Local News

Assistance available to low income households for heating costs

 The Cumberland County Department of Social Services is accepting applications for the North Carolina Low Income Energy Assistance Program to help qualified families with their heating costs. The federally funded program provides a one-time vendor payment to help eligible households pay their heating bills.

Households including a person age 60 or older or disabled persons receiving services through the N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services are eligible to sign up for assistance until Dec. 31. Disabled persons are defined as receiving Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Administration or Veterans Administration disability.

All other households may apply from Jan. 4 through March 31 or until funds are exhausted.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Nov. 30 that it will issue assistance to 2019-2020 LIEAP recipients. These benefits will be paid directly to their energy vendor. The traditional application process will be eliminated for elderly and disabled individuals who normally are required to apply for LIEAP funds.

Eligible households may qualify to receive the LIEAP payments for the 2020-2021 season if a member of the household:
•is age 60 or older or a person with a disability receiving DAAS services, and
•is currently receiving Food and Nutrition services, and
•received LIEAP during the 2019-2020 season.

To be eligible for the LIEAP program, a household must:
•Have at least one U.S. citizen or non-citizen who meets the eligibility criteria
•Have income equal to or less than 130% of the federal poverty limit
•Have resources, such as saving and checking accounts and cash on hand, at or below $2,250
•Be responsible for their heating cost

The following verifications must be provided to determine eligibility:
•Identification for the applicant
•Social Security numbers for all household members
•Copy of the heating bill
•Proof of gross income received in the prior month
•Proof of childcare expenses and legal support obligations paid in prior month

Since the Cumberland County DSS building remains closed to the public, applications can be accessed at www.ccdssnc.com/energy-assistance-programs/ and may be returned by:
•fax to 910-677-2885
•email to energyprogram@ccdssnc.com
•mail to P.O. Box 2429, Fayetteville, NC 28302
•drop off at CCDSS drop boxes at 1225 Ramsey St. in Fayetteville

Households that include a Native American who is 18 years of age or older who wish to apply for LIEAP benefits, must do so through the Lumbee Tribe at www.lumbeetribe.com/services.

For more information, contact the DSS LIEAP message line at 910-677-2821 or the Cumberland County Department of Social Services at 910-323-1540.

Diabetes care: A1c explained

18 food and blood sugar trackerWhat is an A1c anyway? Besides being something that your doctor checks at most office visits, A1c is literally the amount of glucose attached to the red blood cells in your body. The more glucose in your blood, the more red blood cells have glucose attached to them. The A1c value is the percentage of red blood cells in your body that have glucose attached to them.

What does that information tell us? A lot of things. First, it gives us an idea of what your average blood sugar has been over the last few months. People without diabetes often have an average blood sugar less than 100. People who are at increased risk of diabetes, or have prediabetes, have an A1c value of 5.7 to 6.4. This means people with prediabetes have an average blood sugar of 126 to 140. People who have diabetes have an A1c value of 6.5 or higher. This means people who have diabetes often have a blood sugar greater than 140. The higher your A1c, the higher your average blood sugar. If your A1c is 9.0, your average blood sugar is 212. If your A1c is 10, your average blood sugar is 240. Having an A1c of 9.0 or higher means that on average, your blood sugar is almost twice as high as people who don’t have diabetes.

Why does it matter? Over time, diabetes causes a lot of problems in your body. The longer your blood sugar is above what is considered normal, the higher your risk of developing permanent, irreversible damage from diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to skin infections, blindness, glaucoma, cataracts, nerve damage and loss of sensation in the feet, as well as kidney damage which may lead to dialysis. When uncontrolled diabetes is present with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the risk of heart attack and stroke also increases. All of these problems can be avoided with keeping blood sugar as close to normal as possible.

How else does A1c help us? For one thing, it helps us determine if the treatment we put you on is working. Every time a medication is added, we should expect to see some level of improvement in the A1c. If we are trying lots of different medications and your A1c isn’t changing, it could be the medications. Testing the A1c helps us determine if your treatment plan is right for you. It also helps us determine if your blood sugar meter is correct. If you are checking your blood sugar at home and getting lots of low numbers or lots of normal numbers but your A1c is very high, it may be time to purchase a new meter.

What should my A1c be? Your target is your own. You are unique and your goal A1c is as unique as you are. Work with your doctor to understand your health and develop a goal A1c that is safe
for you.

Kelsey Simmons, D.O., is a family medicine physician who completed a fellowship in diabetes at Duke/Southern Regional AHEC in Fayetteville. She provides care at Southeastern Health’s Southeastern Medical Clinic Gray’s Creek.

Fort Bragg plants trees leading up to Arbor Day

16 bragg arbor dayFort Bragg invited community members to assist the Engineering Division of the Directorate of Public Works in planting the next generation of Tulip Poplar trees at the Bastogne Gables Park on post Dec. 9 to kick off a series of monthly events leading up to Arbor Day in April 2021.

“Planting trees is a generational opportunity,” said Brian Vesely, registered architect with the DPW and Arbor Board chair. “It is an investment that will continue to make Fort Bragg a better place to live and work.”

In an initiative to be great stewards of the environment, 40 Tulip Poplar trees were planted. Tulip Poplars are large, upright and fast-growing trees with big flowers similar to a magnolia, producing yellow leaves in the fall.

At the event, DPW senior wildlife biologist Erich Hoffman demonstrated to the volunteers how to properly plant a tree.

“When you take the tree out of the pot, you see the roots are pressed against the soil, break the roots up to stabilize root growth because much moisture on the tree can cause some damage, it’s a little bit of a process,” Hoffman said. Mixing the amendment and the soil together helps to ensure there is extra room to grow. Always make sure when you look up the tree that it is straight, so it can grow properly, he said.

Hoffman instructed that adding mulch helps keep the moisture in the dry seasons and emphasized the importance of the first year of the tree’s survival.

“If you can get the tree to survive for the first year, it has a higher chance of survival afterwards,” Hoffman said.

Fort Bragg will host five other events, one each month, leading up to Arbor Day in April 2021. Each event offers the opportunity for volunteers to plant trees in designated areas throughout the installation, said Elvia Kelly, spokeswoman for Fort Bragg Garrison Public Affairs Office.

The other events will be similar to the kick-off, where volunteers will bring their own gloves, and DPW will provide the trees, shovels and other needed materials.

“The intent is to ensure Fort Bragg’s natural infrastructure, trees and vegetation are here for future generations to enjoy and is a highlight of the installation,” Kelly said.

The post will continue to manage and take care of its infrastructure and environment because it promotes readiness and a sense of community, she said.

Pictured: Volunteers help workers from Fort Bragg's Directorate of Public Works plant Tulip Poplar trees on post to kick off a six-month initiative leading up to Arbor Day 2021.

Gen. Lloyd Austin is well known in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg area

11 Lloyd AustinThe nomination of retired U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to become Secretary of Defense in the Biden Administration doesn’t surprise co-workers or politicians.

President-elect Joe Biden has known Austin at least since the general’s years leading U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq when Biden was vice president. Austin was deployed to command the Multi-National Corps-Iraq in 2008 while serving as commanding general of 18th Airborne Corps. As commander of MNC-I, he directed the operations of 152,000 coalition forces in all sectors of Iraq.

Austin’s service as a three-star general at Fort Bragg was not his only assignment at the local Army post. Soon after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, then-Captain Austin was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division where he commanded the Combat Support Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry and also served as the Assistant S-3 (Operations) for the 82nd’s 1st Brigade Combat Team. Years later, in 1993, Austin returned to the 82nd to command the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and later served as G-3 for the Division. Following graduation from the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, then-Colonel Austin returned again to Fort Bragg and took command of the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne.

“I served under Gen. Austin when he was the commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq,” said retired Army Colonel Kevin Arata of Fayetteville. Arata said he did not work for Austin directly, but had “the opportunity to view his leadership style on many occasions. He always struck me as someone who exudes very positive leadership qualities.” Arata was Chief of Public Information in 2011, in Baghdad, Iraq.

If confirmed as Secretary of Defense by the Senate, Austin would be the first Black leader of the Pentagon. He also served in 2012 as the first Black vice chief of staff of the Army, the service’s number 2 ranking position.

As a career military officer who served 41 years in uniform, the 67-year-old Austin would need to obtain a congressional waiver to serve as defense secretary, exempting him from the legal requirement that a former member of the military be out of uniform at least seven years before serving as secretary of defense. The law was meant to preserve the civilian nature of the Department of Defense. There is some opposition in Congress who believe a clearer line should be drawn between the civilian and military leadership of the DoD.

Austin has a reputation for strong leadership, integrity and a sharp intellect. When he retired in 2016, President Obama praised his “character and competence” as well as his judgment and
leadership.

He would not be a prototypical defense secretary, not because of his 41-year military career but because he has always shied from the public eye. Officials in the know contend it would be an understatement to say he was a quiet general. Although he testified before Congress, he gave few interviews and preferred not to speak publicly about military operations.

Community leaders issue COVID-19 plea

16 from County COVID 19 Press Conference Dec 9Fayetteville area civic leaders and health experts are pleading with citizens to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. They came together in a joint news conference Dec. 9th urging residents to take personal responsibility to protect themselves and others in the fight to defeat the virus.

“I want everyone to remember these cases are people — our brothers, our sisters, our parents, grandparents, friends and fellow citizens,” County Commission Chairman Charles Evans said.

Mike Nagowski, CEO of Cape Fear Valley Health System said 60 local people are hospitalized with COVID-19.

Evans and Nagowski were joined at the news conference in front of the county courthouse by Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin and Cumberland County Public Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green.

“Make no mistake – this is a virus that affects everyone,” Nagowski told reporters. North Carolina hospitals currently have enough beds and staff to treat people who need to be in the hospital, whether for COVID-19 or other reasons. But researchers at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services say the number of COVID-19 patients has increased nearly 20% a week on average in the past three weeks, and that at that pace hospitals will run out of space. The availability of intensive care unit beds would likely run out sooner, in a little more than 4.5 weeks, the Sheps Center researchers estimate.

Local officials acknowledged the repetition of warnings during the news briefing, but urged everyone to wear masks, not to cluster together with others and to wash their hands frequently.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel,” Evans said.

Army Col. Sheryl Bedno, director of Fort Bragg’s Health Department, said military officials are working to keep soldiers aware of the need to slow the spread of the disease. “We need to work together to fight COVID-19,” she said, noting that many soldiers live off post.

The state of North Carolina will enter a modified stay-at-home order or overnight curfew Dec. 11, restricting most activities from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. When Gov. Cooper did not shut down dining rooms in North Carolina this time restauranteurs breathed a sigh of relief. Restaurant dining rooms will close at 10 p.m. though takeout can continue afterward. Most restaurant owners are on record saying they don’t do much business after 9 p.m. anyway. Last call for liquor at bars and restaurants has been moved back to 9 p.m. Fast food drive-thru service can continue after 10 p.m. without interruption along with places that provide to-go and curbside pickup service.

Only large-scale federal emergency financial aid will stave off widespread restaurant closings and continuous damage to the nation’s economy. Restaurant managers have had to limit seating availability to about one half their usual patronage.

With the decline in business some employees have been temporarily laid off and some menus have been cut back for savings in food purchases. Hours of operation in some cases have been reduced to the most popular times of day.

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