has rejected a request by Arkansas and local county officials to dismiss a lawsuit challenging sections of the state election code that disenfranchise voters who are not proficient in English.

 The suit was filed in November by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and attorney Lawrence A. Walker of Little Rock on behalf of Arkansas United, an immigrants’ rights group, and its executive director.

  “Setting an arbitrary limit on those who may be assisted by others to cast an effective vote is anti-democratic,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “The limit does nothing to obtain fairer elections; indeed, this law deters participation by persons with every right to vote in elections in Arkansas.”

 At issue is a section of Arkansas’ election code that prohibits voters from selecting an individual of their choice to help them vote when that individual has already helped six other voters.

 MALDEF attorneys argue such limits violate Section 208 of the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act, which provides that a voter who requires assistance to vote, including for reasons of inability to read the ballot, may bring a person of his or her choice to assist in casting the ballot.

 “The right to vote is one of our most fundamental rights in America, and when a voter’s ability to do so is hampered that right must be protected,” said Griselda Vega Samuel, MALDEF’s Midwest regional counsel. “Our clients are supporting their members and all Arkansas voters who need language support to meaningfully cast their vote, as is their right under the federal Voting Rights Act. MALDEF will fight to ensure that all Arkansas voters can choose to have a person help them cast their vote without facing criminal prosecution.”

 In his 33-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks denied the motion to dismiss filed by the state, Benton and Sebastian counties, writing that “Congress intended Section 208 to cover voters with limited English proficiency,” and that Congress had the authority to enact such provisions.

A hearing is scheduled in the case on February 9 to assess pretrial case deadlines.

ARKANSAS STUDENTS, SCHOOLS RECEIVE $118,700 FOR QUALIFYING SCORES ON ADVANCED PLACEMENT COMPUTER SCIENCE EXAMS
Winners of Computer Science Enrollment Contest Also Announced
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Education is pleased to award $118,700 to 179 students and 36 schools for achieving qualifying scores on Advanced Placement Computer Science exams. An additional $35,000 was awarded to six schools for their efforts to increase enrollment in computer science courses.

AP Incentive Program
The Arkansas Advanced Placement Computer Science A Incentive Program focuses on increasing the number of qualifying scores (3, 4, or 5) on AP Computer Science A exams. Arkansas public school students and schools were eligible to receive a monetary incentive when a student earned one computer science flex credit for successfully completing an AP Computer Science A course and received a qualifying score on the AP exam taken between August 1, 2019, and May 30, 2020.

The schools representing the top ten amounts awarded for 2019-2020 are listed below.
Fayetteville High School (Fayetteville School District) - $12,800
Bentonville West High School (Bentonville School District) - $11,350
Haas Hall Academy (in Fayetteville) - $10,100
Bentonville High School (Bentonville School District) - $8,550
Valley View High School (Valley View School District) - $6,750
eStem High School (eStem Public Charter School) - $6,200
Central High School (Little Rock School District) - $6,060
Southside High School (Fort Smith School District) - $5,500
Conway High School (Conway School District) - $4,850
Har-Ber High School (Springdale School District) - $4,350

“Schools, both large and small, around the state have embraced the Arkansas Computer Science initiative, as demonstrated by strong student achievement on Advanced Placement exams and enrollment increases in computer science classes,” ADE Secretary Johnny Key said. “I encourage students and educators to embrace the countless computer science learning opportunities that build essential academic and workforce skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The tiered rewards are as follows:
For a qualifying score of 5 on the AP Computer Science A exam, an Arkansas public school student received $1,000, with the school receiving $250.
For a qualifying score of 4 on the AP Computer Science A exam, an Arkansas public school student received $750, with the school receiving $150.
For a qualifying score of 3 on the AP Computer Science A exam, an Arkansas public school student received $250, with the school receiving $50.

#ARKidsCanCode Enrollment Contest
ADE also recognizes the six Arkansas schools listed below for their efforts to encourage students to enroll in high school computer science courses.
Annie Camp Jr. High School (Jonesboro School District)
Arkansas High School (Texarkana School District)
Bentonville High School (Bentonville School District)
Blevins High School (Blevins School District)
Greenwood Freshman Center (Greenwood School District)
Siloam Springs High School Conversion Charter (Siloam Springs School District)

Winners are recognized in the following categories. 
Schools with fewer than 1,000 students: 
Greenwood Freshman Center receives $10,000 for having the highest number and highest percentage of students enrolled in computer science courses.
Blevins High School receives $5,000 for having the largest percentage increase of students enrolled in computer science courses. 

Schools with 1,000 or more students: 
Arkansas High School receives $5,000 for having the highest percentage of students enrolled in computer science courses. 
Bentonville High School receives $5,000 for having the highest number of students enrolled in computer science classes.
Siloam Springs High School Conversion Charter receives $5,000 for having the largest percentage increase of students enrolled in computer science courses. 
In addition, Annie Camp Jr. High School won the random drawing prize package worth $5,000 that was announced in 2020. The school can use the grant to support the future growth of computer science classes. Schools received entries in this random drawing for their high enrollment percentages, growth in overall computer science enrollment, and high percentages of females enrollment in computer science courses.

MARKETPLACE SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (February 9, 2021)– In accordance with the Executive Order issued by President Biden, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals and families for Marketplace coverage in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. This SEP will allow individuals and families in states with Marketplaces served by the HealthCare.gov platform to enroll in 2021 health insurance coverage. Beginning February 15, 2021 and through May 15, 2021, these Marketplaces will operationalize functionality to make this SEP available to all Marketplace-eligible consumers who are submitting a new application or updating an existing application.

Uninsured Arkansans will have from February 15 through May 15 to enroll themselves and their families in a health insurance coverage plan through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. Plans will go into effect on the 1st of the month following plan selection.

Arkansas’s top insurance companies provide individual health insurance plans that are designed to meet the needs of Arkansans and to provide a variety of options that best fit household budgets. You may be eligible for financial assistance to help pay for the cost of the insurance.  About 80 to 85% of Arkansans receive financial assistance with their monthly premiums.

“It is always important to ensure your family’s health and wellbeing by having quality insurance coverage,” said Alan McClain, Arkansas Insurance Commissioner. “But in the midst of a pandemic it is, quite frankly, a matter of life and death.”

Insurance coverage through AID’s Health Insurance Marketplace is for any Arkansan who does not have access to health insurance coverage through an employer-provided plan, Medicare or Medicaid.

Standard benefits include inpatient care, outpatient services, emergency care and prescription drugs. Each plan also emphasizes preventative care and screenings. Most importantly, there are no lifetime limits and no restrictions for pre-existing conditions.

Arkansans can shop the plans available via a link to healthcare.gov at myARinsurance.com website. For help in selecting appropriate health insurance options and to answer any questions, Arkansans can speak with call center representatives and, if needed, may be referred to licensed insurance professionals in their home county by calling the My Arkansas HelpLine at 1-844-355-3262, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

SURVEY: SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM DROPS FURTHER BELOW HISTORICAL INDEX AVERAGE IN JANUARY 
LITTLE ROCK (Feb. 9, 2021) – The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index declined in January to 95.0, down 0.9 from December and three points below the 47-year average of 98. Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months declined seven points to a net negative 23%, the lowest level since November 2013. The net percent of owners expecting better business conditions has fallen 55 points over the past four months. 

“As Congress debates another stimulus package, small employers welcome any additional relief that will provide a powerful fiscal boost as their expectations for the future are uncertain,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to dictate how small businesses operate, and owners are worried about future business conditions and sales.” 

State-specific data isn’t available, but NFIB State Director Sylvester Smith said, “This uncertainty over the pandemic is causing small business owners to think twice before growing their businesses and creating jobs.” 

Key findings include: 
Four of the 10 Index components declined, two improved, and four were unchanged.  
The NFIB Uncertainty Index decreased 2 points to 80.  
Sales expectations for the next three months declined 2 points to a net negative 6%. 

Earnings trends over the past three months declined 2 points to a net negative 16% reporting higher earnings compared to the prior period. 

NFIB’s monthly jobs report showed job growth continued in January. Firms increased employment by 0.36 workers per firm on average over the past few months, up from 0.30 in December, a strong 2-month performance. However, the hiring remains uneven geographically and by industry. 

Fifty-one percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in January, unchanged from December. Owners have plans to fill open positions, with a seasonally adjusted net 17% planning to create new jobs in the next three months. 

Up three points from December, 55% of owners reported capital outlays in the next six months. Of those making expenditures, 41% reported spending on new equipment, 27% acquired vehicles, and 15% improved or expanded facilities. Five percent of owners acquired new buildings or land for expansion and 12% spent money on new fixtures and furniture. Twenty-two percent of owners’ plan capital outlays in the next few months, unchanged from December but still low. 

A net negative 7% of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, down 5 points from December. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes decreased 2 points to a net negative 6%, overall, not a positive picture. 

The net percent of owners reporting inventory increases rose 2 points to a net negative 4%. Owners viewing current inventory stocks as “too low” decreased 2 points in January to a net 5%, matching the decline in the percent of firms reporting higher inventories. A net 4% of owners plan inventory investment in the coming months.  Overall, a positive inventory picture. 

Owners raising average selling prices increased 1 point to a net 17% (seasonally adjusted). Eleven percent reported lower average selling prices and 27% reported higher average prices.  

Price hikes were the most frequent in wholesale (40% higher, 6% lower) and retail (27% higher, 10% lower). Seasonally adjusted, a net 28% plan price hikes, up six points from December. 

A net 25% of owners (seasonally adjusted) reported raising compensation (up four points) and a net 17% plan to do so in the coming months (up three points). Only seven percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem and 21% said that labor quality was their top business problem. 

The frequency of reports of positive profit trends decreased 2 points to a net negative 16% reporting quarter on quarter profit improvement. Among owners reporting lower profits, 43% blamed weaker sales, 17% cited the usual seasonal change, 6% cited a higher cost of materials, 6% cited labor costs, and 5% cited lower prices. For owners reporting higher profits, 60% credited sales volumes, 17% cited usual seasonal change, and 8% cited higher prices. 

Only 2% of owners reported that all their borrowing needs were not satisfied, down one point from December. Twenty-two percent reported all credit needs met and 61% said they were not interested in a loan. A net 1% of owners reported their last loan was harder to get than in previous attempts. 

One percent reported that financing was their top business problem. The net percent of owners reporting paying a higher rate on their most recent loan was negative 4%, up one point from December, a friendly lending market. 

About the Small Business Economic Trends 

The NFIB Research Center has collected Small Business Economic Trends data with quarterly surveys since the 4th quarter of 1973 and monthly surveys since 1986. Survey respondents are drawn from a random sample of NFIB’s membership. The report is released on the second Tuesday of each month. This survey was conducted in July 2020. For more information about NFIB, please visit NFIB.com. 

February 08, 2021

ART WORKSHOP OFFERED IN THE EVENTS CENTER AT FAIRVIEW PARK
Whitney Williams, Miss University of Arkansas, will be offering her “Heart for the ARTS” workshop on Saturday, February  13th, at The Events Center at Fairview Park. Whitney is bringing this FREE Arts outreach to youth as part of her service for the Miss Arkansas Pageant. Whitney’s talents include being an artist, a motivational speaker, an entrepreneur, and a very talented baton twirler with the University of Arkansas band. She will be sharing all these talents in the Workshop.

Mask up and join the fun from 10:00am - 11:30am on Saturday, February 13th. Bring your kids for a morning of fun art activities, pictures, and a special performance by Miss U of A.

Registration is going on now for children ages 7-12. Text 870-510-9332 to register or for more information. Enrollment is limited because of Covid Guidelines and masks must be worn.

The “Heart of the Arts” workshop will take place at the Events Center at Fairview Park at 2740 Mt. Holly Road in Camden, AR on the Ouachita County Recreational Center campus.

This event is presented by Rich and Vickie Robertson, the Arkansas Arts Council, and the Camden A&P commission.

OUACHITA COUNTY PRESIDENT’S DAY SCHEDULE
Monday February 15, 2021 the Ouachita County Courthouse and the Extension office will be closed on that day for Presidents Day. The Sanitation Department will run on regular schedule. They will not observe the Holiday.

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 08, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,064
Confirmed Cases: 1,782
Probable Cases: 282
Total Active Cases: 133
Active Confirmed Cases: 113
Active Probable Cases: 20
Total Recovered Cases: 1,883
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,632
Recovered Probable Cases: 251
Total Deaths: 47
Confirmed Deaths: 36
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,513
Confirmed Cases: 2,725
Probable Cases: 788
Total Active Cases: 182
Active Confirmed Cases: 162
Active Probable Cases: 20
Total Recovered Cases: 3,235
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,493
Recovered Probable Cases: 742
Total Deaths: 96
Confirmed Deaths: 70
Probable Deaths: 26

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,033
Confirmed Cases: 1,257
Probable Cases: 776
Total Active Cases: 113
Active Confirmed Cases: 45
Active Probable Cases: 68
Total Recovered Cases: 1,868
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,178
Recovered Probable Cases: 690
Total Deaths: 52
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 695
Confirmed Cases: 613
Probable Cases: 82
Total Active Cases: 40
Active Confirmed Cases: 30
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 643
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 573
Recovered Probable Cases: 70
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 372
Confirmed Cases: 281
Probable Cases: 91
Total Active Cases: 35
Active Confirmed Cases: 25
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 334
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 253
Recovered Probable Cases: 81
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 307,373
Confirmed Cases: 244,413
Probable Cases: 68,960
Recovered Cases: 286,917

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

GRIFFIN ANNOUNCES CAMPAIGN FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL
Says ‘We need an Attorney General who will back law enforcement, stand for law and order by cracking down on crime and corruption, and fight the liberal agenda of the Biden/Harris Administration in court’
LITTLE ROCK – Lt. Governor Tim Griffin issued the following statement announcing his campaign for attorney general:
“Since announcing my campaign for governor last year, I’ve been overwhelmed by the incredible support I have received from all corners of the state. While I believe Arkansans are ready for my message of bold, conservative leadership, my conversations with friends and supporters have persuaded me that at this time, I can do more for Arkansas in a different capacity. I have prayed about this decision with my family and I have listened.

Today I am announcing my campaign for Attorney General of Arkansas. We need an Attorney General who will back law enforcement, stand for law and order by cracking down on crime and corruption, and fight the liberal agenda of the Biden/Harris Administration in court. As a former U.S. Attorney and an Army JAG officer for the past 25 years, I have prosecuted those who have broken our laws. I fought the Obama/Biden agenda as a member of Congress and I'll fight to stop the Biden-Harris administration's infringement on the rights of Arkansans. And just as I have done as your Lt. Governor, I will find ways to cut waste, save taxpayer money, and deliver results for the people of Arkansas. I humbly ask for your prayers and support as I seek the office of attorney general."

About Lt. Governor Tim Griffin
During the Bush Administration, in 2006-2007, Griffin served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and previously as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Political Affairs for President George W. Bush at the White House. 

Griffin has served as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps, for over 24 years and currently holds the rank of colonel. He was mobilized to active duty in 2005 as an Army prosecutor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Mosul, Iraq, for which he was awarded the Combat Action Badge. He is currently serving as the Commander of the 134th Legal Operations Detachment (LOD) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In July 2018, Lieutenant Governor Griffin, in his capacity as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Reserve, received his master's degree in strategic studies as a Distinguished Graduate from the United States Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

He graduated from Magnolia High School, Hendrix College, Tulane Law School, and attended graduate school at Oxford University in England.

He currently serves on the boards of Our House shelter for the working homeless and Pathway to Freedom, a faith-based prison ministry, and previously served on the boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas and the Florence Crittenton Home. His wife Elizabeth is from Camden, and they live in Little Rock with their three children, Mary Katherine, John, and Charlotte Anne. They are members of Immanuel Baptist Church.

Tim Griffin grew up in Magnolia, Arkansas, a fifth-generation Arkansan and the youngest son of a minister and teacher. He was first elected the lieutenant governor of Arkansas on November 4, 2014 and is currently serving his second four-year term. He is focused on growing jobs through aggressively pursuing economic development, more parental choice in education and boldly reforming state government.

From 2011-2015, Griffin served as the 24th representative of Arkansas’s Second Congressional District. For the 113th Congress, he was a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means while also serving as a Deputy Whip for the Majority. In the 112th Congress, he served as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the House Committee on Ethics, and the House Committee on the Judiciary. In Congress, he advocated for bold tax reform and entitlement reform to grow jobs and reduce the national debt. 

February 05, 2021

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 05, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.

COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,027
Confirmed Cases: 1,746
Probable Cases: 281
Total Active Cases: 155
Active Confirmed Cases: 120
Active Probable Cases: 35
Total Recovered Cases: 1,824
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,589
Recovered Probable Cases: 235
Total Deaths: 47
Confirmed Deaths: 36
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,443
Confirmed Cases: 2,667
Probable Cases: 776
Total Active Cases: 220
Active Confirmed Cases: 184
Active Probable Cases: 36
Total Recovered Cases: 3,129
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,415
Recovered Probable Cases: 714
Total Deaths: 94
Confirmed Deaths: 68
Probable Deaths: 26

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,003
Confirmed Cases: 1,244
Probable Cases: 759
Total Active Cases: 133
Active Confirmed Cases: 57
Active Probable Cases: 76
Total Recovered Cases: 1,818
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,153
Recovered Probable Cases: 665
Total Deaths: 52
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 687
Confirmed Cases: 607
Probable Cases: 80
Total Active Cases: 41
Active Confirmed Cases: 33
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 634
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 564
Recovered Probable Cases: 70
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 363
Confirmed Cases: 278
Probable Cases: 85
Total Active Cases: 40
Active Confirmed Cases: 30
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 320
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 245
Recovered Probable Cases: 75
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 3
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 302,899
Confirmed Cases: 240,959
Probable Cases: 61,940
Recovered Cases: 280,868

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

BOOZMAN SHARES MILITARY SERVICE MEMORIES OF LATE WWII VETERAN IN RECOGNITION OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of the late Benjamin Haymon, a WWII veteran who served in the Pacific Theater, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

Haymon shared memories from his life’s experiences during an interview with a member of Boozman’s staff for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project on November 21, 2019.  

Haymon was born on November 8, 1909. He grew up in McKamie, in Lafayette County, Arkansas on his family’s farm where they grew corn, cotton and various fruits.

“That’s where we grew up, working on a farm,” he said.  After graduating from McKamie High School, Haymon had a variety of jobs, including farming and working at a paper mill in Louisiana. On April 25, 1941, Haymon was drafted into the Army. At the age of 31, he was considerably older than many of his brothers in arms. He was deployed to the Pacific Theater where he served as a cook in Port Moresby, Australia. He continued his service in New Hebrides, now called Vanuatu.

During his military service, Haymon was surrounded by the realities of war, but courageously continued to perform his duties. After returning home, Haymon worked in Garland County, Arkansas and raised his sons Lonnie and Jeffery. Following in their father’s footsteps, both sons served in the Armed Forces.

During a ceremony to honor Haymon in November 2019, he was presented with the WWII Victory Medal, coins, and letters, but the most moving moment was the formal presentation of the American flag. Haymon repeatedly shared a heartfelt “thank you” to those who attended and honored him.

Haymon passed away December 18, 2019. At the time, he was the oldest known WWII veteran in Arkansas. He is buried at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.

“Benjamin Haymon led a well-lived life. His accomplishments and story will continue to be told, and will continue to inspire future generations of Americans. I am grateful for his service to our nation and am pleased we were able to collect his stories,” Boozman said. 

Boozman will submit Haymon’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. 

SENATE PASSES COTTON, YOUNG AMENDMENT TO PROHIBIT STIMULUS CHECKS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Washington, D.C. – An amendment introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Todd Young (R-Indiana) to prohibit Economic Impact Payments (EIP) for illegal immigrants passed the Senate this evening on a bipartisan 58-42 vote.

“We shouldn’t give checks to foreigners who’ve broken our laws. Pandemic relief should go only to Americans, not illegal immigrants,” said Senator Cotton. 

“It would establish a dangerous precedent if the federal government were to give a direct cash payment to those who have jumped the line and subverted our nation’s immigration system to enter the United States,” said Senator Young. “I’m pleased the Senate has passed our amendment on a bipartisan basis.”

This amendment would have no impact on EIP eligibility for mixed-status families, an issue that was addressed in a bipartisan way in the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package. Rather, it would ensure that Democrats do not loosen the existing eligibility requirements moving forward if there is a new round of payments.

COTTON INTRODUCES BUDGET AMENDMENTS TO PROTECT AGAINST FAR-LEFT POLICIES
Amendments Aim to Open Schools, Target Court Packing and the Chinese Communist Party, and Stop Illegal Aliens from Taking Taxpayer Dollars
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced the following six amendments to the Senate Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill to ensure taxpayer funds are not redirected to support far-left priorities:

Amendment prohibiting COVID-19 relief funds from being used for school systems that are not conducting in-person learning.
Amendment prohibiting more than nine Supreme Court Justices.
Amendment allowing the imposition of sanctions on the Chinese Communist Party for concealing information regarding COVID-19.
Amendment prohibiting illegal aliens from accessing Medicaid and federally-funded health-care exchanges.
Amendment to fully fund the nuclear triad.
Amendment prohibiting taxpayer funds from being used on foreign aid for non-profits that conduct or support abortion.

“Republicans are happy to work with Democrats to bring COVID-19 relief to the American people, but we cannot and will not support a bill that redirects funds to long-standing Democratic priorities. My amendments are designed to ensure the American people – not the Senate Democrats’ far-left policies – are protected.”

COTTON STATEMENT ON IMMIGRATION EXECUTIVE ORDERS
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement on the executive orders on immigration signed by President Biden tonight:

 "Instead of helping struggling Americans, President Biden continues assaulting our immigration laws. Today the Biden administration suggested foreigners wait to illegally enter the U.S. until it can ready amnesty and non-enforcement programs. These executive orders are a step in that direction–they dismantle immigration enforcement, invite more illegal aliens to rush our borders, and endanger both the public health and economic recovery of the United States."

COTTON JOINS SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) announced today he will now serve on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Senator Cotton will retain his positions on the Armed Services Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Joint Economic Committee.

Senator Cotton issued the following statement on his assignment to the Judiciary Committee for the 117th Congress:

 “My seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee will allow me to serve Arkansans and the nation on key issues, including court nominations, immigration, crime, and civil liberties. First and foremost, judges must interpret the law rather than legislating from the bench; immigration policies should meet the needs of Americans first; our criminal justice system should protect the innocent, not coddle criminals; and Americans should be able to speak and worship freely. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance these priorities and more in this new Congress.”

BOOZMAN OFFICIALLY NAMED RANKING MEMBER OF SENATE AG COMMITTEE
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, was formally named the Ranking Member of the committee after the Senate approved its organizing resolution.

As Ranking Member, Boozman will work with Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in a leadership capacity for the Republicans to shape the committee’s agenda for the 117th Congress.

“The Senate Agriculture Committee has a well-deserved reputation as being among the most bipartisan on Capitol Hill. It is a place where committee members actually sit down around a table, hash out our differences and create policy that is good for American agriculture. I am confident that trend will continue as Chairwoman Stabenow and I work together to address the many challenges our agricultural producers and rural America face,” Boozman said.

Boozman highlighted that his focus will be on efforts to address the impact of the pandemic, grow the farm economy, modernize important nutrition programs and expand opportunities across rural America.

“The membership on the Republican side of the committee is eager to address these issues. We are excited to welcome two new members to the committee this Congress and look forward to working to address the concerns and needs of the ag community,” Boozman said.

For the 117th Congress, committees will have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats on each committee due to the 50-50 Senate composition.

Along with Ranking Member Boozman, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Mike Braun (R-IN) were selected to serve on U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry for the 117th Congress.

COTTON, YOUNG INTRODUCE AMENDMENT TO PROHIBIT STIMULUS CHECKS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Todd Young (R-Indiana) introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget that would prohibit any future Economic Impact Payments or similar direct stimulus payment from being distributed to illegal immigrants.

Economic Impact Payments were first authorized under the CARES Act to help provide relief to Americans and spur economic activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The amendment would ensure money only goes to American citizens and not to individuals who are in the United States illegally. 

“The Biden administration shouldn’t reward illegal immigrants for breaking our laws by giving them checks. Instead of courting foreigners with U.S. taxpayer funds, President Biden should use that money to aid American schools, businesses, and families,” said Cotton.

 “Economic Impact Payments were intended to provide a lifeline to Americans struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic. They were not intended for people who are in our country illegally,” said Young. “Our amendment would ensure that people who break our immigration laws aren’t receiving taxpayer-funded handouts.”

Fact Sheet: The DREAM Act
Unchecked amnesty for illegal immigrants makes the DREAM Act a nightmare for American workers.

Lawmakers are re-introducing the DREAM Act, a costly amnesty program that would legalize millions of illegal aliens. By granting work permits and citizenship, the bill would put illegal aliens in direct competition with Americans for jobs during the pandemic.

If enacted, the DREAM Act*:
Gives work permits and eventual citizenship to more than two million illegal aliens, including those who never applied for or received status under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. After receiving citizenship, amnesty recipients could then sponsor family members for citizenship as well, including parents who brought them to the United States illegally;
Ignores criminal records, including 1) multiple criminal convictions at the federal or state level, and 2) serious, violent felonies pled down to lesser offenses. The bill even allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue amnesty waivers for human traffickers and those who voted illegally in our elections;
Doesn’t require verifiable documents to prove that the alien has been in the United States long enough to qualify for amnesty—just a statement from two friends is sufficient;
Adds more than $26 billion to the federal deficit. The bill would require American taxpayers to pay for health insurance subsidies, tax credits, and welfare programs for illegal aliens, according to the Congressional Budget Office; 
Provides amnesty largely to adults, not children. In fact, 87% of DACA recipients are older than 20, and approximately 130,000 DACA recipients are in their 30s, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
*Analysis based on the DREAM Act as introduced in the 116th Congress (S. 874, H.R. 2820)

February 02, 2021

CAMDEN NOON LION’S CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Noon Lion’s Club will meet Wednesday at Catherine’s Bistro. The speaker this week will be by Chad Raney. He will be discussing CVR Industries You are required to wear a mask was entering and leaving the building, if you do not have one, you will be provided with one. Your temperature will be taken, and you'll sign in and report your temp. All the chairs in the meeting room will be spaced out as required.

COVID-19 UPDATE – FEBRUARY 02, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 1,986
Confirmed Cases: 1,719
Probable Cases: 267
Total Active Cases: 162
Active Confirmed Cases: 134
Active Probable Cases: 28
Total Recovered Cases: 1,778
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,549
Recovered Probable Cases: 229
Total Deaths: 45
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 10
COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,363
Confirmed Cases: 2,597
Probable Cases: 766
Total Active Cases: 198
Active Confirmed Cases: 158
Active Probable Cases: 40
Total Recovered Cases: 3,073
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,372
Recovered Probable Cases: 701
Total Deaths: 92
Confirmed Deaths: 67
Probable Deaths: 25

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 1,957
Confirmed Cases: 1,220
Probable Cases: 737
Total Active Cases: 109
Active Confirmed Cases: 46
Active Probable Cases: 63
Total Recovered Cases: 1,796
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,140
Recovered Probable Cases: 656
Total Deaths: 52
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 18

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 676
Confirmed Cases: 596
Probable Cases: 80
Total Active Cases: 43
Active Confirmed Cases: 30
Active Probable Cases: 13
Total Recovered Cases: 621
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 556
Recovered Probable Cases: 64
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 352
Confirmed Cases: 269
Probable Cases: 8.
Total Active Cases: 43
Active Confirmed Cases: 32
Active Probable Cases: 11
Total Recovered Cases: 307
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 235
Recovered Probable Cases: 72
Total Deaths: 2
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 298,004
Confirmed Cases: 237,333
Probable Cases: 60,671
Recovered Cases: 276,704

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

OFFICE OF SKILLS DEVELOPMENT AND AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS LAUNCH GAME APP FOR STUDENTS
Little Rock, Ark. (February 2, 2021)- The Office of Skills Development (OSD), a division of the Arkansas Department of Commerce, in partnership with the American Trucking Association’s Technology and Maintenance Council and Be Pro Be Proud announced the release of a new augmented reality game app aimed at attracting a new generation of skilled technicians to the trucking industry. The game is first being made available to students and other interested parties in the State of Arkansas. 

“In recent years, the state of Arkansas has made significant investments into the training of Diesel Technicians to provide a pipeline of talent for the trucking industry which is a vital component of the Arkansas economy,” said Office of Skills Development Director Cody Waits. “Recognizing that students learn and engage differently has led to the partnership with ATA/TMC and the creation of this gamification app, which will allow Arkansas students to begin exploring the transportation industry and perhaps becoming interested in becoming Diesel Technicians.”

Following an initial 30-day reveal in the state, the game will be marketed nationally to students, teachers, and other interested parties.  TMCSuperTech: The Game is available free in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

According to TechForce Foundation, a non-profit organization that champions students through education leading to qualified technicians, the trucking industry is short more than 25,000 diesel technicians. This shortage puts a premium on recruiting younger technicians.  Using tools like gamification allows students to learn about careers at a younger age and helps meet a critical workforce need.

“We are excited to share this engaging learning opportunity with students as they explore possible career paths beyond high school,” said Dr. Angela Kremers, Director of the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Career and Technical Education. “Connecting students to careers at an early age is essential to helping them find a career path that connects their interests to future career goals. This game serves as a new and innovative way to peak students’ awareness about becoming a diesel technician.”

OSD has partnered with Be Pro Be Proud to market the app to students across the state.  Be Pro Be Proud will offer students access to the TMCSuperTech mobile game during their Spring 2021 tour stops. Providing students with all the tools necessary to learn more about high-demand, high-wage career opportunities is paramount.

“TMC has for decades been the leading force for developing the talent pipeline for America’s trucking industry,” said Executive Director of Be Pro Be Proud Andrew Parker. “The introduction of TMCSuperTech is the next evolution of their incredible work. This mobile app places them again on the forefront of helping students imagine themselves as part of the next generation of diesel techs.”

The goal of the game is to increase the visibility of maintenance technician career options and showcase the industry’s appeal to learners at a young age.  In the app, players learn to diagnose and repair tractor-trailers throughout a series of three mini games focused on tire, wheel, brakes, and engine repair. Gamers can progress through 15 levels of play starting as a student technician and ultimately becoming the owner of their own repair shop. They are rewarded by being “paid” within the app and can purchase special paint jobs for their fleet of trucks and other performance improvements. Links within the game direct students to TMC where they can learn about career and scholarship opportunities for becoming a commercial vehicle technician. 

For more information contact Cody Waits at the Office of Skills Development at (501) 683-1152.

BOOZMAN STATEMENT ON DEATH OF CHAD COLLEY
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement on the death of Fort Smith, Arkansas native and former National Commander of Disabled American Veterans Ralph C. Colley, Jr. “Chad”:

“Chad Colley was a beloved advocate for disabled veterans, an admired Paralympic skier and a champion for his country. His passing is a tremendous loss. We were blessed by his leadership and admirable example of the way he lived his life using his time and talents to advance national policies that helped others live their best lives. Cathy and I send our heartfelt condolences to Betty Ann and his family, the community and all who loved him as they remember the legacy of this great Arkansan.”

COTTON STATEMENT ON ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS CONFIRMATION VOTE
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement on the confirmation vote for Alejandro Mayorkas to be Secretary of Homeland Security:

“Alejandro Mayorkas has flouted immigration law, embroiled himself in scandals, intimidated whistleblowers, abused power on behalf of powerful Democrats, and engineered unconstitutional executive amnesty programs to skirt the will of Congress. The law and public safety will always come second to his own political agenda. He is uniquely unqualified for the Department of Homeland Security.”

COTTON STATEMENT ON PETE BUTTIGIEG CONFIRMATION
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement on the confirmation vote for Pete Buttigieg to be U.S. Secretary of Transportation:

“Pete Buttigieg supports policies that will cost American jobs, including the Green New Deal and cancelling the Keystone Pipeline. Arkansas deserves a Transportation Secretary who supports projects that create jobs rather than destroying them.”

February 01, 2021

RUTLEDGE AWARDS OUACHITA COUNTY OFFICER OF THE YEAR
BENTON – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today awarded the Ouachita County Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award to Corporal Larry McMahen with Arkansas State Police. Rutledge presented the county winners at the annual awards and recognition luncheon during the 2020 Officer of the Year luncheon at the Benton Event Center.

“It’s my honor to recognize our law enforcement officers from around the state for their dedication to protecting Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Every day, these brave men and women leave their families without knowing if they will safely return home. Today’s recipients have gone above and beyond for all of us and we are grateful for their dedication and sacrifice.”

In addition to the statewide and regional Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year awards, Rutledge recognized an Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer winner from counties around the State. Recipients were selected based on recommendations for their dedicated service to Arkansans and can hold law enforcement positions at a college or university, municipal, county, federal or State level. Nominations were provided to Attorney General Rutledge from police chiefs, county sheriffs, county judges, mayors, prosecutors and other State law enforcement leaders from across Arkansas.
 

ENTERGY ARKANSAS CUSTOMERS TO RECEIVE ONE-TIME CREDIT IN FEBRUARY
Total credit estimated at $5.6 million
Little Rock, Ark. – Entergy Arkansas customers will see a one-time credit on February 2021 bills, following an annual adjustment based on the outcome of certain federal tax positions and a decrease in the state tax rate.

 “Providing affordable, safe and reliable energy is at the heart of what we aim to do each day,” said Michael Considine, Entergy Arkansas customer service vice president, “and our goal is to pass along additional credits to our customers as quickly as possible.”

The amount varies by customer based on the kilowatt-hours consumed, but the average residential customer will see a $3.85 credit on February bills. The total to be credited back to all customers is estimated at $5.6 million, with a credit for commercial and industrial customers also based on usage.

This credit comes at a time when some customers may have trouble paying their bills, officials said, and Entergy has worked diligently to help ease the burdens the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for many customers.

Beginning in March 2020, Entergy utility companies in their four-state service area worked with their respective retail regulators to suspend all electricity shut-offs for non-payment of bills or for past-due amounts. During this time, the company implemented an Enhanced Customer Assistance Plan that provides customers with new flexible options to extend time to pay.

Under this plan, any customer needing additional time to pay amounts owed can take up to 12 months to pay a current bill or unpaid balances. Officials have encouraged customers to continue making payments so balances do not accrue to an unmanageable level.

 Customers may access any of the following self-service options:
Log onto entergy.com/payassistance
Use the Entergy mobile app on your phone
Call the automated response system at 1-800-368-3749, press 3
Speak with an agent at 1-800-368-3749 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays

As a reminder, beware of scams. Entergy never demands immediate payment from customers. If a call is suspected to be from a scammer, hang up and call 1-800-ENTERGY (368-3749) to speak to an Entergy Arkansas customer service representative.

ABOUT ENTERGY ARKANSAS
Entergy Arkansas provides electricity to approximately 715,000 customers in 63 counties. Entergy Arkansas is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR), an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.9 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of $11 billion and approximately 13,600 employees.

ARKANSAS BLACK HALL OF FAME FOUNDATION GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR ARKANSAS NONPROFITS
Little Rock, Ark. (Feb. 1, 2021) – Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation, in partnership with Arkansas Community Foundation, is awarding grants to programs that benefit African American or other underserved populations in Arkansas. Nonprofits with programs focusing on education, health and wellness, youth development, strengthening families and small business development are eligible to apply. Grants that mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on these areas will also be considered.

“This year, we are especially grateful to our donors whose consistent support allows us to fund our grant program each year. We are excited to support organizations facing new challenges created by the pandemic. There are many nonprofits working tirelessly in communities throughout Arkansas to improve the quality of life for its citizens,” said Charles Stewart, ABHOF Chair. “This grant program allows us to make our state a better place to live for these communities.”

Since 2004, ABHOF has granted more than $624,000 to nonprofits across the state, with total community investment exceeding one million dollars. Projects supported through this grant program range from mentoring efforts for promising young math and science students to exercise classes for low-income families in rural areas.

“Our long-standing partnership with Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation helps provide a support system for Arkansas nonprofits working to create positive change for underserved populations,” said Heather Larkin, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We’re proud of this investment and the programs that continue to support local people working to improve their communities.”

Grants will typically range from $1,000 to $2,500 but may approach $5,000 in special circumstances. Funds from Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation cannot be allocated for salary support or to support general operating budgets outside the specific proposal or project.

Priority consideration will be given to:
·       Requests that show multiple sponsoring agencies/organizations.
·       Requests that include evidence of local financial support (including, but not limited to, in-kind support.)
·       Requests that demonstrate collaborative ventures among organizations within the community.
·       Requests that have promise for sustainability beyond the period of the grant.
·       Requests that show an innovative approach to community challenges.

All geographic sections of the state are eligible. Scholarship requests will not be considered. Only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, hospitals, public schools and government agencies are eligible to apply now through April 1 at www.arcf.org/ABHOF. Organizations that do not qualify for tax-exempt status are not eligible.

Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation aims to provide an environment in which a future generation of African American achievers with Arkansas roots will thrive and succeed. The Foundation honors the contributions of African Americans through its annual Black Hall of Fame induction ceremony and awards grants to support charitable endeavors in Black and other under-served communities throughout Arkansas. Learn more at www.arblackhalloffame.org.

Arkansas Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization that fosters smart giving to improve communities. The Community Foundation offers tools to help Arkansans protect, grow and direct their charitable dollars as they learn more about community needs. By making grants and sharing knowledge, the Community Foundation support charitable programs that work for Arkansas and partners to create new initiatives that address the gaps.  Since 1976, the Community Foundation has provided more than $314 million in grants and partnered with thousands of Arkansans to help them improve our neighborhoods, our towns and our entire state. Contributions to the Community Foundation, its funds and any of its 29 affiliates are fully tax deductible.

GIVE BACK DURING THE LENTEN SEASON IN THE 12TH ANNUAL GET UP & GIVE COLLECTION DRIVE
LITTLE ROCK, AR (Feb. 2, 2021) – Methodist Family Health has a way for Arkansans to honor the Lenten season by contributing to our state’s children and families who are abandoned, abused, neglected and managing psychiatric, emotional, behavioral and spiritual issues.

The 12th Annual Get Up & Give collection project asks Arkansans to contribute necessities to the children and families in our care. The project is during the entire 40 days of Lent – Wed., Feb. 17 through Thurs., Apr. 1 – and both children and adults can participate by donating personal hygiene items, clothes, shoes, school supplies, bedding, funds and other necessities to the Methodist Counseling Clinic in their community.

“Many of the children in our care are abandoned, abused and neglected,” said Carolyn McCone, CFRE, executive director of the Methodist Family Health Foundation. “Others are in the foster care system or have families with few monetary resources. By providing them things like new underwear, deodorant, their own school supplies – even books and toys – our community demonstrates to them that there are people who care about them and their well-being.”

Methodist Family Health asks that all items contributed through Get Up & Give are new. Monetary donations also can be contributed so specific items can be purchased to meet the needs of the Arkansas children and families in our care. Please know we at Methodist Family Health know you are dealing with uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To donate virtually and maintain health and safety guidelines, you can shop online and have your donations delivered directly to us. Here’s how:

Visit Walmart.com – Registry – Registry for Good – search Methodist Family Health Foundation or use the following link: https://www.walmart.com/registry/registryforgood/40018a96-5358-4ac5-9a4d-d8324c8625e1/view

Visit Amazon.com at this link: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/genericItemsPage/3C8JX3X6ZWYDZ?filter=&ref_=pdp_new_wl&sort=default&type=wishlist&_encoding=UTF8

While you are shopping on these sites, please check the “this is a gift” box and put your name and address in the gift message field. This will enable us to send you a tax receipt and thank you letter.

Contributions also can be delivered to the following locations, including:

Alma: 1209 Hwy 71N, Suite B, Alma, AR 72921; phone 479.632.1022

Batesville: 500 E. Main St., Suite 310, Batesville, AR 72501; phone 870.569.4890

Fayetteville: 74 W. Sunbridge Dr., Fayetteville, AR 72703; phone 479.582.5565
Heber Springs: 515 N. Main St., Heber Springs, AR 72543; phone 501.365.3022

Hot Springs: 100 Ridgeway, Suite 5, Hot Springs, AR 71901; phone 501.318.6066

Jonesboro: 2239 S. Caraway, Suite M, Jonesboro, AR 72401; phone 870.910.3757
Little Rock: 1600 Aldersgate Road, Suite 100B, Little Rock, AR 72205; phone 501.537.3991

Magnolia: 621 E. North St., Magnolia, AR 71753; phone 870.234.0739

If delivering to the Methodist Family Health Foundation, please follow these steps for a contactless delivery:
Call 501-906-4201 to schedule a time to drop off items. This ensures a staff member is there to meet and assist you.
When you arrived, call or text the phone number on the sign you see on the front door of the building.
Drive around to the back of the building where you will see a garage door to our warehouse. This is on the right side of the Little Rock counseling clinic entrance.S
Someone will meet you at the garage door to unload your vehicle.
If possible, please open your hatchback, trunk or truck bed cover and remain in your vehicle. Staff will unload your car for a contactless delivery.
If you get out of your vehicle, we require you to wear a mask. If you don’t have one, we will provide one for you to wear while outside of the vehicle.
If you have questions or concerns, please call 501-906-4201 or email CMcCreight@MethodistFamily.org.

For a list of necessities we are requesting, a Get Up & Give flyer or more information, visit https://www.methodistfamily.org/get-up-and-give.html or call 501-906-4201.