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CF offers computer access
to new SkillUp
online training platform;
Starting Aug. 28, CF Levy lab
opens on Wednesdays and Fridays
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Aug. 14, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
CHIEFLAND -- The College of Central Florida has partnered with CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion to help Levy County residents access a free, dynamic online training platform.
More Below This Ad
SkillUp Citrus Levy Marion features over 5,000 courses through the Metrix Learning system that can lead to more than 180 in-demand industry certificates.
Those without the Internet connection needed to access SkillUp may use a designated computer lab at the CF Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus. Beginning Aug. 28, the lab will be available Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Levy Campus is located at 15390 U.S. Highway 19 north of Chiefland and south of the City of Fanning Springs.
“This is a great opportunity for Levy County residents who are looking to advance in their career by achieving one or more certifications,” said Holly McGlashan, provost of CF’s Levy Campus. “We are excited about the partnership with CareerSource and are happy to provide the access community members might need to land a new job or move up with their current employer.”
McGlashan added that to maintain social distancing and comply with other public health precautions, anyone interested in scheduling lab time to access SkillUp should call 352-658-4077. Those using the lab are required to wear face masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
SkillUp is ideal for anyone looking to improve skills, earn industry certificates, work their way up the career ladder or launch into new careers. The SkillUp portal can be reached 24/7 at http://citruslevymarion.skillupamerica.org/.
“While the program allows participants to learn at their own pace, we realize that distance learning can’t work if you don’t have an internet connection,” said Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion. “That is why we are so pleased CF is making it easy for anyone to access this program.”
CareerSource CLM connects businesses with qualified, skilled talent and Floridians with employment and career development opportunities. All services are provided at no charge and are accessible by phone, email, Live Chat and video conferencing. In-person meetings with staff are available by appointment only at the Levy County career center, 2175 NW 11th Dr., in Chiefland. The center is located in the Suwannee Plaza near the Walmart Supercenter.
For more information about the CF Levy Campus call 352-658-4077. For more information about SkillUp Citrus Levy Marion or CareerSource CLM call 352-493-6813 or 1-800-434-JOBS or visit https://careersourceclm.com/.
CFEC Annual Meeting cancelled
due to COVID-19 Pandemic
By Madison Redd
Central Florida Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Published Aug. 12, 2020 at :10 p.m.
CHIEFLAND -- In consideration of the health and well-being of both members and employees, the Central Florida Electric Cooperative’s Board of Trustees voted at the July 27 board meeting to cancel the 2020 CFEC Annual Meeting planned for later this year.
After a thorough discussion, the Board felt the cancellation of the Annual Meeting was the best course of action to protect the health of our community. All business from the 2019 Annual Meeting will be postponed to the 2021 Annual Meeting event. The 2020 Trustee elections are held separately from the business meeting and will continue as normal by mail.
The decision to cancel the Annual Meeting was not a decision that was taken lightly.
The Annual Meeting is an important part of the Cooperative’s 81-year history and serves as an opportunity for Members to learn more about the business of their electric cooperative. While CFEC Trustees and employees look forward to seeing members each year, the safety of members and staff is most important.
IFAS issues picker parades alert
Story and Photo Provided
By Mark Warren
Extension Agent, Row Crops
UF/ IFAS Extension, Levy County
Published Aug. 12, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.
BRONSON -- It is that time of year again when we all need to slow down, exercise a little patience, pull off to the side of the road, and take a few minutes to recognize the value of one of our county’s most important industries.
Even if you’re not directly involved in Levy County agriculture, if you own a business here, work for someone who does, or have just come to relax and retire, your connection to local agriculture goes well beyond the proverbial three meals a day. Now I know that many minds just jumped to some of the less positive experiences of living in a farming community, but let’s consider some of the positives.
1. According to a UF/ IFAS study done in 2018, agriculture provides 31.8 percent of the jobs in Levy County and over $280 million dollars to our local economy. Keep in mind that these dollars are just the direct impact dollars. Add to this all of the indirect goods and services required by the 5000 people who work in and around the farm and you will start getting a picture of the driver that this industry is. Construction, barber shops, and restaurant services, while are obviously not directly driven by agriculture, are highly influenced by the success of farming. The positive economic benefits of this industry reach much further into our communities than a casual glance might first notice.
2. As a land-use (like residential, commercial, or industrial land-use), agriculture contributes a measurable benefit to our environment as well. Farmland across the region provides wildlife habitat and biodiversity, water-recharge and infiltration areas, atmospheric cooling, and an abundance of aesthetically pleasing landscapes. While most farmers are incredible stewards of the environmental resources on which their livelihood depends, did you realize that over 180,000 acres of agricultural land in the Suwannee Valley (>50 percent of farmland) are voluntarily enrolled in Fl. Dept. Of Agriculture and Consumer Services Best Management Practices (BMPs)? These BMPs are scientifically validated practices that farmers implement to ensure that their enterprises are not part of an environmental problem.
3. Another benefit of living in a strong agricultural community, that positively benefits the wallet of every local resident, often goes unnoticed. If you own property in the county, you pay property taxes. When compared to other regions around the state and country, our local municipalities claim that our taxes are among the lowest. So, why might this be? There have been several studies done around the state on the costs of community services (roads, schools, emergency services, sidewalks, streetlights…). When comparing taxes generated by various land uses (residential, commercial, agriculture) to the amount of community services they require, agriculture and some commercial land uses result in a net gain for county governments.
In every study the cost of community services for residential land uses always results in a net loss to the municipality. This means that agriculture not only pays its own way, but it also pays for the services that non-agricultural residents need/ enjoy. Without agriculture our taxes would be higher, or our community services would have to be reduced.
Agriculture is a year-round industry in Levy County involving many different commodities across a wide geographic area. While this is a season (August-November) when we encounter more and larger equipment on the roads, it isn’t the only season. If city driving requires increased attention to traffic lights, distracted drivers, bicycles and pedestrians, country driving requires attention to end-gun car washes, high clearance sprayers, and the occasional escaped cow.
I may be overstating the obvious but based on my observations I still think it needs to be said. Moving a piece of farm equipment down a highway is different than driving your minivan to the store.
• Imagine strapping a 16-foot ladder across the grill of your car and driving through the Walmart parking lot on Saturday morning.
• Imagine pulling off on the shoulder of a county road at 60 MPH, with no springs or shocks, a back seat full of eggs, and no springs or shocks.
• Imagine driving a semi pulling a mobile home through the fast food drive-in.
• Imagine being stuck in the fast lane on the Atlanta By-pass riding a Moped
• Imagine driving a $500,000 Lamborghini at the Bronson racetrack in first gear.
Add these all up and you might be getting close to what it’s like driving a peanut picker down a Levy County backroad. The equipment is big, expensive, and, while legal to operate on the highway, they’re not well suited to it.
Think about how many times you have been surprised by finding a tractor puttering down the road. You crest a hill, round a curve, or look up from a momentary distraction and there it is. Because of the difference in speed between you and it, this massive piece of equipment seems to have appeared out of thin air. Now imagine that you are the one driving the tractor, with all of the above listed parameters, and this shiny red ‘vette is all of the sudden on you. This isn’t a good situation for either party.
There are certainly benefits to living in a rural county. While we may not always recognize it, agriculture and farming play an important role in what makes Levy, Levy. As we enter into this peanut harvest season, and encounter the occasional “picker parade,” or this winter as a rancher moves hay to a pen of heifers, or as fields are prepared for spring planting we all need to slow down a little, offer a generous dose of highway social distancing, and be thankful that we aren’t stuck at a traffic light sucking exhaust fumes.
For more information about any of the topics discussed, contact Mark Warren, Row Crops Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Levy County, at 352-486-5131 or email@example.com.
When Facing Illness,
Take Control of Finances
Published Aug. 10, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
NEWBERRY -- In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually all of us have considered health-related issues.
But for people facing a serious, chronic illness, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes or cancer, health concerns are an everyday matter. If you’re fortunate, you may never be afflicted with such maladies, but the future is unpredictable. Of course, going through these health challenges bring physical and emotional concerns – but also financial ones.
How can you prepare for them?
Essentially, you’ll need to consider four key areas: investments, insurance, legal arrangements and taxes. Let’s take a quick look at each of them:
Investments – You’ll likely need to draw on your investments for at least some of the expenses associated with your illness. So, within your portfolio, you may want to establish a special fund devoted entirely to these costs, whether they be health care, modifications to your home, transportation and so on. A financial professional can help you choose investments for this fund, as well as make recommendations for your overall investment strategy, including techniques for boosting your income, such as adding investments that can provide an income stream that kicks in when you think your costs will rise.
Insurance – Depending on your health status, you may be able to collect Medicare earlier than the traditional starting point at age 65. Even so, you’ll likely need to supplement it with additional coverage. But you may also want to look beyond health insurance. For example, you might be able to purchase a “chronic illness rider” that allows you to tap into life insurance benefits while you’re still alive. Or you might consider adding a “long-term care rider” to a life insurance policy; this rider offers financial benefits if you ever require daily care that you can’t provide for yourself. And some foundations, states and drug companies offer programs that can help pay for some costs that your insurance won’t cover.
Legal arrangements – If you haven’t already done so, you may want to establish the legal documents most appropriate for your situation, such as a durable power of attorney for finances, which gives someone the authority to manage your financial affairs if you become temporarily incapacitated, possibly due to flare-ups of your chronic disease. Once you have recovered, you regain control of your financial decisions. You might also want to consider a health care proxy, which appoints an individual to make medical decisions for you if you can’t. In creating or revising these documents, you’ll need to consult with your legal professional.
Taxes – You might qualify for Social Security disability payments, which, like other Social Security benefits, are taxable, so you’ll need to be aware of what you might owe. But you might also be eligible for some tax breaks related to your condition. If you still itemize tax deductions, you may be able to deduct some medical expenses, as well as certain home improvements, such as wheelchair ramps, bathtub grab bars, motorized stairlifts and so on. Your tax advisor may have suggestions appropriate for your situation.
Dealing with a chronic illness is never easy. But by considering how your illness will affect all aspects of your life, getting the help you need, and taking the right steps, you may be able to reduce the financial stress on you and your loved ones.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by Edward Jones Financial Advisor - Sheila K. Smith, 25349 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry. Phone 352-472-2776.
Workforce resiliency promoted
with free job training
and industry certification
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Aug. 5, 2020 at 6:10 p.m.
OCALA – CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is offering free access to Metrix Learning, a dynamic online training platform to help anyone improve their employment skills.
The online learning initiative, called “Skillup Citrus Levy Marion,” features more than 5,000 courses that can be accessed 24/7 by anyone with high-speed Internet.
“We’re pleased to be able to help the citizens of Citrus, Levy and Marion counties improve workforce skills at a time and place that is convenient to them,” said Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion.
Skinner said that area community organizations are invited to partner with CareerSource CLM to access the Metrix Learning system to benefit those they serve. There is no charge for the service.
Since the effects of the pandemic began to be felt in the region, the number of workers who lost their jobs skyrocketed to near record highs, hitting 12.9 percent in April, up from 3.9 percent just two months earlier.
“This free training is an ideal opportunity for anyone and everyone in our region, regardless of whether they lost their job due to COVID-19,” said Kim Baxley, vice president for Safety and Human Resources for the Central Florida Electric Cooperative and CareerSource CLM’s board chair.
Baxley said the training platform is “flexible and helpful to job seekers and workers looking to improve skills, earn industry certificates, launch into new careers, or promote into new career opportunities.”
Skillup Citrus Levy Marion allows participants to learn at self-pace, receive clear training milestones, and achieve industry certificates upon completion through customized badges. The online courses lead to more than 180 in-demand industry certificates, and offer coursework in everything from soft skills to project management.
For guidance and fee-free re-employment assistance, CareerSource CLM career coaches are also available to assess job seekers’ interests and skills gaps and work with them one-on-one to create individual Training Plans aligned with their targeted career pathway.
CareerSource CLM’s services are accessible by phone, email, Live Chat and video conferencing. Job seekers may also meet with staff, by appointment only, at any of the region’s career centers in Ocala, Lecanto or Chiefland.
The Skillup portal can be reached at http://citruslevymarion.skillupamerica.org/. For more information, call 1-800-434-JOBS or visit https://careersourceclm.com/.
Community human services agencies interested in becoming a Skillup partner should contact Dale French, CareerSource CLM’s director of operations, at 352-873-7939, ext. 2204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A hay fluffer brings the grass to an easier point for the baler after the mower has cut the grass. Some farmers let the hay dry for a day, and others fluff and bale it within a few hours after cutting it.
A John Deere tractor pulls a Vermeer hay baler and is photographed just as a cylindric hay bale rolls out.
In this two-minute video, a John Deere tractor pulling a Vermeer hay-baler and a John Deere tractor pulling a hay fluffer are seen in action on Monday (Aug. 3) as this team of farmers make hay while the sun shines somewhere in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties. Earlier on this very day, a giant lawnmower hacked down the green grass. During this video, hay dust is seen dust in the wind, and the wind affects the microphone on the camera used to video this event. In northern Florida, hay can be harvested throughout the growing season in most years. This crop appears to be Bahia grass. Agriculture is among the major economic engines in the Tri-County Area where pine trees are planted, as are peanuts, watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, blueberries, corn, sorghum, pepperoncini peppers, banana peppers, green peppers, eggplants, string beans and other types of fruits and vegetables. As for livestock, the herds in this part of Florida include cattle, swine, goats, sheep, emus, and flocks of chicken, ducks, peacocks and other creatures that produce meat, eggs and milk products.
Photos and Video By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 3, 2020 at 11:10 p.m.
All Rights Reserved
Be SMART Florida
In this 17-second video produced by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (FDACS), City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez urges Floridians to be SMART by wearing facemasks and practicing other methods to beat COVID-19.
Video By FDACS
By FDACS Communications
Published Aug. 3, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE – Today (Monday, Aug. 3), Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced the launch of Be SMART Florida, a new statewide COVID-19 consumer awareness campaign asking Floridians to take small actions with proven results to slow the pandemic’s spread.
SMART is an acronym for:
S: Social distance
M: Mask up
A: Avoid Crowds
R: Remember to wash your hands
T: Throw away disposable items
like masks, gloves and wipes
A nonpartisan, bilingual, multi-channel awareness campaign, Be SMART Florida is an acronym asking Floridians to Social distance, Mask up, Avoid crowds, Remember to wash or sanitize hands, and Throw away disposable items like masks, gloves, and wipes.
These commonsense steps are crucial to slowing COVID-19; a World Health Organization-backed study showed that COVID-19’s spread is reduced by up to 85 percent through wearing masks and up to 82 percent by social distancing.
The campaign’s launch comes after Commissioner Fried, a member of the Florida Cabinet who oversees Florida’s consumer protection agency, has heard from Floridians, families, parents, teachers, farmworkers, business owners, and others concerned about COVID-19.
Last week, Fried held a virtual roundtable discussion with frontline doctors, nurses and healthcare workers on the state’s COVID-19 response.
“We’ve never needed to be more united than right now, yet we’re divided by simple actions like wearing a mask and keeping our distance,” Commissioner Fried said. “To reopen our state and our economy safely, we must all be in this together and do the small things that make a big difference in slowing down COVID-19.
“As Florida’s consumer protection agency, we take seriously the responsibility to help Florida’s people, businesses, essential workers, and economy be safe. I’m hopeful that by working together, we’ll all do our part to beat COVID-19 – so let’s be SMART, Florida!” she added
The campaign features short #BeSMARTFL social media videos from well-known Floridians and influencers, shareable graphics and animated videos with important information, and a social media toolkit that encourages everyone to spread the word.
In the coming weeks, radio PSAs will begin airing, and other campaign elements will be introduced. Today, the campaign is launching with short videos from former Miami HEAT player Alonzo Mourning, Congresswoman and former U.S. Secretary of Health Donna Shalala, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, entertainer and entrepreneur DJ IRIE, and State Rep. Javier Fernández (in Spanish).
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is Florida’s state consumer protection agency, responsible for handling consumer complaints, ensuring food safety at grocery stores, markets, and convenience stores, protecting against unfair and unsafe business practices, and more. FDACS handles over 400,000 consumer complaints and inquiries annually, oversees more than 500,000 regulated devices, entities, and products like gas pumps and grocery scales, performs over 61,000 lab analyses on products like gasoline and brake fluid, performs nearly 9,000 fair ride inspections, and returned over $2.8 million to consumers through mediations with businesses last year.
Since March 1, FDACS has received more than 815 consumer complaints related to COVID-19.
Daily News Website’s
Unique Visitor average
is 11,000-plus monthly;
Hits average is 1.3 million monthly
‘Here’s To 10 Years!’ theme thrives
Graphic by cPanel
By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 1, 2020 at 8:10 a.m.
All Rights Reserved
THE WORLD – The daily news website named HardisonInk.com continues in its 10th year of existence with figures from July 1 through July 31 at par with high website traffic established in the past several years, according to two independent third-party robotic measuring devices -- Google Analytics and cPanel.
Jeff M. Hardison, owner, publisher and sole proprietor doing business as HardisonInk.com shared his perspective on some matters with his tenth year as the owner of this business.
“As for the daily news website,” he said, “there were more than 11,000 unique visitors who went to it in July. We experienced in excess of one million hits, again, in the month of July.”
Hardison said the seven-month average of unique visitors for the first seven months of 2020 is 11,300, with the July number coming in at 11,247.
The seven-month average for hits so far in 2020 is 1.3 million hits a month.
Hardison said he is thankful to God first, and then he is thankful for the continued reading and viewing of stories, photos and videos, which shows a strong base of people as the daily news website moves forward through its tenth year of existence.
The tenth year of HardisonInk.com began Feb. 1, 2020.
The business owner said he extremely appreciates other business owners and interests who continue to buy ads to sponsor HardisonInk.com.
“The relatively significant global and national economic downturn in 2020,” Hardison said, “has shown an impact in the Tri-County Area. “Almost all advertising interests who sponsor HardisonInk.com have renewed year after year.”
The numbers for July of 2020 are shown in the graphic at the top of this story.
The first gauge reflects Unique Visitors.
Webopedia.com defines unique visitor as "a person who visits a website more than once within a specified period of time."
Software used for this report can distinguish between visitors who only visit the site once and unique visitors -- who return to the site.
The unique visitor is different from a site's hits or page views -- which are measured by the number of files that are requested from a site. Unique visitors are measured according to their unique Internet Protocol addresses, which are like online fingerprints, and unique visitors are counted only once no matter how many times they visit the site after they have visited it twice.
“I continue looking forward to every second in 2020,” Hardison said. “As HardisonInk.com never breaks stride in its tenth year of existence, the theme in this 12-month span is “Here’s To 10 Years.”
The July total of unique visitors 11,374.
“I remember one month during the first year,” Hardison said, “when I thought 800 was a lot of unique visitors to be touching the website in a month. With the July monthly amount of computer addresses visiting the daily news website, I am confident and proud to sell ads at the same rate that was good when there were only 800 a month. We have not increased the cost for advertisers who sponsor the daily news website – other than the short-term advertisers. As for the national ads at the bottom of the pages, I removed those in July.”
NUMBER OF VISITS
Another measure of traffic is the number of visits.
In July, the number was 28,531 visits.
Pages Viewed shows how many different pages the visitors looked at. This website has the Home Page, Police Page, Calendar Page, Business Page, Community Page, Life Page and the Leisure Page.
The monthly total pages viewed in July was 68,765. There are ads on each page, and the readers see those ads.
The July total of hits were more than 1.1 million (1,112,437).
What is a “hit?” When a viewer looks at a page, there are elements on the page that register a “hit.” For instance, if there are four pictures on a page, then that July equal four “hits.” Like all the gauges, this is a measure of traffic.
All measurements combined show that the daily news website is continuing its trend of progress and growth each year.
“These figures herald the fact that many people each day use HardisonInk.com as a source for information,” Hardison said. “And they return daily.”
HardisonInk.com continues to provide readers, viewers and listeners with news and human interest stories, photos and videos. Business owners and others see this is the best site for Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties’ daily news every day -- as well as picking up statewide news, national news and international news.
People know there are no bounds for where HardisonInk.com coverage will go as it informs, educates and entertains people.
This website is the best medium in this market to advertise, which is proved by the traffic numbers as well as the results seen by sponsors.
This daily news website has the Weather Bug on the Home Page for all current weather and forecasting needs, including radar and Weather Alerts. It has columns for quilt reports, Christian devotionals, Exploring Finances and more.
HardisonInk.com provides state news on the BUSINESS PAGE and other pages on occasion when it is merited. And there have been national and international stories on other pages, including the HOME PAGE and POLICE PAGE.
CHECK OUT THE ARCHIVES
The Florida native said his wife is a vital part of the reason for such a high success rate for the website.
"I thank God for bringing Sharon Hardison into my life more than 33 years ago now, and we celebrated our 31st anniversary in July," Jeff Hardison said. "She does so much for me, that it continues to fill me with awe daily. Sharon is the multiple award-winning graphic artist who creates most of the ads. She is my bookkeeper who provides information to my accountant, too. The archive page is from her work. Go to any of the seven pages and find the ad for the archive page on the bottom right column and click on it.
"A new window will open." he continued. "Just go to the month you want and scroll down. If you see a link that looks interesting, click on it. The newest addition is a direct link to all of the videos that have been published. CHECK OUT OUR VIDEOS on YouTube.com. If you see any video you want to watch, click on it.”
There are a couple of different main sites for YouTube.com sites with videos by Jeff M. Hardison. Here are two links – click HERE for one main site and click HERE for the other main site.
ADVERTISEMENT KEEPS IT GOING
HardisonInk.com is visible for free to anyone who can see pages on the Internet. Therefore, people all over the world – and in the International Space Station – can view it.
This site is subscription-free entirely because of its sponsors. Not only do advertisers help the people in the world (and astronauts in space) see Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, but those business interests enjoy the most exposure for the least ad dollars spent.
"We don't put up winky-blinky ads or pop-ups in our local ads," Hardison said. "Our local ads don't move around by the minute. And I promote our local advertisers in other places in addition to HardisonInk.com. I have removed the national ads, except where a local advertiser carries a national or global product – like Stihl saws at the Tri-County Saw Shop."
HardisonInk.com is the best daily news website that covers Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties (and beyond).
HardisonInk.com provides the best return on investment of dollars spent on advertising in the world, because people all over the world see it. As for interests in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, the same is true because the Tri-County Area is the primary focal point of news coverage.
Here’s To 10 Years!
“The big prize for the November contest is going to be a $100 gift card to BubbaQue’s,” Hardison said. “The very next contest and prize is HardisonInk.com giving away $50 in its Summer Fun Contest.”
The Summer Fun Contest wrapped up with a drawing from those qualifying participants on July 18, and the award of $50 cash was presented.
“So,” Hardison said, “Here’s To 10 Years! And, I hope everyone enjoyed participating in the Summer Fun Contest! Sharon created the Money Tree Contest for Sept. 7-14. People will find a leaf in ads on those days. The Summer Fun Contest had the Sun that was found. I looked at some of the ad samples for the contest to find the leaf, it will be more difficult.
“The winner in this contest is getting not only the $50 in cash, with different bills on the branches, but they also get the Money Tree too,” Hardison added. “I think it is a cute prize, but people will need to look more closely to find the leaf daily from Sept. 7 through Sept. 14.”
CFEC preps for Hurricane Isaias
By Alison DeLoach, Communication Specialist
Central Florida Electric Cooperative
Published July 31, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
CHIEFLAND -- As Hurricane Isaias continues its path along the east coast, Central Florida Electric Cooperative Inc. (CFEC) has prepared a crew of lineman and a service restoration team, to manage and restore power to the service area during the storm.
CFEC is currently taking precautions to prepare for this storm, tracking the storm’s movements, updating staff, and reminding its members to prepare their homes and families for the weekend.
“The current forecast is showing Hurricane Isaias will most likely remain a category 1, skirting along the east coast of Florida through the weekend,” said Daniel Powell, Manager of Engineering at CFEC. “Right now, we are monitoring and preparing in case anything changes suddenly.”
CFEC has a well-stocked inventory of the materials and equipment necessary for making repairs. Line crews have also been assembled and are on stand-by for the storm.
Members can report outages by calling 1-800-227-1302, through the CFEC website (www.cfec.com) under the “report an outage” tab, or by accessing the CFEC Connect mobile app.
Use these tips to prepare for storms:
• For shelter updates, check with local fire departments and your counties’ emergency management team:
• Levy- Visit www.Levydisaster.com or call emergency management at 352.486.5213
• Dixie- Visit www.Dixieemergency.com or call emergency management at 352.498.1231
• Gilchrist- Visit www.Gilchrist.fl.us or call emergency management at 386.935.5400
• Alachua- Visit www.Alachuacounty.us or call emergency management at 352.955.1818
• If someone in your household depends on electricity to operate life support systems, make plans for alternate sources of power or alternate lodging.
• Determine safe evacuation routes.
• Have a first aid kit on hand, including prescription medication in adequate supply.
• Check emergency equipment, such as flashlights, generators & battery-powered equipment & keep extra batteries on-hand.
• Invest in a battery/solar powered radio and cell phone charger.
• Stock several gallons of drinking water and nonperishable foods.
• Fill bathtubs with water to flush toilets.
Farmers urged to comment
FDACS Office of Communications
Published July 23, 2020 at 9:10 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are encouraging producers to submit comments in the coming week to the upcoming U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) field hearings on unfair produce trade with Mexico.
The USTR recently announced that field hearings scheduled in April will now take place on August 13 and August 20 in a virtual setting. These hearings will give the U.S. Department of Commerce and Trump Administration an opportunity to hear from Florida’s seasonal produce growers on the urgent need for federal action on unfair foreign trade.
Deadlines: The deadline to request to testify at either field hearing is Monday, July 27, with the deadline to submit a written copy of advance testimony on Monday, Aug. 3. The deadline to submit online comments is also Monday, Aug. 3.
“The concerns of Florida’s farmers with the USMCA remains the same as when NAFTA was being renegotiated two years ago – the deal lacks protections against unfair trade practices that have devastated our state’s growers,” Commissioner Fried said. “With the U.S. Trade Representative holding the field hearings to which they committed, I’m encouraging Florida’s seasonal produce growers and others affected by unfair foreign trade to make their voices heard. Our farmers are the best in the world and deserve a level playing field on which to compete.”
An FDACS report released this month shows that imported produce from Mexico has caused serious harm to Florida’s domestic seasonal produce industry, with more than $3.7 billion in losses since 2000. Mexico has expanded their share of the U.S. domestic market by 217 percent in that time, while Florida’s market share has dropped by 40 percent. Florida agriculture has also suffered more than 37,000 jobs lost due to unfair foreign trade practices by Mexican importers, while Mexico’s seasonal crop imports have increased 551 percent since 2000. Fried highlighted the issue in a July 2 press conference with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.
Additional information on USTR field hearing dates, deadlines, and submission instructions can be found in the Federal Register notice.
By Madison Redd, Communications Specialist
Central Florida Electric Cooperative Inc.
Published July 22, 2020 at 7:10 p.m.
CHIEFLAND -- The Board of Trustees of Central Florida Electric Cooperative Inc. met and appointed the following members as a committee for nominations: James Galen Butler; Don Campbell; V.C. Cannon; Andy Lott; Stephen L. Morral; Robert Robinson; Clinton Rogers; Johnny Smith; and Margaret Sprague.
The committee is scheduled to meet on July 28 to select nominees to represent districts 1, 5 and 9 as Trustees of Central Florida Electric Cooperative Inc. These districts are presently represented by James McCain, District 1; Donald Lane, District 5; and Barbara Townsend, District 9.
Region’s jobless rate
drops in June to 8.8 percent
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published July 17, 2020 at 2:10 p.m.
OCALA – The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 8.8 percent in June, down 2.4 percentage point over the month, 4.4 percentage point higher than the region’s rate a year ago and 1.9 percentage point lower than the state rate of 10.7 percent.
There were 17,204 unemployed in the region, 4,460 fewer than in May and 8,339 more than June 2019 when the jobless rate was 4.0 percent.
The region’s labor force was 194,802, an increase of 926 since May and a loss of 7,341 over the year. There were 177,598 employed, representing a one-month increase of 5,386 and a drop of 15,680 compared to June 2019.
Nonfarm employment in the Ocala/Marion County metropolitan statistical area was 104,400, a decrease of 1,300 jobs (-1.2 percent) over the year.
The Ocala MSA had both the highest annual job growth and job growth rate in trade, transportation and utilities, at 300 jobs and 1.2 percent, compared to all the metro areas in the state.
In addition, mining, logging and construction grew faster in the metro area than statewide, adding 400 new jobs for a growth rate of 4.7 percent over the year.
According to the preliminary jobs report for June, released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Levy County had the lowest jobless rate in the region at 7.5 percent, down 1.6 percentage point over the month; Marion County followed at 8.5 percent, a 2.2 percentage point drop; and Citrus County’s rate was 10.2 percent, down 3.1 percentage point from May. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – was 10.7 percent, down 2.8 percentage point over the month and an increase of 7.4 percentage point compared to June 2019. The nation’s jobless rate was 11.2 percent, down from 13 percent in May and up 7.4 percentage point over the year.
Rusty Skinner, chief executive officer for CareerSource CLM, said that the June report offers plenty of reason to be “cautiously optimistic.”
“This unemployment data for our three-county area shows a positive movement in all three counties,” Skinner said. “Labor Force and Employment have increased, while the number of our citizens that are unemployed has decreased. We should be positive about this movement in June, but also be cautiously optimistic. We continue to see major hiring in Marion County as a result of its economic development efforts and this likely affects all our counties.”
Skinner noted that that in addition to continuing to offer fee-free virtual assistance to businesses and job seekers and providing in-person services, by appointment only, at the region’s career centers, CareerSource CLM now offers virtual job fairs and hiring events.
“We had nearly 300 job seekers register for last month’s job fair, held via Zoom, and businesses are really embracing this option,” Skinner said. “At the same time, we continue to explore ways to offer training and certifications that serve both employers and candidates.” Other initiatives include a grant to place those laid off due to COVID-19 in paid positions with area nonprofits, and an Electronic Associate apprenticeship with Lockheed Martin.
Skinner reiterated that while none of the CareerSource Florida regions administer the state’s Reemployment Assistance (Unemployment Insurance) program, staff has restricted ability to assist claimants.
“It’s often easier to work with us directly to get answers,” he said. “We can’t promise we’ll be able to solve all issues, and we can’t process or expedite payments, but we can help in spotting red flags which may be holding things up.”
Statewide, 63 counties including Citrus, Levy and Marion saw drops in unemployment, four counties experienced slight increases ranging from 0.1 to 0.3 percent points.
Here’s a breakdown of region’s June jobs numbers by county:
Citrus County’s labor force shrank by 413 over the month to 45,375, the number of employed increased by 1,023 to 40,729 and the number of unemployed dropped by 1,436 to 4,646. Compared to June 2019, when the jobless rate was 5.1 percent, the labor force has contracted by 2,300, the number of employed has dropped by 4,501 and the number of unemployed increased by 2,201.
Levy County’s labor force expanded by 193 to 15,478, the number of those with jobs rose by 424 to 14,312 and the number of unemployed fell by 231 to 1,166. That’s an over-the-year drop of 1034 in the labor force, 1,516 fewer working and 982 more unemployed compared to when the rate was 4.1 percent.
Marion County’s labor force increased by 1,146 to 133,949, the number of those with jobs increased by 3,939 to 122,557 and the number of unemployed dropped by 2,793 to 11,392. That’s 4,007 fewer than the size of the labor force a year ago, a drop of 9,663 in the number of those with jobs and an increase of 5,656 in the number of unemployed compared to June 2019 when the jobless rate was 4.2 percent.
In June, Citrus County tied with Hernando County posting the 10th highest jobless rate among all 67 counties; Marion County dropped two spots to 29th highest tied with Brevard and Hardee counties; and Levy County moved from 40th to 36th highest tied with Glades County. Osceola County held the highest rate at 22.9 percent and Lafayette the lowest at 4.9 percent.
Among the metro areas, the Homosassa Springs/Citrus County MSA slipped from the fifth to sixth highest rate and the Ocala MSA dropped from 16th to the 17th highest rate, tied with the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville MSA. The Villages, which includes a portion of Marion County, jumped from the 14th to 8th highest jobless rate among metros.
Other than mining, logging and construction and trade, transportation and utilities, no industry sectors grew in the Ocala MSA over the year. Those losing jobs were education and health services (-600 jobs); professional and business services (-500 jobs); information (-200 jobs); manufacturing (-200 jobs); financial activities (-200 jobs); other services (-200 jobs); and leisure and hospitality (-100 jobs). The government industry was unchanged over the year.
In June, nonfarm employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA was 31,700, a decrease of 1,400 jobs (-4.2 percent) over the year.
The region’s preliminary employment summary for July is scheduled to be released on Aug. 21.
Duke Energy Florida plans
to standard business operations
By Duke Energy News Center
Published July 14, 2020 at 7:10 p.m.
ST. PETERSBURG – Duke Energy Florida will continue assisting customers experiencing economic hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic as the company begins returning to standard billing and payment practices in mid-August.
However, the earliest disconnections for non-payment under regular credit and notice timelines will not begin until Sept. 1 for customers.
In March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company immediately launched a sweeping series of steps to help customers, including suspending disconnections for non-payment, as well as late-payment fees and fees for credit card payments and other payment types.
The company also has donated $1 million to assist COVID-19 relief efforts in Florida. For more information on how Duke Energy Florida has helped local communities through rapid-relief funding during the pandemic, click here.
Now, as the company prepares to resume standard billing practices, Duke Energy encourages customers to take advantage of the company’s payment programs to help manage electric bills and avoid service disconnection.
“Our customers remain our top priority. Many of them are facing unprecedented adversity during this pandemic. We want to be thoughtful and provide extended payment options to avoid power interruptions during the pandemic,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president. “As financial assistance has become available for qualified customers, we believe now is the right time to begin resuming more traditional operations. We will, however, continue to help our customers access resources to assist them and provide additional information that can help reduce their bills.”
Enhanced customer care
Duke Energy Florida has been proactively working with customers who are accumulating past-due balances on their utility bills, offering payment plans to mitigate potentially more significant financial challenges in the future.
“If you are facing a financial hardship, we are here to help,” said Malcolm Barnes, Duke Energy’s general manager for regional customer care operations. “Our customer contact specialists are prepared to support our customers through these challenging times and provide manageable solutions so customers can keep their lights on.”
Expanded assistance options
Duke Energy Florida will continue to provide assistance to residential and business customers whose accounts have fallen behind due to illness or lost wages.
Support for these efforts include:
● Online tools so customers can directly choose an extended payment arrangement that meets their individual needs.
● Customers who need additional assistance can visit the Energy Neighbor Fund webpage to learn how community agencies can help pay energy bills.
● Professional guidance for small business customers to help analyze their energy usage, discuss energy rates and identify solutions to help lower their energy bills as they are reopening.
● To make it easier to pay, the company will continue waiving credit/debit card and walk-in payment fees for residential customers for an additional two months once billing and payment practices resume. These fees will resume in November.
What customers can expect
Duke Energy Florida customers will return to standard billing and payment practices in mid-August, which means customers in arrears will receive notices about their past-due balances and the earliest possible date their service could be interrupted. That change could result in disconnections for non-payment under regular credit and notice timelines during the month of September for customers.
The company anticipates higher than normal call volume as standard operations resume and encourages customers to consider using the online self-service options now to avoid long wait times.
Customers should download the company’s mobile app or visit https://www.duke-energy.com/home for information and most service transactions. Customers who are unable to self-serve can contact the customer contact center at 800-700-8744.
Duke Energy’s customer service specialists are available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to assist customers with customized payment plans that meet their specific situations.
Customers who need financial assistance are encouraged to visit 211.org to locate available resources. The free service can help customers find local community agencies that provide assistance to meet a wide range of needs, including:
● Utility bills
● Housing, food and other essentials
● Child and elder care
● Medical expenses and health counseling
To get started, simply visit https://www.211.org/ or dial 211 from your phone.
Service orders, field operations
The company also suspended some of its field operations and non-emergency work inside customers’ premises. However, as a provider of an essential service, the company continues working hard to deliver the reliable power customers need while following CDC guidelines to protect the health and well-being of our communities.
The company has been methodically resuming some activities, consistent with its commitment to safely and reliably serve customers.
As the company continues to resume service orders previously suspended, personnel will continue following CDC guidelines to complete work.
Duke Energy Florida employees and contractors who may interact with customers or engage in field work have access to necessary personal protective equipment and will maintain social distancing to the extent practical.
For work that must be scheduled, the company will contact customers in advance to inform them of the nature of the work and the safety protocols that will be used. Customers will have the right to refuse and reschedule the work for a later date, unless an immediate safety issue exists. If you have questions regarding work that needs to be scheduled, please call us.
The company anticipates that all previously delayed, deferred, and suspended non-essential operations will have resumed by Sept. 1, 2020.
Home Energy Checks can still be completed online. To learn more about Duke Energy’s response to the COVID-19 virus, please visit the company webpage.
NFRMC leader promises
a safe hospital experience
By Eric Lawson, CEO, North Florida Regional Medical Center
Published July 13, 2020 at 10:10 a.m.
GAINESVILLE -- North Florida Regional Medical Center is and has always been a safe place to receive medical care.
However, as the economy continues to reopen, public gatherings increase, and the news of rising COVID-19 numbers continue in Florida and across the nation, we understand that you may be experiencing additional concerns about COVID-19 impacts. I wanted to take this moment to reach out to you as the CEO of North Florida Regional Medical Center and reassure you that we are taking unprecedented precautions to help ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and colleagues.
The health and well-being of our community is important to us. The safety measures we have in place put emphasis on our Four Pillars of Enhanced Safety, which includes policies such as universal masking to help protect everyone who walks through our doors. We have put measures in place to safely and effectively care for all patients, including implementing designated care paths to separate patient care areas and care teams based on COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 health concerns.
While we have the bed capacity, staffing, supplies and equipment we need at this time, we continue to plan by accessing the resources, support and best practices across HCA Healthcare. This helps ensure we remain able to meet the needs of the communities we serve as the situation continues to evolve. We are committed to our promise of a safe hospital experience and we thank you for entrusting us with your care.