North Memphis officials seek state funding to help with COVID-19

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 16, 2020 9:29 AM CT | Published: March 13, 2020 2:44 PM CT

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North Memphis elected officials requested more state funding Friday, March 13, for programs that benefit the most vulnerable members of the community potentially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – including children, working poor and seniors.

Democratic State Rep. Antonio Parkinson is requesting funding for unemployment and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Parkinson, whose district includes Raleigh, also wants Memphis, Light, Gas and Water Division to issue a moratorium on cutting off power for those who are unable to pay their utility bills.

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MLGW announced later Friday afternoon it is suspending the cutoff of utilities for nonpayment of bills until further notice.

Shelby County Schools board member Stephanie Love called on state, local and federal governments to assist the district with additional funds to ensure students are fed while classes are out – if the district does not resume classes by March 30 as planned.

Love said the district has enough food to feed students through March 30, but did not immediately know how long the supply would last when asked Friday morning.

“We just need to make sure that before it gets to that point, communication and a plan is already in place,” said Love, whose district includes Frayser. “So we can ensure our parents that we’re looking forward to the next steps.”

The Friday morning press conference was held at Golden Gate Cathedral on James Road as elected officials wanted to inform residents about their plan of action should COVID-19 expand further in Shelby County. As of Thursday afternoon, there were two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Shelby County and 18 statewide. 

“This situation is going to disproportionately affect the working poor, those that are poor and seniors living on a fixed income,” Parkinson said. “Because they don’t have the access that those working (have), like insurance, or those who are more affluent have. Nor do they have the facilities in the communities that others may have.”

SCS announced Thursday, March 12, schools would be closed an additional week following spring break, meaning students will not return to class until at least March 30.

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The district also announced plans to continue serving meals to students during the additional week off, March 23-27. More information on the plan is expected in the coming days.

SCS offers free breakfast and lunch to all 100,000-plus students each school day through federal funding. 

“Those students leave and go back home to places where those families may not be able to provided the needed resources for their children every day,” Love said. “Resources will have to be provided to us, so we can provide those resources to the families.”

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Parkinson believes the state and country were “completely caught off guard” on their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to be moving quickly, so that our citizens can get the resources and relief and the access that they need to be able to deal with this situation,” he said.

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Parkinson also requested the state expand Medicaid, even on a temporary basis. Asked about the likelihood Gov. Bill Lee would grant any of his requests, Parkinson said he remains “confident” something will be done.

Memphis City Councilwoman Rhonda Logan said community stakeholders are working on a community assessment to let residents know what resources are currently available in North Memphis.

Logan, whose council district includes Raleigh, Cordova and Frayser, said they’re requesting faith-based organizations, nonprofits and civic groups – including sororities and fraternities – make themselves available as part of the community assessment.

“We just want to make sure we have information for the residents and that we can answer their questions,” Logan said. “And we can lead in a way that’s going to bring comfort and peace.”

For more information on the community assessment, call 901-573-5440.

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Antonio Parkinson Stephanie Love Rhonda Logan Shelby County Schools North Memphis
Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf

Omer Yusuf covers Bartlett and North Memphis neighborhoods for The Daily Memphian. He also analyzes COVID-19 data each week. Omer is a former Jackson Sun reporter and University of Memphis graduate.


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