The shootings in Atlanta on March 16th shook the nation. Eight innocent people, including six Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders [AAPI], lost their lives because of racism and misogyny. On behalf of the Orange County community, I sent a letter to the presiding elected officials in DeKalb and Fulton counties and the city of Atlanta expressing our condolences and solidarity.
The Orange County BIPOC Elected Officials issued a news release announcing that we stand in solidarity with AAPI communities against racial violence and hate. In the release, we urged the NC General Assembly to approve the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, reintroduced in the NC Senate and co-sponsored by Sen. Valerie Foushee, and the companion bill filed in the NC House Representatives and co-sponsored by Rep. Verla Insko.
Financial assistance for families who lost loved ones to COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families who have dealt with the loss of loved ones. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a new program to ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus.
The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 designated funds to be distributed by FEMA for financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses incurring after Jan. 20, 2020. FEMA is still working out the details, yet you can learn more about the program at the website: https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance.
If you have incurred COVID-19 funeral expenses, or if you incur COVID-19 funeral expenses, gather and keep all documentation, receipts and invoices. Again, please keep all documentation and receipts.
Orange County will share information about how to apply for the assistance once the details are finalized.
Welcome Woodrena Baker-Harrell, New Public Defender
Congratulations to Woodrena Baker-Harrell, who was sworn in March 1 as Public Defender for District 15B, which covers Orange and Chatham counties. Baker-Harrell has worked with indigent clients for more than 20 years, and had been serving as our interim public defender for several months.
On a personal note, Woodrena and I worked at Land Loss Prevention Project back in the 1990s, when David Harris, Jr, then Executive Director, hired Woodrena directly out of law school. Woodrena brings intellect, expertise and compassion to the courtroom.
Keep it going Orange County
Orange County continues to be one of the leaders in the state in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. According to statistics from the NC Department of Health & Human Services, 31.1 percent of our county population has received at least one dose of the vaccine as of March 24, and 21.1 percent are fully vaccinated. Orange County ranks in the top five among counties in the state.
Health Department officials expect vaccine supply to increase in April, and Gov. Roy Cooper recently announced that everyone in the state who wants a vaccine will become eligible on April 7. If you have yet to sign up, please visit our Get Your Shot page, or call 919-913-8088 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., seven days a week, to register and get on the list with the Orange County Health Department.
Be safe and be well.