The COVID-19 pandemic has many people wondering about their economic future and the safety of their money. Banks report experiencing more cash withdrawals in the last few weeks. In fact, demand was so high at one Manhattan bank that it temporarily ran out of $100 bills. Experts say hoarding cash can be risky, both financially and to your health. Scott Latham is President and CEO of the Alabama Bankers Association. He says banks across the state have been preparing for a crisis of this magnitude for years with help from the Alabama Recovery Coalition. Read more.
You don’t have to get infected by the coronavirus to see it have a painful impact on your life, as many workers – or former workers – have discovered.
Christine Prichard, a freelance photographer based in Birmingham, has seen the impact of COVID 19 in a couple of ways. First, her teenage son is in the Dominican Republic and she’s eager to get him back home, even though that would mean two weeks of quarantine with him.
But like many others, Prichard is seeing her business affected by the pandemic, as well.
She frequently shoots photos of corporate events, and late last month, at an annual celebratory event for a trade group, she saw an early sign that the pandemic was going to have an economic downside for her work.
“It was their annual meeting to kind of celebrate their sales. And at that meeting every year they would announce where they would book their annual trip for the top sales people of this product. And there was a guy that had to announce that they were not going to book the trip, pending what’s going on with coronavirus,” she recalled. “He said, ‘It’s just too iffy. We don’t want to lose deposits. We’re being super-careful.’”
That, Prichard said, was “kind of the first little wind I got that, ‘Oh. This could really be an issue.’” Since then, she said, “I haven’t done an event in a couple of weeks.”
From gig workers, to teachers to even health care workers and others, many are finding that the pandemic has reached into their pockets.
The pandemic has economic forecasters talking about recession in the wake of massive jobs losses. The headlines are about plants closing, unemployment claims rising, the government working on details of stimulus relief to American workers – and failing to come to terms. An NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll said that by last Wednesday, “nearly 20% of U.S. households have experienced either a layoff or a reduction in work hours because of the coronavirus.”
Unemployment filings are rising significantly. Preliminary Alabama Department of Labor numbers show that more than 17,000 people filed for unemployment on Sunday and Monday, the Associated Press reported. In the week that ended March 13, that number was 1,434. Read more.
Facing canceled events, closed venues, mounting revenue losses and growing layoffs, Alabama’s tourism and travel industry is digging in for what could become an extended battle with the coronavirus pandemic.
As in every segment of global society, the state’s hospitality industry is struggling with the uncertainties of how severely and how long the crisis will affect everyday life.
The stakes are obvious in a state that depends on the travel and tourism for 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product. The industry brought $15.5 billion to Alabama in 2018 and created an estimated 198,891 direct jobs, according to the Alabama Tourism Department’s latest annual report. Taxes paid by tourists saved each Alabama family $507. Read more.
Jon Hegeman’s newest crop looks like marijuana. It’s got towering, feathery flowers — aka buds — and those tell-tale multi-fingered leaves.
“This is the closest thing you’ll have in Alabama to marijuana,” said Hegeman, a hemp farmer and president and co-owner of Greenway Plants.
For the first time in almost 90 years, it’s now legal to grow hemp in the U.S., including in Alabama. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from a list of drugs the federal government says have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Read more.
Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens used the commission’s committee meeting today as a platform to dispel the misconception that county government is raising property taxes through reappraisals.
“There’s a misconception that the county commission is responsible for this and I want everyone to be clear that the county commission is not responsible for this,” Stephens said. “This is a state function.”
However, county employees do conduct the property appraisals, Stephens said. Property values assigned by the county’s Board of Equalization reflect property sales activity in the market, the chairwoman of the board said. Read more.
Cyber Monday took on new meaning for residents of Birmingham’s Titusville Community with the ribbon-cutting of a STEM lab at Memorial Park Recreation Center.
The six-computer lab is courtesy of a $10,000 contribution from DC Blox, which opened its data storage center across the street in July.
Jeff Uphues, CEO of DC Blox, said he wasn’t in charge of the scheduling of Monday’s event but is glad the day had finally arrived.
“So much of our lives are driven by technology,” Uphues said. “This is just an example and a testament to what’s going on in the community to Titusville, a testament to the city of Birmingham and then the county. Everything that’s going on here is wonderful.”
The STEM lab is the result of DC Blox’s desire to do something for the community. Access to computer hardware, software and instruction was determined to be what the area wanted to provide a boost to area youth. Uphues said more than 800 youth are estimated to live in the Titusville Community and as many as 4,500 are within walking distance.
While the STEM lab is aimed at aiding children, the vision is broader, providing instruction to prepare young adults for the job market, for example. Read more.
The former AT&T City Center is a vacant skyscraper in downtown Birmingham. This year’s property tax bill will be nearly half a million dollars more than it was last year. That’s one of many properties whose owners can expect to pay more in taxes this year, including owners of homes. That’s because of a strong economy and high interest from developers in some areas. Ty West, editor of the Birmingham Business Journal tells WBHM’s Janae Pierre the biggest factor driving these increases is the new Alabama Appraisal Manual. Read more.
Alabama ranks poorly when it comes to food insecurity among seniors. In Jefferson County alone, more than 129,000 older adults struggle with hunger. A new grocery delivery program through the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama aims to improve seniors’ access to healthy food.
Under the program, eligible seniors will receive 30 pounds of dry goods, canned fruits and vegetables, and fresh cheese delivered to their homes each month. The program is aimed at seniors who can’t afford to buy groceries or who live in areas where it’s difficult to find healthy food. Jamie McLynn, director of partnerships at the food bank, says seniors often have to make tough decisions. Read more.
During the days of segregation, African Americans in Birmingham were restricted on where they could shop, eat, and do business. The historic Fourth Avenue District downtown became the place for the growing African American business community to set up shop.
The community thrived with professional offices, barber shops, a bowling alley, motels, theaters and restaurants. Now there’s renewed focus on revitalizing the district. Read more.
Energy officials from around the country gathered Tuesday on the campus of Southern Research (SR), a Birmingham nonprofit specializing in science and technology, to celebrate the opening of the state’s first Energy Storage Research Center.
In his opening remarks, Corey Tyree, SR’s senior director of energy and environment, told the crowd of company executives, engineers and scientists that the center represents a new era.
“For 100 years in the electricity industry, the model was basically ‘make, move, sell electricity,’” Tyree said. “With the advent of energy storage, you can ‘make, move, hold, then sell electricity.’ Seems like not a big deal. It’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal.”