NYC transit agency seeks

$4 billion federal bailoutNEW YORK — The biggest commuter system in North America could face financial ruin as ridership has plunged during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that services the New York City area to seek a federal bailout.

The MTA is asking for $4 billion due to the increasing spread of COVID-19, an outbreak that has seen fewer people riding its trains and buses. Ridership on subways are down 71%, buses are down 60%, the Long Island Railroad is down 67% and the Metro-North is down 90%.

On the orders of the governor, mayors as well as other leaders and experts to stay home, New Yorkers are following the advice, thus leading to the steep drop in ridership. However, the MTA is still running weekday services to transport essential workers to and from their jobs.

“The MTA system is the circulatory system of the New York and regional economy and it’s an urgent matter because we have incurred a revenue loss approaching $4 billion, and we’re spending about $300 million –– both of those numbers are on an annualized basis –– to disinfect stations, subway cars, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road cars, buses and paratransit,” chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye said.

“We’ve increased substantially the frequency and intensity of our disinfecting and it is really critical that in order to maintain MTA service that the federal government make good, in terms of reimbursing the MTA for that $4 billion. Time is really of the essence,” he added.

— New York Amsterdam News

Agreement reopens medical facility for coronavirus fight

CHICAGO — MetroSouth Medical Center will reopen to serve quarantined coronavirus patients days after U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) called on Gov. Jay Pritzker to use his executive authorities to reopen the facility amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am beyond delighted to see that the new owners of MetroSouth Medical Center, Lockwood Development Partners, will reopen the health care facility in order to serve coronavirus patients who are fighting for their lives against this dreaded disease,” said Rush.

MetroSouth was a 314-bed, acute care hospital with a blend of private and semi-private rooms in the facility about 10 miles south of Chicago. It employed 800 doctors, nurses, and other professionals, and serviced over 70,000 patients each year.

Quorum Health Corp. closed MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island, Ill., in September 2019.

— Chicago Crusader

HBCU advocates seek $1.5B in aid to survive pandemic

Leaders of the country’s 105 historically Black colleges and universities are strongly advocating for additional federal funding for their schools during the coronavirus crisis, stressing that the costs of operating during the pandemic threaten their survival.

The United Negro College Fund, which provides general scholarship funds for 37 private HBCUs, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which represents public HBCUs and other predominantly Black institutions, are leading the effort to help the colleges lobby members of Congress for a one-time allocation of $1.5 billion to help out.

“HBCUs graduate an outsized proportion of African-American college graduates and an outsized proportion of low-income, first-generation college students,” U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) said in written responses to questions.

“In order to ensure HBCUs continue their mission, they need assistance in emergencies such as this,” he added.

The UNCF and TMCF, along with some of the HBCU presidents, participated this week in a conference call convened by Adams, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus.

— Washington Informer

NAACP holds online town hall about coronavirusThe NAACP hosted an emergency online town hall meeting recently about coronavirus, COVID-19 and its potential impact on communities of color.

Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO, prefaced his comments by sharing his experiences as someone who lived through Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“The truth is, there are so many within this nation who are disenfranchised from receiving adequate and affordable care due to socio-economic circumstances,” he said. “This virus will have dire consequences on so many, but specifically African-Americans, who suffer from higher rates of chronic illness.”

Besides Johnson, among those featured during the teleconference were U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Healthcare Ready Executive Director Nicolette Louissant.

“We want to make sure we’re not looking at another Katrina-like response from the government,” Harris said, noting her support for the Coronavirus Response Act passed by the U.S. House last weekend.

Adams, a former anesthesiologist and Indiana State Health Commissioner, warned that the coronavirus numbers in the United States were expected to match the numbers Italy saw two weeks ago.

“The next few weeks are going to be critical,” Adams said, adding that he realizes the African American community does not have a lot of trust in the current administration.

“I know what it’s like growing up poor, Black and with limited health care. I will keep fighting for people of color and I hope I can earn your trust,” said the surgeon general, who was appointed in 2017.

“We have to approach this from a community preparedness standpoint to work together and engage our community,” Louissant, whose organization was established after Hurricane Katrina to work with the public and private sectors to strengthen health care systems before, during, and after disasters.

“This is a sustained event,” she said. “Over the long haul, we’re going to radically change our lifestyles. Equity issues are at play here. Eighty-five percent of people of color have to rely on more prescription drugs. They have medical needs. Access is incredibly important.”

— Washington Informer

Resupply spacecraft honors legacy of Black astronautA NG-13 Cygnus spacecraft that NASA sent goods to its International Space Station last month was named after Chicago’s Robert H. Lawrence Jr.

Lawrence was the nation’s first Black astronaut whose forgotten legacy, documented in a Crusader story, compelled NASA to hold a special ceremony on the 50th anniversary of his tragic death three years ago.

The global aerospace and defense firm Northrop Grumman named its spacecraft after Lawrence in keeping with the company’s tradition of naming each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in manned spaceflights.

The Feb. 15 launch was Northrop Grumman’s 13th delivery to the space station, which has been the temporary home of Americans Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, and Russian Oleg Skripochka. The trio are expected to return to Earth in April after three others returned last month.

Lawrence was born on Oct. 2, 1935, in Chicago. After he earned a bachelor in chemistry from Bradley University, he became a officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force. While in the service, he earned a doctorate in physical chemistry from Ohio University in 1965.

On June 30, 1967, the U.S. Air Force selected Lawrence as a member of the third group of aerospace research pilots, also known as astronauts, for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. MOL was a joint effort of the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office, whose goal was to obtain intelligence on the country’s cold war adversaries in the form of high-resolution images captured by crewed mini space stations in low Earth orbit.

So, the selection made Lawrence the first African-American astronaut involved in any U.S. space program.

About six months later, on Dec. 7, 1967, while practicing landing techniques later used in the space shuttle program, Lawrence perished in the crash of an F-104 Starfighter supersonic jet at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

— Chicago Crusader

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