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Louisiana news briefs for Friday, Feb. 5

Senate education chairman calls for teachers to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination

State Sen. Cleo Fields, the Baton Rouge Democrat who chairs his chamber’s education committee, is urging Gov. John Bel Edwards to add teachers to the groups that will be newly eligible for COVID-19 vaccination Monday.

Additional people slated to be eligible starting next week include residents age 65 to 69, some first responders and election workers, and the state’s Unified Command Group, which includes the governor. Edwards said teachers will be in the next group.

“Returning safely to in-person K-12 education has been deemed a top national priority by President Biden,” Fields wrote in a letter to Edwards. “I believe it is critical that our K-12 educators be prioritized in the current phase of distribution so that they may continue to focus on teaching and feel safe returning to the classroom.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has suggested schools can open before all teachers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, though the White House has walked back those comments, saying the official guidance isn’t ready yet. School districts in Louisiana decide whether to hold classes in person, online or a mix of the two.

Joint committee takes up offshore drilling moratorium

The natural resource committees of the state Senate and House will have a joint meeting Wednesday to discuss how new presidential orders on oil and gas leases could affect Louisiana.

The Biden administration has put a hold on new leases for oil and gas exploration on federal land and water. Officials are concerned about how a freeze on new leases in the Gulf of Mexico might affect Louisiana service companies and the state’s economy as a whole.

Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation and representatives from the governor’s office, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the Department of Natural Resources, the industry and parish presidents from Lafayette, Terrebonne and Lafourche are expected to speak. The meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the state Capitol. Public comments can be sent to [email protected] before noon Tuesday.

GOHSEP seeks input from hurricane victims on Lake Charles service center

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is asking survivors of hurricanes Laura and Delta to fill out an online survey regarding a planned resource center in Lake Charles.

Federal, state, local and nonprofit officials said the “multiagency resource center” will help southwest Louisiana hurricane victims connect with resources to help with recovery. The survey is intended to help identify what the center should offer.

Survivors can complete the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/LCTV5HD. Residents who need help completing the survey can call 202-322-3958.

Louisiana offers grants for arts and commercial building rehab

The Louisiana Office of Cultural Development is offering $55,000 grants – with a $5,000 recipient match – to help fund the rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings in official Main Street communities across the state.

To be eligible, applicants must be property owners or tenants of commercially zoned properties located within a designated Louisiana Main Street district with a population less than 50,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The building also must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places or determined eligible for listing in the Register by the State Historic Preservation Office and the NPS.

The office also is offering grants from the National Endowment for the Arts made possible through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act meant to help save jobs in the arts sector and “keep doors open to organizations that add value to Louisiana’s economy and the creative life of our communities.”

The first round of grants given in May helped 72 nonprofit arts organizations in Louisiana, according to Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s office, which oversees the Office of Cultural Development. Round two of these grants are expected to help an additional 60 nonprofit, small arts organizations with grants in the amount of $1,500. Priority will be given to small organizations with budgets of $30,000 or less.

This article was originally posted on Louisiana news briefs for Friday, Feb. 5

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