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Small Business Commission to announce recommendations for reopening the Alabama economy

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and State Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, will hold a news conference Friday to announce a series of recommended steps for reopening Alabama’s economy, which were formulated at the request of Gov. Kay Ivey.

According to the statement, the COVID-19 infection rate indicates that a downward trend has begun last week. Gov. Ivey asked the Small Business Commission, which is statutorily led by Ainsworth, to submit recommendations for safely reopening businesses, restoring commerce, and recharging Alabama’s economy while, at the same time, protecting the public health.

The recommendations have been drafted by a subcommittee of business leaders and members of the Alabama Legislature.

The “Reopen Alabama Responsibly Phase: I” report has been submitted to the governor, and the full commission has ratified its contents. Rep. Garrett led the subcommittee. As Chair, he reached out to business owners across all industry sectors in order to provide the most comprehensive recommendations possible.

Ivey has said that the economic resumption plan will be weighed alongside the recommendations of State Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and other medical professionals working to ensure that the state’s COVID-19 numbers continue to stabilize and decline.

The Governor expects to join Dr. Harris in issuing a new and updated State Public Health Order “on or before April 28.”

Government officials at both the national and state levels are planning a phased reopening of the economy. The White House has prepared guidelines for the states to implement. Lifting shelter in place orders and allowing shuttered businesses to reopen carries with it the risk of a spike in coronavirus infections. Government planners hope to mitigate the risk through government guidelines.

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Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Leaders in the public and private sector are working around the clock to get information out to Alabamians and to help where needed. It is critically important to continue to follow the social distancing guidelines. When you have to go out into public to obtain groceries or other supplies, stay at least six feet away from others, wear gloves, and wear a mask. Always wash your hands. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.”

Several states that have been less affected by the virus could begin the reopening process within days. Gov. Ivey said on Monday that the state will be studying what happens in these states.

“There has been a lot of talk about a post-pandemic economy and when Alabama will reopen its economy,” Dr. Jones explained. “Because we are in unchartered territory, more assessment is needed to make an informed decision. As our nation begins to understand COVID-19 better, Alabama needs to look at the responses of the states that were hit first and learn from them. Communication is also key. Governor Ivey has continued conversations with leaders and encouraged everyone to submit ideas and methodologies on how to respond to COVID-19. Stay tuned for future information on these practices aimed to best serve Alabamians.”

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“Now that we have passed the peak in new cases, we are starting our life again,” Pres. Trump announced on Thursday. “We are starting rejuvenation of our economy again, in a safe and structured and a very responsible fashion.”

The Trump guidelines have three phases.

“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Pres. Trump explained.

The White House announced, “Thanks to you, President Trump’s aggressive strategy to beat Coronavirus is working.”

According to the administration a quarter of U.S. counties have no Coronavirus cases reported. Half of American states have fewer than 2,500 cases total.

The hardest hit area is New York City where the wide use of mass transit made the population intensely susceptible to virus spread, but even there new infections are declining across the New York metro area, as well as in the closely watched Houston and New Orleans communities.

“While Americans must remain vigilant in following President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines, the data suggests we have passed a nationwide peak on new cases,” the White House announced. “This progress means it’s time to help states prepare for how to reopen our country.”

The administration says that the guidance being put out today are in line with what the experts are saying.

The criteria include showing a downward trajectory of COVID-like symptoms reported over 14 days in a given state or region, as well as a decline in documented cases or positive tests during the same 14-day window. A region’s hospital and healthcare system capacity is another factor. According to the President’s guidelines hospitals must be able to treat all patients without crisis care before a state or region can reopen for business. Also a robust testing programs, including emerging antibody testing, must be in place to protect at-risk healthcare workers.

The White House warns that when the economy reopens all Americans must continue social distancing including: continue to practice strict personal hygiene, frequently hand washing, and disinfecting commonly used items and surfaces. People who feel sick should stay home and follow the advice of their medical providers. Employers should follow industry best practices on social distancing, sanitation, travel, and use of shared spaces.

“We want to get our country back,” President Trump said. “And we’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it soon.”

To see President Trump’s Guidelines for Opening Up America again, click here.

22 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in just the last four weeks. To date 677,570 Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19. 34,617 Americans have already died, most of them in just the last three weeks. 57,508 of the infected have recovered and can return from quarantine. 137 Alabamians have already died in the global pandemic.

Original reporting by NBC News contributed to this report.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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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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Economy

Applications open for Alabama’s CARES Act Marine Industry Relief Program

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Resources Division announced this week that it is currently accepting applications for its CARES Act relief program for fishery-related businesses.

The program was established to provide financial relief for losses suffered by the state’s marine fishing industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about the program, visit this website.

Congress awarded $3.2 million of CARES Act money to the state of Alabama to address financial losses caused by the pandemic that occurred in the state’s seafood industry between March 1 and May 31, 2020.

To qualify, fishery-related businesses must have experienced revenue losses greater than 35 percent between the dates listed above. The 35 percent revenue loss is compared to the average revenue earned between March 1 and May 31 in the preceding five years of 2015-2019.

Only Alabama residents and tribal members that are licensed as saltwater commercial fishermen — those that possess licenses for fishing, taking/catching of oysters, taking/carrying shrimp, gill net fishing, and “crab catching” — seafood or oyster aquaculture operators, non-retail seafood dealers or processors, live-bait dealers and for-hire vessel owners-operators are eligible to participate in the program.

Qualifying individuals and businesses must be able to substantiate their income reduction and complete the application process to be eligible for loss reimbursement. Alabama residents who participate in eligible fisheries in other states as non-resident licensees may also be eligible to participate in Alabama’s program.

Completed applications and supporting documentation can be mailed, shipped or hand delivered to the MRD office in Gulf Shores, Alabama, located at 999 Commerce Drive.

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The applications must be postmarked no later than Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Completed applications can also be hand-delivered by 5 p.m. that day. Electronic copies including email will not be accepted. For more information about the program, including FAQs and the application form, visit outdooralabama.com/CARES-ACT.

Learn more about the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by visiting outdooralabama.com.

The coronavirus crisis and the economic shutdowns and business limitations to combat the spread of the coronavirus has been devastating to the American economy. At least 28 million Americans are still receiving unemployment benefits and the S&P 500 index closed on Wednesday at 3,236.9, which is still down 4.4 percent from its February peak of 3,386.

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At least 982,513 people, including 206,598 Americans, have died from COVID-19 and more than 32 million people globally have been diagnosed with the coronavirus including 7,140,137 Americans.

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Economy

Registered nurses, retail salespersons were most sought after employees in August

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Data collected and analyzed by the Alabama Department of Labor’s Labor Market Information Division shows that the five occupations with the most online wanted ads continue to be for registered nurses, retail salespersons, truck drivers, sales representatives and customer service representatives — with more than 8,000 ads placed for those occupations in August.

The HWOL data is compiled from all online job postings in the state, including those posted on the state’s free online jobs database, AlabamaWorks, and other sources such as traditional job boards, corporate boards and social media sites.

Twelve percent of job ads have salaries of $75,000 and above. Fifteen percent have salaries in the $50,000 to $75,000 range. Eighteen percent have salaries in the $35,000 to $49,000 range, and 55 percent have salaries of $35,000 or less.

The top three employers posting ads in August were UAB Medicine with 992 postings, Lowe’s with 770 and the University of Alabama at Birmingham with 502.

These were followed by the University of South Alabama with 404, Diversicare Healthcare & Therapy Services with 331, Huntsville Hospital with 295, Encompass Home Health with 270, Baptist Health with 246, Advance Auto Parts with 240 and Grandview Medical Center with 236 to round out the top 10 employers with the most online ads.

Software developers are the focus of this month’s in-depth analysis by the LMI division. The median annual salary is advertised as $87,802. This occupation develops, creates and modifies general computer applications software or specialized utility programs.

Software developers also analyze user needs and develop software solutions. They may design software or customize software for client use with the aim of optimizing operational efficiency, analyze and design databases within an application area, and working individually or coordinating database development as part of a team.

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Specialized skills in Java and DevOps offer salary premiums based on job ads analyzed.

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Economy

Alabama unemployment rate drops more than 2 points to 5.6 percent

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 5.6 percent in August, down from 7.9 percent in July, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. 

The figure represents 127,186 unemployed people, compared to 176,556 in July. It compares to an August 2019 rate of 2.8 percent, or 62,149 unemployed people.

“August showed a larger drop in the unemployment rate than we’ve seen for a few months,” said Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We are continuing to see our initial claims drop, staying under 10,000 for the past several weeks. We regained another 22,200 jobs this month but are still down more than 86,000 from this time last year.”

Washington said that the number of people who are working or actively looking for work is at its highest level ever, which he described as a sign that people are confident that there are jobs to be found. 

Gov. Kay Ivey said the numbers are good news for Alabama. 

“We have worked extremely hard to open Alabama’s businesses safely, and to put our hard-working families back to work,” Ivey said in a statement. “We know that challenges remain, and we will endeavor to meet them so that we can get back to our previous, pre-pandemic record-setting employment numbers.”

All the state’s counties and metro areas experienced a decrease in unemployment rates from July to August. The most gains were seen in the government sector, the professional and business services sector and the trade, transportation and utilities sector.

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Counties with the lowest unemployment rates were:

  • Clay County – 3.4 percent
  • Randolph, Franklin, Marshall, Cullman, Cleburne and Cherokee Counties – 3.6 percent
  • Blount County – 3.7 percent

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were:

  • Wilcox County – 14.8 percent
  • Lowndes County – 13.8 percent
  • Greene County – 10.9 percent

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are:

  • Vestavia Hills – 3 percent
  • Homewood  – 3.2 percent
  • Madison – 3.3 percent

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are:

  • Prichard – 15.4 percent
  • Selma – 12.9 percent
  • Bessemer – 10.7 percent

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