News in brief: Disaster relief available for Fred victims

Abigail Bowen
BE SEEN: Abigail Bowen, deputy director of the Campaign for Southern Equality's Southern Equality Research and Policy Center, is helping conduct a new survey of LGBTQ experiences in the South. Photo courtesy of Bowen

Unemployment insurance approved

Temporary payments of Disaster Unemployment Assistance are available for residents whose income was impacted by Tropical Storm Fred in Buncombe, Haywood and Transylvania counties.

The N.C. Division of Employment Security announced the approval of DUA benefits on Sept. 10. The move follows a federal major disaster declaration Sept. 8 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and White House at the request of Gov. Roy Cooper.

To be eligible for DUA payments, workers and business owners must have lost the job that provided their primary income due to Tropical Storm Fred; be unable to reach their place of employment; be unable to work because of an injury caused by the storm; have been unable to start a job or self-employment during the storm; or have become their household’s primary earner due to a storm-related death.

All claimants must first file for state unemployment benefits at des.nc.gov. Once claimants have exhausted or been found ineligible for state unemployment benefits, they may file for DUA. The deadline to apply is Saturday, Oct. 10. More information is available at avl.mx/af8.

LGBTQ survey launches

The Campaign for Southern Equality, based in Asheville, and Campus Pride, based in Charlotte, announced a joint research project about the experiences of LGBTQ individuals in the South Aug. 30.

The Survey of Southern Experiences is available in both English and Spanish and is open to any LGBTQ person over age 18. The questionnaire can be found online at avl.mx/af5 and takes roughly 20 minutes to complete.

Bills to restrict the rights of LGBTQ people in recent state legislative sessions inspired many of the survey questions,  explains Abigail Bowen, deputy director of the CSE’s Southern Equality Research and Policy Center. “It’s been particularly brutal this past year for trans and nonbinary youth,” she says.

As an example, Bowen cites the March introduction in the N.C. General Assembly of House Bill 358, which would have prevented transgender middle school and high school students from playing on their gender’s sports teams. (The bill was withdrawn from the House Judiciary Committee on April 26 and is not currently under consideration.)

The survey is expected to run through November, and results will inform future projects for the CSE. Bowen says investigators are hoping for as diverse a sample as possible, including participants from a variety of states, gender identities, races and other demographic categories. Previous CSE data collection projects include the Southern Trans Health Focus Group Project and the 2019 Southern LGBT Health Survey.

CSE is also hiring survey ambassadors to conduct outreach about the questionnaire. The project will pay $150 for an estimated 10 hours of work. More information is available at avl.mx/af6.

Bomb threat at Hendersonville office of Sen. Tillis

The Henderson County Historic Courthouse evacuated Sept. 7 following a bomb threat left on a voicemail for the office of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. Tillis’ Hendersonville field office is at 1 Historic Courthouse Square.

The Hendersonville Police Department was notified of the bomb threat and evacuated approximately 20 people from the courthouse as a precaution. “The threat was nonspecific regarding the location, time or date,” according to a Sept. 7 statement from the HPD posted to Facebook.

HPD collaborated with the FBI, Henderson County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad, Hendersonville Fire Department and Henderson County Emergency Management on a sweep of the building.

“The Hendersonville Police Department is continuing to work with federal agencies on the investigation,” said Allison Justus, a spokesperson for the city of Hendersonville. “There are no known threats to any Hendersonville facilities at this time. … [Due] to the ongoing investigation we do not have any details to provide.”

Mark your calendar

  • A Brake Light Clinic will be held Saturday, Sept. 25, from noon-4 p.m. at The Odditorium, 1045 Haywood Road. Broken brake lights will be fixed for all attendees. The clinic is hosted by the Asheville chapter of the Socialist Rifle Association, Western North Carolina AIDS Project and Asheville Survival Program.
  • Sankofa Market AVL, a platform for Black-owned businesses in Asheville, announced a series of events taking place at YMI Cultural Center, 39 S. Market Street. Black business owners and entrepreneurs are invited to showcase their products and services. The Saturday events will take place Oct. 2, 16 and 30. More information is available by contacting Nnweyna Smith at 828-338-8233.
  • The YWCA of Asheville will host a free, three-part racial justice training that will explore racial justice concepts and racism in Asheville and Buncombe County. Sessions take place Thursdays, Oct. 7, 14 and 21, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Registration is required at avl.mx/afn; more information is available by email at RacialJustice@YWCAofAsheville.org or phone at 828-254-7206.
  • The RAIL Memorial Project Committee will dedicate the RAIL Memorial on Sunday, Oct. 17, at 3:30 p.m. at the Andrews Geyser in Old Fort. The monument honors the more than 3,000 incarcerated laborers who built the Western North Carolina Railroad in the late 1800s. Historians with the project note that 95% of the forced laborers had been incarcerated at the N.C. State Penitentiary, and 98% were African American; at least 139 people died during the railroad’s construction. More information about the memorial is available at TheRAILProject.org.

Hats off

  • The N.C. Association of County Commissioners recognized Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara with an Outstanding County Commissioner Award Aug. 14. The honor recognized her engagement in the statewide working group that developed an agreement for spending North Carolina’s share of a $26 billion national settlement against pharmaceutical companies involved in the opioid crisis. Buncombe County is expected to receive over $21 million from the settlement, to be dispersed over 18 years.
  • The N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh is honoring Jim Barrett, executive director of Asheville-based Pisgah Legal Services, as a 2021 Defender of Justice. Barrett is receiving a Lifetime Champion award for his work on housing policy and the prevention of homelessness. “Receiving this award from the N.C. Justice Center is the highest honor I can imagine,” Barrett wrote in a statement to Xpress. He credited his co-workers as “dedicated public servants who have amassed an amazing track record of accomplishments to help low-income people improve their lives.”
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