Up-to-date State reopening updates visit ADH website

Leanne Burch, Arkansas House Report
Are there days when you may feel like you are overloaded with information on COVID-19 matters?  Between daily updates from government representatives, the hourly news cycles and social media, there is much to absorb. 
One place to get a great weekly update is aradvocates.org.  This is the site for Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families, an organization that for the past 40 years has “provided leadership, research, and advocacy to promote wide-ranging reforms that have improved the lives of Arkansas children.”   The updates are clear, concise and informative.
The best site for timely information about the opening back up of the state is the Arkansas Department of Health website: healthy.arkansas.gov.   Copies of the Governor’s directives and also information about requirements for businesses can be found there. 
Please also sign up to like my LeAnne Burch State Representative Facebook page @BurchforAR.  I try to provide updates from the Governor’s briefings, as well as information about grants and loan applications and other opportunities for individuals and businesses as we face the challenges of COVID-19 on that site.
Most of you know that my late husband was a dentist in Monticello, as was his father before him.  Helping him run a dental practice, a small business in Arkansas, made me appreciate many concerns many of our state’s dentists expressed last week about opening their practices on a limited basis.  
Dentists are very aware of the contagious nature of COVID-19 and the possibility of spreading the disease through particulates that come from the mouth.  Most now have the protective equipment needed to reopen their practices, but as of last Sunday, the Arkansas Department of Health advised they could not reopen before May 18. 
While the Governor announced the reopening of cosmetology establishments, tattoo parlors and barbershops and salons, dental offices were not included.  I hope by the time you read this that you and I are again able to schedule our dental appointments.  I have heard from so many of you that are in need of dental care for you or your family, and from dentists ready to re-open. 
Speaking of cosmetology, I do love my hair stylist.  She called me after the Governor’s announcement and scheduled an appointment for me.  That personal touch reminded me yet again of why I love southeast Arkansas.  Looking after each other is important, and knowing your customers and their needs personally is something we shouldn’t take for granted.  (Thanks, Tess!)  And thanks to all of the stylists and barbers and so many more that are figuring out ways to get back to work and keep all of us safe.
Good news should not be taken for granted, and it is “a dish best served shared.”  Ashley County and Crossett have taken that to the next level with an “Ashley County Good News Network” Facebook page.  On it you can find good community news, and also humor and local talent and entertainment.  I have a special shout-out to community leader and Crossett Schools Counselor Scott Sasser, whose humorous adaptation of a country song for our current environment is a dash of humor, genius, and warmth.  Check it out and laugh with me.
On a much more serious note, last week Arkansas legislators struggled with the frustration of the roll-out of the Ready for Business grant program to distribute $36 million in federal funds to help small businesses reopen with safety measures.  The program was supposed to be approved by legislators and we would have the ability to help inform our constituents when the money was available.  The Governor mentioned the program in his Wednesday briefing and the site went live that afternoon.  It ran out of money in about an hour.
The $55 million in additional funds that was approved for this program may be out of money again by the time you read this.  The Governor is to have announced that the second round of applications will be received Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  For business owners, and admittedly, legislators, it is so difficult to keep all of these programs straight.  Sometimes when I put the information in the evenings, it has been, in Army-speak, “OBE” (Overcome by Events).  The ArkansasEDC.com/COVID19 website remains the best source of information for available state and federal economic development programs at this time.
I’m looking forward to visiting with Monticello’s Rotary Club this week via social distancing and Zoom about the Arkansas Foodbank Network and the work done by its members in south Arkansas.  As a member of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, you can be a part of the solution.  It is easy to contribute and know you are making a difference in the lives of your neighbors.  The Foodbank has a great website, arkansasfoodbank.org, where you can research local needs and also the impact of COVID-19.  I’d also be happy to visit with you about it and link you with more information.   
Is there anything you’d like more information on, or would like to be researched?  Please let me know through a call (870) 460-0773, email: leanne.burch@arkansashouse.org, or through a Facebook message @BurchforAR.  I appreciate my mom’s regular feedback on this column (Hi, Mom!), and I’d love to hear from you.  Until then, wash your hands, care for each other, find humor in the day, and be safe.

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