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THE RALEIGH REPORT

No need to inject politics into high school sports

Posted on September 25, 2021

OpinionColumns
Wilson Arts Executive Director Cathy Hardison, left, is shown with state Rep. Linda Cooper-Suggs, D-Wilson, in front of a colorful mural during the inaugural ArtSpin downtown art experience.

Contributed photo

Wilson Arts Executive Director Cathy Hardison, left, is shown with state Rep. Linda Cooper-Suggs, D-Wilson, in front of a colorful mural during the inaugural ArtSpin downtown art experience.

Linda Cooper-Suggs

Linda Cooper-Suggs

We are still waiting for House and Senate leadership to come out with the final draft of the state budget. After the budget is finished, we will move onto the redistricting process.

Public hearings around North Carolina will come to an end next week. That said, I will continue to use my voice on the House Redistricting Committee to ensure that this process is transparent and accessible to every person in North Carolina.

A bill that I would like to highlight this week is House Bill 91, which is titled Accountability and Fair Play in Athletics. This bill essentially replaces the North Carolina High School Athletic Association with a state commission filled with elected officials.

Our office has received a lot of concerns about this bill because the elected officials on this commission all are in partisan positions with political goals. Most people don’t want politics injected into high school sports, and I am inclined to agree, which is why I voted against the bill. I have the mindset that if it isn’t broken, we don’t need to fix it.

Athletics are an important role in many of our kids’ lives. As our children go back to school and begin fall sports, we have to do what we can to protect them. That means getting the vaccine if you’re eligible (all of those 12 and up are eligible) and wearing your mask in public spaces.

Our younger kids cannot get vaccinated. They must rely on the community to keep them safe. We are One Wilson. Please sign up to get your shot today.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance for booster shots. Now the two agencies are recommending boosters for people over the age of 65 and those in high-risk occupations. We expect to receive more guidance on how these boosters will be distributed in the next few days.

COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE

As I am spending more time in Raleigh during the week, I am looking for ways to make sure that I’m staying up to date with all sectors of Wilson County. That is why I will be starting a Community Council, which I would love for you to be a part of.

My goal is to create a diverse group of experts to offer their perspective on issues that we are tackling in the General Assembly and at home.

These individuals will be committed to bettering Wilson County for everyone who resides in it. Ideally, the council would meet every so often in Wilson. For now, though, we will plan to host meetings virtually until our COVID-19 numbers go back down.

If you are interested in joining the Community Council, please contact my legislative assistant at caroline.enloe@ncleg.gov for more information.

COVID BOOSTER SHOTS

The CDC has announced that certain immunocompromised individuals are eligible for a booster shot. You may qualify for a booster if you have:

• Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.

• Received an organ transplant and are taking medication that suppresses the immune system.

• An advanced or untreated HIV infection.

• Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency.

• Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years.

• Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other immune system suppressing drugs.

The Wilson County Health Department is currently offering booster shots to individuals who are part of the above groups. You can make your appointment for your booster shot by calling 252-360-0500. Beginning Sept. 20, the department expects to open booster shots to more community members. You can check out its website at www.wilson-co.com/departments/health-department for more information.

COVID-19 NUMBERS

The number of confirmed laboratory cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina is now 1,362,938. There are now 3,231 people statewide who are hospitalized with COVID-19, and sadly, there are now 16,012 confirmed deaths. Across the state, 5,547,095 people are partially vaccinated and 5,505,601 are fully vaccinated.

Visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/ for more information on state statistics.

Wilson County has had 12,372 reported positive cases and 202 deaths since March 2020. Currently, 38,814 people are partially vaccinated and 35,528 are fully vaccinated.

For more information, visit the Wilson County Health Department’s website at www.wilson-co.com/departments/health-department/.

TESTING SITES

Getting tested helps everyone: the people getting tested, their family and their community. If you test positive for COVID-19, you will be connected with the COVID-19 Community Team, who will offer support and instructions on how you can get help and keep your community safe.

You can get tested at a no-cost community test event — visit the shortened link https://bit.ly/37UviSQ — or another testing site near you by visiting https://bit.ly/2PkMAlC.

HELP FOR JOB-SEEKERS

NCWorks career centers offer a wide variety of services to help individuals at every step of the job search journey, all of which are free of charge.

Visit NCWorks.gov or call 1-855-NCWORKS or 1-855-629-6757 to find an NCWorks Career Center in your community or to access virtual services.

HELP FOR RENTERS

The HOPE program — Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions — is reopened and now accepting applications for rent and utility bill assistance. You can find out if you’re eligible for the program and the application at www.rebuild.nc.gov/media/1625/open.

This program serves all counties in North Carolina except for Buncombe, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Johnston, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Union and Wake. Those 12 counties are served by local organizations.

HELP FOR HOMEOWNERS

As you might know, the HOPE Program only serves renters in North Carolina. The N.C. Housing Finance Agency is working to create a program to assist homeowners with their mortgages and utilities. The funding for this program was provided by the American Rescue Plant Act, but it is still being finalized.

You can visit the N.C. Housing Finance Agency website to sign up to be notified when the program opens via the shortened link https://bit.ly/3szcAZU.

In the meantime, the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project offers free housing counseling and can reach out to service providers on your behalf. You can call 1-888-442-8188 to be connected with a counselor.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is offering the COVID Help for Home program that also connects Americans with housing counselors. You can visit the agency’s website at https://bit.ly/3gjyWtw or call 800-569-4287 for more information.

AREA AGENCY ON AGING

The Area Agency on Aging, part of the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, offers a number of services for those 60 and older in Wilson, Nash, Edgecombe, Halifax and Northampton counties.

Currently, the agency is offering a nutrition program where seniors can get weekly boxes of fresh produce! The next distribution will be held Thursday at the Wilson County Senior Activities Center! If you’d like to order a box, call Kesha Howell Atkinson at 252-265-5775.

If you’d like to find out more about the AAA, you can visit its website at https://ucpcog.org/area_agency_on_aging/ or call 252-234-5984.

EMERGENCY BROADBAND RELIEF

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission opened the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which helps eligible households connect to broadband internet service.

The benefit offers a discount of $50 per month for broadband service, or $75 if the household is on tribal land. Eligible recipients can also receive up to $100 to purchase a laptop from participating providers.

Find out if your household is eligible for the FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit and apply at getemergencybroadband.org!

GRANT OPPORTUNITY

The Healthier Together initiative will award up to $500,000 in grants for short-term vaccine equity initiatives. Funds will go to organizations supporting North Carolina communities that experience health inequities in order to ensure that individuals from Black, indigenous, people of color and other historically marginalized populations are able to access vaccines to protect themselves and their families.

The application period for these grants opened Wednesday. Any community-based organization interested in applying for a Healthier Together grant is encouraged to attend the grant request for proposals webinar with the N.C. Counts Coalition from 6-7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20.

To learn more about these grant opportunities and the webinar, visit https://bit.ly/3nLWE67.

IN THE DISTRICT

Recently, I had a fantastic time at the inaugural ArtSpin with Wilson Arts (www.wilsonarts.com).

The arts are so important in our community, and I was glad to see everyone come together to celebrate! I cannot wait to see the finished projects from ArtSpin.

THE SCOOP ON MANAGING STRESS

It’s important to make sure you are taking care of your mental health. Behavioral health is core to our overall health. The COVID-19 pandemic is an extraordinary event, so it’s normal that individuals are experiencing significant behavioral health effects. There are actions you can take, and resources available, to help maintain your mental health.

Specific steps you can regularly take to improve and maintain your mental well-being are below:

S — Stay connected to family and friends.

C — Compassion for yourself and others.

O — Observe your use of substance.

O — OK to ask for help.

P — Physical activity to improve your mood.

Call the Hope4NC Helpline at 1-855-587-3463.

Linda Cooper-Suggs represents Wilson County in the N.C. House. This column is adapted from her constituent e-newsletter. For more information or to sign up for the newsletter, email Linda.Cooper-Suggs@ncleg.gov.

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