Category: Economy

Extra Unemployment Benefits Ended Saturday

As of Saturday, Alabama’s unemployed workers will no longer receive extra federally funded benefits put in place to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Kay Ivey last month announced she was withdrawing the state from those programs effective June 19. Read more about her reasons and the effects on the unemployed in BirminghamWatch’s original reporting.
Governor Shuts Down Extra Help for the Unemployed, Says Workers Needed to Invigorate the Economy

‘Retain Alabama’ Effort Looks to Keep Bachelor’s Degree Recipients in State

Knowing that nearly half of Alabama’s public university bachelor’s degree earners are working in other states five years after they graduate, state leaders are funding more efforts to keep that talent pool at home.

In the 2022 state education budget, lawmakers allocated $800,000 for a new “Retain Alabama” initiative to introduce college students to opportunities for them in the Yellowhammer state.

“Our state has been a low-growth state and we have to do all we can to retain that knowledge capital that we’re losing every year when they leave,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, chairman of the Senate education budget committee. Read more.

Birmingham Seeks Dollars for Its Entertainment Venues

Birmingham will apply for federal relief for five city-owned concert spaces and museums that lost revenue during the pandemic.

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, established last year by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, offers funding for COVID-impacted entities, public or private, including live venues, movie theaters, museums and live performing arts organizations.

The city will seek SVOG funding for Boutwell Auditorium, Sloss Historic Landmark Furnace, the Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Arlington Historic House. Read more.

Governor Shuts Down Extra Help for the Unemployed, Says Workers Needed to Invigorate the Economy

Citing an increasing difficulty of business owners and employers to find workers to fill jobs, Gov. Kay Ivey today announced that Alabama will stop participating in all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs effective June 19.

“As Alabama’s economy continues its recovery, we are hearing from more and more business owners and employers that it is increasingly difficult to find workers to fill available jobs, even though job openings are abundant,” Ivey said in a press statement.

Ivey said increased unemployment assistance was meant to be short-term help for people who couldn’t work during shutdowns related to the pandemic. But now, she believes the assistance is contributing to a labor shortage she said “is compromising the continuation of our economic recovery.” Read more.

Hack Exposes Vulnerability of America’s Energy Supply Lines

Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown of its 5,500-mile pipeline Friday after a ransomware attack brought attention to the vulnerability of the energy infrastructure on which the country relies. The New York Times reported Sunday that it was unclear when the pipeline, which carries nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, would reopen. This is not the first time the public’s attention has been turned to the things that can go wrong with the energy supply. In 2016, BirminghamWatch’s Hank Black wrote about the pipelines that run through the state and the Southeast:

Alabama Has Thousands of Miles of Gas and Oil Pipelines, Mostly Out of Sight and Mind

By Hank Black, September 23, 2016

The Colonial Pipeline gasoline spill in Shelby County was a wake-up call for the public and the government about just how critical oil and gas pipelines are to America’s energy supply needs, and how such an incident could impact the environment.

The Cahaba River Society said the spill “very narrowly missed” entering the river, less than a mile away. CRS field director Randy Haddock, PhD, said pipeline safety isn’t top-of-mind until a significant incident occurs. “As the acute phase of this event ends, we expect to start having conversations” among advocacy groups, industry, government, and others about how to prevent or limit damage when another incident occurs, Haddock said. Some experts say the 50-year average age of the nation’s pipelines is cause for concern.

Alabama has 6,748 miles of interstate pipeline, plus more than 57,000 miles of smaller main and service lines that distribute product from a transmission pipeline. By comparison, Mississippi has 10,450 miles of interstate pipe, and Arkansas has 7,212 miles. Read more.

Help Wanted: Restaurant Industry Struggles to Find Workers

MONTGOMERY — After taking an initial hit at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Alabama’s economy has largely bounced back. Still, some businesses are having trouble finding enough workers, particularly in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

A drive down Zelda Road in Montgomery, the Capital City’s midtown eatery hub, shows “help wanted” signs in almost every store.
Information from the Alabama Department of Labor shows a 52% increase in advertised food prep and serving jobs in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2020. Advertised waitress and waiter positions have increased about 44%. Hotel desk clerk postings have more than doubled.

Mindy Hanan, president of the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said the state’s restaurants and hotels can’t get enough workers.

“We’re wide open and we need as many employees as we can have,” Hanan said. Read more.

Innovation Corporation Bills Pass the House

MONTGOMERY — Two bills meant to promote and boost entrepreneurship in the state overwhelmingly passed the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday.

House Bill 540 from Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, would create the Alabama Innovation Corporation to help increase Alabama’s competitiveness in areas of technology and innovation as it relates to economic development strategies.
Read more.

Birmingham Council Stalls Smithfield Redevelopment, Wants Mayor to Share Plan

The Birmingham City Council has delayed plans for the city to purchase and redevelop the Smithfield Community’s defunct Hill Elementary School property. Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office has proposed that the city buy the school and renovate it for workforce housing. But several councilors argued that they had not been adequately informed of the city’s plans for the property and demanded more information. Read more.

Baby or Puppy? Both Are Relatively Cheap in Alabama

Baby or puppy?

Some people answer the question of whether to have a baby or do a practice run with a puppy by going with what’s in their hearts.

Another consideration, as heartless as it sounds, is cost. Potential grandparent wishes aside, a recent study delineates the costs of having a baby or puppy for the first year of both their little lives. 

“Whether a puppy or a baby is right for you will ultimately be a highly personal decision that we could never hope to answer for you, but the cost cannot be ignored and those costs fluctuate wildly by state,” according to a study done by Honestpaws.com, an online retail outlet offering pet medical information.

Alabama leads the nation as the cheapest state to have a baby and care for it during the first year. It’s also a pretty cheap state to get and care for a puppy that first year. Read more.