Mississippi editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Commercial Dispatch of Columbus on aid for tornado victims:
Three weeks after an EF-3 tornado swept through Columbus, those most affected by the disaster are still being told they must be patient.
Short-term help, mostly basic necessities — food, clothing, even lodging — are readily available. But for those who are eager to have some semblance of their normal lives, there is no fixed timetable on when that might happen.
Emergency funding from the federal government, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is still probably weeks away. In the interim, “patience” is the operative word.
During a Monday town hall meeting at the Columbus Municipal Complex, more than 100 residents turned out. Their frustration was both palpable and understandable. Even three weeks removed from the tornado, the answers to some questions remain ambiguous. At this stage in the process, there is still much left to determine. While local entities and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) have finished their damage assessments for the tornado, the federal dollars needed for recovery won’t be triggered until a federal emergency from the President is declared. The first FEMA officials will begin doing their own assessments Wednesday in anticipation of that declaration.
But even once a declaration has been issued, the process for getting federal aid to individual residents won’t be completed overnight.
Of course, knowing all this does nothing to diminish the anxiety of those whose homes have been destroyed or badly damaged. It’s easy for someone not affected by the storm to urge patience. It’s quite another matter when it’s your home, your business, your way of life that has been so profoundly affected.
In the meantime, we urge those who have suffered loss to stay informed. If you have questions, you have every right to be heard. ...
For those who were spared from the devastation, hold your neighbors in your hearts. Continue to help where you can, to support them and encourage them. ...
It’s going to be a long recovery and people are going to need more than patience. They’ll need kindness, generosity, understanding.
For our community, it’s a shared responsibility.
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo on free medical clinics:
The unfortunate reality is too many Mississippians are not able to afford basic medical care.
About 14 percent of the state’s population between ages 0 and 64 were uninsured in 2017, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. Without access to basic, preventative care, these individuals tend to become sicker and develop maladies that are more difficult to treat. This, in turn, amplifies the strain on the health care system.
As state leaders debate solutions to the crisis, groups of Northeast Mississippi volunteers have come together with grassroots solutions to alleviate the need.
In Lee County alone, programs like the Antone Tannehill Good Samaritan Free Clinic, Tree of Life Free Clinic and CATCH Kids are providing care to those who would not otherwise be able to get it. Other clinics offer similar services elsewhere in the region.
Daily Journal health reporter Michaela Morris profiled the Tree of Life clinic last week, with stories of those whose lives it has touched. Take Beth Warren of Mantachie, who has struggled with kidney disease, high blood pressure and gout. Thanks to the clinic, she has had access to medication and care that has allowed her to keep working.
“They have been a godsend,” Warren told Morris. “I don’t know if I’d still be alive.”
Since its founding in 2010, the Tree of Life clinic has recorded more than 20,000 patient visits and filled more than 75,000 prescriptions free of charge. The mission medical clinic is staffed by volunteers twice a month and is open to anyone without Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and the ability to afford care. There are no residency or work requirements for patients.
Clinics are offered beginning at 4:30 a.m. the first Wednesday of the month and at 8:30 a.m. the third Saturday of the month.
Northeast Mississippi has a long history of residents coming together to keep those in need from falling through the cracks. It’s part of the fabric that has made this region so special and allowed it thrive — the idea of rolling up our sleeves and fixing our problems rather than waiting for outside help to solve it.
The free medical clinics are an important part of that culture, with medical professionals giving their time and expertise to provide free health care to those in need, with so many other volunteers and donors supporting that effort.
Their thankless work makes our communities healthier and our region more vibrant.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on a teacher pay raise vote by state lawmakers:
A clear signal that Mississippi’s campaign season has opened came Monday in the House of Representatives, when lawmakers agreed to quadruple a proposed $1,000 increase in the pay scale for teachers.
Republicans in charge of the Legislature have been tight-fisted when it comes to pay. The Senate a few weeks ago approved a bill that gave teachers a pair of $500 increases over two years, but Democrats and school supporters panned it as insufficient.
Clearly a report that the state expects to end its budget year in June with a surplus of $193 million made a difference in the debate. Still, it was a surprise when enough Republicans in the House agreed to a Democratic proposal for two increases of $2,000 — four times more than what the Senate approved.
The effort to kill the larger raise failed by five votes because 11 Republican lawmakers voted to keep it alive and another nine did not vote. After that, their peers jumped on board. The amended bill,which would increase the teacher pay scale by a total of $4,000 two years from now, passed 111-2.
The House and Senate will now need to resolve their differences on the pay hike, so the $4,000 increase may be reduced. But it’s very likely the end result will be a raise of more than the Senate’s original $1,000.
If improved tax collections played a role in the House vote, so did concern among Republicans about how they would look in an election year if they voted down a better raise than what the Senate was willing to give teachers.
Of course, this creates other problems for lawmakers. What are other state employees, most of whom have not had a raise in recent years, supposed to think? And if the $4,000 raise for teachers — and its estimated price tag of $206 million over two years — eats up all the projected surplus, where will the money come for anyone else clamoring for a salary increase? And what about the likely harping from critics, who will say that a state with so many below-average schools should not reward its teachers?
It is certainly true that Mississippi has its problems. Too many districts carry C, D or F ratings. But has it occurred to anyone that part of the reason for this is because the state has a hard time attracting capable and committed teachers?
Mississippi’s not an island, and teachers who want better pay can find it in other states. The proper way to look at this week’s House action is that it’s an effort to keep up with what the neighbors are doing.