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Lieutenant Governor’s commission on 21st Century workforce releases comprehensive report

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Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth on Monday released a comprehensive report that provides specific recommendations for improving the state’s workforce development efforts and maintaining Alabama’s ability to compete for economic investments.

“This detailed report is Alabama’s blueprint for preparing its citizens to fill long-lasting, well-paying, 21st Century jobs,” Ainsworth said.  “If our efforts prove successful, Alabama will continue leading the nation in economic development, industrial expansion, and job creation for many years to come.”

Compiled by the Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce, an eight-member panel created by the Legislature in 2019, the group recommended a series of budget allocations, institutional reforms, and other measures.

Among the commission’s recommendations were:

  • Improve collaboration among the state’s various workforce development entities and consider the creation of a cabinet-level coordinating agency named the Governor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development. 
  • Prioritize drawing individuals with barriers to workforce participation back into the job market and focus upon retaining and recruiting the talent necessary to fill voids in targeted industries.
  • Develop formal partnerships with business organizations to expand engagement.
  • Improve K-12 outcomes in the basic skills areas of math, reading, writing, and STEM, as well as career technical education.
  • Emphasize the need for community colleges to align CTE training with the current and future needs of in-demand and high-growth career clusters and occupations in their areas.
  • Improve communications and marketing to draw targeted audiences to seek workforce training.
  • Provide more assistance to rural Alabama, which faces significant challenges in areas like childcare, broadband access, and transportation services.
  • Reimagine Career Centers to be more proactive and engage in public outreach rather than being reactive waiting for the public to seek out services on their own.
  • Help transition those receiving government benefits back into the workforce without suffering financial penalties or adverse consequences for their efforts.
  • Allocate an additional $15 million for Career and Technical Education, $25 million to modernize training machinery and equipment in the Alabama Community College System, $6 million to regional workforce innovations, $8 million for increasing the number of career coaches, $4.5 million for a New Talent Attraction Initiative within the Alabama Department of Commerce, $500,000 to the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship, and $500,000 to transition the state’s career centers from a reactive to a proactive outreach approach.

“We developed this report as an action plan and a call to arms, and not something that should be tossed on a shelf to gather dust,” Ainsworth said.  “I will be pushing and prodding every level of state government to implement these recommendations so we can position Alabama for continued economic success.”

Chaired by Ainsworth, the commission is comprised of four lawmakers from each legislative chamber, and they include Sen. Dan Roberts, R – Birmingham, Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R – Geneva, Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D – Birmingham, Sen. Clay Scofield, R – Red Hill, Rep. Danny Garrett, R – Trussville, Rep. Connie Rowe, R – Jasper, Rep. Rod Scott, D – Fairfield, and Rep. Rich Wingo, R – Tuscaloosa.

A full copy of the report, titled “Alabama Workforce Development – Accelerating the Transformation to Excellence,” may be viewed online at [Link: Workforce Development Report].

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Economy

New unemployment claims continued dropping last week

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

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.

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Economy

Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

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:

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  • 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.

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Economy

Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

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.”

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“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.”

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Economy

SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

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.

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More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.

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