Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded grants totaling $3.1 million for programs that help low-income residents take steps to secure gainful employment and improve their quality of life.
The Community Services Block Grants will enable 20 community action agencies throughout the state to help low-income residents achieve self-sufficiency and address barriers to success through a variety of programs and services. The specific needs of the communities served determine which programs are available, which can include: job search assistance, short-term employment, skills classes, parenting classes, transitional housing, summer youth programs, financial literacy programs, and emergency food and shelter.
“Community Action Agencies offer services that support low-income families as they work to create a more stable foundation for a successful life,” Governor Ivey said. “I commend these agencies for their work toward reducing poverty and helping families in need.”
Residents seeking assistance should contact their local community action agency. For full contact information for each go to:
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grants from funds made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Governor Ivey and I are committed to helping those agencies that offer support some of our state’s most vulnerable residents,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “ADECA’s partnership with these agencies has helped many residents and families achieve a better quality of life and created more opportunities for success.”
Governor Ivey awarded grants to the following agencies:
- Community Action Partnership of Huntsville/Madison and Limestone Counties Inc. received $189,303.
- Community Service Programs of West Alabama Inc. (Bibb, Choctaw, Dallas, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Perry, Tuscaloosa, Sumter) was given $297,099.
- Walker County Community Action Agency Inc. received $49,098.
- Pickens County Community Action Committee and Community Development Corporation Inc. was awarded $21,041.
- Organized Community Action Program Inc. (Bullock, Butler, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Lowndes, Pike) was granted $144,570.
- Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama Inc. (Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale) received $119,822.
- Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama Inc. (Blount, Cherokee, DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall, St. Clair) got $242,780.
- Community Action Partnership of North Alabama Inc. (Cullman, Lawrence, Morgan) received $139,089.
- Montgomery Community Action Committee Inc. received $163,530.
- Mobile Community Action Inc. (Mobile, Washington) was granted $318,001.
- Marion-Winston Counties Community Action Committee Inc. was awarded $40,626.
- Macon-Russell Community Action Agency Inc. received $67,261.
- Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity received $393,941.
- Southeast Alabama Community Action Partnership Inc. (Barbour, Coffee, Geneva, Henry, Houston) was granted $148,476.
- Community Action of Etowah County Inc. got $68,073.
- Community Action Partnership of Middle Alabama Inc. (Chilton, Shelby, Autauga, Elmore) was awarded $142,374.
- Community Action Committee Inc. of Chambers-Tallapoosa-Coosa (Chambers, Tallapoosa, Coosa) received $62,991.
- Community Action Agency of South Alabama (Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Marengo, Monroe, Wilcox) got $222,661.
- Alabama Council on Human Relations Inc. (Lee) was given $98,797.
- Community Action Agency of Talladega, Clay, Randolph, Calhoun, and Cleburne Counties (Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Randolph, Talladega) received $183,020.
Small businesses faring better than chain stores as sales economy rebounds, retail group says
The state collected more in sales tax from stores, restaurants and online retailers in the first half of this year than in the same period last year, and that bodes well for Alabama’s retail sector, according to the Alabama Retail Association.
Revenue from state sales taxes and the simplified sellers use tax program for online retailers was up nearly 6 percent during the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to the Alabama Department of Revenue.
Collections were down in March and April compared to 2019 but increased significantly in May and June. While sales tax collections for June were up 11.32 percent over June of last year — the first such double-digit growth since a 10.99 percent increase in April 2019 — part of the increase is due to some small businesses being allowed to delay remitting sales tax from February, March and April until as late as June 1.
That fudges the numbers somewhat, but the overall takeaway is that Alabamians have continued to spend despite the global health pandemic, albeit in different ways, said ARA spokesperson Nancy King Dennis.
When places like grocery stores and home improvement stores were the only businesses that were open, their sales went up. Consumers continued to buy even though their options were limited, many with help from federal unemployment insurance that created an influx to the local economy, Dennis said.
While some businesses, including large chain stores, have closed due to the pandemic, shops and restaurants that were able to pivot and adapt did better, she said. Businesses that sell on as many channels as possible — in-store and online, including using social media — have been particularly successful.
“Smaller retailers are actually probably doing better than the larger big chain stores because they’re closer to their customers, they know their customer base,” Dennis said. “For the time that stores were closed, they were selling over Facetime, they were doing a lot of social media sales.”
The retail industry employs a quarter of Alabama’s private-sector workers, more than any other industry, according to the ARA. It provides the state with almost $2.5 billion in sales tax each year, which was about 20 percent of state revenue last year.
“When looking at the numbers back in March and April, my thought was we wouldn’t see an increase over the previous year for any months until probably 2021,” she said.
Rick Brown, president of the ARA, urged Alabamians to shop local in order to keep open small businesses that contribute to their communities.
“Alabama’s retailers and restaurants are leading our state’s recovery,” Brown said in a statement. “They continue to put people back to work, pivot to make their businesses safe for their customers and employees and innovate to serve customers however those customers prefer.”
USDA announces more eligible commodities for CFAP
The U.S. secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced that additional commodities are covered by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. This decision was made in response to public comments and data, and the USDA is extending the deadline to apply for the program to Sept. 11, and producers with approved applications will receive their final payment.
After reviewing over 1,700 responses, even more farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity for assistance to help keep operations afloat during these tough times.
“President Trump is standing with America’s farmers and ranchers to ensure they get through this pandemic and continue to produce enough food and fiber to feed America and the world,” Perdue said. “That is why he authorized this $16 billion of direct support in the CFAP program and today we are pleased to add additional commodities eligible to receive much-needed assistance. CFAP is just one of the many ways USDA is helping producers weather the impacts of the pandemic. From deferring payments on loans to adding flexibilities to crop insurance and reporting deadlines, USDA has been leveraging many tools to help producers.”
Economic developer Nicole Jones said, “A stable food supply at all times is critical to any nation’s survival. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Trump Administration listened to producers and acted based on results of feedback. Adding specific commodities to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, loan payment deference, and flexibilities on reporting deadlines are some of the many ways USDA and the Trump Administration have demonstrated support for America’s farmers. Agriculture and food production is a dominant industry in Alabama, and farmers across our state have been beneficiaries of this assistance.”
USDA collected comments and supporting data for consideration of additional commodities through June 22, 2020.
The following additional commodities are now eligible for CFAP:
- Specialty Crops including aloe leaves, bananas, batatas, bok choy, carambola (star fruit), cherimoya, chervil (french parsley), citron, curry leaves, daikon, dates, dill, donqua (winter melon), dragon fruit (red pitaya), endive, escarole, filberts, frisee, horseradish, kohlrabi, kumquats, leeks, mamey sapote, maple sap (for maple syrup), mesculin mix, microgreens, nectarines, parsley, persimmons, plantains, pomegranates, pummelos, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, tangelos, turnips/celeriac, turmeric, upland/winter cress, water cress, yautia/malanga, and yuca/cassava.
- The program has also been expanded to include liquid eggs, frozen eggs and all sheep. Only lambs and yearlings (sheep less than two years old) were previously eligible.
- Also now eligible are aquaculture including catfish, crawfish, largemouth bass and carp sold live as foodfish, hybrid striped bass, red drum, salmon, sturgeon, tilapia, trout, ornamental/tropical fish, and recreational sportfish.
- Farmers with nursery crops and cut flowers are also eligible.
Seven commodities — green onions, pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts and watermelons — are now eligible for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability Act funding for sales losses. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for payments on marketing adjustments.
More details can be found in the Federal Register in the Notice of Funding Availability and Final Rule Correction.
To ensure the availability of funding, producers with approved applications initially received 80 percent of their payments. The Farm Service Agency will automatically issue the remaining 20 percent of the calculated payment to eligible producers. Going forward, producers who apply for CFAP will receive 100 percent of their total payment, not to exceed the payment limit, when their applications are approved.
Farmers and ranchers, especially those who have not worked with FSA previously, are recommended to call 877-508-8364 to begin the application process. An FSA staff member can help producers start their application during the phone call.
On farmers.gov/cfap, producers can download the AD-3114 application form and manually complete the form to submit to their local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to their local office or office dropbox.
Complete the application form using the CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator. This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, then signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center.
If producers have login credentials known as eAuthentication, they can use the online CFAP Application Portal to certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center.
All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from the site. For existing FSA customers, these documents are likely already on file.
All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment.
Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social-distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face-covering during their appointment. The program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with producers in the office, by phone and using online tools.
Alabama Arise calls Trump unemployment order “Band-Aid over a gaping economic wound”
An Alabama nonprofit that advocates for low-income residents says that President Donald Trump’s executive actions to extend federal aid to Americans affected by the pandemic falls far short of what is needed.
“These executive actions put a Band-Aid over a gaping economic wound,” Chris Sanders, communications director for Alabama Arise, said in a statement on Tuesday. “They don’t stem the tide of evictions or extend rental or mortgage assistance to help people stay in their homes. They don’t increase SNAP assistance to help millions of struggling families keep food on the table. And they don’t provide federal relief to help states avoid layoffs and cuts to education, Medicaid and other vital services.”
Sanders noted that weekly federal aid to people who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic would drop from $600 to $300, with states required to contribute another $100. That would be an undue burden on “cash-strapped” states like Alabama that have lost significant tax revenues, Sanders said.
The aid would only last a few weeks without new legislation, he added. Sanders said Congress could eliminate that uncertainty by extending the $600 weekly unemployment aid into 2021.
Trump’s orders, announced by the White House on Saturday, were meant to bypass a stalemate in Congress over pandemic-related benefits. They are expected to face legal challenges, which Sanders noted they may not survive.
“Even if they would, they’re inadequate to address the size and scope of suffering across Alabama and across our country,” he said. “There’s simply no replacement for a bipartisan relief package. Congress must step up quickly to ease the suffering and help struggling families make ends meet.”
Alabama Arise calls itself a coalition of congregations, organizations and individuals united in a belief that poverty in Alabama is a result of public policy. It promotes policies it says can improve the lives of residents with low incomes.
Opinion | Alabama’s workers deserve better than McConnell’s inadequate COVID-19 proposal
America is suffering from an unprecedented pandemic and the economic collapse it has created. Nearly three months ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill. Right now, that bill is sitting untouched on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk as working people are suffering.
Senator McConnell’s told us to “pause” after the HEROES Act passed, proving he either did not understand how serious this pandemic is or did not care to. Regardless, the McConnell proposal is $2 trillion too short and 73 days too late.
Working people need real relief, not this piecemeal proposal.
For example, Senator McConnell insists he will block any further COVID-19 relief legislation unless it contains a provision that immunizes employers from liability if any working person contracts COVID-19—or God forbid dies from it. We know that now more than ever worker safety should be a top priority, but McConnell continues to put big businesses before people.
Unlike the HEROES Act, Senator Sen. McConnell’s proposal does not call for an OSHA emergency temporary standard. Last week, AL.com reported that out of the 272 state OSHA complaints related to COVID-19 workplace safety, the federal agency conducted just seven on-site inspections. And six out of those seven inspections were the result of a workplace fatality. If Alabama’s experience with COVID-19 in the workplace has taught us anything, it’s that our working people need an enforceable standard now more than ever.
Like every state in the nation, Alabama is suffering from an unemployment crisis. An estimated 7.5 percent of Alabama workers are currently unemployed through no fault of their own. While the HEROES Act would extend federal unemployment benefits, McConnell’s proposal would cut the recently-expired $600 weekly unemployment insurance benefit to just $200. That represents a major drop in the living standards of thousands of families across our state. That money is a lifeline to pay for necessities, including rent, groceries, and prescriptions.
We can’t afford to let anyone fall through the cracks. And recovery down the road requires us to keep working people whole right now. That’s why Alabama’s labor movement has been taking part in a nationwide effort to call on Senator Jones and Senator Shelby to pass the HEROES Act. Across the country, union members and leaders made over 50,000 calls to members of Congress demanding action, and we’re not slowing down until we get a bill that benefits
We all know Alabama is home to great football, incredible food and southern hospitality. But if we go by the number of new cases per million people, Alabama is also currently home to the fourth-worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. The percentage of positive tests is more than 21 percent and rising. We demand and deserve better. Alabama’s working people are acting heroically and resiliently to beat this pandemic, but we cannot do this alone—and the clock is ticking. The Senate needs to pass the HEROES Act to save lives and livelihoods.