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Ivey provides update on Alabama’s workforce development efforts

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) provided an update on her efforts at improving the state’s workforce development.

The Governor promises that through her ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ initiative, she is making improving Alabama’s education system a top priority for the state.

The initiative, announced in July 2017, focuses on three stages of education: 1) early childhood education, 2) computer science in middle school and high school, and 3) workforce preparedness.

“In order to meet the current and future demands of business and industry, more must be done to develop a workforce development system that offers a seamless educational journey for individuals to enter in-demand career pathways at every stage of life,” Governor Ivey said.

To create the most effective workforce development program for Alabamians across the state, the Governor recently established the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation (GOEWT).

“Already, Alabama is taking the lead in workforce development efforts, which catches the attention of companies from around the globe and ultimately provides more opportunities for Alabamians,” Gov. Ivey added.

On June 10, 2019, Gov. Ivey signed Senate Bill 295 into law.

SB295 was sponsored by State Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

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SB295 expands the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit by providing an additional $500 for hiring in-school youth apprentices. SB295 also modifies the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit to increase the base tax credit from $1,000 to $1,250 and increases the number of apprentices one employer may claim from five to 10, as well as the tax credit cap from $3 million to $7.5 million. SB295 also establishes the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship (AOA).

“Getting both new high school graduates and existing workers prepared for the workforce with certified and marketable skills will not only provide better job opportunities, but also enhanced wages that can have a permanent, positive impact on the worker and their family,” Sen. Orr said.

When officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship (AOA) will be Alabama’s state apprenticeship agency. The AOA will answer directly to the Alabama Department of Commerce and will serve as a registration agency for registered apprenticeships in the state of Alabama.

Gov. Ivey said that she is proud to share that the U.S. Department of Labor has granted the Alabama Community College System a $12 million grant to build its partnership with the National Association of Manufacturers. Industry partners will provide partial matching funds to the institutions to develop in-demand skills as part of their programs.

“Alabama’s 24 community colleges are working every day within their local communities to ensure students, from high schoolers to adults looking to advance their skills, have a pathway to success through education and skills training,” ACCS Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker said. “We are proud that our most recent efforts to expand apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities for thousands of Alabamians have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. This expansion will help individuals gain the real-world experience that business and industry is seeking as they hire for well-paying, in-demand jobs.”

In June, the state of Alabama received a $1.2 million federal grant to expand funding for state apprenticeships. Coinciding with the federal grant, the Alabama Legislature budgeted $1 million to offset the costs associated with dual enrollment courses and credential fees for apprentices. The grant coupled with the state investment will be used to provide scholarship for a dual enrollment or community college course that is part of the apprentice’s related technical instruction.

“Alabama is a state so full of potential, both in the workforce opportunities we are seeing develop, as well as in the preparedness of its citizens to fulfill those workforce opportunities,” state Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey said. “The aggressive advances we are seeing in workforce development efforts will open doors for professional, economic and industrial growth in our great state. We look forward to the shared vision of Alabama being the hallmark of a state booming with progress, and an education system primed to produce students who are well-equipped to meet the demands of a thriving workforce.”

On June 24, 2019, Credential Engine awarded Alabama a $50,000 technical grant to support credential transparency. The Alabama Department of Commerce will serve as the fiscal agent and manager of this project.

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature, we are moving to the next level of apprenticeship program development in our state,” AIDT Director Ed Castile added. “Partnering with many Alabama companies, the Alabama Community College System, K-12 Education, the Alabama Workforce Council and our 7 Regional Workforce Councils we will be extremely successful in developing our skilled workforce through this new Alabama Office of Apprenticeship. It is another ‘tool in the tool box’ to assist us in reaching the goals set forth in the Governor’s Success Plus plan.”

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “There is an intense competition for talent at the local, state, and global levels, and companies want to make sure that we have a quality and skilled workforce to meet their needs. This is where partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and universities come in. It is the communication between industry and education that helps ensure that students receive coursework and practical applications that will prepare them for future jobs.”

Ivey said that the Department of Commerce, the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation, and a myriad of state education and workforce development agencies will collaborate to publish all of the certificates, licenses, traditional degrees and non-degree credentials offered in Alabama to the credential registry.

“One area that we need to work on recruiting again are the skilled trades,” Jones told APR. “Collectively, we can help current generations overcome the stigma associated with working in the trades by talking with students and parents and helping them realize that it is honorable and respectable to be able to feed your family as a plumber, or a welder, or an electrician. The 20-year gap with no emphasis on trades has led to many jobs being left unfilled. As Alabamians, as United States citizens, we need to change our messaging.”

The state is currently enjoying a booming economy and the lowest unemployment in state history, but plentiful work opportunities can lure some workers into neglecting to improve their skill set.

Gov. Ivey recognizes that when the economy is as strong as this economy is and when unemployment is less than four percent, the challenge is reaching those individuals who need further preparation to re-enter the workforce.

Ivey is using her apprenticeship expansion efforts to attempt to position the workforce development programs across the state to work in the best interests of Alabamians. Governor Ivey’s goal is to overcome the state’s obstacles and aid the men and women of this state to overcome their own barriers and be on the way to earning a family-sustaining wage.

Business and industry will identify the skills that they need and the schools will try to recruit and train the workers, both in the Two Year College system and in the high schools to fill those specific needs. Students will earn experience and certificates through apprenticeships.

“Communication between businesses and school systems is a two-way street and must be a reciprocal, continuous process,” Dr. Jones added. “Under the leadership of Governor Ivey and her administration, the State of Alabama has taken proactive steps to facilitate communication between industry and education. These initiatives will help bridge skills gaps and create more availability of skilled labor that the business community desires, which can ultimately result in more jobs created and more positions filled.”

 

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Congress

Jones asks for faster COVID-19 emergency payments

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, asked the Treasury Secretary on Tuesday to expedite direct assistance payments to citizens amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Jones and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., expressed concern that CARES Act payments made through paper checks to some citizens would not be mailed until April 24. The senators asked that debit cards be mailed instead, thereby speeding up assistance.

“It is our understanding that payments made electronically can be distributed quickly, but the Internal Revenue System (IRS) must print paper checks and mail them separately. As a result, we encourage the Treasury Department to offer a targeted group of Americans the option of receiving their direct assistance payment on the Direct Express debit cards, which are used for other federal benefits like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits,” the senators wrote.

“While a slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients,” the letter continues.

The $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package includes payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. The first round of payments are likely to begin around April 13 and will be directly deposited into the accounts of those who filed taxes in 2018 or 2019.

Social Security beneficiaries who did not file taxes in recent years but who receive their benefits through direct deposit are to receive the emergency payments around 10 days after the first round of payments, also through direct deposit. Paper checks will then be mailed to other individuals.

The letter’s full text: 

April 7, 2020

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

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Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included economic relief to Americans in the form of direct cash payments to provide support during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis. In order to provide this much-needed assistance directly and quickly, we request the Treasury Department utilize its Direct Express debit card as one method, at the option of the individual, for disbursing these payments as an alternative to paper checks.

We were alarmed by the Washington Post report on April 2, 2020, that “$30 million in paper checks for millions of other Americans won’t start being sent out until April 24, as the government lacks their banking information. And some of those checks won’t reach people until September.”[1] Americans should not have to wait five months to receive their checks.

While a slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients. These direct assistance payments are aimed at assisting American workers in covering the cost of essentials household items, including rent and mortgage payments, outstanding bills, and food to feed their families.

It is our understanding that payments made electronically can be distributed quickly, but the Internal Revenue System (IRS) must print paper checks and mail them separately. As a result, we encourage the Treasury Department to offer a targeted group of Americans the option of receiving their direct assistance payment on the Direct Express debit cards, which are used for other federal benefits like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits.[2] Using debit cards could be limited to Americans eligible for this program not already signed up for direct deposit, have a bank account, or require a paper check.

As Americans across the country practice social distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19, we support delivering benefits automatically to as many people as possible and request that debit cards be offered as an option to distribute the assistance payment. Debit cards are a safer method of delivery than paper checks. Paper checks will force Americans to leave their homes to deposit the funds and can be a source of fraud. We appreciate your consideration of this request to keep Americans safe during these challenging times.

 

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Governor

Ivey awards $2.9 million for weatherization projects to assist elderly, low-income residents

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Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded 14 grants totaling $2.9 million to assist low-income and elderly residents with improvements to their homes to lower energy costs and improve home safety. 

The grants support Alabama’s Weatherization Assistance Program which provides funds to keep homes warmer in the winter and cooler in summer and makes them more energy efficient. The grants target the elderly, people with disabilities and low-income families with children.

“Alabamians on limited incomes, especially during these difficult times, can often struggle to buy medicine and groceries when having to pay high heating and cooling bills,” Gov. Ivey said. “These grants offer tremendous relief by providing weatherization measures that make vast differences in sealing homes against the elements and reducing energy costs.”

Qualified homes are assessed to determine the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures. Common improvements including installing insulation in attics, walls and floors; sealing air leaks around doors and windows; repairs and tune-ups to air-conditioning and heating units and replacing light bulbs with more energy-efficient bulbs.

The improvements also reduce the risk of fires and other home hazards.  

Grants are available in all 67 Alabama counties and work is managed through community action agencies and regional planning commissions.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grants from funds made available by the U.S. Department of Energy.

 “ADECA joins with Gov. Ivey and these partner agencies to make the Weatherization Assistance Program the success it has been and will continue to be,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “The improvements make a lasting impact in reducing home energy costs for those in need.”

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Listed (geographically) are grant amounts, community action agencies responsible for the programs, the counties served and their telephone number. Applicants should contact those agencies.

  • $107,309 to Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama (Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale) 256-766-4330
  • $171,342 to Community Action Partnership Huntsville/Madison and Limestone Counties(Limestone and Madison) 256-851-9800
  • $292,188 to Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama Inc. (Blount, Cherokee, DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson, Marshall and St. Clair) 256-638-4430
  • $217,595 to Community Action Partnership of North Alabama (Cullman, Lawrence, Marion, Morgan, Walker and Winston) 256-355-7843
  • $205,533 to Community Service Programs of West Alabama Inc. (Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa) 205-752-5429
  • $388,664 to Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity(Jefferson) 205-327-7500
  • $171,872 to Community Action Agency of Talladega, Clay, Randolph, Calhoun and Cleburne (Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Randolph and Talladega) 256-362-6611
  • $61,577 to Community Action Committee Inc. of Chambers-Tallapoosa-Coosa (Chambers, Tallapoosa and Coosa) 256-825-4287
  • $265,673 to Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission (Autauga, Chilton, Dallas, Elmore, Macon, Perry, Russell and Shelby) 334-262-4300
  • $106,277 to Alabama Council on Human Relations Inc. (Lee) 334-821-8336
  • $155,278 to Montgomery County Commission (through Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission) (Montgomery) 334-832-1210
  • $267,420 to Organized Community Action Program Inc. (Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lowndes and Pike) 334-566-1712
  • $297,008 to Mobile Community Action Inc.(Choctaw, Mobile and Washington) 251-457-5700
  • $192,264 to Community Action Agency of South Alabama (Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Marengo, Monroe and Wilcox) 251-626-2646

ADECA administers a wide range of programs that support law enforcement, victim programs, economic development, water resource management, energy conservation and recreation.

 

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Amid the coronavirus crisis, don’t forget the good people

Josh Moon

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Late last month, firefighters from Reece City — a small town on the outskirts of Gadsden — started knocking on every door in town, and handing those who answered a free meal. 

Every house got a good meal, purchased from one of Reece City’s restaurants, and the firefighters got a chance to ask everyone how they were doing and see if anyone needed help. Then, a few days later, everyone in town found out that they were getting a $28.20 break on their water bill — that’s the base rate for water service, which meant several town residents received a bill for zero dollars. 

The man behind the ideas for the food giveaway and water breaks, according to the Gadsden Times, which first reported the story, was Mayor Phil Colegrove. He was frustrated with the bickering in Congress over legislation to aid people dealing with COVID-19, and he was worried about his constituents, many of which were recently laid off from the Goodyear plant in nearby Gadsden. 

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Colegrove told the Times. 

That seems to be the prevailing thought behind a whole bunch of recent actions. 

In neighborhoods all around Alabama, there are teddy bears in windows and chalk drawings on driveways offering messages of hope. 

Those with a little spare time and some know-how are sewing face masks for nurses and healthcare workers, and for their friends and family members. My wife’s friend made three for us. Mine has Spiderman on it. My daughter’s has the “Toy Story” characters. 

Various groups have delivered more than 10,000 masks to healthcare workers around Alabama. 

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People are calling local restaurants and paying to have meals delivered to hospitals for the workers. Anonymously. 

In Muscle Shoals, “Operation Drumstick” is providing meals to out-of-work musicians. 

All across Alabama, locally-owned restaurants are partnering with local farmers to offer fresh produce, and in some cases, are even letting the farmers set up and sell their products in the restaurants’ parking lots. The same thing is happening in north Florida. 

In several towns across the state, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies are delivering meals to elderly shut-ins. 

In some towns, people have set up impromptu delivery services for the elderly and those more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

All across the state, anonymous food deliveries are showing up at hospitals and fire stations and police departments and sheriff’s offices. 

Several nurses from Alabama have dropped everything and traveled to New York to help with the country’s most severe — and most heartbreaking — outbreak of coronavirus. Others have traveled to the hardest hit areas of Alabama to lend a hand. 

Local news stations in the state have reported on at least five drive-by birthday parties for kids whose normal parties were cancelled because of the outbreak. And there was a 50-car parade in Foley for the 100th birthday of Charlene Anderson. 

I say all of this because it seems like maybe we all could use a reminder of just how good most people really are. Despite our differences and our preferences, at the end of the day, given the opportunity, most folks in this state — and around the country — will help each other. 

Doesn’t matter about your race. Doesn’t matter where you live. Doesn’t matter which god you worship. Doesn’t matter how you vote. 

And it hasn’t been just individuals, either. 

We can be cynics and look for the self-serving reasons behind them, but there are a whole bunch of major companies out there that have voluntarily gone above and beyond to help their customers. From cell phone carriers to car manufacturers to banks, it seems every company out there has a payment forgiveness program and a variety of other options to make life a tad less stressful during this time. 

I don’t know of a single public service company — gas, water, electricity — in this state that isn’t guaranteeing they won’t turn off service for late payments, and then work with customers in the future on payment plans that are manageable.

The state’s car manufacturers, including Hyundai, Toyota/Mazda and Honda, all guaranteed the pay for workers during recent work-stoppages.  

The Poarch Creek Indians and other casino owners in the state have guaranteed the pay of all salaried workers, even as the casinos sit empty and idle. 

Ashley Home Stores have pledged to provide 10,000 meals, purchased from local restaurants, and given to local community organizations. 

Even the politicians got something done, and a lot of it was directed at people who rarely get noticed in legislation — the working poor. 

The acts of selflessness and sacrifice — and I’m certain I have failed to mention many, many more — have been, if you actually stop and seek them out, overwhelming and reassuring. They bring hope and smiles in a time when both are in short supply. And they run counter to the notion that Americans are either selfish or indifferent to the suffering of their fellow man. 

Maybe no example better illustrates that than GianMarco’s Restaurant in Birmingham. Long considered one of the best restaurants in the state, GianMarco’s popularity hasn’t made it immune to the struggles of coronavirus. 

It has bills like all the other restaurants. It has staff to pay. And a couple of weeks ago, like with every other restaurant out there, the flow of cash basically stopped. 

And yet, earlier this week, GianMarco’s still managed to serve 150 of Birmingham’s homeless community. 

Just for a moment, sit and think about that — the kindness, the compassion, the sacrifice. Just to give another struggling human a few minutes of peace and a decent meal. 

It is very easy right now to get down, to allow the awfulness of this pandemic to overtake you, and to feel trapped by one terrible story after another. 

But it’s worth remembering two things: 1. This will end and life will return to normal at some point, and 2. There are a whole lot of good people out there who make life a little brighter and a little better, even in the worst of times. 

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Governor

State leaders briefed on efforts to combat coronavirus

Brandon Moseley and Nicole Jones

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State leaders held a conference call Monday led by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on the coronavirus that is sweeping the state of Alabama and state efforts to fight the spread of the deadly virus.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said that he appreciated Governor Ivey’s statewide shelter in place order that was issued through April 30 on Friday.

Harris said that the state is using Google tracking of cell phones to measure how closely the people of Alabama follow their orders to stay in their houses, except for necessary travel to buy groceries, prescriptions, and other essentials.

Harris said that approximately 1,900 Alabamians had been diagnosed with COVID-19. 250 of them have been hospitalized. 125 of those are in intensive care. There have been 44 deaths reported and the Alabama Department of Public Health was in the process of confirming that COVID-19 was the cause of death.

Harris said that almost half of the Alabama dead are under the age 65. They typically with heart disease or diabetes. Half of Alabama’s deaths are African Americans. Harris attributed this to the high prevalence of heart disease and diabetes among Alabama’s Black community.

Of the infection cases, 270 are health care workers. Harris expressed concern about the ramifications of the loss of health care workers from the front lines. Harris expected that the state will see peak hospitalizations around April 16 to17.

Harris said that the state has ordered more ventilators. He expects an order of refurbished models as early as Tuesday and has signed purchase agreements for additional ventilators. Harris said that in case of a surge the Mobile Civic Center and Sheraton Hotel and the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center will be used as alternative treatment sites. The state has completed an assessment of using Huntsville’s civic center over the weekend. The state is still working on staffing and equipment plans need for the alternative care sites. The Governor’s office is reaching out to retired health care workers for filling those staffing needs.

Harris said that the Blackbelt and Wiregrass areas now have COVID-19 testing sites. 66 of Alabama’s 67 counties have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) said that it is a Class C Misdemeanor for those who do not abide by the recent Public Health orders. Marshall said that he has had lots of request for copies of the order. They are also frequently asking questions about the parameters for the order.

Marshall said that price-gouging is illegal and that his office is working directly with the acquisition team to acquire health resources we need . His office has issued guidance for municipalities. The AG’s office has five teams with specific categories to answer questions for consistent, accurate responses.

Marshall said that there is no definition of “quarantine” in Alabama code law and requested that the legislature address this in the law.

Senate President Pro Tem. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said that there is a concern that we could run out of ventilators in Lee County. Marsh asked if we have some transferred to that area from areas that are not seeing the surge.

The ADPH responded that we are moving from area-to-area. The ventilators are physically owned by the individual hospitals. The ADPH receives reports of what hospitals are needing ventilators. When ADPH gets a request, the ADPH goes to the hospital that owns and reaches out to see if a transfer is possible. The Community colleges have ventilators and have donated to Lee County. As demand spreads over the state, the concern is that those not being used will be used; hence the reason why ADPH is working to acquire MORE ventilators rather than move around.

State Senator Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, expressed his concern that when the spike hits many rural areas have no hospitals, no ICUs, no respiratory therapists, etc.

ADPH said that their plan for rural areas is that the Governor’s office has activated the Medical Planning Unit of the Alabama National Guard to work on transportation options to move patients to areas where care can be provided.

Singleton suggested that the state try and work with local cable companies to see if they will offer free WiFi during the crisis.

Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, asked: When the surge occurs, are those plans already in place, or are they being implemented at this point?

The ADPH response was that it was a combination. The Department has been working for years with hospitals to increase capability in emergency situations and have completed exercises within the past year. The Department is also developing plans for initial capacity. The plan includes: the conversion of hotels, civic centers, etc. ADPH is working with the Army Corps of Engineers and Alabama National Guard to develop alternative facilities. These are expected to open within the next two to three weeks. They are still working with Corps for staffing and equipment plans.

McCutcheon asked if there is a good cooperative spirit around the state between ADPH and hospitals regarding logistics, personnel, etc.?

ADPH answered Yes, there is an ADPH staff member working with each hospital. The Governor’s volunteer services division is working to recruit back retired medical personnel and unemployed medical professionals. They opened a portal on Friday afternoon. Almost 250 have signed up to assist.

McCutcheon asked: with the nursing homes is ADPH anticipating more problems within the nursing home community?

ADPH answer: No. ADPH providing PPE to nursing homes and educating personnel on infection control measures.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) asked: we have heard a lot of information at the national level about different levels of testing, antibody amounts, immunity, etc. – Where does the ADPH see the testing ideas moving forward? What are the next steps for other types of testing?

The ADPH answer: focused on diagnostic testing so we get a picture of what the disease is doing. Some of the blood testing involving antibodies will be more beneficial later as we look at results. Diagnostic testing is essential at this time so we can look at and control the spread of the disease. ADPH is looking at every FDA-approved testing option across the state.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) asked: Are we contacting some of the closed hospitals about possible sites?

The ADPH responded that the factors they are looking at includes the hospital density relate to the population, current outbreaks (hotspots). They have looked at recently-closed hospitals and whether or not the effort is as effective as a larger-capacity alternative facility. The ADPH is looking at all options; but staffing is a concern. We cannot depend on sister states because this is a national and international crisis.

Rep. Daniels suggested looking at nursing students and medical students for help, especially those who are graduation soon and suggested looking at universities for alternative sites.

Harris said that PPE has to be reserved for the health care industry because they have the most contact with COVID-19. The Department is placing orders in to get more in for other groups.

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said that the State Department of Education is working with a skeleton crew due to COVID-19 concerns.

Mackey said that Birmingham City and Jefferson County schools have begun closing down their community feeding sites. The lack of staff is the biggest reason for closing. There are not enough folks to carry out the meal service plans. Other superintendents have expressed similar situations. They are looking at private vendors stepping in. Birmingham was feeding 4,000 students per week out of 26,000 students. The students are being fed one last time today and will receive multiple meals to take home for the week. When folks are not available to do the work, school systems cannot get the food out. Suppliers also cannot get food to the schools because of COVID-19-related logistics issues.

Mackey said that he has encouraged vendors to provide pre-packaged meals, which are acceptable under USDA guidelines; however, they are not available with many current vendors. Some sites are giving out 21 meals a week for students to use for the entire week. The U.S. Dept. of Education will give Alabama an opportunity for a waiver for a carry-over for federal money – they do not want federal money returned… in a predicament with excess of money that is supposed to be sent to Washington; however, feds the do not want it back and are working on the waiver. Nonprofits are also assisting to pay for meals, but that money can only go so far

Mackey said that they are having issues with hackers “zoom bombing” the E-learning. This is a security threat for educational systems. The schools have issued remote WiFi to high-poverty areas.

Mackey said that they are issuing teacher certifications for students at college level graduating this spring and/or summer waiving the requirement of student teaching experience. Will issue a certificate, along with waiver a to postpone deadlines to pass any required standardized tests for a year. Teachers who are due for recertifications will not lose their certifications during this time for failure to complete continuing education requirements. Due to fears of COVID-19, some school systems do not have enough folks willing to come to work.

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, asked: In rural areas, teachers have to pick up supplemental materials for students. Are amendments possible post- Friday’s Public Health Order?

Dr. Mackey response said that the State Dept. of Education received requests to amend their plan. Can they mail them? Yes – it is expensive but necessary in some cases. Other areas are rotating in shifts so only a few folks are coming to pick up at a time. Some systems have drive-through service where parents can pick up materials through car line window.

Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association said that efforts to prohibit elective surgeries have opened up capacities 52 percent of hospital beds are available for use as of today; 800 ventilators are available as of today; and 35 percent of ICU beds are available as of today. There are plans for alternative sites in Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, Huntsville, Auburn, and Tuscaloosa. Williamson expressed interest in Anniston, Dothan, and the Quad-cities. The challenges are acquisition of personal protection equipment (PPE).

Dr. Brandon Farmer with the Alabama Nursing Home Association said that there are 231 skilled nursing facilities in the state. As of this morning, 31 facilities, 13-15 percent have a COVID-19 exposure, which can be characterized as an employee and/or residents that have tested positive. They are testing everyone who has come in contact with a resident or employee that has tested positive .

Farmer said that the nursing homes are immediately isolating infected residents and if needed are transferring those patients to the appropriate hospitals to receive acute care. The patients are transferred back into the building when hospital deems it acceptable. The nursing homes have created COVID-19 only wings and/or buildings in hotspots. The nursing home owners are collaborating with hospital systems to design this to help ease the capacity and surge that hotspot hospitals anticipate. The nursing homes are looking at converting former assisted living facilities into COVID-19 buildings.

Farmer said that there is still a significant shortage in PPE / if needed to isolate with clean PPE, we are looking at $120 per patient per day, which is above what is normally in place. When a caregiver tests positive, the caregiver is immediately quarantined, along with people who were around the caregiver. To incentivize staff to work with COVID-19 patients, the nursing homes have been giving $2-$5 per hour raises.

Farmer said that they are working to see that federal matching appropriation are disseminated quickly. The CARES ACT has earmarked funds for COVID-19 combatants. The nursing homes are working to get it.

Governor Ivey said that the sister of Representative Dexter Grimsley (D-Abbeville) passed away over the weekend from COVID-19.

Ivey said that her controversial decision to issue a stay at home order for the state made on Friday afternoon was not taken lightly.

“Stay at home, wash your hands and do not touch your face when you have to go out,” Ivey stated.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst for Alabamians- hence the reason why the Governor’s office took a more drastic step on Friday,” Ivey said. “Do not look for loopholes within the law – COVID-19 is a crisis.”

Ivey said that she is aware that industry is impacted, but folks may not be alive to work if folks do not stay at home.

Ivey said that a new website, All Together Alabama, will be launched this week for constituents to receive accurate information related to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the Governor plans to hold a Ribbons of Hope press conference with ministers, the medical community, and first responders at 9:00 a.m. The Governor is asking citizens to tie ribbon around trees, mailboxes, etc. as a symbol of prayers and hope for the healthcare workers and first responders.

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones said, “Governor Ivey, the Alabama Department of Public Health, and leaders throughout our state are working around the clock to assess all possible remedies for the COVID-19 crisis. It is critically important for all Alabamians obey the most recent Public Health Order to slow the spread. Stay at home if at all possible. If you must leave, wash your hands, wear a mask, wear gloves, and do not touch your face.”

“The State of Alabama has taken proactive measures to ensure residents have access to assistance and information,” Dr. Jones said. “On Monday afternoon, the Office of the Governor launched the “All Together Alabama” website (www.ALtogetheralabama.org) for Alabamians who need help or who want to help.”

 

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