BIZ Briefs

City of Shreveport workers will be getting a one-time payout, according to an Associated Press report.

Although the city says it doesn’t have enough money for a permanent pay raise, the Shreveport City Council voted in late December to approve a payment of $1,000 for every full-time employee and $500 for every part-time employee. Workers received the money in time for Christmas.

Shreveport City Council member James Flurry said the payment is hazard pay for workers during the coronavirus pandemic, not a bonus, taken from more than $2 million in excess of sales tax revenue.

City Council member John Nickelson said he voted against the move because the state constitution bars the city from paying a bonus to city employees. He also said the federal CARES Act barred bonsues other than hazard pay or overtime. The plan originally called for taking the money from federal coronavirus relief funds, but was amended to take the money from the city’s general fund.

“I wish we could pay everybody more but we have to do it within constraints of our authority,” Nickelson told local TV news stations.

The city approved a permanent 4% raise for police and fire employees on Dec. 8.

AEP Foundation provides north louisiana nonprofits with $25,000 in support

The AEP Foundation awarded $25,000 in grants to six nonprofits across Southwestern Electric Power Co.’s (SWEPCO) Louisiana service area.

Grant dollars will aid organizations in expanding holiday meal programs and addressing community needs.

The American Electric Power Foundation is funded by American Electric Power (Nasdaq: AEP) and its utility operating units, including SWEPCO.

The organizations receiving grants are:

  • • Caddo Council on Aging
  • • Christian Service
  • • Common Ground Shreveport
  • • Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana
  • • Natchitoches Parish Council on Aging
  • • Salvation Army Northwest Louisiana

 “We are pleased to present these agencies with additional funding on behalf of the AEP Foundation, as we know our partner agencies are working tirelessly to provide relief for those facing difficult situations,” said Michael Corbin, SWEPCO External Affairs manager. “We want to help ensure that the programs serving our community’s most vulnerable residents can continue and expand.”

Caddo Council on Aging’s Executive Director Monica Wright said the nonprofit would use its $3,500 in funding to support its Meals on Wheels program. When the pandemic first started, the AEP Foundation awarded funds to the nonprofit that allowed it to increase the number of meals delivered from five to six per week.

“The need for meals for seniors in our community has increased,” said Wright. “We are getting more calls from seniors that want home-delivered meals, and we are working to continue to provide six meals. These funds will help us provide these meals, as well as the additional requests that we receive.”

Seniors and families will also benefit from funds awarded to Christian Service. Executive Director Alvin Moore said the organization would use the $2,500 awarded by the foundation to help it continue to feed those in need. In its 50th year, Christian Service prepares approximately 7,000 meals for residents with no questions asked.

“We provide two hot meals a day on every day of the year except Christmas Day,” said Moore. “Due to the [Covid-19] pandemic, we are only preparing to-go meals, but we’d never had to buy to-go meal supplies and bottled water. These funds will go toward the supplies needed to help us continue our mission. We cannot do the things we do without the support of the community and the AEP Foundation.”

Common Ground Shreveport will apply its $2,500 in funding to its food pantry grocery boxes and community meals. Each week, about 500 boxes of groceries full of non-perishables and fresh produce, along with 350 to-go meals, are prepared for families by Common Ground Shreveport, said Director of Operations and Programs Sarah Williams Shoup.

“With the holidays, additional items such as baking and stuffing mixes are included in the grocery boxes; these items help residents round out their holiday meal.” Said Shoup. “This grant will go toward the holiday goods, and we couldn’t do what we do without our community partners. We are beyond grateful.”

A grant of $10,000 to the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana will expand its Backpack Program – now in its 23rd year. Backpacks are filled with food that is distributed on the last day before the weekend or holiday vacation for children to take home. The food is child-friendly, nonperishable, easily consumed and vitamin-fortified, said Executive Director Martha Marak.

“The Backpack Program is a weekend feeding program in areas where the school-age children are predominately living in poverty,” said Marak. “The program is designed to meet the needs of hungry children at times when other food resources are not available, such as weekends and school vacations.”

Participating schools are in Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Red River and DeSoto parishes.

For the Salvation Army Shreveport-Bossier, a $2,500 grant will support its holiday meal program, including the distribution of approximately 100 food baskets.

“We are always working to feed our shelter residents, as well as members of the Boys and Girls Club, especially during the holiday season,” said Director of Development Julie Searing. “Our focus will be that our community is not deprived of a meal this coming Christmas.”

The AEP Foundation focuses its support on education, from early childhood through higher education, and supporting those agencies that meet basic needs, such as emergency shelter, affordable housing and the elimination of hunger.

The AEP Foundation has provided nearly $4 million in emergency funds to support basic human needs – food, shelter and housing assistance – and other COVID-19 related emergencies across the AEP system.

Louisiana Tech ranks as a top U.S. university for cyber security

Louisiana Tech University has been ranked among the most affordable U.S. universities to offer degree options in cyber security.

The university was ranked number 36 in Cyber Degrees EDU’s “Top 55 Most Affordable Cyber Security Schools and Colleges in the U.S.” for its computer science and cyber engineering degrees.

The Cyber Security concentration of the Louisiana Tech Computer Science program provides graduates with hands-on experience in cyber security, networking, and artificial intelligence. Students in the Cyber Engineering program build expertise in computer forensics, cryptography, cyber security, and vulnerability assessment.

Students who excel in either program may be eligible for the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program, which provides scholarships and internship opportunities in exchange for a commitment to work in a cyber security field for the U.S. government after graduation.

“It’s always encouraging when Louisiana Tech and its programs get national recognition,” Dr. Ankunda Kiremire, program chair and lecturer of computer science, said. “It confirms the faculty’s hard work, as well as the students’ brilliance and diligence.”

Cyber Degrees EDU evaluated tuition, number of applicants, percent of admitted applicants, enrollment, retention and graduation rates, student-to-faculty ratio, average graduate salary, and 10-year return on investment of universities throughout the country to select universities and programs to rank.