Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, sent Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey a letter this week stating that the majority consensus of the business leaders he consulted is that the Alabama economy should reopen on May 1.
“The majority consensus (64% of respondents) is that Alabamians are prepared to return to work and that the economy should begin to be opened by May 1, 2020,” Aderholt concluded.
“Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Getting Alabama Back 2 Work Task Force,” Aderholt wrote to the governor. “As you well know, the purpose of the Task Force is to examine the impact of COVID-19 on the small businesses of the state and to determine the best time and method for safely reopening the economy.”
“As the Task Force member representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District, I appointed a diverse group of thirteen leaders in various fields (from medical, retail, hospitality/restaurant, banking, transportation, engineering and manufacturing) to provide input,” Aderholt explained. “I also sought the advice of the directors of the twenty-six Chambers of Commerce in the district. Furthermore, my staff developed a survey which was distributed to the Chambers and their individual members. Several of the Chambers also provided my office with the results of their own surveys.”
Aderholt said that the Fourth District Task Force received just under four hundred responses.
29 percent of respondents were in favor of opening immediately. Another 35 percent voted for opening on May the first. Nine percent voted for waiting to open until May 15. Seven percent voted to wait to June first. 20 percent responded chose “other.” The majority of these were from businesses that never closed.
Aderholt said that his responses included several suggestions for the protection of their customers and employees. These included:
Enforce social distancing in all areas Limit the number of people allowed in the establishment Masks to be worn in public places Limit gatherings to 25 or less, dependent on the size of the facility and if a six-foot distance can be maintained between patrons/attendees/etc. Promote frequent hand washing Frequent cleaning/sanitizing of high traffic areas Limit direct contact between employees and customers For healthcare and dental providers, provide health screenings for patients before entering the facility Encourage telework where possible Encourage at-risk individuals to continue to shelter in place Prioritize rapid-result testing for workers with “symptoms” but perhaps no infection
Aderholt said that his respondents made a number of key points including, that antibody testing is needed to determine exactly how prevalent COVID-19 is in the state. A number of respondents were concerned that there will not be enough personal protective equipment (PPE) or sanitizer to meet the increased demand.
There were also concerns that some of their employees will refuse to return to work, due to fear, lack of childcare or because they are making more on unemployment than when they were working. Aderholt said that with the schools closed, daycare facilities will need to be reopened, which will be a challenge to do so safely.
Aderholt said that a dentist wanted clear guidance from the Alabama Board of Dental Examiners and the Alabama Dental Association on what protective procedures will be required (if any) above and beyond their current measures. This will allow them to order the appropriate PPE.
The hospital administrator on the Task Force wanted hospitals to be allowed to perform elective procedures immediately because the current restrictions have drastically reduced their income.
“They are also treating few, if any, COVID-19 patients,” Aderholt explained. “There are two hospitals in my district that are on the verge of closure and must increase their revenue to stay open.”
Aderholt said it was suggested that the state create a program assisting small businesses to transition to e-commerce so they could generate income if there is another forced economic closure.
“In conclusion, the overall message we are getting from the people of the Fourth District is that we cannot stay closed indefinitely, but at the same time, we cannot open the economy all at once,” Aderholt said. “There needs to be a measured plan to open things up in phases to ensure that businesses are acting responsibly, and their customers are protected as much as possible. My recommendation is to follow the federal guidelines, which calls for a two week decline in new cases; for our hospitals to be able to operate on a non-crisis basis and a robust testing program for at-risk healthcare workers as well as antibody testing. Additionally, I feel that the state, where appropriate, should work on a regional or county basis to modify these criteria to fit the local circumstances. After all, what will work for Tuscaloosa County may not work for DeKalb County.”
Alabama’s economy has been shut down for six weeks in a forced economic shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Despite this 178 Alabamians have died of COVID-19.
President Donald Trump has released guidelines for a three-phase reopening of the economy. As of press time, the U.S. has 849,092 cases of COVID-19 and 47,681 deaths.
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth said Wednesday on social media, “Assuming Alabama has less than 339 COVID-19 cases tomorrow, we will qualify to reopen businesses under President Trump’s Opening Up America Again guidelines. It is time to put Alabamians back to work, and we can do it both safely and responsibly.”
Ivey has said that her decision on reopening the economy will be data-driven and not date-driven.
Aderholt represents Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.
Alabama unemployment rate drops more than 2 points to 5.6 percent
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.
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
New unemployment claims drop slightly
There were 8,848 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,902 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Of the claims filed between Sept. 6 and Sept. 12, 4,485, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.
Inaugural Alabama Works innovator awards presented
The inaugural AlabamaWorks! Innovator Awards were presented by Gov. Kay Ivey and Deputy Director of Commerce and AIDT Director Ed Castile Thursday during the AlabamaWorks! Virtual Conference.
The awards were developed to highlight people and programs across the state that take an innovative approach to solving workforce challenges and help advance Ivey’s Success Plus attainment goal of adding 500,000 highly skilled workers by 2025.
At the time of the inception of the awards, Alabama was unaware of the impact COVID-19 would have on the workforce and although the attainment goal has not changed, our economic and workforce recovery post-COVID-19 will hinge on innovators like those recognized.
“The workforce challenges that we face today are not the same ones that we faced six months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has completely reshaped the workforce landscape,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “The State of Alabama is relying on those who are leading the charge by implementing innovative solutions in their cities, counties and regions to further economic and workforce development.”
The recipients are visionaries, outside-of-the-box thinkers and problem solvers. The programs test boundaries, explore new opportunities and reach deeper to bring about change. “It is important to recognize these leaders of innovation and to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the citizens, communities and industries of Alabama,” said Ed Castile, deputy director of commerce and AIDT director. “Their innovative approach to workforce development will be key to opening doors, breaking barriers and propelling Alabamians forward.”
The recipients of the first-ever AlabamaWorks Innovator Awards are as follows:
Region 1 – North AlabamaWorks – Beth Brumley, Colbert County Schools
Beth Brumley built the Health Science Program for Colbert County Schools from the ground up by using her experience in the healthcare field to provide critical, real-world skills to her students. She developed key relationships within the healthcare community to provide her students enhanced learning opportunities and exposure, which resulted in increased demand for program graduates. Beth was also named the 2020 National New Teacher of the Year through the Association for Career and Technical Education. By bridging the gap between education and employer, Beth has created a formula for success that positively impacts the workforce.
Region 2 – East AlabamaWorks – The Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement (SAFE)
SAFE has been a model for supportive services to empower individuals and families while fostering positive and healthy development of the community for nearly 25 years. In their program, SAFE combines occupational and employability skills to help job seekers be ready to enter the workforce regardless of barriers they may have faced in the past. Their dedication to providing practical solutions to modern problems is a testament to their heart for service and passion for helping their community and region.
Region 3 – West AlabamaWorks – Dr. Mike Daria, Superintendent Tuscaloosa City Schools
Dr. Daria has played a crucial role in the success of West Alabama’s workforce development by fostering important relationships between industry and education. His leadership has focused on increased Career Technical Education (CTE) enrollment, supporting local Worlds of Work events and the Educator Workforce Academy. Dr. Daria’s emphasis on the importance of identifying career pathways for the students in his district and then providing viable opportunities for students to take those paths, make him invaluable to West Alabama.
Region 4 – Central Six AlabamaWorks – Ed Farm
Ed Farm is the signature program of TechAlabama that focuses on encouraging children and adults to discover and pursue STEM careers. Ed Farm has a vision for a world full of invention, led by citizens who have been equipped with the necessary tools to fill or create the careers of the future. Through equipping educators and communities with innovative tools, strategies and programs they are able to support active learning for all students. With three signature tracks, Ed Farm is poised to help increase educational equity and improve learning outcomes through technology all while preparing the future tech workforce.
Region 5 – Central AlabamaWorks – Tiger Mochas, Auburn City Schools
Tiger Mochas is a collaborative effort between special education students, FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) members and peer volunteers at Auburn High School. This student-led organization is serving up a lot more than hot cups of coffee to their peers because through their work, students are provided meaningful, hands-on work experience that teaches important functional, social and daily living skills. Graduates of the program leave with not only work and employability skills, but in-demand soft skills that will help them succeed in life and work.
Region 6 – Southeast AlabamaWorks – WeeCat Industries
WeeCat Industries uses a simulated workplace model to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce. WeeCat saw an opportunity to begin teaching work ethics and employability skills as early as preschool, and rose to the challenge. Their students clock into work, run an assembly line, fill orders, check invoices, meet production quota, interview for new positions and implement quality control all while earning a “paycheck” to be spent at the WeeCat Store before they can even spell the word “school”. WeeCat Industries places invaluable skills at a crucial age in development which will shape the future of the workforce.
Region 7 – SAWDC AlabamaWorks – Ed Bushaw
Ed Bushaw with the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce researched and developed initiatives to address the region’s workforce supply to meet the needs of the growing hospitality and tourism industry in his region. His collaborative efforts with business and industry officials resulted in the development of the first Hospitality and Tourism registered apprenticeship program in Alabama. Apprentices receive classroom instruction as well as valuable real-world experience within the hospitality and tourism industry and finish the program with a credential that can be used to advance their career. Ed’s ability to adapt to the needs of industry and implement programs that address those needs are vital to the continued success of southwest Alabama.
Report: Transitioning to electric vehicles could save Alabama millions in health costs
Alabama would experience approximately 500 less asthma attacks per year, about 38 fewer premature deaths and prevent more than 2,200 lost workdays annually.
Alabama could save $431 million in public health costs per year by 2050, if the state shifted to an electric transportation sector between now and then, according to a new study by the American Lung Association.
Such a transition would reduce other health-related issues, said the organization, which used data on pollution from vehicles and from oil refineries to calculate its findings.
Alabama would experience approximately 500 less asthma attacks per year, about 38 fewer premature deaths and prevent more than 2,200 lost workdays annually.
The transportation sector is one of the main contributors to air pollution and climate change, said William Barrett, the association’s director of advocacy for clean air and the study’s author.
“We have the technology to transition to cleaner cars, trucks and buses, and by taking that step we can prepare Alabama for the future while also seeing the health and economic benefits forecasted in ‘The Road to Clean Air,’” Barrett said. “Especially as our state faces the impacts of climate change, such as extreme storms, this is a powerful and practical opportunity to take action to improve our economy, our health and our future.”
Trading combustion-powered vehicles for electric ones could result in $11.3 billion in avoided health costs across southern states by mid-century, the report estimated, and prevent roughly 1,000 premature deaths.
Nationally, Americans stand to save $72 billion in health costs and $113 billion in avoided climate change impacts, the ALA said.
The path to that future depends on leaders factoring public health effects into decisions about transportation, Barrett said.
That involves steps like pursuing electric vehicle fleets when purchasing decisions are being made and supporting the creation of enough charging stations along highways, roads and at truck stops.
Investing in that infrastructure can drive wider economic benefits, Barrett said. He cited California’s increased manufacturing of electric vehicles.
Tesla is the most well-known producer that has located there, but Barrett said that makers of trucks and buses have also chosen to locate their facilities in the state.