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100,000 employed Alabamians can’t afford health care

Eddie Burkhalter



More than 100,000 Alabamians are holding down jobs but still can’t afford health care, and groups that advocate for expanding Medicaid in the state say those families don’t have to go without. 

In Alabama, around 50,000 women who work can’t afford the health care provided by their jobs or private insurance, according to a recent report by Alabama Arise, a nonprofit that advocates for the poor. Those women work in food services, in grocery stores and schools. They work in childcare and the auto industry. 

The 58,000 or so men in Alabama who work but can’t afford health care have jobs in construction, home centers, food services and animal processing. 

Jim Carnes, the policy director at Alabama Arise, told APR on Wednesday that most people don’t stop to think about who doesn’t have health coverage, and that can lead to stereotypes and misconceptions. 

“Do we really want to make it hard for people who prepare and serve our food in restaurants to get their health needs attended to? Do we want to force them to go to work with illnesses that warrant treatment, but they can’t get the treatment because they don’t have a way to pay for it?,” Carnes asked. “The same would go for things like child care and animal processing.” 

Alabama Arise used U.S. Census data that looked at workers aged 19-64 who had incomes of up to $29,435 for a family of four, which is 139 percent of the federal poverty level. 

Alabama is one of 14 states that haven’t expanded medicaid, which advocates and the Alabama Hospital Association says would help provide medical care for those who are working but still cannot afford it, and provide critical revenue for rural hospitals. Since 2011 twelve hospitals have closed in Alabama. 


Alabama lawmakers thus far have declined to allow for an expansion of Medicaid, made possible by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. A study in January by the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that if Medicaid were expanded in the state an additional 340,000 would gain access to healthcare, and the state’s investment of $1 billion would pump $11 billion back into Alabama’s economy between 2020 and 2023. 

Had the state expanded Medicaid at the start, the federal government would have covered 100 percent of those costs up until 2020. After 2020 the state will be required to pay for 10 percent of the expansion.  

Gov. Kay Ivey has not taken steps to expand Medicaid, siding with many Republican lawmakers in the state who have said there simply isn’t the money to do so.  

“The economic boost we would get from Medicaid expansion is really unparalleled, Carnes said. “If Medicaid expansion were a factory or a NASA contract we’d be having parades down every main street.”



Three firefighters, police officer in Mobile test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter



Three firefighters and a police officer in Mobile have tested positive for COVID-19, city officials said Tuesday.

James Barber, executive director of public safety with the city of Mobile, said during a press conference Tuesday that the four city employees tested positive.

The positives come after Mobile-based Synergy Laboratories donated 500 “test kits” and 131 asymptomatic first responders were given the 10-minute rapid blood tests on Monday.  

Barber said the four employees have been quarantined at home until swab tests confirm the virus and physicians provide further guidance.

The rapid blood tests search for antibodies in the blood, which could show a past infection, but not necessarily active infections that are still contagious.

The swab tests will confirm an active infection if one exists. It’s possible the first responders have already recovered from the virus and are no longer contagious.

“That testing continues today,” Barber said of the rapid blood testing of first responders.

Barber said he didn’t have results from Tuesday’s testing yet, but that Monday’s testing resulted in just more than 3 percent of those tested showing positive results for COVID-19. 


There were 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death from the virus in Mobile County as of Tuesday evening, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

As of Tuesday evening, there were 999 confirmed COVID-19 cases across Alabama, 13 confirmed deaths from the virus and 23 total reported deaths, some of them not yet confirmed as being caused by the virus.

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Freelancers, gig workers can begin filing unemployment claims

Chip Brownlee



Stock Photo

Employees like freelancers and the self-employed can now file for an unemployment claim in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Labor said Tuesday, under the CARES Act, the coronavirus response bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last week.

The Alabama Department of Labor is encouraging employees who believe they may qualify for programs under the CARES Act to file a claim.

These employees will also need to certify weekly to continue to let the department know that they remain unemployed.

Although ADOL does not yet have technical guidance or a start date regarding the CARES Act programs, benefits may be paid retroactively from the time the employee separated from his or her job or otherwise became eligible under the federal CARES Act, not from the time the application was submitted or approved.

In Alabama, many freelancers, independent contractors and the self-employed are not typically able to file for unemployment insurance.

Last week, more than 70,000 people filed an initial jobless claim. Claims can be filed online at or by calling 1-866-234-5382.

The Department of Labor is asking for patience when trying to file a claim.

ADOL says employees who may be affected include:

  • The self-employed
  • Church employees
  • Non-profit and governmental employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig economy workers
  • Those who have exhausted their regular UI benefits.

These employees should also meet one of these conditions:

  • The individual has been diagnosed; or
  • A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed; or
  • The individual is providing care to a household or family member; or
  • A child or other person for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility as a result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; or
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; or
  • The individual was scheduled to start work and does not have a job as a result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual has become “the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19”; or
  • The individual has to quit their job because of COVID-19; or
  • The individual’s place of employment is closed because of COVID-19.

This list is not exhaustive.

Further details regarding the CARES Act programs will be forthcoming, the department says, including information regarding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides for an additional $600 a week in unemployment compensation benefits.

The additional $600 weekly benefit will only be available for weeks beginning March 29, 2020

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Two hospital employees in Huntsville test positive for COVID-19

Chip Brownlee



Stock Photo/Huntsville, Alabama

A physician and another employee at Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the hospital said Tuesday.

“Crestwood Medical Center learned that 2 of our associates (one physician and one employee) have tested positive for COVID-19,” spokesperson Lori Light said in a statement Tuesday.

One is in the hospital for care while the other is at home under quarantine.

The hospital has also had two patients test positive in the Emergency Department, but neither of the patients needed inpatient care, the spokesperson said.

“Working in coordination with the health department, we are following established CDC procedures to identify and communicate directly with any potentially exposed staff and patients,” the Crestwood Medical Center spokesperson said.

Overall, there are at least 13 COVID-19 patients in Madison County, the hospital’s CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said Tuesday during a briefing.

There are 11 inpatients at Huntsville Hospital’s facilities, according to Huntsville Hospital spokesperson Susan Esslinger.

In Alabama, the number of positive cases is nearing 1,000. At least 23 deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported. The Alabama Department of Public Health has officially confirmed 13.

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Alabama inmate killed by another inmate at Ventress Correctional

Eddie Burkhalter



via the Alabama Department of Corrections

A Birmingham man serving at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton was killed by another inmate, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. 

Dennis Benson, 40, who was serving a 36-month sentence for possession of a controlled substance and receiving stolen property, died March 30 after being attacked by another inmate, ADOC said in a statement. 

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against Benson by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” the department said in a statement.

Benson’s cause of death is pending a full autopsy, and more information will be available upon the conclusion of the investigation into his death, according to the department. 

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