Census-response tracker brings healthy competition to Northwest Arkansas region

Five Northwest Arkansas communities rank among the 25 best-responding cities in the state: No. 1 Bella Vista (66.8%), No. 8 Farmington (58.9%), No. 13 Cave Springs (58.0%), No. 15 Lowell (57.2%) and No. 18 Elkins (56.9%).

The 2020 census webpage, maintained by the U.S. Census Bureau, shows 690,000 Arkansas households have self-responded to the census online, by mail or by telephone as of April 14, putting the state’s self-response rate rank No. 36; down from No. 35 last week. You can view real-time rankings here.

To protect the health and safety of residents during this time, the Census Bureau has requested Congress permit an extension of the self-response deadline for participation in the census to Oct. 31. Let’s continue to reach out to 20 family members, friends and fellow Arkansans and let them know they can participate in the census online or by completing and mailing back the form Arkansans receive this week.

We’re using the hashtags #ARCounts and “tell #20for2020” — join the conversation to ensure every Arkansas resident counts in the 2020 Census!

Help for small businesses key to inclusive recovery

Small businesses are the engine of our regional economy. According to the census, 93% of Northwest Arkansas businesses have fewer than 50 employees. Current financial assistance bills at the federal and state levels are designed to provide crucial relief to small businesses, but many owners are struggling to navigate the application processes and access aid quickly.

The University of Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Northwest Arkansas Council recently partnered to form the Small Business Emergency Assistance program to provide triage-style services to small businesses and nonprofit organizations trying to survive business reductions and closures. Free services include assistance with loan applications, business planning and counseling. Funding for the partnership comes from the Walton Family Foundation and from corporations such as Walmart, J.B. Hunt and Tyson Foods.

Communities Unlimited, a community development fund based in Fayetteville, is using its skills and capital to help business owners in underserved communities that often do not have established relationships with larger banks. The nonprofit has created an online toolkit to help small businesses navigate the relief options provided through the federal CARES Act and Families First Act. “It’s an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute search, making sure we are keeping up with all the changes that the SBA and IRS are putting out,” said Kimberly Griffey, Community Unlimited’s chief financial officer, in an interview with KUAF Radio. The toolkit includes FAQs and a “What’s Best For Me?” worksheet that helps business owners identify their best loan options.

Advocates work to ensure access to COVID-19 resources for immigrant community

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten and disrupt lives, it is critically important that health information, economic assistance and community supports are made accessible to members of our growing immigrant community.

Mireya Reith, executive director of Arkansas United, says the immigrant community needs three things right now: translations for information related to the virus, an expanded definition of who can access Medicaid in case they’re diagnosed (DACA and all other immigrants on work permits do not get access to Medicaid) and access to free or reduced-cost testing. In an interview with the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, Reith said “there is not a single Latinx or Asian person in a decision-making role on anything coronavirus-related. Even on all these task forces being created. So we are having to educate these decision-makers and the work is all on us.”

In addition to advocacy around these efforts, organizations such as Arkansas United, Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, UAMS, Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Minority Health Commission are working together to publish a series of informational videos about coronavirus available in four different languages (English, Spanish, Marshallese and Arabic).

We will update our COVID-19 Resources page with these translations as they become available.


““Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everwhere.””

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this day in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous open letter from Birmingham Jail. King was incarcerated for disobeying an injunction against public protest in Birmingham. The letter outlined King’s belief in nonviolent civil disobedience in the struggle for civil rights.

take NOTE.

Theaters may be closed, but a diverse collaboration of Arkansas arts and culture organizations are bringing a series of impactful documentaries and interactive chats straight to your home.

The Shelter-In-Place Virtual Film Series kicks off this Sunday with a screening of True Conviction, the true story of three exonerated men who spent a combined sixty years in prison before forming a detective agency to free other innocent men. Christopher Scott and Steven Phillips, the men on whom the documentary is based, will join the screening as panelists.

Films were specifically chosen to help build community connections around important social issues. “There is something about the experience of ‘going to the movies’ that allows us to experience and be open to perspectives other than our own,” said Kwami Abdul-Bey, co-convener of the Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement and host of the first screening.

The series runs from April 19 to May 31.

happy NEWS!

It is with great pleasure and joy that we announce the newest member of the EngageNWA community. Roman Royce Gardner Lemaster was born on Saturday, April 11, to proud parents Margot and Jordan Lemaster.

We wish them great health and happiness during this special time!


How we communicate about COVID-19 and its impact on certain populations could shape the policies and practices put in place in the future.

A recent messaging memo from The Frameworks Institute was a good reminder to avoid labels that suggest weakness or separation from society. None of us like to think of ourselves as “vulnerable” or defined by labels. The memo provides a list of person-first phrasing to use in our communication around the pandemic that will help ensure dignity and belonging for all Northwest Arkansas residents today and in the future.

Download the COVID-messaging memo here.