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Economy

Workers who lose their jobs because of COVID-19 can file for unemployment in Alabama

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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If you lose your job because of the coronavirus outbreak, you will be able to file for unemployment benefits in Alabama.

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced Monday that Alabama workers who are not able to work due to COVID-19 will be eligible to file for the benefits.

“We understand that we are entering a difficult time for workers and employers,” said Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We want to help those who may be temporarily financially impacted by helping them to replace some of their lost income while being unable to work. We are working with both federal and state government to ensure that we are doing all that we can to help ease the burden during a potentially trying time.”

Based on current guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Alabama Department of Labor is modifying existing unemployment compensation rules to allow workers to file a claim.

To be eligible, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency,
  • Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns,
  • Those who are diagnosed with COVID-19,
  • Or, those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

The requirement that a laid-off worker be “able and available” to work while receiving unemployment compensation benefits has been modified for claimants who are affected by COVID-19 in any of the situations listed above.

Additionally, claimants will also not have to search for other work provided they take reasonable steps to preserve their ability to come back to that job when the quarantine is lifted or the illness subsides.

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The waiting week, which is typically the first week of compensable benefits, will also be waived.

Verification of illness or quarantine may be required, and certain criteria and exceptions may apply. The department says this is subject to change.

Workers can file for benefits online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382. Online filing is encouraged.

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People who are being paid to work from home, or those receiving paid sick or vacation leave are NOT eligible for unemployment compensation benefits, regardless if they experience any or all of the situations listed above.

Employers who decide to shut down due to causes related to COVID-19 should treat the shutdown as a temporary layoff.


FAQ

Question 1: Will workers qualify for unemployment benefits if the coronavirus (COVID-19) causes an employer to shut down operations?

Answer: Alabama unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Question 2: If an employer lays off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, will the employees be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits?

Answer: Alabama unemployment benefits are available to any individual who is unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must lay off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Question 3: If an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, will the employer’s unemployment taxes increase?

Answer: At this time, no further guidance has been issued. Until such a time, normal procedures will be followed.

Question 4: If an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, can the benefits be charged to the mutual account?

Answer: At this time, no further guidance has been issued. Until such a time, normal procedures will be followed.

Question 5: If an asymptomatic employee imposes a self-quarantine because of the coronavirus, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?

Answer: In most cases, no. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual—not the employer—is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. If the employer allowed this individual to telework, they would not qualify for benefits because they would not be unemployed. If the employer required the individual to stay home but did not offer telework, the individual might be eligible for benefits if they met the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.

Question 6: If an employee is in mandatory quarantine because of suspicion of having the coronavirus, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?

Answer: Yes, they will be eligible. Certain criteria and exceptions may apply, and are subject to change.

Question 7: If an employee is ill because of the coronavirus and unable to work, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?

Answer: Yes, they will be eligible. Certain criteria and exceptions may apply, and are subject to change.

Question 8: Is the coronavirus considered a disaster, and can I receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance?

Answer: The president of the United States has declared the coronavirus a national disaster, but at this time there has been no Disaster Unemployment Assistance declaration.

Question 9: What types of proof may be required to substantiate a COVID-19 claim?

Answer: Proof of a medical diagnosis from a health care professional for the claimant and/or the immediate family member, and/or confirmation of quarantine by the employer or applicable government entity.

Question 10: What is a partial claim?

Answer: A partial claim is filed when an employee is laid off for a short period, but is expected to be rehired at the same job. For more information regarding partial claims, please visit https://www.labor.alabama.gov/uc/Partials/uc-partials.aspx#facts.

Question 11: How long can I receive benefits?

Answer: Generally, up to three weeks, subject to verification.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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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

Staff

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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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Economy

Unemployment assistance available to workers in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile Counties

Staff

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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 Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced Thursday that workers who became unemployed as a direct result of Hurricane Sally in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile Counties may qualify for unemployment assistance.

People who live in or worked in these counties and became unemployed due to Hurricane Sally during the period of Sept. 14, 2020, may be eligible for assistance under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, which was triggered when President Donald Trump designated the area as a disaster area on Sept. 20, 2020.

“Generally, those who are eligible for state unemployment benefits are not eligible for DUA, but a claimant may qualify if state unemployment compensation benefits are exhausted,” said Washington. “If you believe you are entitled to these benefits, I urge you to file a claim to see if you are eligible.”

People who may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance include the following:

  • Individuals who no longer have a job, are unable to reach the place of employment, or were scheduled to start work in the major disaster area and the job no longer exists
  • Those who became the breadwinner or major support of the family because the head of household died, or those who cannot work because of an injury incurred during the major disaster

All the previously described circumstances must be as a direct result of the hurricane. Self-employed individuals must provide a copy of their 2019 tax return, business license or Form 1099 within 21 days after applying for DUA benefits.

Claims can be filed through ADOL’s website at labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382.

The deadline to file a DUA claim is Oct. 28, 2020, for Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile Counties.

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Economy

Alabama Farmer’s Federation starts a relief fund for farmers impacted by Sally

Brandon Moseley

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A satellite image of Hurricane Sally. (VIA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE)

The Alabama Farmers Federation said Monday that it has established a relief fund to help farmers from across the state whose farms were damaged by Hurricane Sally.

“When disaster strikes, I am always impressed by the people of Alabama and their giving spirits,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “As we started receiving photos of damaged crops, barns and equipment, we also started getting questions from people about what they could do to help our farmers, and that’s why we’ve established this fund.”

All the donations to the relief fund are tax-deductible and may be made online or by check payable to Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation at P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191. Please include “hurricane relief fund” in the check memo line.

“Most of our farmers had as good a crop as we’ve ever seen, and it was so close to harvest for cotton, soybeans, peanuts and pecans,” Parnell said. “It’s devastating to lose a crop that had so much promise. Our farmers are great people who are assisting each other with cleaning up the damage, and we’re so grateful to everyone across the state who is helping in some way, like donating to the relief fund.”

Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores as a category two storm Sept. 16 with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Official reports from the National Weather Service show more than 20 inches of rain in Baldwin County.

The combination of heavy rains and high winds damaged crops, structures and equipment from Mobile and Baldwin Counties in the southwest through Russell County in the east.

It has been a difficult few years for farmers.

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While the general economy had been doing well prior to the coronavirus global pandemic, the farmers were caught in the middle of an international trade dispute over tariffs and fair competition.

Chinese retaliation against Americans farm products depressed commodity markets from 2018 through early this year.

When it appeared that the U.S. and China had come to a trade accord in January, the coronavirus hit along with massive disruptions in the supply chain.

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Farm bankruptcies were already up pre-COVID-19. The loss of the 2020 crop could push some already struggling agribusinesses over the brink.

The Alabama Farmers Federation is Alabama’s largest and most influential farmers’ organization.

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