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VOL. 46 | NO. 29 | Friday, July 22, 2022

DHS adds new actions to support child care

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The Tennessee Department of Human Services announced new actions to support child care providers and parents. On July 1, TDHS increased child care payment assistance reimbursement rates by 20% across all categories of care in the Child Care Certificate Program.

Beginning Aug. 1 through the end of the year, TDHS also will waive copay costs for families currently participating in the State’s child care payment assistance programs. The Department initiated these changes in direct response to rising costs faced by families and child care providers.

“Our Child Care Services team works hard to maintain an understanding of the needs of child care providers and families, and recognized parents and providers feel the impact of the current economy,” said Clarence H. Carter, TDHS commissioner. “It is important that we do our part to help ensure Tennessee families have sustainable access to affordable care for their children so they can work and pursue education. It’s equally important that providers have the resources they need to provide safe, quality care.”

Under the Child Care Certificate program, the state pays a reimbursement rate directly to child care providers on behalf of families who are enrolled and meet the income and work or education requirements of the program. This increase to the reimbursement rate will save participating families money by reducing the portion they have to pay to cover tuition expenses.

In addition to the increased reimbursement rate, from Aug. 1-Dec. 31 the state will waive the copay fees paid by parents participating in the Child Care Certificate Program. This means providers will be paid at the full established State Reimbursement Rate. Parents are encouraged to reach out to their child care provider to understand how these changes impact them, as well as any potential cost difference payment responsibility.

Record donor count gives $264M to UT

Volunteers from across the state, nation and world stepped forward together in support of students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, during the 2021-22 fiscal year.

A record number of 60,142 donors committed more than $264 million to enhance educational opportunities and provide the resources students need to succeed.

Of those totals, 18,859 donors chose to support athletics programs with commitments of more than $80 million.

The donors’ support helped UT students overcome a national trend of declining retention rates – the measure by which students return to college from one semester to the next. This spring, a full 96% of first-year students returned to UT after winter break, the highest first-year retention rate in recent years.

“I am overwhelmed by the thoughtful support of our alumni and friends,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “The historic investments our donors have made this year demonstrate how much they believe in our students, our mission, and the impact we are making across Tennessee and beyond. I am so grateful and proud to call myself a Volunteer and to be part of this generous community.”

Fundraising campaigns during the past year were met with the full enthusiasm and passion of donors. The grassroots Alumni Scholarship Challenge held in April resulted in funds for 130 scholarships, with record generosity coming from the Black Alumni Council, the Knoxville and Seattle Alumni Chapters and others.

Big Orange Give, the university’s annual day of giving, resulted in 9,450 gifts to areas across campus, which far exceeded the campaign’s goal of 8,000 gifts. During the Big Orange Family Campaign, a record 65% of university employees supported the university through donations – the best giving rate for university employees in the Southeastern Conference. Support from donors has even inspired current students to give back, with one in every three seniors contributing to the Senior Impact campaign.

GM, Pilot, EVgo partner building charge network

General Motors and Pilot Company announced a collaboration on a coast-to-coast electric vehicle DC fast charging network that will be installed, operated and maintained by EVgo through its eXtend offering.

This network of 2,000 charging stalls, co-branded “Pilot Flying J” and “Ultium Charge 360,” will be powered by EVgo eXtend and open to all EV brands at up to 500 Pilot and Flying J travel centers.

GM customers will receive special benefits like exclusive reservations, discounts on charging, a streamlined charging process through Plug and Charge and integration into GM’s vehicle brand apps providing real-time charger availability and help with route planning. This collaboration is expected to enhance America’s EV driving experience.

“We are committed to an all-electric, zero-emissions future, and ensuring that the right charging infrastructure is in place is a key piece of the puzzle,” said GM chair and CEO Mary Barra. “With travel centers across North America, Pilot Company is an ideal collaborator to reach a broad audience of EV drivers.”

The Pilot and Flying J travel centers plan to feature numerous fast charging stalls provided by EVgo, including high power fast chargers capable of offering up to 350 kW1.

EVgo, which is also working with GM to add more than 3,250 fast chargers in American cities and suburbs by the end of 2025, was chosen as a strategic collaborator due to its expertise in building, operating and maintaining DC fast charging infrastructure.

Many of these sites will feature canopies to help protect customers from the elements while charging, as well as pull-through capability allowing convenient charging for electric pickup trucks and SUVs pulling trailers.

Assurance Center partners with Oakbridge Insurance

Oakbridge Insurance Agency LLC, one of the largest independent insurance and risk management agencies in the Southeast, today announced a new partnership with The Assurance Center, an independent agency headquartered in Knoxville.

The partnership further expands Oakbridge’s presence in Tennessee and supports the firm’s continued Southeastern expansion.

The Assurance Center is a relationship-focused risk consultancy serving clients in the fast-growing Knoxville market and surrounding communities. The firm’s all-female team provides commercial and personal property and casualty solutions to clients across a variety of end-markets.

“We are very excited to join Oakbridge,” said Assurance Center President Kym Clevenger. “As a strategic partner with an extensive suite of capabilities and markets, Oakbridge provides us with the resources to fully leverage our efficient producer base and established customer and carrier relationships to meet the insurance and risk management needs of individuals and businesses across our region.”

The partnership offers The Assurance Center access to Oakbridge’s sales training and risk management platform, including its innovative Proactive Services offering that seeks to identify and mitigate risks through proprietary analysis and a hands-on, consultative approach.

“We look forward to welcoming Kym Clevenger and the talented Assurance Center team to Oakbridge,” said Oakbridge CEO Robbie Smith. “As an all-female company with a track record of profitable business growth, the partnership further diversifies Oakbridge’s partnership capabilities and producer base in East Tennessee, paving the way for significant growth in the area. It’s a cultural and business fit for Oakbridge.”

Madisonville becomes Main Street Community

Madisonville, the county seat of Monroe County, joins 42 other Tennessee Main Street communities that are accredited through the state program and Main Street America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“At the heart of every vibrant Tennessee city is a thriving downtown district,” says Stuart McWhorter, Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner. “The Tennessee Main Street program is an integral part of our rural and community development efforts, and we are eager to partner with Madisonville community leaders as they develop sustainable revitalization efforts in their downtown.”

The Main Street Program provides training, support and grant opportunities to assist in downtown revitalization efforts. The program will focus on adaptive reuse of historic commercial buildings for community events and economic vitality.

“TNECD is excited to welcome Madisonville to the Main Street America network,” says Tennessee Main Street program director Nancy Williams. “They successfully completed the Tennessee Downtowns program with a new downtown food truck park and have already secured some grant funding to address a long-vacant downtown building.”

The Tennessee Main Street program requires communities to illustrate a commitment from government and other organizations, an adequate organizational budget, a strong historic preservation ethic, a collection of historic commercial buildings and a walkable district.

UTMC, nursing colleges partner

The University of Tennessee Medical Center has teamed up with the University of Tennessee College of Nursing and Lincoln Memorial University Caylor School of Nursing to develop academic-practice partnerships.

The intent is to attract and retain baccalaureate prepared RNs committed to serving the health care needs of patients in East Tennessee, not only today but in the future.

“We are building upon our long-standing relationships with the UT and LMU colleges of nursing to create mutually beneficial partnerships to address our region’s complex and unprecedented nursing shortage,” said Dr. Sandy Leake, senior vice president and Chief Nursing Officer at UTMC.

These partnerships will provide early career development and growth opportunities for Bachelor of Science Nursing students through mentorship with UTMC RNs. Employment is guaranteed during the program and results in a service commitment upon completion of a BSN.

“These nurses will likely live, work and remain in our community, ensuring a long-term continuum of patient care,” said Leake. “The programs are designed to provide hands-on learning and clinical experience by working with RNs in the region’s only Magnet-Designated hospital and to guarantee post-graduation employment.”

UTMC has partnered with UT College of Nursing to create a nurse scholars program providing substantial financial support to BSN students. UTMC will use endowment funding to provide tuition assistance for eight to 12 student scholars annually, combined with a tuition discount offered by the UT College of Nursing.

The partnership with LMU-CSON will provide substantial financial support to BSN students through a Nursing Excellence Program. UTMC will offer annual tuition assistance for up to 10 Excellence in Nursing students, who will also receive discounted tuition from LMU.

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