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After long lines, in-person unemployment assistance will be appointment only

Eddie Burkhalter

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After news accounts of people driving across Alabama to camp out in a Montgomery parking lot overnight in hopes of getting help with their unemployment claims, the Alabama Department of Labor on Thursday announced new guidelines for seeing a worker in person. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting large numbers of unemployed seeking help left the state’s Department of Labor struggling to process the thousands of applications that pour in daily.

The department said in a Facebook post Thursday that instead of continuing seeing people on a first come, first serve basis, beginning Monday, July 6, people will now have to make an appointment to be seen. Only 300 appointments will be available daily. 

The department has also changed the location to receive assistance from the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the campus of Alabama State University to the Crump Senior Community Center, located at 1751 Cong W L Dickinson Drive in Montgomery. 

To register for an appointment, visit the department’s website here. Slots for appointments will be at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Face masks are mandatory and temperatures will be taken on site, according to the department’s post.

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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Congress

Alabama Arise calls Trump unemployment order “Band-Aid over a gaping economic wound”

Micah Danney

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President Donald Trump answers a reporter’s question during a news conference Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

An Alabama nonprofit that advocates for low-income residents says that President Donald Trump’s executive actions to extend federal aid to Americans affected by the pandemic falls far short of what is needed.

“These executive actions put a Band-Aid over a gaping economic wound,” Chris Sanders, communications director for Alabama Arise, said in a statement on Tuesday. “They don’t stem the tide of evictions or extend rental or mortgage assistance to help people stay in their homes. They don’t increase SNAP assistance to help millions of struggling families keep food on the table. And they don’t provide federal relief to help states avoid layoffs and cuts to education, Medicaid and other vital services.”

Sanders noted that weekly federal aid to people who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic would drop from $600 to $300, with states required to contribute another $100. That would be an undue burden on “cash-strapped” states like Alabama that have lost significant tax revenues, Sanders said.

The aid would only last a few weeks without new legislation, he added. Sanders said Congress could eliminate that uncertainty by extending the $600 weekly unemployment aid into 2021.

Trump’s orders, announced by the White House on Saturday, were meant to bypass a stalemate in Congress over pandemic-related benefits. They are expected to face legal challenges, which Sanders noted they may not survive.

“Even if they would, they’re inadequate to address the size and scope of suffering across Alabama and across our country,” he said. “There’s simply no replacement for a bipartisan relief package. Congress must step up quickly to ease the suffering and help struggling families make ends meet.”

Alabama Arise calls itself a coalition of congregations, organizations and individuals united in a belief that poverty in Alabama is a result of public policy. It promotes policies it says can improve the lives of residents with low incomes.

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Congress

Jones: Senate should not have left D.C. without deal on COVID relief bill

“The Senate never should have left D.C. without passing a deal to extend emergency unemployment and eviction moratoriums, to provide funding for schools to reopen safely, and to create a national testing and contact tracing plan,” Jones said.

Brandon Moseley

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Sen. Doug Jones during a live streamed press briefing. (VIA OFFICE OF SEN. DOUG JONES)

Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones said that the Senate should not have left Washington D.C. without a deal on a coronavirus aid bill. Instead, the Senate should have stayed and worked until a deal was reached.

Negotiations between the two sides broke down late Thursday night when the White House refused Democratic demands that the aid package be $3.4 trillion instead of $1 trillion.

“The Senate never should have left D.C. without passing a deal to extend emergency unemployment and eviction moratoriums, to provide funding for schools to reopen safely, and to create a national testing and contact tracing plan,” Jones said in a statement on social media. “We need to come together and negotiate a deal ASAP.”

The White House blames congressional Democrats and their insistence on such a massive package for the failure to pass a deal.

“Democrats in Congress wasted extensive negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about an expanded Coronavirus relief package,” the White House wrote in a statement. “Democrat leaders were not only willing but determined to withhold vital assistance for families to use it as a political bargaining chip for their radical agenda.”

Since Congress didn’t act, Trump did, the White House said.

“He issued four major executive actions over the weekend,” the White House statement reads. “The first provides out-of-work Americans with $400-per-week in supplemental aid on top of existing unemployment benefits. The second assists renters and homeowners who are struggling to pay their lease or make their mortgage payment. The third defers payroll taxes for employees making $100,000 or less per year through the end of the year. The fourth suspends federal student loan payments and sets interest rates to 0 percent through the end of the year.”

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Jones dismissed Trump’s orders as being more for show than for actual benefit of the American people.

“By signing these executive orders that are more for show than actual help for the American people, President Trump has confirmed that his administration has not acted in good faith and had no intention of reaching bipartisan agreement on legislation that would benefit all Americans,” Jones said. “The Senate, which absolutely should not have recessed without passing a relief package, needs to immediately return to Washington to pass legislation that provides adequate support for the Americans who are suffering as a result of this virus as well as our economy.”

Jones faces a difficult re-election battle against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville. Jones narrowly defeated former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in a 2017 special election. Jones is the only Democrat to win a statewide election in Alabama since 2008.

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AFL-CIO endorses Adia Winfrey for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Adia Winfrey. (VIA WINFREY CAMPAIGN)

Democratic congressional candidate Adia Winfrey’s campaign announced Monday that she has received the endorsement of the Alabama AFL-CIO in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District.

At their annual convention last week, union leaders from across the state recognized Winfrey’s “passion, ability to lead and attentiveness to the issues affecting working men and women” as reasons to endorse the Democratic challenger against incumbent Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama.

“Labor unions have long been a leading force in our nation’s economy,” Winfrey wrote. “Workplace safety standards, employee benefits, equal pay for women, non-discrimination policies and so much more can be attributed directly to union members who were willing to speak up for what is right. I look forward to being a voice for Alabama’s hard-working men and women in Congress.”

Winfrey is challenging Rogers, a nine-term incumbent, in the Nov. 3 general election. During his 18 years in Congress, Rogers has earned only a 16 percent lifetime rating by the AFL-CIO for his votes.

“For seven generations, my family has called Talladega, Alabama, home,” Winfrey said. “I am the mother of four amazing children, a doctor of psychology, author, founder of the H.Y.P.E. (Healing Young People thru Empowerment) Movement, and … I am running for Congress in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District! I believe in the future of our beautiful state and nation. It is time for leadership with a new vision which is #FocusedOnAlabama.”

Winfrey has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wilberforce University and a doctorate of clinical psychology degree from the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology.

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Saban tries to save the college football season

Brandon Moseley

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University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban said Monday that he wants to play the 2020 season for the players.

“I want to play, but I want to play for the players’ sake, the value they can create for themselves,” Saban told ESPN. “I know I’ll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don’t care about player safety. Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2 percent positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of July. It’s a lot higher than that in society. We act like these guys can’t get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they’re in a bar or just hanging out.”

Saban’s comments came on a day when the very future of the 2020 season was on the brink.

The Mountain West Conference announced that it was suspending all sports indefinitely due to the coronavirus. Hundreds of college football players have taken to Twitter and social media begging the powers that be not to kill this season. They were joined by Saban and other prominent figures in the sport including Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and even President Donald Trump.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay,” Trump said on Twitter supporting a statement by Lawrence.

Some conferences had already made up their minds to punt on the season.

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“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our students, student-athletes, coaches, faculty, staff and overall communities,” said Dr. Mary Papazian, chair of the MWC board of directors. “Through the hard work of many over the past several months, the conference made every effort to create an opportunity for our student-athletes to compete, and we empathize with the disappointment this creates for everyone associated with our programs. The best interests of our students and student-athletes remain our focus and we will persist in our efforts to forge a viable and responsible path forward.”

A decision to postpone or cancel the 2020 college football season could come as early as this week. A growing tide of voices are calling for the cancelation or postponement of the college football season.

ESPN’s Heather Dinich reports that this is based on what the athletic conferences are hearing from their medical advisory boards about the long term effects of COVID-19.

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College presidents are very concerned that COVID-19, while rarely fatal in college students, can leave survivors with heart issues that may well be long-lasting. The mother of one Indiana player reported that her football player son contracted coronavirus while on campus for pre-season for strength and conditioning training. Her son developed symptomatic COVID-19 that included breathing difficulties. Now he is over COVID-19 but has heart inflammation that jeopardizes his playing career and perhaps even his long-term health.

There is a similar situation with a Major League Baseball player who had COVID-19 and now has heart inflammation, which doctors say can be a side effect of contracting COVID-19. More than half of college football players are Black, a demographic that has seen the highest rate of severe outcomes from COVID-19 including death.

The University of Louisville recently had to cancel all football activities on campus when a group of football players, in violation of the coronavirus social distancing protocols, attended a party on campus and 30 players tested positive for the coronavirus.

A number of college football players have contracted the virus including at the University of Alabama, Auburn University and Clemson.

The presidents are concerned about the long-term health effects of COVID-19 on college athletes as well as the rest of the student body, faculty and staff. They are also concerned about the schools’ legal liability if they don’t do everything in their power to fight the spread of the virus — and canceling fall sports is arguably necessary to fight the spread of the virus.

Congress failed to pass legislation that would have given schools and employers liability protection from COVID-related lawsuits.

The Mid-American Conference (MAC) and South West Athletic Conferences (SWAC) — which includes Alabama A&M and Alabama State — have already voted to postpone fall sports to Spring. The MAC decision puts pressure on the other Division 1 Football Bowl Series schools to also postpone or cancel the season. The University of Connecticut has already canceled its 2020 football season, the first Division 1 school to make that decision. Others could follow.

On Tuesday, the Big 10 Conference presidents will meet on possibly postponing the 2020 season to December or later. The PAC 12 conference college Presidents will also meet to discuss the possibility of postponing or canceling all fall sports. A number of PAC 12 players have come out vocally expressing concerns about the safety of playing the sport during the global pandemic.

The Big 10 and PAC 12 are two of the “Power Five” conferences along with the SEC, the Big 12 and the ACC. If either the Big 10 or PAC 12 were to postpone or cancel the football season, it would be difficult for the other schools to continue without them, though most conferences have already adopted a 10-game, conference-only season.

Alabama and Auburn are members of the SEC.

The Power Five conference commissioners met on a conference call Sunday night to prepare a recommendation on how to proceed if the presidents decide that playing sports in the fall is an unnecessary risk. They were unable to reach a decision on whether that recommendation should be to play the 2020 fall sports in the spring or to cancel fall sports altogether as spring sports, including baseball and softball, were canceled last spring.

The commissioners of the SEC and ACC both released statements saying that they are moving forward to play. It is highly possible that some of the Power Five conferences will play this fall and some will play in the spring. How this would affect the college postseason is still unclear.

“The college football season should be canceled; it should be canceled today,” said ESPN sports commentator Stephen A Smith on Monday. Smith cited a lack of leadership looking out for the health of college athletes in college football.

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit had already predicted that the sport could not be played this year due to athlete safety. There is a growing consensus in both the medical and academic community that this may be the case.

A decision by the PAC 12 on Tuesday could start a domino effect that will lead to the cancelation or postponement of all fall sports.

Some analysts have expressed skepticism that the 2020 and 2021 football seasons could both be played in the 2021 calendar year and even that the COVID risk will be less in the spring than it is now.

The SEC had already reduced the season from 12 games to 10 and postponed the start of the football season to Sept. 26. SEC football players were already supposed to be in camp preparing for the fall season, but the conference has postponed the start of football practices to August 17.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association at this point still plans to play high school fall sports including football.

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