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.
State unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent last month
Alabama’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.7 in September to 5.8 percent in October.
Alabama’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.7 in September to 5.8 percent in October, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. October’s seasonally adjusted rate represents 130,329 unemployed persons, down from 153,338 in September. That compares to 61,210 in October 2019.
“We’re glad to see a drop of almost an entire percentage point in our unemployment rate this month,” said ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We will continue to see fluctuations in these economic indicators as pandemic concerns remain, but this month showed growth in both the number of jobs we are supporting and the number of people who are working.”
The number of people counted as employed in October was 2,121,505, up from 2,119,297 in September, but down from the 2,186,771 measured in October 2019.
There were 9,262 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, up from 8,764 the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Of the claims filed between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, there were 3,001, or 32 percent, that were related to COVID-19, down from 38 percent the previous week.
Governor announces $200 million “Revive Plus” small business grant program
Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses.
Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced Revive Plus, a $200 million grant program to support small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations in Alabama that have been impacted by COVID-19. Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for these organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses they have incurred due to operational interruptions caused by the pandemic and related business closures.
“As the state has rolled out over $1 billion of the CARES Act monies to the individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, it became evident the group most overwhelmingly hurt during the pandemic were the small ‘mom and pop’ shops,” Ivey said. “A second round of assistance through Revive Plus will ensure that the small business owners who have borne the brunt of the downed economy can be made as whole as possible. As we head into the holiday season, my hope is that this will be welcome news for our businesses and help ease their burdens from what has been a very hard year.”
Entities may receive up to $20,000 to reimburse qualifying expenses if they have not received federal assistance for the corresponding item they are claiming with the state of Alabama. The Revive Plus grant is in addition to any state of Alabama Coronavirus Relief Fund grant previously received, including the Revive Alabama Small Business, Non-Profit, Faith-Based, and Health Care Provider grants. There is no set cap on the number of entities that may be awarded a Revive Plus Grant. Grants will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.
“The Revive Plus program is much needed in our small business economy,” said Senate General Fund Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Atmore. “I commend Governor Ivey for taking this action, recapturing unspent dollars and using a proven program to bring economic relief to our small business owners.”
Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 initially 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. After the initial $100 million for small business that was reimbursed starting in July 2020, legislative leadership approved a second round of $200 million from allocations made to reimburse state government and from other grant programs that have ended with the full allocation unspent.
“This second round of funding for Alabama entities will provide much needed resources for our state’s economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. “I appreciate the governor and the Finance Department’s work to ensure we utilize these funds to the benefit of our citizens.”
Entities may access grant information and the grant application through the Coronavirus Relief Fund website. The application period for the Revive Plus Grant Program will open at noon, Nov. 23, 2020 and run through noon, Dec. 4, 2020.
“This is welcome news for small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations that are continuing to feel the adverse effects of the Covid-19 virus,” said House General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. “Time is of the essence and I urge all qualified entities to apply as soon as possible beginning Monday, November 23rd.”
A coalition of the Business Council of Alabama, the National Federation of Independent Business of Alabama (NFIB Alabama) and the Alabama Restaurant Association worked closely with the governor’s office to revisit the grant program after the initial round of Revive Alabama reached the $100 million cap.
“Businesses throughout the state are working diligently to keep their employees and customers safe, all while ensuring commerce throughout Alabama continues to move,” said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Britt. “Revive Plus will be essential in giving Alabama businesses access to the necessary and needed funding to keep their doors open and keep hard working Alabamians employed. Our broad coalition of businesses, associations and chambers commend Governor Ivey and her administration for putting these critical funds into the hands of businesses who need it most.”
Qualifying entities must have been in business March 1, 2020, are currently in business and have a valid W-9 to apply for a Revive Plus Grant.
Applications open the Livestock Auction Market Direct Payment Program, Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program
Each program will assist Alabama’s agriculture with costs associated with disruptions experienced due to COVID-19.
Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate announced that both the Livestock Market Direct Payment Program and the Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program applications are open.
The applications are available at agi.alabama.gov or crf.alabama.gov. The deadline to submit applications is Dec. 1, 2020. Each program will assist Alabama’s agriculture with costs associated with disruptions experienced due to COVID-19.
Pate and agricultural stakeholders developed a broad-based relief plan to support agribusiness in the state of Alabama, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and the resulting supply chain interruptions.
In August, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that $26 million of CARES Act Funds could be used to assist Alabama agriculture impacted by COVID-19. These funds were used to establish the Alabama Agricultural Stabilization Program (AASP).
Pate said on Monday that the Livestock Market Direct Payment Program is a $500,000 program to provide direct payments to stockyards affected by the crisis. Payments cannot exceed $25,000. Only licensed Alabama cattle auction markets are eligible.
Pate said the Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program is a $1.2 million program to reimburse Alabama poultry processing facilities for purchases of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), disinfectants, workstation dividers and COVID-19 testing kits to protect their employees from COVID-19.
Reimbursements for these expenses would be capped at a maximum of $40,000 per facility. Additional eligibility requirements will be posted at agi.alabama.gov or crf.alabama.gov.
The state has until the end of the year to spend nearly $1 billion in CARES Act money or it goes back to the federal government.
Sewell’s annual job fair will be virtual this year
Job seekers will have the opportunity to connect with employers from 10 different industries.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s annual job fair is open for registration. This year, the job fair will be virtual, hosted via Zoom.
Sewell announced the opening of registration for Alabama’s 7th District 9th Annual Job Fair. Job Fair 2020 will be a two-day event held virtually on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 18 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. central time.
Job seekers will have the opportunity to connect with employers from 10 different industries. Registration is required via Eventbrite. Participation in the job fair is free and open to the public.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I know so many jobs have been lost, and now more than ever our annual Job Fair is needed,” Sewell said. “For the past 8 years, the Job Fair has been a space for job seekers in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District to connect directly with employers. We are very excited to continue our tradition with a robust 2020 virtual program! Over the course of two days, job seekers can learn about jobs available right NOW in Alabama.”
This year’s virtual event will feature employers from more than 10 types of industries, including automotive, restaurant and food management, transportation and construction, hospitality and retail, health services, utilities and telecommunications, manufacturing and production, staffing agencies, government agencies and law enforcement.
Sewell said she made a commitment to work to improve the lives of people in the 7th Congressional District when she was elected. Getting people jobs and growing the economy of the district has been the goal of the job fair.
Sewell said that when she was elected, the counties of the district had some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Coming out of the Great Recession, the district had an unemployment rate about 14 percent.
That rate is now down to 6 percent — still double the national average but a tremendous improvement for the people in the district. Then COVID hit.
Sewell said that the district, like the rest of the country, was hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and many jobs, particularly in the hospitality sector, were lost.
Sewell said that they don’t have as many employers participating in this year’s job fair as in some in the past but it is “still a great opportunity.”
“We have a pretty good track record,” Sewell said. According to surveys, 25 to 30 percent of participants in past job fairs found jobs through the Job Fair, Sewell’s office said. Since that is dependent on participants responding to the surveys, they suspect the number is higher.
“We do have very strong participation from all the largest employers in the state,” Sewell said. There are opportunities there for people with a variety of skill sets.
Sewell said that she is very proud of all of the investments that have been made by manufacturers in the 7th Congressional District and cited the expansions at Hyundai and Golden Dragon in Wilcox County.
“We have a very good track record,” Sewell said of past job fairs. “Everywhere I go I meet people who tell me how their lives changed because of our job fairs.”
On Nov. 3, Sewell was elected to her sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives.