News Briefs June 18, 2020

Nashville

By Peter White

DHS Disburses Pandemic EBT Benefits

NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) began distributing pandemic EBT benefits last week to families who already have EBT cards from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Families across our state depend on the meals their children receive at school and many were not prepared to immediately replace those meals when schools shut down for COVID-19,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. 

President Trump signed the CARES Act on March 27. Tennessee submitted its request to provide Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service on April 16.

Families who qualify will get credit put on their cards for the months of March, April, and May. 

Parents who do not receive SNAP benefits, but whose children do qualify for free or reduced school meals, will need to apply for P- EBT online at https://tdhs.service-now.com/relief?id=relief_registration. The application period will end June 29, 2020. 

Individuals who need assistance completing their P-EBT application or have general questions about the program are encouraged to call the TDHS hotline at 1-833-496-0661 and select option 3. Qualifying families will receive P-EBT support in two installments, one for meals in March and April initially, and one additional disbursement later next month for May meals. 

Deputy Chief John Drake to Take Over Community Service Bureau

Deputy Chief John Drake

NASHVILLE, TN – Chief Steve Anderson announced last week that Deputy Chief John Drake, a 32-year veteran of the MNPD, will assume command of the department’s Community Services Bureau on Tuesday, June 16, succeeding

Deputy Chief Brian Johnson who is retiring later this month. The Community Services Bureau includes the more than 900 officers and detectives who are assigned to the department’s 8 precincts across Nashville.

Drake presently oversees a variety of components, including Aviation, Canine, Mounted Patrol, SWAT Team, School Resource Officers, Special Events, MDHA Task Force, Secondary Employment Unit, and the Surveillance & Technical Support Unit. Prior to his appointment as a Deputy Chief, Drake served as commander of the Central Precinct, the supervising lieutenant over the Hermitage Precinct’s Investigations Unit, and as a patrol sergeant and officer.

Drake has been the Deputy Chief supervising protest-related activities since May 30.

Defunding the Police is no Silver Bullet

Despite widespread calls for defunding the police, most cites are giving them bigger budgets next year, including Nashville.

Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman reported spending as a share of national income in their book “The Triumph of Injustice”. The data shows the U.S. spends more than twice as much on law and order as it does on cash welfare programs.

But slashing police budgets has been tried before and has had unintended consequences. Simone Weichselbaum and Nicole Lewis described the problem 

in a recent Marshall Project article. The following are excerpts.

“Once a radical notion, the push to defund the police is gaining ground. Across the country, organizers, celebrities, and former city officials are calling on lawmakers to reimagine the role of police in public safety.

Proponents of taking money away from cops say cities cannot simply reform their way out of the current policing crisis. 

And in the wake of the pandemic, some have highlighted a deadly disparity: many cities spend millions more on law enforcement than they do on most other services, including public health.

Opponents say it is too soon to abandon the progress police departments have made to curb officer violence and improve their relationships in communities of color. Some point to the effects of the 2008 recession, where cities cut police funding with no real plan, with unintended consequences, including increasing complaints over use of force.

But what do people mean by defunding the police? It doesn’t just mean slashing budgets. One of the main ideas is that police departments are often the only agency to respond to problems — even if the problems are not criminal in nature. Police handle mental health crises. They enforce traffic laws. They patrol public school hallways and contract with colleges and universities. In many small towns, police answer 911 calls about barking dogs and loud parties. Advocates of defunding the police argue that many of these functions would be better left to other professionals, such as social workers.

Decades of over-policing in black and brown neighborhoods has led to black and brown people being disproportionately victims of police violence and overrepresented in prisons. A better approach, proponents of defunding the police argue, redirects law-enforcement funding to social services programs such as public housing, early childhood education and healthcare. By equitably distributing resources, they say, the need for police could be dramatically reduced.”

400 Tennesseans Hospitalized with COVID-19

NASHVILLE, TN – A new report from researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center says the number of hospitalized patients across Tennessee hit its highest level this week. 

“The rise in hospitalizations is as much about the virus expanding its footprint into additional areas of the state as it is about hospitalizations increasing in facilities that were already treating COVID-19 patients,” said John Graves, PhD, associate professor of Health Policy and director of the Center for Health Economic Modeling at Vanderbilt. 

Most COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Middle Tennessee, the Memphis Delta region and Southeast Tennessee around Chattanooga. The largest increases were in the Memphis Delta region and Southeast Tennessee around Chattanooga.

Graves said the rise in hospitalizations has increased as the number of positive cases has grown but has not yet put stress on the state’s hospital system. Tennessee has not yet seen the surge in hospitalizations that has been seen in some neighboring states.

The report concluded that hospitalizations would continue to increase as cases increase, even if they represent a small proportion of total cases. If current transmission trends continue, the state may reach 1,000 hospitalizations in mid to late July or early August, the team reported.

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