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U.S. Attorney announces $6.84 million in DOJ grants

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town announced that nine north Alabama counties (Calhoun, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Madison, St. Clair, and Tuscaloosa) will receive funding to enhance public safety services through various Department of Justice grants.

“The Department of Justice has again demonstrated its commitment to Alabama by providing much needed resources to local law enforcement and community partners in order to fight crime, reduce recidivism, and support the recovery of victims of crime,” Town said. “The harm that violent and drug crimes cause our communities, both urban and rural, is profound. This support will assist our local partners in remedying some of that damage by delivering justice to both victims and perpetrators.”

Eight cities (Anniston, Bessemer, Birmingham, Decatur, Florence, Gadsden, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa) alongside DeKalb and St. Clair counties are receiving funding through the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program.

Under the JAG program, the cities will receive a total amount of $1,534,680 to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime based for their own state and local needs and conditions. JAG funds will be used to support all components of the criminal justice system, from multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces, to crime prevention and domestic violence programs, courts, corrections, treatment, justice information enforcement, and programs aimed at reducing crime and/or enhancing public/officer safety.

The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office is receiving funding through the Office of Justice of Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance and BJA’s National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant program.

Under the SAKI grant program, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office will receive $876,804 to support the Department’s criminal justice priorities of reducing violent crime and supporting law enforcement officers and prosecutors. The SAKI grant provide jurisdictions with resources to address sexual assault kits (SAKs) in their custody that have not been submitted to a forensic laboratory for testing with Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)-eligible DNA methodologies, and improving investigation and prosecution in connection with evidence and cases resulting from the testing process. The program also provides sites with resources to collect DNA samples from qualifying individuals who should have a sample in CODIS, but from whom a sample has never been collected or submitted to a laboratory for testing. In addition, SAKI will provide investigators with assistance on how to effectively question subjects, which could provide stronger investigative leads and build stronger prosecutorial cases, which in turn could help solve more crimes.

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The Link of Cullman County, Inc. (The Link) is receiving funding through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance and Community-Based Adult Reentry with Small or Rural Organizations Program.

Under the Community Based Adult Reentry Grant, The Link will receive $500,000. The Link will use these funds to provide a comprehensive approach to adult reentry to identify transitional needs of the offender by providing case management, cognitive intervention, and follow-up measures.

The City of Birmingham Police Department (BPD) is receiving funding through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Body Warn Camera Program.

Under the Body Warn Camera Program, Birmingham Police Department will receive $276,000 to support the implementation of body-worn cameras. The intent of the program is to help BPD develop, implement, and assess the body warn camera as an additional tool in their comprehensive problem-solving approach to leverage the evidentiary value of digital footage; enhance officer and citizen safety, promote mutual trust and civility between officers and the public; and build community trust.

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All of these grant monies are in addition to the Project Safe Neighborhoods programs currently underway across the Northern District. The DOJ is providing funding, training, and technical assistance already through the National Public Safety Partnership in the Cities of Birmingham, Anniston, and Oxford.

Announced last week, the Department of Justice awarded the National Children’s Advocacy Center three grants totaling $2,734,498.

The U.S. Department of Justice awarded the 20 grants at the close the 2019 Fiscal Year. The grants support public safety and crime fighting initiatives throughout the Northern District of Alabama.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Congress

Sewell votes in favor of National Apprenticeship Act

The bill would invest more than $3.5 billion to create nearly one million new apprenticeship opportunities.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, last week voted in favor of the National Apprenticeship Act, legislation to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act for the first time since its enactment in 1937.

The new National Apprenticeship Act will create one million new apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years. Registered apprenticeships provide workers with paid, on-the-job training, and are the nation’s most successful federal workforce training program.

“As a long-time supporter of expanding registered apprenticeships, I am thrilled to support today’s legislation to provide 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities over five years,” Sewell said. “Our Nation is facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and estimates show that more than 7 million of the pandemic’s job losses will be permanent. We need bold investments like those in the National Apprenticeship Act to accelerate the economy and help get the American people back to work in stable, good-paying jobs of the future.”

The bill invests more than $3.5 billion over the next five years.

The act establishes a $400 million grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship opportunities, including pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, which will increase $100 million annually to reach $800 million by 2025.

The legislation also codifies and streamlines standards for registered apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to make it easier for both apprentices and employers to participate in high-quality apprenticeships and codifies the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.

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It directs the office to convene industry leaders, labor organizations, educators and others to expand apprenticeships into new occupations and sectors.

Supporters say the bill could yield $10.6 billion in net benefits to U.S. taxpayers in the form of increased tax revenue and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance, and that nothing is more effective at breaking the cycle of poverty than a well-paying full-time job.

Sewell is about to enter her sixth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.

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Health

Nearly 70 percent of Alabama’s pregnancy-related deaths in 2016 were preventable: report

Most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, with women of color bearing the brunt of Alabama’s maternal mortality crisis.

John H. Glenn

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A report this month by the Alabama Maternal Mortality Review Committee found that nearly 70 percent of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths in Alabama recorded in 2016 were preventable.

Mental health and substance use disorders were identified as key contributors in nearly half pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths. Patient-, family-, system- and provider-related factors were among the most frequently identified factors involved in pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths, the report found.

The researchers found cardiovascular conditions were the leading underlying causes in pregnancy-related deaths.

“The Medical Association of the State of Alabama commends the Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) for its diligence in researching the factors that impact maternal deaths, in hopes to mitigate and prevent future maternal deaths,” said Dr. John Meigs, president of the Alabama Medical Association. “It is very concerning for physicians throughout the state that 70 percent of the deaths reviewed by the MMRC were preventable and that women of color are disproportionately affected. Alabama mothers deserve the best medical care that we can offer.”

Preventability of deaths is a key component to maternal mortality reviews, as it is indicative of events that may have been avoided if reasonable changes could be made to the contributing factor or factors. It was found that nearly 70 percent of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths were preventable. (VIA ALABAMA MATERNAL MORTALITY REVIEW COMMITTEE/ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH)

According to the report, maternal death and pregnancy-related mortality ratios steadily trended upwards between 2012 and 2015 with the largest increase being in 2016.

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Alabama ranks third in the nation for maternal mortality behind only Arkansas and Kentucky.

Data provided by the ADPH Center for Health Statistics reveal that both maternal deaths and pregnancy-related deaths trended upward between 2012 and 2016. Between 2012 and 2015, ratios increased steadily; however, in 2016 there was a marked leap in both ratios. (VIA ALABAMA MATERNAL MORTALITY REVIEW COMMITTEE/ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH)

According to the report, expanding Medicaid could help reduce the state’s high number of maternal deaths and pregnancy-related and -associated deaths.

“Expansion of Medicaid was an underlying, yet significant factor which permeated throughout the case reviews,” according to the committee’s report. “Research has shown that in states where Medicaid expansion was adopted, there were reduced maternal mortality rates and positive maternal health outcomes. Based on the findings of the committee’s review, Medicaid program expansion will allow women to receive needed healthcare before, during, and after pregnancies.”

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The MMRC recommends Medicaid expansion up to one year postpartum and improved reimbursement for providers, routine autopsies on maternal deaths, and increased mental health and substance use disorder treatments and services for women.

“Sadly, the Alabama Maternal Mortality Review Committee found that mental health and substance use disorders were identified as key contributors in almost half of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths,” said Holly Caraway McCorkle, executive director of the Alabama Council for Behavioral Healthcare. “These deaths are preventable, and Medicaid expansion will offer women who suffer from mental health and substance use disorders life-saving coverage and access to critically needed resources and services before, during and after pregnancies.”

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House

Longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes has died

Montgomery Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Holmes’ residence on Saturday afternoon, and they found the 81-year-old unresponsive. 

Josh Moon

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State Rep. Alvin Holmes

Alvin Holmes, a 44-year veteran of the Alabama Legislature and one of the state’s most outspoken proponents for racial inclusion, has died. Montgomery Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Holmes’ residence on Saturday afternoon, and they found the 81-year-old unresponsive. 

Over a four-decade-plus career in the Alabama House of Representatives, Holmes was a lightning rod for criticism from his fellow white lawmakers and the white voters who elected them, as he repeatedly challenged the status quo and went headlong at biases and racism that prevented more Black Alabamians from serving in positions of power in the state. 

Holmes was a foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery and led the charge on getting the Confederate battle flag removed from Alabama’s Capitol building. Holmes fought many of his battles, especially the early ones, by himself, and while to his friends he would admit that standing alone wasn’t always pleasant, he never showed such hesitation outwardly, seeming to revel in the hateful words and personal attacks from other lawmakers and the public. 

Many of the fights Holmes began were later finished in federal courtrooms, and they most often led to further advancements for Black Alabamians.

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National

Governor meets virtually with President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris

Five Democratic governors and five Republican governors attended the virtual meeting.

Eddie Burkhalter

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President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris meet with a bipartisan group of governors. (VIA TRANSITION)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday took part in a virtual meeting with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris along with other members of the National Governors Association executive committee. 

Other members of the executive committee who attended the meeting were the governors of Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Maryland, Wisconsin and Utah. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is chair of the committee. 

“In her capacity as a member of the National Governors Association Executive Committee, Governor Ivey participated in the NGA Leadership conference call earlier this afternoon,” said Gina Maiola, Ivey’s press secretary, in a statement after the meeting. “During the meeting, Governor Ivey stressed that both parties, as well as the executive and legislative branches, need to come together to extend the deadline for CARES Act funding to allow for maximum flexibility going forward. With the December 31 deadline quickly approaching, the governor underscored to the group that it would be to the benefit of the states to remove that barrier and give us flexibility to continue spending those dollars in the first few months of 2021.” 

Ivey has until Dec. 31 to spend nearly $1 billion in CARES Act funds, and barring any deadline extension, those funds will have to be returned to the federal government. 

More than two weeks after the Nov. 3 election, the Trump administration hasn’t allowed Biden to receive security briefings or updates on Operation Warp Speed and plans to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, which is surging in Alabama and across the country. More than 250,000 in the U.S. have died from the disease. 

The Associated Press reported that Biden discussed his concerns over lack of access to that information with the governors during Thursday’s meeting. “Unfortunately, my administration hasn’t been able to get everything we need,” Biden said, according to the AP. 

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AP reported that, according to a readout provided by Ivey’s office, Ivey told participants that both parties in Congress need to come together to provide more coronavirus response funding, especially for families struggling economically because of the pandemic.

Speaking after the meeting Thursday, Biden expressed frustration over the Trump administration blocking him from coronavirus data.

“There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan because on day one it’s going to take us time,” Biden said during a news conference after the meeting. “If we don’t have access to all this data, it’s going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more. And that’s lives. How many would be lost as a consequence?”

Biden also addressed Trump’s refusal to concede, saying that it is “another incident where he will be down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history.”

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“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks. I’m confident he knows he hasn’t won, he’s not going to be able to win and we’re going to be sworn in on January 20. Far from me to question his motive. It’s just outrageous what he’s doing,” Biden said.

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