I hope everyone is adjusting to life with COVID. Now that the data is out there that we can dramatically slow the spread by wearing masks and keeping our distance from each other, we are slowly figuring out how to get most businesses and institutions back open. We are at a “modified Phase 2” as of September 1. This means retail stores and commercial business operate at ¾ capacity; personal gatherings are limited to 25 people, but now weddings, funerals, and similar ceremonies can resume at 1/3 capacity or a maximum of 125 people with a permit. Gyms, salons, and restaurants are open at ½ capacity. Bars are open under limited conditions, and live entertainment without dancing is permitted. To-go alcohol sale is allowed outside Downtown and Midtown. Metro Parks are open. Metro schools are open remotely through fall break, which ends October 9. An announcement will be made before then about the possibility of students returning to classes after fall break. MNPS needs up-to-date contact information for parents to ensure that they are providing for students’ needs during this virtual learning period. To get the latest information from MNPS and to ensure that MNPS has correct contact information for parents, visit the MNPS website.
In addition to MNPS curriculum, there are state and federal resources available to educators and parents that could be useful as we begin the school year. The Smithsonian has established an online learning lab that provides free resources to assist and support in classroom/virtual learning settings for all grade levels. Click here to visit The Smithsonian Learning Lab.
Nashville received $121 million in federal CARES Act funding to be given out before the end of the year. Mayor Cooper appointed a committee including three council members to evaluate needs and select agencies to administer different categories of funding in selected areas. The broad categories that have been selected to date include:
- Metro’s emergency COVID-19 response – this includes free county-wide testing and housing at the Fairgrounds for people experiencing homelessness, (estimated costs through 12/30/20): $48.8 million
- Remote learning support for MNPS students and teachers – this includes laptops and hotspots: $24 million
- Rent, mortgage, and utility assistance for Davidson County residents: $10 million
- Small business grants and technical support: $5.7 million
- Essential Metro services conducted through non-profit organizations: $2.8 million
- Funding to reduce food insecurity: $2.5 million
Total funds spent or allocated to date: $93.8 million.
Within these broad categories, much of the funding is ready for disbursement and waiting for individuals and businesses to apply to the appropriate agencies.
- $10 million to the United Way of Greater Nashville, to be disbursed to certain partner agencies for rent, mortgage, and utility relief. Call 2-1-1 to find an agency providing these funds.
- $2.5 million to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to provide more food to those impacted by COVID-19.
- $600,000 provided to the Nashville Business Incubation Center for technical support of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- $600,000 provided to the Nashville Entrepreneur Center for technical support of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- $200,000 provided to Conexión Américas for technical support and grants for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- $100,000 provided to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for technical support of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- $200,000 provided to Pathway Lending for technical support of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- $2 million in grant funds for live music venues. The fund will be administered by Pathway Lending. The funds can cover a maximum of 2 months of operating expenses, excluding payroll, to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a maximum grant of $100,000 each. Eligible grant recipients shall be limited to independent, Nashville-owned, live music venues that meet the specific criteria:
- $2 million in grant funds for small businesses. that meet specific criteria.
For more information on eligibility for any of these relief programs, visit the Metro Nashville website here.
NES and TVA have teamed up with the Community Care Fund, matching contributions worth $350,000 to help pay down bills for customers financially affected by COVID-19. The Community Care Fund is managed by Needlink Nashville. You can apply online; or, if you’re 75 or older and have no way to apply online, call 615.269.6835. In addition to the Community Care Fund, below is a list of other agencies to contact for power bill assistance. NES encourages customers to apply for funding from multiple agencies to help cover the balance due amount.
United Way 211: Visit their website to chat with an advisor, call 211, or text your zip code to 898-211. Also, United Way has developed a website to guide individuals to available resources for assistance with mental health, food, unemployment and several other issues.
Metro Action Commission: If you live in Davidson County, click here to apply for energy assistance, or call 615-862-8860 ext. 70100 to request an application to be sent by mail. You can also request an application by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the state level, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and the Department of Revenue have announced a new digital eligibility tool for small business owners to determine if their business may be eligible for a Tennessee Business Relief Program payment. More than 40,000 small business owners across 60 different industries qualify for the Tennessee Business Relief Program. Eligible businesses have until September 25, 2020, to confirm their information with the Department of Revenue in order to receive a relief payment between $2,500 and $30,000 in no-cost funds from the state. The eligibility tool can be found at businessrelief.tn.gov. For questions please call the TN Dept of Revenue at (615) 253-0600 or email email@example.com. More details can be found here.
For those people who are still dealing with the aftermath of the March tornado, homeowners can still take advantage of a mortgage mitigation program that covers much of the mortgage payment while a homeowner is repairing or rebuilding their home. This is targeted specifically at tornado damage and COVID related income loss, and it has major advantages over typical bank programs, like not affecting credit scores and dealing with insurance and property tax payments. More information is available at:
- AFFORDABLE HOUSING RESOURCES 615-251-0025 ext 229 firstname.lastname@example.org
- RESIDENTIAL RESOURCES, Inc. 615-650-9779 email@example.com
- WOODBINE COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION 615-850-3447 firstname.lastname@example.org
- LEE CHAPEL AME CHURCH email@example.com
This is the last month to get counted in the ten year Census. Federal funding for our hospitals, schools, road repairs, and other important public services are based on the count, so accurate numbers are critical. Census responses are protected by law and will never be shared with law enforcement or immigration agencies. To learn more and respond, visit the 2020 Census website or call 844-330-2020.
Nashville Community Education fall class registration is underway. Because of Coronavirus distancing requirements, over 70% of classes are scheduled as virtual or could easily be made virtual. While some in-person classes are tentatively planned after October 12, these may be canceled or moved online if it is not safe to meet in person. Classes include Beginning Guitar, College Writing Basics, American Sign Language, and Family Law, just to name a few. To view a full schedule of classes go to the online registration site.
Public Works also has some great community education opportunities on reducing waste and conserving resources. Classes on recycling and composting are available online. In Nashville, 30% of what is tossed into curbside recycling carts and at recycling drop-off sites can’t be recycled. Since it is not always clear what can and cannot be recycled, Public Works has updated their website and provided new resources to make recycling guidelines easier to understand.
Join Metro Nashville Public Works online to learn about the importance of recycling and how to recycle right including:
- The 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- How recycling works in Nashville
- What can and cannot be recycled
- Why not everything can be recycled
Registration is required and space is limited. Register for an upcoming Recycle Right Lunch ‘n’ Learn:
- Register here for Tuesday, October 6, 12 p.m. - 1 p.m.
- Click here to request a Recycle Right Virtual workshop for your group.
Almost half of residential garbage is organic and can be composted in your backyard or through commercial composting significantly reducing what goes to the out-of-county landfill. Public Works has a great educational program that can give you The Dirt on Composting. Backyard composting is an easy way to reduce your food waste and give your garden a nutrient-rich boost. In this virtual workshop, you’ll learn about what compost is, why composting is good for the environment and your garden, and how to start composting at home.
At the end of the webinar, there will be a short quiz or game and the top (2) winners will receive a FREE 90-gallon Earth Machine backyard compost bin. Winners must be residents of Nashville and Davidson County.
Registration is required and space is limited. Register for an upcoming webinar: Register here for Thursday, September 10, 12 p.m.-1 p.m. Register here for Tuesday, September 22, 12 p.m.-1 p.m. Register here Register here for Thursday, October 8, 12 p.m.-1 p.m.
Applications are open for the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Connect program, an exclusive opportunity for area small business owners to engage more with the Nashville community and to become leaders. Each year, a small cohort of entrepreneurs comes together to learn from each other and top area leaders on how to become more involved in building the Nashville community. Leadership Connect aims to give small business owners from all walks of life a bigger platform for making the changes they want to see in our region. During this program, 10 small business owners who are chosen through a competitive process will meet with CEOs and community leaders to develop a deeper understanding of what is needed to move our region forward. They’ll also gather as a peer group to share issues and challenges facing their own businesses.
The Mayor’s Transportation Plan has been issued after months of listening sessions and stakeholder meetings. The plan’s commitments and focus areas include :
- Upgrading the bus system.
- Tackling traffic and modernizing our traffic management system.
- Investing in neighborhood infrastructure including sidewalks, bikeways, and greenways.
- Improving safety and advancing the Mayor’s Vision Zero Action Plan.
- Exploring the creation of a Nashville Department of Transportation to enhance efficient, effective management, performance and accountability.
Community-wide listening sessions determined that the highest priorities for Nashvillians are transit, sidewalks, state of good repair, safety, and traffic management modernization. The Vision Zero Action Plan initiated by Mayor Cooper is now under development. Additionally the plan considers equity in design at the project level to build a system serving all of Metro Nashville as well as affordable housing strategies. The plan’s projects will be advanced with individual funding strategies while more comprehensive dedicated funding possibilities are reserved for possible future consideration.
Brush Pick-up begins in Areas 4, 5, 6, and 7 on September 8,15, 22, and 29 respectively. These areas includes the Percy Priest area, South Nashville, Antioch, and neighborhoods east of Hillsboro Rd, working from east to west. Satellite cities like Oakhill and Berry Hill are not picked up by Metro. The schedule can be found here. Remember that brush has to pulled away from fences and utility poles so the grapple arm can get to it. Leaves should be in biodegradable paper bags, not plastic.
As leave start to fall, it is also important to keep them out of the storm gutters. Leaves should never be blown into the street but should be composted (See above – The Dirt on Composting) or put into biodegradable paper bags for brush pick-up. Neighbors can help further by adopting a storm drain at to ensure that other people’s leaves or sticks and debris don’t collect there. This is critical to keep the storm water system unclogged. Metro’s Street sweeping will pick up a lot of trash in gutters if cars are not parked in their way. Check the street sweeping schedule here. Sort the first column to find your street.
I continue to get questions about why water rates have spiked this summer. The rate increase actually went into effect in January, but in winter months with lower seasonal usage, few people noticed the impact. Because the new rate is tiered – that is the per gallon rate increases with higher consumption – more people became aware of higher costs once sprinkler use increased. To help people understand what their water usage is each month, Metro Water has updated the “How to Read Your Bill” flyer found here. The change to the water rate and the study that led up to it can be found here. These rates cover the cost of operating and maintaining our water system while encouraging conservation so we’ll leave our children with clean water to enjoy both in our homes and in our rivers and streams.
Earlier this summer, the Metro Council adopted ordinance BL2019-48, the Home Occupation Ordinance, that allows some types of businesses to operate in residential homes under certain restrictions. The ordinance creates a new permitting process within the Codes Department and requires that applicants submit an affidavit verifying operation within the rules and regulations outlined in BL2019-48. A summary of the permitted types of home occupations and restrictions can be found here. BL2019-48 has a sunset date of January 7th, 2023, unless extended by the Metro Council. Ideally this will serve as a way for Nashvillians to work unobtrusively from home without adding any burdens on nearby homes. The Metro Department of Codes will closely monitor complaints submitted through hubNashville and compile complaints regarding home occupation activities. The data collected will provide a factual basis for assessing this new permit program prior to its potential renewal date.
The Metro Arts Commission has opened the application period for 2021 THRIVE art grants. THRIVE connects artists and organizations with the community to create neighborhood investments and transformations through collaborative art. By offering funding opportunities outside of the traditional grants process, THRIVE empowers artists and organizations to build, strengthen and cultivate communities in Davidson County. Aspiring artists can apply for up to $9500 to fund projects that will actively engage residents through community input in project planning, decision-making and art-making. Deadlines are September 15 for the fall round and January 26 for the winter round. More information is available here.
This fall, Neighbor 2 Neighbor will launch Level 01 of the The Planning School — a 4-part series that is designed to help residents and neighborhood organizations better engage in the Metro planning and zoning process. These sessions will be led by neighborhood leaders across Davidson County and include our partners at the Metro Planning Department. The inaugural training will be limited to 12 people. Applications will be accepted in September. Click here for more information.
Election season is in high gear for State & Federal General (Presidential), School Board District 4. The last day to register to vote in this election is October 5. Early Voting starts Wednesday, October 14 at all the early voting locations, and runs through October 29. I’m teaming up with VoteEarlyTN, a nonpartisan, first-of-its-kind initiative to promote early voting this year. Tennesseans have the advantage of a 14-day early voting period between Wednesday, October 14 – Thursday, October 29. Early voting is an effective way to avoid crowds and long lines at polling locations on Election Day. Ultimately, this helps us keep our community healthy by reducing COVID-19 risks. We have a duty to keep our community and each other safe. Join me in making a plan to vote early. Stay tuned for more exciting details and visit this website to learn more and/or sign up to participate. I’ve adopted Oct 17 as part of the VoteEarlyTN initiative, and I invite you to join me (masked and safely distanced) to vote early. Look for more details in my October newsletter.
If you are nervous about going out to the polls in person, Absentee ballots can be requested by using this application from now through October 27. Because of recent changes at the post office, it is important not to wait until the last minute since ballots must be received (not postmarked) by November 3. If you plan to vote absentee, request them now at Nashville.gov/election-commission and mail them early.
I hope everyone had a restful Labor Day weekend and that you are as thankful as I am for all the hard working folks who build, protect, and operate this city. It is a great place to live, and I’m confident that we will overcome the challenges this virus has put in front of us. Please contact me with your questions and your suggestions.
Metro Council At-Large