Category: Economy

JeffCo Commission Picks Up Where Feds Left Off, Will Pay for COVID Time Off

Today, Jefferson County picked up where the federal government left off, covering the cost of employees taking off because they’ve been exposed to or contracted the novel coronavirus. Following its committee meeting today, commissioners reconvened their Jan. 7 commission meeting to retroactively extend what had been provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Read more.

Huntsville Picked for Headquarters of New U.S. Space Command

The Pentagon has selected Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal as the headquarters for the nation’s new U.S. Space Command.

“We will make you proud of your decision,’’ Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle said Wednesday in a statement. “We look forward to the partnership with the U.S. Space Command and pledge to make it a success from day one.’’

The Air Force said Huntsville is the “preferred and reasonable’’ site pending a required environmental impact study — considered a routine process —

that should be finished by 2023. Six cities were in contention for the selection. Read more.

Turning Red Line Green: Virtual Conference Brings Attention to Underserved Areas

An organizer of a virtual gathering of bankers, regulators, developers and entrepreneurs acknowledged that redlining has been a deterrent to development in some communities.

But Irvin M. Henderson said Thursday’s event, sponsored by Birmingham community development corporation Urban Impact, was aimed at erasing that practice and creating a more fertile environment to improve communities that had been redlined.

“We know that there are neighborhoods, and Ensley and the downtown historic district are two of them, where there has been redlining,” Henderson said. “What this meeting is about is to work with the regulators and the bankers.”
Read more.

Birmingham Revenue Appears Stable, Council Extends Funding for Rickwood, McWane and Ruffner

Birmingham’s finances appear to be holding steady despite COVID-19’s impact on city revenues, finance director Lester Smith told city councilors Tuesday afternoon — though he warned that a clear picture of the city’s financial health won’t be visible until March. Read more.

These companies took $1.8 billion in federal aid to save jobs. They laid off 90,000 workers anyway.

This article was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C.

Rosa Rodriguez spent eight years ironing and hanging bathrobes for guests at the Mirage, the Bellagio and other five-star hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. But as COVID-19 spread through the United States and kept tourists away, there were fewer and fewer robes for her to press.

In March, Rodriguez and about 800 of her co-workers were laid off from Brady Linen Services, a laundry service provider for hotels in Las Vegas, Mexico and the Bahamas. Rodriguez said her boss told her he would call her back when more work was available.

Brady Linen was approved for a loan of $4.6 million from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, according to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The government-backed loans were supposed to help small businesses that struggled during the pandemic pay employees’ salaries and benefits for up to six months, among other things. But Brady Linen did not use the money to rehire Rodriguez and all the other laid-off workers, which the program requires if companies want their loans forgiven.

It is just one among hundreds of companies that reported layoffs right before, or soon after, receiving a government loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, according to an analysis by Public Integrity. Read more.

Food Banks Struggle to Meet Increasing Demand During Holiday Season

As local families enter the holiday season, some are turning to food banks for the first time. The resulting higher demand has left some Birmingham-area food banks scrambling to keep food on the table for their clients.

Many face an uphill battle. Fewer donations, higher food prices and logistical issues are just some of the problems food banks have encountered since the start of the pandemic. Months later, those difficulties remain even as more people require food assistance.
Despite the food banks’ best efforts, sometimes it’s not enough.

“For the first time, this month we ran out of food before we could finish giving it to everyone who came by,” Ray Flynn, director of The Ministry Center at Green Springs, said last week. The center currently serves about 200 families a month. “The demand is getting greater, and the problem is getting larger,” he said. Read more.

Alabama Struggling With Racial Disparities in Child Poverty Levels, Report Says

Even as Alabama’s child population grows more diverse, children of color are experiencing disproportionately high rates of poverty, according to a report published Thursday using pre-pandemic data.

The report, titled Alabama Kids Count, indicates that children of color will make up the majority of the child population and the majority of the workforce by 2030. At the same time, Black and Hispanic children suffered average poverty rates of 41.9% and 42.6%, respectively, between 2014 and 2018. The rate for white children was 16.5%.

These findings are especially significant considering that Alabama’s child population is shrinking, said Stephen Warner, the executive director of Voices for Alabama’s Children, which has published the Alabama Kids Count report annually since 1994. Though Alabama’s overall population grew by 10% from 2000 to 2019, its child population shrank by 3%.

“Minority children are more likely to struggle in school. Minority children are more likely to live in poverty. And so as the workforce ages, we need these kids to be successful to be the next generation of workers,” Woerner said.