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LITTLE ROCK NOTEBOOK: Emergency decree extended by board | Neal picked for role with USDA service

by Joseph Flaherty | April 25, 2021 at 7:52 a.m.

Emergency decree extended by board

The Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday evening approved a resolution extending a local covid-19 emergency declaration for four more months.

Since the covid-19 crisis began in the U.S. in March 2020, the city has operated under a series of emergency declarations and related amendments issued by Mayor Frank Scott Jr.

The local emergency declaration issued by the mayor was set to expire this week.

Because of the extension, the emergency declaration is to last until the end of August. According to the text of the resolution, city directors will have the opportunity to review the emergency measure every month and can decide whether to end it.

Scott has the power to unilaterally end the emergency in the interim period before the next monthly review, the resolution states, if "conditions and circumstances demonstrate that the continuation of the Declaration is no longer required."

Although Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently ended a statewide mask mandate he issued last summer, Little Rock has maintained its own face-covering mandate under the auspices of the now-extended emergency declaration.

The local mandate applies to public settings where social distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible.

Neal picked for role with USDA service

A local community development bank official has been tapped to serve in President Joe Biden's administration.

Karama Neal is the new administrator for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development division website.

She previously served as president of Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a nonprofit development finance and lending organization affiliated with Southern Bancorp Inc. Neal was named the group's president in 2018 after she was hired by Southern Bancorp Community Partners in 2009.

Neal holds a Ph.D. in genetics from Emory University and a master's degree in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University Chicago, according to the Agriculture Department's website.

Prior to joining the federal administration, Neal also served as a member of the board of directors of the Central Arkansas Library System.

System Executive Director Nate Coulter announced her resignation from the board in a written report to board members for their Thursday meeting.

"She called and told me that as a result she needed to step off the CALS board," Coulter wrote. "I'm sorry she was only around for a short stint, but CALS' loss is the USDA's gain."

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