Author: lafocus

Pastor Tyron Robinson Named to Succeed Bishop Paul Morton

Staff

Last year, nationally renowned pastor and gospel singer Bishop Paul S. Morton announced he would step down as senior pastor of the Changing a Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church megachurch in Atlanta and the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in July on his 70th birthday. But with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the award-winning singer and founder and past president of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship subsequently postponed his retirement, stating that he would stay on until there was a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Now—a year later and with three vaccines in circulation—Morton has announced that both he and his wife and co-pastor, Debra Morton, will indeed retire in July. He has also named his successor son-in-law Tyron Robinson, senior pastor of the Los Angeles-based Pilgrim’s Hope Baptist Church and the Compton-based Zion Baptist Evangelical Temple.

Robinson and his wife, Jasmine Morton Robinson, say they were both thrilled and surprised by the decision, although there has not yet been an official statement.

“If you had told me that this is where I would be in 2021 back in 2011, I would have laughed. I’m still numb at the news,” Robinson said. “I’m still processing. It’s surreal. I signed up for Jasmine and nothing more. I had Jesus and I wanted Jasmine. This has come with the anointing and the assignment, but this is a complete surprise to me.”

The L.A. native, however, insists that he is ready to take on the helm of one of Atlanta’s largest Black congregations along with one of the biggest churches in New Orleans, adding that he had already learned a great deal from Morton.

“Intense integrity and character,” he says of Morton. “How to build sustainability. He’s 46 years in pastoring. I’m 25 years, so I’m getting an up-close and personal view of how to maneuver the next chapter of my pastorate and what really makes longevity.”

The couple will be relocating to Atlanta and New Orleans this summer. While Bishop Morton and Co-Pastor Debra Morton will stay on as overseers and continue to preach intermittently at both churches, they will make their home base in New Orleans and will be relieved of the administrative and daily operational responsibilities of the churches and the weekly long-distance commutes.

For Jasmine Robinson, it will be a homecoming.

“All of my family is in New Orleans, so it will be great to be back home, and that will be home base for my parents,” Robinson explains. “At the same time, it is bittersweet. We had to meet with our churches last night to tell them we were leaving, and that was tough.”

What won’t be tough— according to First Lady elect Jasmine Robinson—is adjusting to their new congregations in Atlanta and New Orleans.

“They know Tyron and they know me, so they’re excited,” she said. “They’ve all been following us on social media, so they are really familiar with our ministry.”

New Fund Will Grant $10,000 to Struggling Local Business Owners

Staff

More relief for local Los Angeles small business owners is on the way.

A new fund, the LA Regional COVID Fund, for small brick-and-mortar businesses, specifically in the personal care and retail sectors, has been launched.

A total of $4.7 million in financial aid will be available through the “Keep our Shops on the Block” grant for hair and beauty salons, nail salons, barbershops, dry cleaners, bookstores, bakeries, and more. These businesses will be eligible for a $10,000 grant.

The fund comes from Los Angeles County in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corporation LA. LISC LA is an organization that has been working throughout the pandemic to support community developments. They’ve also hosted a series of 5 webinars during the pandemic named similarly “Keep Our Shops on the Block.” The webinars provided information to small businesses about resources available during the pandemic. 5 of the attendees at each webinar were also chosen for a $2,500 grant.

Applications for eligible businesses open on April 5th and close on April 11th. To be eligible, businesses must also have annual revenue under $1,000,000 and cannot have received a CRF-funded grant from the county in 2021.

Grant winners will be chosen randomly, the LA Regional COVID fund has explained. However, certain applicants will also be weighted more heavily in the system to assist the most vulnerable businesses.

“Businesses that will receive higher weightings include those that: are veteran-owned, have an annual gross revenue under $500,000, or are located in County Districts with higher poverty rates, lower educational attainment, and lower median income,” explained a statement about the program.

Federal Moratorium on Evictions During Pandemic Has Been Extended

Staff

President Biden’s administration has heeded advice from housing advocates and are once again extending a federal moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Set to expire on Wednesday, the moratorium is now extended to the end of June. It is a moratorium first initiated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September that barred evicting tenants for their inability to pay rent using a 1944 public health law. Congress extended that order in December, and Biden had renewed it again through the end of March.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained in a statement. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

The extension will help 18.4% of all tenants that surveys show owe back rent. It will also significantly impact Black tenants.

In the survey from the Census Bureau’s Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 12 million renters were behind on rent in the middle of March. Tenants of color were also shown to be disproportionately at risk. 24% of Black renters were behind on rent, the survey estimated. A different survey estimated up to 34% of Black tenants owed rent that was past due.

Some housing advocates remain hopeful Biden will do more than just extending the moratorium. Some landlords have successfully gone around the moratorium which is “flawed.”

“It’s disappointing that the administration didn’t act on the clear evidence and need to also strengthen the order to address the flaws that undermine its public health purpose,” said National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel in response.

Advocates are also concerned about what happens once the federal ban is lifted. The $45 billion in rental assistance from Congress has been slow to reach landlords and tenants hoping to pay off back rent and delayed mortgage payments. Even then, once the federal ban is lifted, struggling tenants will be expected to pay their entire rent owed or set up some sort of payment plan with their landlord.

Gender Pay Gap Costs $78 Billion: For Black Moms, an Even More Disturbing Picture

Bo Tefu | California Black Media

Business and Labor leaders are joining hands with women working in male-dominated industries in California, stepping up their participation in the fight for gender in the state.

They say the time is now to advocate for equal pay for women.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF), women across the state who work full-time lose more than $78 billion annually as a result of the wage gap, compared to the national average of $956 billion.

The report also showed that the wage gap is larger for mothers with children under the age of 18. An overwhelming 79 % of Black mothers raising minors are bread-winners majority of whom have incomes below the national poverty level.

Senator Holly J. Mitchell who also serves as the commissioner for California’s commission on women and girls is working with several state and business leaders to catalyze equal pay and navigate the COVID-19 pandemic for Black women in California.

“Women of color, and Black women in particular, cannot afford for the wage gap to remain so devastatingly large. Its elimination must be a priority,” said Sen. Mitchell.

National data also revealed that early in the pandemic, unemployment for Black and Latino women was three times higher than that of their white male counterparts.

Marking “Equal Pay Day” on March 24, business leaders from eight companies, including tech giants Twitter and Adobe, signed the Equal Pay Pledge to promote equity for women in California’s labor force. Other major companies in California that signed the pledge for equal pay include health care provider Blue Shield of California, biotech company Genentech, and energy company Edison International.

Diversity and inclusion executives from different companies announced their collaboration with the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls (CCSWG) and the California Partners Project, a nonprofit that supports equal pay for women statewide.

Alisha Wilkins, chair of the CCSWG, said her organization is partnering with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office to launch a workers rights training program that provides tools and resources for self-advocacy in the workplace.

“Women in our state faced a significant wage gap, and lack of economic security was particularly acute for women of color, making it even more difficult to weather the current crisis,” said Wilkins.
State officials and leaders of the women’s commission proposed an annual gender pay analysis that reviews promotion processes, anti-discrimination initiatives, as well as best practices in an effort to ensure equity for all workers.

Since 2019, the state has bolstered plans to, “champion real change for the women of our state as we rebuild, reframe, and reimagine what life can look like for the women of California going forward,” said Wilkins.

Dalana Brand, a diversity and inclusion executive at Twitter, tweeted that the social media giant is committed to closing the gender pay gap by being transparent about workers’ pay.

“We believe that pay equity is critical to building diverse and inclusive workplaces, and a better, more equitable world,” said Brand. “Signing on to this pledge is an extension of our commitment to pay equity across the board at Twitter.”

Data from the CCSWG indicates that women earn 88 cents on the dollar compared to men, despite California’s progressive laws on equal pay. Labor force demographics also reveal that Black women in California earn 62 cents on the dollar as compared to 90 cents for Asian women, 55 cents for Latina women, and 50 cents for Indigenous women.

Katie Juran, the senior director of diversity and inclusion at Adobe, said signing the pledge reinforced Adobe’s commitment to pay parity.

“We believe everyone deserves respect and equal treatment and one of the most important ways to demonstrate that is by ensuring we pay our employees fairly, regardless of gender,” said Juran.

According to the NPWF, the wage gap is fueled by gender disparities rather than career choices. The report states that the wage gap persists regardless of one’s industry, occupation, or level of education. From jobs involving manual labor to corporate professions, women are paid lower salaries across the board. The report also states that discrimination and biases in the workplace are major contributors to the wage gap.

Along with gender disparities in the labor force, the COVID-19 pandemic imposed additional stressors for working women who also have to strike a work-life balance.

Brand said, “women across industries, including the tech world, continue to experience vast gaps in pay – a reality worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Wilkins added, “the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic may have triggered significant new economic instability, but many women in California were already struggling to pay the bills prior to this crisis.”

California’s First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom also continues to spearhead gender equity initiatives to help counter the financial setbacks women experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the pandemic threatens to undo nearly three decades of progress for women, now is the perfect time for companies to support women workers and build equity in the workplace,” said Newsom.

“All women have a right to be valued, seen as equals, and paid equally,” she said.

The Virus, Vaccines and New Variants: Weighing the Threat of a Mutant COVID Strain

Manny Otiko | California Black Media

Health care specialists, including several medical doctors, are keeping their eyes on coronavirus variants that some fear could lead to new strains of COVID-19 that could possibly undermine global efforts to vaccinate people and stem the global crisis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the B117 variant (first detected in the UK), the most threatening because of its prevalence, is the cause of 20 % of new infections in the United States – and 30 % of new infections in Florida.

Dr. Nirav Shah, senior scholar at Stanford University’s School of Medicine and chief medical officer of Sharecare, a health data services firm, says there are currently four different variants of COVID-19. He said the virus is adapting because “of evolution and natural selection.”

“The more virus particles there are, the more chances that a single virus particle may be a little different than the rest of them,” said Shah. “One or more virus particles is all you need to have a slight change. Maybe these spike protein changes – just a little – and it can attach to cells better than all the other particles.”

Shah said the virus is adapting as it encounters new hosts. But scientists are in a race to get everyone inoculated before the level of the disease in a community gets too high.

The B117 strain, he says, is 50 more % infectious than the original strain of the coronavirus and it could lead to up to a 60 % to 70 % higher rate of deaths, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.

Shah said some of the COVID-19 virus variants could reinfect people who have contracted the disease before. The good news, he says, is that the B117 is susceptible to existing vaccine therapies, although other variants like 1351 (first detected in South Africa) and P1 (first detected in Brazil), could reduce the effectiveness of the COVID shots in patients.

Fortunately, to date, scientists studying COVID-19 have not identified any variants that have been designated “Variants of High Consequence.” Those in that category “cause more disease and more hospitalizations, and they have been shown to defeat medical countermeasures, like vaccines, antiviral drugs, and monoclonal antibodies,” says Shah.

Shah was speaking at a recent news briefing on COVID-19 Virus variants organized by Ethnic Media Services. Other panelists on the Zoom teleconference were: Dr. Daniel Turner-Lloveras, a member of the Latino Coalition Against COVID-19; Dr. Dali Fan, a UC Davis Health Science clinical professor and Dr. Kim Rhoads, an African American physician and Associate Professor, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine.

Although the average citizen may be surprised at how COVID-19 is changing, Fan said the virus’ adaptation and mutation are much like other diseases.

He also presented some statistics from the Center for Disease Control about the coronavirus vaccines and their development. He said the vaccines were tested before they were released to the public.

“All three vaccines are very effective against symptomatic COVID-19,” said Fan. He said there are differences in the content of the vaccines and how they are stored. Fan said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires one dose, is easier to transport and is perfect for pop-up clinics and rural areas.

“It may be a better option for people who want to get fully vaccinated quickly,” he said.

Turner-Lloveras said that one of the issues overlooked during the coronavirus pandemic is the impact of the digital divide. Black and Latino communities often lag in vaccination rates because they don’t have access to high-speed Internet to discover information and arrange for their vaccination appointments.

“Internet access is a civil rights issue, at this stage,” said Turner-Lloveras. “All of the resources that are provided to people are online.”

He also said more than 20 million seniors don’t have broadband access. “This is a group that needs to be vaccinated, but they don’t have access to the Internet,” he said.

He’s trying to solve this problem with a group called the Digital Companeros, who meet with senior citizens and help them walk through online registration and information. The organization also has a WhatsApp group to target people who access the Internet through their cell phones.

According to Rhoads, some of these reports about Black hesitancy and under-vaccination may not be accurate. She talked about her experiences serving a predominantly African American population in San Francisco through Umoja Health, a coalition of community health organizations that joined their efforts to increase COVID-19 awareness, testing and vaccinations in Black communities in the Bay Area.

The organization held a mass testing event in the Sunnydale and Bayview Hunters Point neighborhoods in San Francisco where they screened about 400 people, taking a community-based approach she calls “service in the name of public health.” No one came back positive for the coronavirus at a time when there was a 2 % positivity rate in all of San Francisco. She said the people, who were tested by community members, were also eager to get the vaccines. However, she attributes their willingness and openness to their confidence in Umoja Health.

“The community developed rapid trust in us. I was very surprised by this and they called out to us when one community member tested positive,” she said. “We saw neighbors going door to door, knocking, telling people to come out and get tested.

“What we recognized from that mass-testing site was that it was not going to work for the African American community,” said Rhoads. “But something more intimate would.”

Rhoads said when African Americans know and trust the health care workers, there is more participation. Because of the organization’s successful testing effort, Alameda County has now entrusted it to provide vaccines in Oakland and areas across Alameda County with African American populations.

“It is based on a pop-up model. We mobilize with local folks who go door-to-door, hand-to-hand, face-to-face, peer-to-peer, asking questions about COVID. As we moved into the vaccination phase, the Alameda Public Health Department recognized that as a major asset. They knew we could reach people, they couldn’t.”

Probe Into Prison Deaths Ends Up Uncovering $8 Billion in Untracked State Money

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

What started out as an investigation into inmate deaths in some of California’s county jails led to an audit that uncovered severe overcrowding, a lack of mental health resources, and $8 billion in state funds for which three county Sheriff’s offices cannot properly account.

“What’s happening right now in these counties is not only unjust, but a disservice to our communities,” said Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles).

“It’s more than just about housing people. The sheriff’s departments have a duty to provide care and to rehabilitate those individuals who walk through their doors. That simply is not happening, while billions of dollars are being left on the table,” she said.

In an attempt to curtail California’s prison overcrowding problem, in 2011 the state Supreme Court ordered a sweeping reduction of the prison population. This led to the California Public Safety Realignment Initiative signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown. The program planned and arranged the transfer of thousands of incarcerated people from state prisons to county jails. It also provided billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to the counties across the state to house and provide services to the inmates. The law also set up the Community Corrections Partnerships (CCPs) in each county to oversee and manage the state funds.

Then, last March, following a spike in inmate deaths, Kamlager requested an audit of county jail systems focused on Alameda, Fresno and Los Angeles counties.
About a year later, last week, California State Auditor Elaine M. Howle released the findings of her investigation.

In a letter to the Legislature, Howle shared her findings. She wrote, “our assessment focused on public safety realignment, and we determined that these three counties and the Corrections Board have not done enough to mitigate the effects of realignment or effectively overseen related spending and services.”

Howle told lawmakers since 2011, Alameda, Fresno and Los Angeles counties all have run overcrowded prisons, violating the state’s jail capacity rules.

“The counties’ jails often lack adequate outdoor and educational facilities to provide certain vocational and rehabilitative programs for inmates who serve terms longer than three years,” she wrote.
Howle also told the legislators Alameda and Fresno counties did not provide adequate information about inmates’ health to the jail staff.

Responding to the audit, Fresno County corrections board executive director Kathleen Howard said the state audit “makes little sense.”

“There is, however, a fundamental disconnect between the overall position of the State Auditor on the structure of 2011 Public Safety Realignment funding and the role of the CCPs in handling these funds and the consistent interpretation given the statutory and constitutional framework by the BSCC and all the counties in California over the past 10 years,” Howard wrote.

Los Angeles and Alameda counties have also responded to the auditor’s report with their own explanations, clarifications and recommendations. Since then, the Auditor’s office has said it stands by its report and followed up with a point-by-point reply to each county.

In California, African Americans account for about 6 % of the state’s population but make up a disproportionate 28.3 % of incarcerated people. In contrast, Whites make up about 36 % of the state’s population but 21 % of prisoners.

Concerns of prison overcrowding in California came to a head when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to greatly reduce California’s prison population with the assertion that the massive number of inmates hindered the state’s ability to provide proper physical and mental health services, therefore violating their Eighth Amendment rights to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

However, this newly released report focused on Almeda, Fresno and Los Angeles County jails, suggests that “Realignment” actually contributed to the overcrowding issue and the lack of oversight at the county level, and has negatively impacted the well-being of the inmates the initiative was designed to help.

Kamlager says that the lack of planning involved with the initiative coupled with the lack of transparency over the last decade are contributing factors to the auditors’ conclusions.

“These findings show a clear need for a major increase in oversight and transparency in this process to ensure public safety,” Kamlager said. “They also show that the Board of State and Community Corrections is not up to the task of overseeing this process, or a similar program of this magnitude and weight.”

Kamlager continued by suggesting that this audit, shocking as it may be, could be a step in the right direction.

“While dismayed by the delay and appalled by the findings, I hope the audit will give the boards of supervisors for these counties the tools they need to exact real change. Advocates have been fighting for this information for a while,” Kamlager said.

Advocates like Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a grassroots organization intent on improving state policy on a number of hot button issues agrees.

“We incarcerate too many people for too long, already. Tax dollars that were used a generation ago to pay for schools and public housing have been diverted to pay for more law enforcement and incarceration,” CURB said in a statement.

CURB’s concerns are shared by Vonya Quarles, an attorney and co-founder and executive director of Starting Over Inc., a Corona-based organization that focuses on protecting the rights of the currently and formerly incarcerated.

“We don’t have a justice system, we have an injustice system,” Quarles said, calling out California’s prison system. “We have an addiction to cheap labor, an addiction to slavery.”

A Timeline of California’s Efforts to Equalize Access to the Internet

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, California legislators are making strides toward addressing and alleviating systemic inequalities brought to light during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To that end, several bills have been introduced in the state Legislature regarding the digital divide that persists in disadvantaged communities, fueled by a lower rate of internet access.

When important parts of life for most Americans moved online during the state’s stay-at-home orders in Spring 2020, including remote work, telehealth and online school, the existence of a racial digital divide became apparent. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 81 % of African American households and 79 % of Latino households had broadband internet subscriptions, compared to the statewide average of 84 %. The report also found that 26 % of K-12 students and nearly 40 % of low-income students did not have reliable internet access in Fall 2020.

In Dec. 2007, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) authorized the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), which financially supports infrastructure projects, to provide broadband services to areas without access and build facilities in underserved areas. CASF has been funded through multiple legislative bills since CPUC adopted timelines, application requirements and criteria for broadband funding in June 2008.

AB 1665, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in Oct. 2017, modified the CASF goal and extended its end date. The modified goal is to provide funding for broadband infrastructure projects that would provide broadband access to no less than 98 % of California households by no later than the end of 2022. The law also requires the CPUC to report a final financial and performance audit of the CASF by April 2021.

In Aug. 2020, after the switch to online learning brought the digital divide to the forefront, Gov. Newsom signed an executive order directing state agencies to accelerate their efforts to provide high-speed internet. His goal: service with a 100 Mbps download speed. This level of internet speed would allow households to have two or three people streaming video at the same time.

In Dec. 2020, AB 14, also known as the Internet for All Act of 2021, was introduced by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) in partnership with Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach). If passed, the bill would require the CPUC to prioritize approving CASF infrastructure projects in areas with either no internet or levels too slow to support video downloads or streaming. It would also make the CASF program promote telehealth and virtual learning, in addition to its initial goals for economic growth and job creation. In the same week, Gonzalez introduced the legislation through SB 4, the Broadband for All Act.

“The heartbreaking reality is that 1 in 8 California homes still do not have internet access and communities of color face even higher numbers of students and families who remain disconnected. Only miles from our State Capitol, there are areas of our state where Californians have no access to broadband connectivity. In partnership with Gonzalez and nearly two dozen of our Legislative colleagues, we have the momentum to get this effort across the finish line early next year,” said Aguiar-Curry.

“No student should be worried about having to visit a neighbor’s house, fast-food restaurant, park or a WIFI bus to access the internet to do their homework or having to take turns with their siblings to access WIFI because the connection is too slow. Medically fragile patients from low-income communities shouldn’t have to worry about visiting their doctor during a pandemic because they do not have internet at home for a telemedicine appointment. We need to take action now to bridge the digital divide and bring an end to the inequity that our communities most in need have long suffered,” said Gonzalez.

Despite Massively Successful Fundraising Efforts, Community Group Fails to Purchase Crenshaw Mall

Dianne Lugo

The saga of the historic Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza ownership continues with local Black community organizers now speaking out against the Deutsche Bank.

Previously, the large coalition of local and Black community organizations and advocates thwarted the purchase and redevelopment of the Crenshaw Mall, successfully protesting a $110 million bid from developers LIVWRK and DFH Partners. dsfdsf

With the deal involving LIVWRK, Crenshaw Subway Coalition and other community groups scrutinized LIVWRK’s ties to Jared Kushner — former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law.

“Downtown Crenshaw stood up and defeated LivWrk-DFH Partners, an unqualified out-of-town Trump-Kushner development partner, who sought to do harm to our beloved Crenshaw,” said Niki Okuk, the Board President of Downtown Crenshaw Rising.

Additionally, four months before the collapse of LIVWRK’s deal, activists protested a $130 million purchase that planned to redevelop the shopping center completely. In total, there have been four unsuccessful attempts to sell the mall in two years.

Activists have continued to emphasize the desire for Capri — the real estate investment firm that owns the mall — to offload the mall back to the community.

In a new announcement, Damien Goodmon, the executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and board member of Downtown Crenshaw, announced that the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Downtown Crenshaw Rising successfully fundraised over $28 million and an additional $6 million in letters of intent from other investors in their bid to buy the mall.

Nonetheless, their efforts remain unsuccessful.

“Despite a massive community coalition, historic financial support from a who’s-who of philanthropists and socially responsible investors, and offering the highest bid, the sellers of the Crenshaw Mall (Deutsche Bank/DWS) are engaging in what civil rights leaders are calling overt racism to deny the Black collective the opportunity to buy its Crenshaw Mall,” said Goodmon in the press release.

“Through Downtown Crenshaw we are displaying to the world that it is possible for Black people to collectively control Black spaces, beat outside gentrifiers and create a new more just model of redevelopment that uplifts communities like Crenshaw without uprooting long-time residents and merchants,” added Goodmon. “We understand this is a threat to gentrifiers and bankers whose entire business model is based on displacing marginalized residents and locally revered mom-and-pop businesses. We just hoped the sellers of the mall would take our money, get out of the way of Black self-determination and maybe even see this as an opportunity to show that there is a better way.”

Black civil rights organizations and business organizations also sent a letter to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, urging her to “remove the racially restrictive covenant that Deutsche Bank has placed on the Crenshaw Mall.”

FEMA Will Give $7,000 to Cover Funeral Costs of Loved Ones Lost to COVID-19

Dianne Lugo 

The United States has suffered loss of every kind throughout the pandemic. Over 550,000 people died after contracting the virus and, according to Pew Research, 25 percent of adults surveyed had someone in their household lose their job or lose income during the COVID-19 emergency.

The financial impact of the pandemic has placed additional burdens on families attempting to mourn dead family members but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced a source of some relief.

As a part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into law earlier in March, families will be able to receive $7,000 for COVID-19-related funeral costs.

Families with lost loved ones will be able to apply for assistance starting in April.

FEMA will distribute a total of $2 billion in assistance to families whose loved ones anytime after January 20, 2020.

“We are working with stakeholder groups to get their input on ways we can best provide this assistance and to enlist their help with outreach to families and communities,” said the announcement. “Additional guidance is being finalized and will be released to potential applicants and community partners as soon as possible. In the meantime, people who have COVID-19 funeral expenses are encouraged to keep and gather documentation.”

For now, the guidelines are as follows:

  • Funeral expenses must have been incurred after Jan. 20, 2020.
  • The death must have occurred in the U.S.
  • The death certificate must say that the cause of death was COVID-19.
  • The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or legal immigrant of the U.S., but the deceased does not need a specific legal status.

COGICs Select Bishop J. Drew Sheard as New Presiding Bishop

Staff

The Church of God in Christ has elected Bishop J. Drew Sheard as its new leader. Results of the virtual election—making Sheard the presiding prelate of the 7-million member strong, worldwide denomination headquartered in Memphis—were announced March 20.

Sheard, 62, had formerly served as prelate of the Michigan North Central Jurisdiction,
pastors the Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church in Detroit. He will succeed previous
presiding Bishop Charles Blake Sr, who announced he would seek re-election last year.

“I am humbled and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve this extraordinary
organization, the Church of God in Christ, as its new leader and Presiding Bishop,” Sheard said. “To be elected to serve as the Presiding Bishop for the Church in which I was born, raised, and have learned and served all my life, is a dream and desire that can only be fulfilled by God’s loving grace and guidance. The opportunity to serve such an extraordinary organization at our highest recognized level of priesthood is beyond humbling.”

Sheard also thanked his wife Karen Clark-Sheard of gospel’s famed Clark Sisters and his children, J.Drew Sheard II, a producer and songwriter, and daughter Kierra Sheard, a Grammy-winning vocalist and actress who is one of gospel’s hottest stars.

In other election results, the following eleven bishops were named to the COGIC general
board:

  • Bishop Prince E. Bryant, Sr., pastor of The Island of Hope Church of God in Christ and Buck Street Memorial Church of God in Christ in Houston
  • Bishop Malcolm Coby, pastor of Victory Temple Church of God in Christ, World Ministry Center, in Oklahoma City
  • Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, pastor of Holy Redeemer Church Of God In Christ in Milwaukee
  • Bishop David A. Hall, Sr., pastor of historic Temple Church Of God In Christ in Memphis
  • Bishop Michael E. Hill, Sr., senior pastor of Kingdom International in Dearborn, Michigan
  • Bishop Darrell L. Hines, Sr., pastor of Christian Faith Fellowship Church of God in Christ in Wisconsin
  • Bishop Jerry W. Macklin – founder of Glad Tidings International Church of God in Christ in Hayward, California
  • Bishop Loran E. Mann, founder of Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in Pittsburgh
  • Bishop C. H. McClelland, pastor of Holy Cathedral Church of God In Christ in Milwaukee
  • Bishop Brandon Porter, pastor of Greater Community Temple COGIC in North Memphis
  • Bishop Lawrence M. Wooten Sr., pastor of Williams Temple Church of God In Christ in St.Louis

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