A coalition of community groups, in partnership with the city of Birmingham, has set up the Birmingham Business Relief Fund to give grants to small businesses affected by protestors’ vandalism Sunday night. “Many businesses were already suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and these funds will assist businesses as they rebuild, repair and renew their operations,” Ivan Holloway, executive director at Urban Impact, said in a statement announcing the program. Read more.
Alabama’s unemployment rate hit 12.9% in April, the Department of Labor announced Friday.
April’s rate is the first full monthly measure that incorporates the true extent of the job losses occurring due to the coronavirus pandemic. March’s unemployment rate was 3.0%.
Gov. Kay Ivey has once again loosened restrictions on Alabama businesses, allowing the reopening of entertainment venues, child care facilities, student activities and educational institutions. Ivey’s “Amended Safer at Home” order, issued Thursday afternoon, will go into effect Friday at 5 p.m.
At a press conference announcing the order, Ivey cited economic stressors, such as a spike in unemployment, as a reason for easing restrictions.
She added: “You’ve got to have a balance between looking after the people’s health and the economic health. There has to be a balance.”
Businesses in Jefferson County will be able to apply for more money to help them combat the effects of COVID-19 if the County Commission approves a resolution being considered Thursday.
The resolution, presented by the Office of Community Services and Workforce Development, seeks up $1.15 million in supplemental funds for the county’s revolving loan fund grant from the state’s Economic Development Administration. Jefferson County commissioners in their committee meeting Tuesday decided to place the issue on the agenda for action Thursday. Read more.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell is responding to comments recently made by 5th District Congressman Mo Brooks regarding the organization’s advocacy efforts for trade with China.
During an appearance on the Dale Jackson radio show in Huntsville, Brooks accused farming groups, chambers of commerce, Walmart and other “entities” of siding with China over American interests.
In a letter to Brooks obtained by Alabama Daily News, Parnell took serious issue with the congressman’s comments, calling them “not only unfair” but untrue.
Pricing and processing delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic have made a direct hit on the Alabama cattle and poultry industries.
Those were more problems that farmers did not need in the wake of tariffs President Trump imposed on China in 2018 and the swath cut by Hurricane Michael on South Alabama farmlands last year.
“A lot of different things have affected the farmers,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate, himself a cattle farmer.
About 600,000 people in Alabama are involved in the farming industry. That includes row crop, fruit and vegetable farmers as well as beef and poultry farmers.
It’s unclear whether row crop farmers will take a major hit this year. Prices for crops are low now, according to agriculture officials, but a lot depends on whether that remains true through the fall harvest.
On the produce side of the table, it appears the pandemic won’t have as big an impact on Alabama’ fruits and vegetables farmers, because most of those crops are sold direct to consumers. A new website, Sweet Grown Alabama, was launched recently to connect consumers with farmers and ease the process of buying and selling produce. Read more.
Gov. Kay Ivey gave new orders last week regarding which businesses may reopen after shutting down because of the COVID-19 outbreak. But while some reopened at the stroke of 5 p.m. Thursday, others are slower to get back to businesses, and many had yet to open their doors again as of Monday evening.
The Riverchase Galleria, which is the largest enclosed mall in the state, will remain closed until Tuesday, according to a press statement issued by mall operators. “We anticipate that the Mall’s food-use tenants may continue to operate for carryout and delivery service,” the statement said, adding that the Galleria’s popular Mall Walker Program is suspended for the moment.
The sight of an empty Galleria parking lot has been startling for April Stone, executive director of the Hoover Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I would come into our office to check mail and so forth, and to look out on the lot in the middle of the day — it was like Christmas Day with no one open,” she said.
Meanwhile, professional organizations such as law or accounting firms, as well as many government agencies, mostly continue to operate remotely with their staffs working from home. Industrial employers varied in the degree to which they have been able to operate, either due to government directives or greatly decreased orders that made normal operation unprofitable. Read more.
UAB announced Monday that more than 300 university staff members will be temporarily furloughed in an effort to offset significant financial losses due to COVID-19. UAB Medicine projects a $230 million loss through the end of September. Meanwhile, the university projects a $40 million loss. Read more.
Across Alabama, because of closure orders issued to counter the growing threat of the coronavirus, the retail hearts of cities and towns have been on life support. In the Birmingham area, the 18th Street shopping district in Homewood was a prime example.
But on a bright blue Friday morning, you could detect a heartbeat in Homewood, one that retailers hope will get stronger in the weeks and months to come.
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the closure orders were lifted in large part for many retail businesses. Those orders had been part of a state-issued Stay-at-Home directive. A new directive, Safer at Home, is now in place and will be until May 15. As a result, shops that sell clothing, home furnishings, gifts and other items in downtown Homewood opened their doors Friday to walk-in traffic for the first time since late March, or even earlier. And while the walk-in traffic was not overwhelming, it was steady – and encouraging.
“All things considered, it’s been a great day,” said Beth Staula, one of the owners of Alabama Goods.
“Some people are still a little bit intimidated and they’re probably still at home hunkered down and less likely to go out shopping,” Staula said near the end of a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. business day. “But for the people who are less intimidated, they don’t seem to be too worried about it and … everyone seems to be glad to start seeing some normalcy back in their lives.” Read more.
Alabamians filed 331,670 unemployment claims in a four-week period that began in mid-March, the Alabama Department of Labor said Thursday.
During the week of April 12-18, 66,432 initial unemployment claims were made, with 59,527 of those related to loss of work because of the coronavirus, according to ADOL.
Manufacturing jobs accounted for 9,770 of those claims, followed by accommodations and food services with 6,685 and retail trade with 5,540. Health care and social assistance accounted for 5,367 of the claims.