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Little Rock Launches New Initatives In Response To COVID-19

Downtown Little Rock
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In order to further combat the coronavirus pandemic, the City of Little Rock is launching a series of services, including a testing site this Saturday at the Southwest Community Center off of Baseline Road.

Announcing the initiatives during a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said while the city continues its effort to contain COVID-19, it’s also important to focus on how the virus is impacting minority communities and to provide needed assistance.

Scott said while the black community represents around 18% of the population of Arkansas, 26% of the confirmed cases in the state are affecting black men and women. Furthermore, black men and women make up 36% of the confirmed deaths.

"We are now seeing the healthcare disparities as it relates to black men and women, not only in Little Rock, but in the state of Arkansas. And as well as our brown brothers and sisters, a part of the Latinx community, are not having as much testing as possible due to language barriers and the like," Scott said.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will provide the testing. Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor of UAMS says in response to the pandemic, the university has created a mobile triage unit that has traveled across the state to provide testing to communities with limited testing capacity. The tests, he says, are only one part of UAMS’s goal with this unit.

"This is also about how we educate the communities about ways to prevent transmission, ways to identify the possibility of an infection in those communities and what we can do to make sure that the impact of COVID-19 in the state of Arkansas is as minimal as possible," Patterson said.

The site will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Spanish interpreters will be on site to assist when needed.  

In addition to the pop-up testing site, the city is partnering with Kroger and Edwards Food Giant to distribute 10,000 reusable masks to the public at certain locations beginning on May 8.

Masks will be available at the following Kroger and Edwards Food Giant locations:

Kroger – 6420 Colonel Glenn Rd.

Kroger – 8824 Geyer Springs Rd.

Kroger – 1100 E. Roosevelt Rd.

Edwards Food Giant – 1701 Main St.

Edwards Food Giant – 7525 Baseline Rd.

Scott said the cost of purchasing the masks will eventually be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

Additionally, Little Rock has created an emergency relief program for small businesses, funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

The program, which is a total of $500,000 allows businesses to apply for a zero-interest loan of up to $5,000. According to a news release, if jobs are retained, created or restored and still exist after one year, the loan will be forgiven. Payments on the loan are not required for the first year. Scott said this is just one way Little Rock is attempting to help its residents “navigate through these uncharted waters”

"This is a way, again of our city being intentional and understanding our small business community, which is the lifeblood and backbone of the City of Little Rock’s economy," Scott said.

The city will begin accepting applications on May 4. In order to qualify, businesses must be listed in the dataset of active businesses registered in Little Rock, must have either been in business for more than two years with 20 or fewer employees or be a “for-profit micro-enterprise micro-enterprise business with five or fewer employees including the owner and owner must earn a household annual income up to or less than 80% of the area median income.”

Additionally, any qualified business must be listed in Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proclamation that closed non-essential businesses, and also must have a documented income loss.

Scott said local homeless shelters would also have access to funds from the program.

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