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New index shows rising prosperity in Alabama and the U.S.

Evan Mealins

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A new U.S. Prosperity Index shows that Alabama is the fifth-lowest ranked state in the Union based on 11 “pillars of prosperity.” 

Those pillars — defined by the Legatum Institute, which published the index — are used to quantify the overall prosperity of each state, the results of which are used to rank the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Examples of pillars of prosperity include economic quality, safety and security, governance and education.

Alabama has seen an increase in its prosperity score since 2009, when the Legatum Institute released a similar prosperity index. Alabama’s score increase edged out the national average increase.

Alabama earned its highest ranking, 19th, in market access and infrastructure, which measures the quality of the infrastructure that enables trade and the barriers that inhibit trade. Southeastern states performed particularly well in this area, with much of the improvement over the past decade chalked up to the region’s transport infrastructure. 

Alabama’s next highest ranking was 36th for social capital. 

In all nine other pillars, the index ranked Alabama at 41st or below.

As a whole, the nation has seen an increase in prosperity over the past decade, with only four states earning a lower prosperity score in 2019 than they did in 2009. However, prosperity is unevenly dispersed geographically across the nation, with the Northeast remaining far ahead of the Southeast and Southwest, the two least prosperous regions in the country. 

Social capital is on the decline nationwide, with only 11 states seeing an increase over the past 10 years. A declining trust in the media and less interaction with neighbors are the main contributing factors, according to the Prosperity Index.

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Despite improved physical health in the U.S., growing self-reported mental illness, increasing deaths due to drug overdoses and a rise in cases of serious mental illness, indicate the country is facing a mental-health crisis.

No state saw an increase in all 11 pillars, and nearly all states have a pillar ranked below 30th, indicating room for improvement across the nation.

 

Evan Mealins is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter and student at Auburn University working toward a B.A. in media studies. You can follow him on Twitter @EvanMealins or email him at [email protected]

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National

Jones asks for faster emergency loans to small businesses

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and a ranking Republican colleague led other lawmakers in a request that the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration speed up loans to small businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Jones and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and other legislators in a letter Wednesday to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza asked that payroll processing companies be allowed to disburse CARES Act small business loans to speed up payments to those small businesses and to get workers paid quickly. 

“Payroll processors have the needed existing infrastructure that will enable businesses to quickly pay their workers and pending bills. Given they originate approximately 40 percent of all the payroll checks in the country and mostly cater to small businesses with 500 employees or less, involving these companies will ensure a deeper dissemination of funds nationwide to the businesses that need it most to keep their doors open,” the letter reads. 

 “It is critical that all tools be used to distribute federal funds effectively and expeditiously, including payroll processing companies used by many small businesses,” they continued. “Please consider permitting payroll processors to partner with small businesses and banks to help alleviate any potential complications for many small businesses during this tumultuous time, the letter continues. 

 Jones in a separate letter Tuesday to Mnuchin asked that the federal government expedite direct assistance payments to citizens amid the COVID-19 outbreak by allowing some to receive the money quicker through debit cards rather than paper checks. 

Senators Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Mark Warner, D-Va. and Bob Menendez, D-N.J. also signed the Wednesday letter.

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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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Elections

Sessions attacks Tuberville’s views on China

Brandon Moseley

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Former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, rolled out an ambitious, comprehensive plan to hold the Chinese government accountable for what Sessions called a cover-up of the coronavirus that has killed tens of thousands of people and devastated economies worldwide.

In an interview Thursday on the Matt & Aunie radio show on Talk 99.5 in Birmingham, for Auburn head football Coach and current GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville expressed his views on China.

Matt Murphy asked: What do you see happening with China?

“Well, we can’t worry about China right now…” Tuberville responded.

“You say you don’t need to worry about China, but this came from China and our economy depends on China,” Murphy asked on follow up. “Specifically how to overcome some of that dependence on Chinese goods and specifically in the pharmaceutical industry because right now we’re dependent on the country that covered this up.”

“Now we’re seeing firsthand the results of letting everything go to China,” Tuberville said. “The good thing about this is we’ll have manufacturing come back and drugs and all those things….we’re headed in that direction, just the simple fact that we can’t control our own destiny. Everything’s controlled by China. But that’ll take care of itself.”

During the show, Tuberville also characterized the Wuhan Virus, which has killed over 53,000 people and infected more than 1 million people across the globe, which then including over 1,300 people in Alabama, as “just a virus.”

Jeff Sessions issued a statement critical of Tuberville on Friday in response.

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“Amazingly, Tommy Tuberville said yesterday, ‘We can’t worry about China right now,”” Sessions quoted. “China is where the virus is from, and their deliberate lies hid the danger and resulted in a pandemic that never should have happened. We must take on China now and win, not run scared like Tommy Tuberville.”

“There are over 1 million infected with the Wuhan Virus, and more than 1,300 in Alabama already,” Sessions continued. “This is serious. But Tommy Tuberville said yesterday that ‘this is just a virus.’ What planet is he on? Tuberville is clueless. No wonder he’s scared to debate me. We must stop relying on China for our critical medicines and equipment. I have a detailed plan to fix it. Amazingly, Tuberville also said yesterday, ‘Everything’s controlled by China, but that’ll take care of itself.’ Wrong! We must lead with action, this will not ‘take care of itself.’”

On Thursday, a U.S. intelligence report claimed that China understated the damage that the coronavirus was doing in their country.

“Alabama’s next Senator must be a leader who has the drive and determination to push a Congress that is too often unwilling to confront the critical issues of our time,” Sessions continued. “I have proven my willingness and preparedness to lead from Day One. Tuberville is weak: all talk and no action.”

Sessions is a former Senator, U.S. Attorney General, Alabama Attorney General, Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, U.S. Attorney, asst. U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Army Captain.

The Republican primary runoff has been moved to July by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) due to fears of the coronavirus. The virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019.

As of press time, 10,943 Americans have died from COVID-19 including 53 Alabamians. 367,650 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 2,006 Alabamians. At this point, only 240 Alabamians are confirmed hospitalized with COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the medical condition caused by a strain of coronavirus first identified late last year in Wuhan City, Hubei Province China, SARS-CoV-2. Since then it has spread across the globe infecting 1,346,566 persons that we are aware of killing 74,697 people.

The winner of the Republican primary runoff will then face Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) in the November election.

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Congress

Roby: Stay-at-home order has potential to drastically slow spread of virus

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said Monday that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order has the potential to drastically slow the spread of the coronavirus in Alabama.

Roby emphasized the importance of social distancing and that the governor’s order puts the safety of Alabamians first.

“t’s important that Alabamians are prepared to follow the advice and guidance of officials who are working day and in light in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,” Rep. Roby said. “Governor Kay Ivey on Friday issued a statewide stay-at-home order effective until Thursday, April 30. The Governor said that she along with many state government and public health officials thoroughly reviewed all possible COVID-19 response options, and they determined that a statewide stay-at-home order put the safety of Alabama’s people first. I believe this public health order does just that and will be beneficial as we continue to fight COVID-19 and practice mitigation among our communities.”

“As the Governor’s statewide order recently went into effect and currently lasts until the end of the month, we have the potential to drastically slow the spread of the virus among our Alabama communities,” Roby said. “Please remember to continue to follow the Administration’s “30 Days to Slow the Spread” social distancing guidelines, wash your hands, disinfect your home, and avoid social gatherings in order to protect yourself and those around you from infection.”

“It is vital to the health and well-being of those in our communities that Alabamians all across the state follow the guidance of state and healthcare officials.” Roby continued. “The people of Alabama remain united, and together we will combat COVID-19. Read more from my Weekly Column here.”

“I have added a “COVID-19 Resources” tab to my official website that includes materials ranging from general health and prevention methods from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to economic support for individuals and businesses from federal and state agencies like the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL).,” Roby stated. “Visit my website for more information.”

There is an enormous shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

“ADPH’s Office of Oral Health is accepting donations of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and gowns for distribution to local healthcare personnel,” Roby stated.

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For details on how you can donate:

https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/assets/oralhealth-ppedonations.pdf

As of press time, 10,943 Americans have died from COVID-19 including 53 Alabamians. 367,650 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 2,006 Alabamians. At this point, only 240 Alabamians are confirmed hospitalized with COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the medical condition caused by a strain of coronavirus first identified late last year in Wuhan City, Hubei Province China, SARS-CoV-2. Since then it has spread across the globe infecting 1,346,566 persons that we are aware of killing 74,697 people.

Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. Roby is in her fifth term; but is not seeking a sixth term in the House of Representatives.

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