Biden’s American Rescue Plan means millions for NC local governments

While most Americans are looking forward to receiving the $1,400 payments included in President Joe Biden’s $1.88 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) passed by Congress on March 6, counties and towns across the country are also eagerly awaiting a stimulus package of their own.

COVID cases plunge as vaccine availability increases

Coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations are falling sharply around the region as vaccine coverage improves, providing a longed-for surge of optimism on the way out of a deadly and depressing winter season. 

Pandemic exposes fragile childcare system

On average, it costs parents $9,480 a year for infant childcare in North Carolina, which is $2,126 more than they’ll pay for in-state tuition to a four-year N.C. university. 

Cawthorn defends proxy vote from CPAC

As if last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) wasn’t controversial enough — the stage resembled a rune with Nazi connotations, and organizers rolled out a golden idol of former President Donald Trump — now a number of Republican House members are being criticized for using the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic as an excuse to vote by proxy against the latest COVID relief bill. 

Health care foundation won’t remove anti-vax, anti-mask trustee

Despite calls to do so, a nonprofit health care foundation charged with managing more than $13 million of Haywood County taxpayer money in support of public health initiatives has declined to hold a removal vote regarding one trustee’s public anti-mask, anti-vaccine advocacy. 

Been a long time since I rock and rolled: Facing uncertainty amid the shutdown, WNC bands aim even higher

In the depths of The One Stop in downtown Asheville on Saturday, members of the Travers Brothership and Abby Bryant & The Echoes were setting up and sound checking for that evening’s inaugural “Blue Ridge Blues Jam.” 

Foxfire and BPR team up for COVID-19 oral history project

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Foxfire has been collecting stories, memories, photographs and artifacts related to the experiences of people in Appalachia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Blue Ridge Public Radio is partnering with the project to help expand its reach and focus on collecting stories from Western North Carolina.

Winter storms slow down vaccine progress

Widespread winter storms last week drastically slowed down vaccination efforts in Jackson County, which still has the lowest percentage of its population vaccinated of the four counties in The Smoky Mountain News’ coverage area. 

Gladys Knight, William McDowell vaccinated in Haywood

Gladys Knight, “Empress of Soul,” and her husband William McDowell recently received their COVID-19 vaccinations in Haywood County. The couple, who reside in North Carolina and created a community center and nonprofit RHS Community Foundation in Canton, wish to set an example for others and dispel vaccination fears within the community. 

Vaccination coverage improves in WNC

Vaccination coverage is picking up in Western North Carolina, with the percentage of the population receiving at least one dose now in the double digits for every far western county. 

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