Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield will attend today’s ceremonial signing of the Phase 1 trade deal between the United States and China at the White House.
President Donald Trump will sign an 86-page agreement with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.
That preliminary deal between the two economic superpowers marks a thaw in the tensions between the two countries, including a commitment by China that it will make substantial additional purchases of U.S. goods and services in coming years.
“I believe this is a positive step by the Trump Administration,” Sec. Canfield said. “It begins a process to establish a framework from which to create a pathway to more normalized trade on a fair basis between these two nations.”
Canfield said that the preliminary deal is a win for Alabama.
“China has historically been a Top 3 destination for Alabama exports, so this represents an important step for many companies in our state that do business on a global scale,” Canfield added.
Secretary Canfield said the Phase 1 trade deal contains positives for Alabama. More trade will be good for the Port of Mobile. Canfield said that it was also good for Alabama farmers who used to enjoy a brisk business with China. In 2016, before Pres. Trump’s election, China purchased $285 million in peanuts and soybeans from Alabama farmers. In 2018 that had dropped to just $20 million. Thru November, Alabama farmers had sold $0 in peanuts and soybeans to the Chinese.
Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “This is a historic day and an opportunity to create a foundation that can lead to more equitable trade practices.’
In December, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that the U.S. and China had reached an agreement that requires structural reforms and other changes to China’s economic and trade policies in the areas of intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange.
According to the USTR, China has agreed to increase its total purchases of U.S. goods and services by at least $200 billion over the next two years, including a commitment by China to increase its buying of U.S. agricultural products to $40 billion to $50 billion in each of the next two years.
Farmers had been particularly hard hit in the trade dispute in 2018 and 2019.
“We’ve come to a deal on intellectual property, financial services. A tremendous deal for the farmers,” Pres. Trump said. “A purchase of — from 40 to 50 billion dollars’ worth of agricultural products. To show you how big that is, that would be two and a half, three times what China had purchased at its highest point thus far. So, they were purchasing $16 or $17 billion at the highest point, and that’ll be brought up to $40 billion to $50 billion. So I’d suggest the farmers have to go and immediately buy more land and get bigger tractors. They’ll be available at John Deere and a lot of other great distributors.”
Alabama exports to China dropped tremendously during the trade dispute. Exports from Alabama to China were down 30 percent in the first 11 months of 2019 compared to the previous year. Shipments of Alabama-made vehicles to China dropped 32 percent in the same period.
“In the past, poor economic and foreign policies have stripped our country of its wealth and have made a mockery of the principles our Founding Fathers brought to the forefront of concern,” Dr. Jones said. “The Trump Administration has worked diligently to change that. Thank you, President Trump, for continuing to lead the way with trade reform. Thank you, Secretary Canfield, for your work and for representing Alabama well.”
New unemployment claims continued dropping last week
There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.
Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday.
The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.”
After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release.
Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.
Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:
- Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
- Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
- Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389
PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.
Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.
“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”
Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.
“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”
Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.
“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”
“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”
“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”
“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”
SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally
Thousands of SNAP recipients in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties are set to receive automatic replacement benefits as a result of Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Department of Human Resources announced Thursday.
Recipients who received their benefits Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 will receive a replacement of 50 percent of their regular monthly benefit. Those who received supplemental pandemic maximum allotment payments will receive a replacement of 30 percent of those benefits.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the replacement benefits today at the request of DHR. The benefits are intended to replace food purchased with SNAP that was lost to widespread power outages caused when Hurricane Sally made landfall on Sept. 16.
“Our priority is to remove the very real threat of hunger for the many Alabamians who are struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sally,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “The first step toward that goal is to replace the food that so many Alabamians lost to the storm. We are actively working to obtain additional resources to provide much-needed relief for the region as it recovers.”
Hurricane Sally caused over 265,000 households to lose power for at least four hours in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, where approximately 54,000 households will receive SNAP benefits totaling an estimated $8.5 million.
Those recipients should expect to see the replacement benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards next week.
The Food Assistance Division of DHR administers the SNAP program in Alabama.
More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.