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Alabama children’s advocates: Early end to Census count will hurt state’s most vulnerable

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Stephen Woerner and the staff at his Montgomery nonprofit have spent more than two years preparing to ensure that marginalized people, especially children, get counted in the 2020 census, and all the planning and work blew up when the U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday that all counting efforts would end a month early. 

Woerner, executive director of Voices for Alabama’s Children, an Alabama child-advocacy group, told APR on Wednesday that in the 2010 census, the largest undercounted population was birth to five-year-olds, and the second largest was six to 10-year-olds. The nonprofit received its first funding in July 2018, to work on ensuring a good count in this year’s census. The nonprofit puts out a detailed report on children in the state annually, called the Alabama Kids Count Data Book. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had already interrupted the nonprofit’s plans, Woerner said, but added that the “real challenge of this announcement from D.C. is that they keep moving the finish line.” 

The U.S. Census Bureau’s announcement Monday of a plan to stop counting a month earlier could cost Alabama one Congressional seat, and threatens to undercount population numbers which are used to determine the apportionment of federal funding. Minorities and immigrants are also among the most likely to be undercounted in any census. Advocates say the early end to the 2020 census will only further marginalize those communities. 

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham in a statement late Monday said that the bureau was to hire more staff and offer monetary incentives “to accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of December 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce.” 

The 2020 census was delayed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restarted in June and workers are set to stop all attempts to count on Sept. 30, a month ahead of the previous end date.

President Donald Trump in July issued an executive order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census count, a move that is likely unconstitutional and unable to be carried out, opponents of the order have said. The decision this week to end the count early would likely lead to more of an undercount of minorities, which would favor Republicans in future elections and impact those communities’ access to critical federal funding, Democrats have said. 

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Woerner said he and staff recalculated after the coronavirus crisis hit, and began planning to shift their outreach efforts online, and then the announcement came Monday that they’d have a month less time to do so. 

“I just got funding from Facebook doing another $20,000 worth of ad buys from August, September and October,” Woerner said. “And so now I’m having to cut a month out of that. It is incredibly problematic for everybody in Alabama, because it keeps moving the finish line.” 

Woerner said the ambiguity and the fog makes trying to reach those historically-undercounted communities “so incredibly difficult. These are already communities that are really hard to get to.” 

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Woerner said whether it’s Hispanic or Black communities that may not trust the federal government, or parents of young children who don’t think their voice matters, those are communities that are hard to reach in a normal year. 

The Montgomery nonprofit has worked closely with the Census Bureau for the last two years, and the news Monday was also a blow to the Bureau workers and their ability to accomplish their own goals, Woerner said. 

“It just means that with the ambiguity and the fog, we’re gonna have a worst count. We’re gonna have a less accurate count,” Woerner said. “That’s going to impact Alabama because we’re going to lose a Congressional seat. We’re also gonna lose out in the dollars that we’re dependent on for so many issues.” 

Gov. Kay Ivey in a statement to APR on Wednesday again urged everyone in Alabama to fill out the census form.

“Alabama, if you still need to fill out your 2020 Census, do not put it off any longer. The absolute last day to be counted has been moved up to the end of September, but despite what our national deadline is, today is the day to complete your 2020 Census in Alabama,” Ivey said in the statement. “I filled out my own census on my2020census.gov and would encourage you to do the same. You can also easily do it by phone by dialing 844-330-2020. Let’s not wait any longer Alabama. The stakes are high for us, and we have much more work to be done.”

For more information, visit census.alabama.gov.

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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Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile residents impacted by Sally urged to apply for federal aid

FEMA has approved $11.1 million in housing grants to individuals and families through Sept. 28, according to the governor’s office. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced more than $11 million in federal disaster aid has been approved for those impacted by Hurricane Sally in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile counties.  

FEMA has approved $11.1 million in housing grants to individuals and families through Sept. 28, according to Ivey’s office. 

“Hurricane Sally took a punch to our coastal areas, but thanks in part to the millions of dollars in federal assistance, the people of Alabama are moving along the road to recovery,” Ivey said. “I remain grateful to President Trump, Administrator Gaynor and their teams for prioritizing the people of Alabama reeling from Hurricane Sally. We will get through this together; we have done it before, and we will do it again.”

Federal grants to repair homes or for renting temporary housing made up $8.9 million of the FEMA funding. Grants for childcare, moving and storage, medical and dental comprised the remaining $2.1 million. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved an additional $570,900 in disaster home repair loans for those impacted by Sally.

Ivey’s office encourages homeowners and renters in Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia counties to apply to FEMA for federal disaster assistance as soon as possible. Residents of these three Alabama counties may also be eligible to receive assistance for uninsured and underinsured damage and losses resulting from the hurricane.

Residents in those three counties impacted by Hurricane Sally may register for FEMA disaster assistance online by visiting disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. Multi-lingual operators are available. The toll-free lines are open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight CST.

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Those with a homeowner’s insurance policy are encouraged to file an insurance claim before applying for federal assistance. 

Information that may be useful to have when you register include:

  • Address of the damaged primary dwelling where the damage occurred
  • Current mailing address
  • Current telephone number
  • Insurance information and description of disaster-caused damage and loss
  • Total household annual income
  • Names and birth dates of family members who live in the household
  • Name and Social Security number of co-applicant (if applicable)
  • Routing and account number for checking or savings account so FEMA may directly transfer disaster assistance funds

 For more information on Hurricane Say visit FEMA’s website here.

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Education

New website for state resources for children, families launches

The website provides access to all the state’s resources for children and their families, including child care, education, family services and health services.

Eddie Burkhalter

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A screengrab of the Alabama Family Central website.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced the creation of a centralized website for the state’s social service programs and services for children and families. 

Alabama Family Central was created through a $500,000 allocation by the state Legislature from the state’s Education Trust Fund budget and provides access to all the state’s resources for children and their families, including child care, education, family services and health services, according to Ivey’s office. 

“Alabama Family Central will ensure that all parents and children in our state have access to crucial information and resources from numerous state agencies and non-profit organizations,” Ivey said in a statement. “Great parents need strong partners, and I am proud of the strong collaboration between the state and private sector to offer a one-stop shop of assistance for Alabama families. I appreciate the Alabama Partnership for Children spearheading this effort.”

In addition to pointing visitors to state programs and services, the website also points families who are undertaking remote school learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic to A+ Education Partnership, which advocates for quality education in Alabama.

The state website specifically directs visitors to a page that provides COVID-19 resources for parents, including sections on guidance and decision-making, supporting learning from home and coping and well-being. 

“When I learned that our students would be learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my heart immediately went out to the parents who would need assistance teaching their children at home,” said State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, in a statement. “I requested funding to set up such assistance, so I humbly thank Governor Kay Ivey and Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, for granting that request. It was a pleasure working with A+ Education Partnership and the Alabama Partnership for Children to incorporate this idea into their programs, and I look forward to its expansion. Every child deserves access to the highest quality education, no matter their circumstances.”

The Alabama Family Central website includes:

  • A+ Education Partnership
  • Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention
  • Alabama Department of Early Education
  • Alabama Department of Education
  • Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Alabama Department of Mental Health
  • Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
  • Alabama Medicaid

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Congress

Palmer supports legislation making unused PPP funds available to small businesses

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, added his signature to a discharge petition that would force a vote on a bill that would allow unused Paycheck Protection Program funds to be made available for small businesses.

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses. The program has kept thousands of small businesses open since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are still in need as the economy continues to recover.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has refused to hold a vote. The Democratic controlled House passed the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act, which Republicans opposed.

Palmer and House Republicans accuse Pelosi of holding American workers and businesses “hostage,” preferring the Democrats’ relief legislation.

“Speaker Pelosi has made her objectives abundantly clear,” Palmer said. “We could have negotiated and delivered immediate aid for small businesses and individuals weeks ago, but her leftist agenda always comes first. Many businesses are barely hanging, on anxiously awaiting the extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, but Pelosi is determined to hold them hostage to get her way. She would like to bail out states that were bankrupt before the pandemic and further a welfare agenda that is harmful to the economy. Today, I proudly signed a discharge petition to circumvent Pelosi’s control of the House floor and force a vote on a bill that would bring real relief to businesses struggling to survive the pandemic. It’s time for Members of Congress to stand up for small businesses and American workers since the Speaker clearly won’t. Small businesses across the country can’t wait.”

A discharge petition on H.R. 8265 was filed on Friday by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, and 218 signatures are needed to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. The bill was introduced on Sept. 16 by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

“This public health crisis has left our small businesses near permanent closure, and that will happen on a massive scale if Congress doesn’t act,” Beutler said. “Yet Congress isn’t acting, so I’ve filed the discharge petition in the House today so we can bypass the political posturing and bring relief to our nation’s small businesses and their employees. Other relief remains vital, but we either save jobs and businesses now or provide triage soon for the damage caused by empty buildings, lost livelihoods and health care plans, and fewer employment opportunities overall. Reviving the PPP has to be our priority.”

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“The Paycheck Protection Program has served as a critical lifeline for America’s small businesses,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California. “Since its launch, the program is credited with saving 51 million jobs nationwide. But our work in helping small business owners stay open and keep employees on payroll is not done. A recent report indicates that as many as 36 percent small businesses say if no new funding comes from Congress soon, they will be forced to lay off workers or cut back hours. Democrats have consistently blocked or delayed relief, but Republicans are not giving up. That is why House Republicans, led by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler have filed a discharge petition to force a vote on a stand-alone extension of the Paycheck Protection Program through the end of the year. It only needs 218 signatures to force a vote, so I hope that our Democrat colleagues will join us in delivering relief. My Republican colleagues and I will continue to act on our Commitment to America; we will be relentless in our fight to protect jobs, small businesses, and the American dream.”

“Since March, small businesses—corner stores, retail shops, and family restaurants—have been struggling to survive,” Chabot said. “Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to pass the CARES Act, which delivered rapid assistance to small firms through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. Unfortunately, in recent months, additional relief for small businesses has been caught up in the partisan logjam and the livelihoods of real people hang in the balance. Congress must work together to get help to small businesses in Washington, Ohio, and across our great nation. Rep. Herrera Beutler’s discharge petition to force a vote on my legislation is the way to do just that. I thank her for her leadership on behalf of America’s small businesses.”

Multiple news outlets, including Roll Call and The Hill, are reporting that several House Democrats are “strongly considering” signing Beutler’s discharge petition.

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Palmer represents Alabama’s 6th Congressional District. Palmer does not have a Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Agriculture Secretary Perdue to tour storm damage today

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will tour farms in South Alabama on Monday to see damages from Hurricane Sally.

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate and Gov. Kay Ivey’s chief of staff Jo Bonner will visit South Alabama on Monday to tour damages following Hurricane Sally.

They will visit Flowerwood Nursery, a horticulture operation in Loxley, Alabama, severely impacted by Hurricane Sally.

Perdue, Pate and Byrne will also meet with Baldwin County farmers at a visit to Underwood Family Farm, a pecan farm in Summerdale.

Following the two stops in Alabama, Perdue will visit Jenkins Farm in Jay, Florida, a cotton farm impacted by Hurricane Sally. The secretary will hold a roundtable discussion with local Florida farmers and stakeholders impacted by Sally.

Hurricane Sally came ashore on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 miles per hour winds and torrential rains. The wind, the downpour and then the flooding devastated crops in the area as well as blowing down trees and damaging homes and businesses.

Sally was the first hurricane to make landfall in Alabama in 16 years.

“Throughout Southwest Alabama, winds and flooding have left many without essentials like power, water and shelter,” Byrne said on Thursday. “Fortunately, help is on the way.”

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“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced significant damage during this powerful hurricane,” Pate said. “Alabama farmers have already faced economic hardships this year due to market instability, trade concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.”

Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia Counties have been declared a natural disaster area by the Trump administration.

“I went up to Escambia County today to check out some storm damage around Atmore and meet with local officials,” Byrne said. “Thanks to Sheriff Jackson for showing me some of the damage. It wasn’t just the coastal counties who took a beating from Hurricane Sally. Residents of Escambia County are all eligible to seek Individual Assistance from FEMA for any disaster related issues.”

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The Alabama Farmers Federation has started a relief fund so that people can help Alabama farmers who were impacted by Hurricane Sally.

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