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Gov. Ivey says no plans for statewide “shelter-in-place” order

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday said there are no plans for a statewide shelter-in-place order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We have seen other states in the country doing that, as well as other countries, but however ya’ll. We are not California. We are not New York. We aren’t even Louisiana,” Ivey said on a conference call Monday. “My priority is to keep the Alabama economy going as much as possible, while we take extraordinary measures to keep everyone healthy and safe.” 

The Birmingham City Council on Monday approved a shelter-in-place order to help stem the tide of new COVID-19 cases in the city. The order bans all non-essential travel. Residents can still go to their essential job, leave home for things such as groceries, gas, medicine, health care or food, and for outdoor exercise. 

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said 45 people who tested positive for the virus are hospitalized at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham, dozens more are under observation and at least 18 are on ventilators.

There were 242 confirmed COVID-19 cases across Alabama on Monday afternoon, although state health officials have said testing remains low in many parts of the state, so the actual spread of the virus is hard to know.  The number of known new cases in Alabama has been doubling about every three days. 

All Alabamians are under a statewide order that prohibits gatherings of 25 or more people, or any gathering in which people cannot keep 6 feet of distance apart from one another, but the ban doesn’t apply to workplaces. 

Ivey said that she knows small businesses are “feeling the pinch” and may feel hopeless when it’s hard to see the end in sight, “but I want to echo the president who today said,  quote, ‘We have to get back to work.’ We must do everything we can to keep businesses open. And if they are closed, get them back up as soon as possible.” 

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President Donald Trump in a press briefing Monday suggested that in a matter of “weeks” and not “months” he planned to ease federal guidelines on social distancing, which are at the heart of the government’s 15-day “slow the spread” plan. 

“We can do both things,” Trump said several times during Monday’s press conference when asked if the government should focus on protecting U.S. lives and health or the economy. 

Trump’s statements caused concern from health care experts and a few members of his own party, who say easing the guidelines would cause the virus to spread more quickly. 

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- South Carolina, in a tweet Monday said doing so cost lives. 

“Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media, and shown all around the world,” Graham said in the tweet. 

Asked a similar question on Tuesday, whether the state government should be focused more on stopping the spread and public health, or the economy, Ivey echoed Trump, and said both. 

“The safety and well-being of Alabamians are paramount. However, I agree with President Trump, who thinks that a healthy and vital economy is just as essential to our quality of life,” Ivey said. “Manufacturers and business owners are producing the medicines, the protective health equipment and the food we need. It’s a balance and we’ve had to strike the appropriate balance as we move forward and as to appreciate the public being patient as you work through this.” 

Asked if the state was considering a stimulus package similar to what the federal government is working on, Ivey again discussed getting Alabama’s economy running without barriers. 

“In the past decade, we have made it a priority to not spend more than the state has collected, so the answer to this question is dependent on the economy and the economic forecasts, but there again, it’s about keeping Alabama businesses open and running,” Ivey said. “And if enact a shelter-in-place it will further impact our economy. These are things we’re all weighing out. We certainly do not have plans for shelter in place.” 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday issued a stay-in-place order for “at-risk” groups, which include those living in long-term care facilities, those with some chronic illnesses, people who tested positive for the virus or were exposed to someone who has it. 

Atlanta’s mayor on Monday signed a 14-day stay-at-home order for all city residents. 

Ivey later in the Monday conference call cautioned Alabamians from traveling across state lines to visit family or friends, which could put them and others at risk of contracting the virus. 

“We want to keep our economy moving for sure, but that means we have to take extra precautions and doing so,” Ivey said. 

Alabama’s State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris was asked during Monday’s conference call whether he agrees with Trump’s statement Monday that the President thinks it will be a matter of weeks, not months before decisions are made to loosen restrictions on public life, Harris said he’s not yet sure. 

“In China, for example, they’ve just begun to see improvement in the past week after something that probably appeared in December, so there’s so much unknown right now that it’s just very challenging to say,” Harris said. “But it certainly could be weeks or months, and we’ll know a little bit more when we see our state develops in the next couple of weeks. I think.”

Asked if the state was doing enough to keep people safe when it comes to closures, Harris couldn’t say. 

 “I certainly am not sure if we’re doing enough or if we’re doing too much when it comes to this response, because it’s just very difficult to look into the future and know what we’re going to be seeing in a few weeks,” Harris said. 

“We’re certainly trying to make the best decision we can with the data we have available, and it’s possible we’ll end up looking like we didn’t do enough or it’s possible we’ll end up looking like we overreacted. And at this point, we’re doing the best we can with the information we have,” Harris said. 

What he and other state officials now have is an incomplete look at the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state, due to what Harris and other state health officials have said is a deficiency in testing in many areas statewide, largely due to the state’s struggle to source enough testing supplies and personal protective equipment for staff. 

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Governor announces final report on campaign for grade-level reading

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday announced the final report and recommendations of the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The final report provides recommendations to enhance Birth to Age Eight Systems; Family Engagement; Health and Well-Being; Learning Outside the Classroom; and Special Education, English Language Learners and Struggling Readers.

Governor Ivey and campaign leaders have developed an introductory video with a call to action for the Alabama Children’s Policy Councils as they begin their work together of establishing a local, county-level Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to continue this important work in each of Alabama’s 67 counties. The local campaigns represent a grassroots effort organized around the common goal of supporting Alabama students in achieving reading proficiency.

“Today I am joined by officers and leaders of the campaign, and we are honored to address all Alabama Children Policy Councils,” said Governor Ivey. “Reaching this goal will require the collective effort of every individual in all 67 of Alabama’s counties. Your local grassroot efforts to reach our most challenged students in Alabama’s classrooms will directly, positively impact literacy proficiency. We are all made whole when the least among us are provided equitable educational opportunities allowing us to thrive academically.”

In February 2018, Governor Ivey appointed a diverse, 100-member Executive Team to form the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (ACGLR) as a critical component of her Strong Start, Strong Finish education initiative and to assist in establishing local campaigns for grade-level reading. The Executive Team organized a collective framework for success to guide Alabama’s efforts in ensuring every single student reads proficiently by the fourth grade, entitled “Alabama Campaign for Grade Level Reading Recommendations to the Governor.” The Campaign integrates Alabama’s early learning and care, K-12 and higher education, and workforce development efforts into a seamless education continuum for all citizens. This vision becomes accessible for all when every Alabama student enters the fourth grade as a proficient reader.

The FY2021 Education Trust Fund budget approved by the Alabama Legislature provides an additional $26.9 million to improve early literacy and support the implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act, and will focus quality literacy initiatives on the early grades of pre-k through the 3rd grade, reinforcing the achievement gains produced by the nationally recognized high quality Alabama First Class Pre-K program. This includes funding for additional reading specialists and summer and after-school programs. The FY2021 budget also provides $9.8 million to continue supporting early educator training in the science of reading for pre-k through 3rd grade teachers, administrators, and coaches.

The “Alabama Campaign for Grade Level Reading Recommendations to the Governor” are designed to kickstart local campaigns for grade-level reading in each of Alabama’s 67 counties. Under the leadership of the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation in partnership with the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, the Campaign will morph into 67 local campaigns through the statewide network of Children’s Policy Councils. This approach will allow the Children’s Policy Councils to address external issues outside of the classroom, such as childhood health, access to nutritious food, and quality after-school and summer programs that directly affect a child’s ability to perform academically.

The Children’s Policy Council (designated as the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council in 2015) is an effective organization to spread awareness, build upon community partnerships, and utilize the annual CPC needs assessment surveys to determine priorities, needs, gaps, and areas of strength at the county-level. Alabama’s county Children’s Policy Councils understand their local challenges and opportunities and will be instrumental in growing local campaigns to include best practices and strategies for supporting literacy efforts at the local level.

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 Attached is a copy of the final report.

The final report can also be found on the governor’s website:https://governor.alabama.gov/assets/2020/07/Longleaf_GLR_Final_Web.pdf

 

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Alabama DHR announces grants providing temporary assistance for stabilizing child care

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The Alabama Department of Human Resources announced on Friday a new grant program to provide assistance to licensed child care providers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Temporary Assistance for Stabilizing Child Care, or TASCC, grant program’s purpose is to stabilize the number of child care providers that are open and providing services, as well as encourage providers to reopen.

DHR is now accepting applications for TASCC grants. The deadline to apply is August 7, 2020. The total grant amounts will be based on each provider’s daytime licensed capacity with a base rate of $300 per child.

To be eligible for a grant, licensed providers must be open or plan to reopen no later than August 17, 2020, and continue to remain open for a period of one year from the date of receiving the grant award. As of this week, 1,306 of Alabama’s 2,448 child care facilities were open in the state.

“We are proud to offer this program as a support and an incentive to an important sector of our economy. These grants will give the support many providers need to reopen and assist those already open,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “This program is going to be vital for our child care numbers to reach the level required to provide adequate services as parents return to work. We have already made significant strides in reopening facilities over the past several months; in April only 14 percent were open while now 53 percent are open.”

These grants will provide support for paying employees, purchasing classroom materials, providing meals, purchasing cleaning supplies, providing tuition relief for families, as well as other facility expenses.

DHR recommends child care providers read all guidance prior to submitting a TASCC application. Child care providers need to complete the application to determine the estimated grant amount. Grant applications will be processed as they are received and grants awarded once approved.

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An online fillable application is available for the TASCC grant at www.dhr.alabama.gov/child-care/. The application must include an Alabama STAARS Vendor Code in order to be processed. For questions regarding the application, please email DHR at [email protected].

 

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Gov. Ivey awards grant for new system to aid child abuse victims

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Gov. Kay Ivey delivers the 2019 state of the state address. (CHIP BROWNLEE/APR)

Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded a $375,000 grant to establish a statewide network that will ensure that victims of child abuse receive immediate and professional medical care and other assistance.

The grant will enable the Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics to collaborate with the Alabama Network of Children Advocacy Centers in creating the Child Abuse Medical System.

 “Child abuse is a horrendous crime that robs children of their youth and can negatively affect their future if victims do not receive the proper professional assistance,” Ivey said. “I am thankful for this network that will ensure children get the professional attention they need and deserve.”

The medical system will be a coordinated statewide resource that includes pediatric physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals along with specialized sexual assault nurse examiners.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant.

“ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey and those dedicated people who are part of the Child Abuse Medical System to support these children at a time they need it most,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.

Ivey notified Tom Shufflebarger, CEO of Children’s of Alabama, that the grant had been approved.

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ADECA manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.

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Governor announces “Revive Alabama” $100 million small business grant program

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Gov. Kay Ivey speaks at a press conference. (via Governor's Office)

Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the Revive Alabama grant program to support small businesses in Alabama that have been impacted by COVID-19. Revive Alabama will reimburse small businesses up to a combined $100 million for expenses they have incurred due to operational interruptions caused by the pandemic and related business closures.

“In many ways, our small businesses were hit the hardest from the coronavirus pandemic,” Governor Ivey said. “Ensuring these owners have every opportunity to recoup expenses incurred due the disruption of business is essential to getting our economy roaring once again.”

Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 designated up to $300 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for individuals, businesses, non-profit and faith-based organizations directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Qualifying businesses may receive up to $15,000 to reimburse these expenses if they have not received federal assistance for the corresponding item they are claiming with the state of Alabama. There is no set cap on the number of businesses that may be awarded a Revive Alabama Small Business Grant. Grants will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come-first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.

Business owners may access the grant application through the Alabama Department of Revenue’s (ALDOR)Revive Alabama website. The application period for the Revive Alabama Small Business Grant Program will open at noon on July 16, 2020 and run through midnight on July 25, 2020.

All applicants must first establish a secure My Alabama Taxes (MAT) account to protect their personal and business information on submitted applications. Small businesses are encouraged to start this process as soon as possible in advance of the application period opening. Each applying business must have its own MAT account to apply for a Revive Alabama Small Business Grant. Tax preparers may not apply for grants on behalf of their clients but may be able to assist potential applicants with information needed to establish their own MAT accounts.

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