The 2020 Census: Is Alabama Census Falling Short?

2020 Census Logo

The 2020 Census is nearing its end—and apparently earlier than expected. NPR first reported that the U.S. Census Bureau plans to end the door-to-door count at the end of September rather than at the end of October. Subsequent media reports have added that the decision came at the direction of U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

What will this decision mean for Alabama?

It likely means an inaccurate count.

As of 2 PM CST, Tuesday, August 4, Alabama, has a Census self-response rate of 60.7%.

In the years leading up to the Census, the Bureau physically maps addresses, creating a count of households. The percentage of these households that complete the Census form online, by mail, or by phone is called the self-response rate, so sometimes the initial response rate. Households that do not respond to this initial request receive additional requests and, ultimately, a visit from a Census worker.

Tracking the self-response rate is a good measure of the effectiveness of Census promotion efforts and helps the Census Bureau adjust strategies. The self-response rate does NOT indicate the total percentage of households counted. However, the higher the self-response rate, the more accurate the final count.

The good news?

Alabama trails only Tennessee (62.4%) in the Southeast.

The bad news?

Alabama is 30th in the nation. Alabama trails the national average of 63.1%.

Alabama trails its 2010 initial response rate of 62.5%

To match our 2010 response rate, Alabama must increase its response rate by 1.8 percentage points. For comparison, it took the state 56 days (from June 10 to August 4) to add 1.8 percentage points. If that trend continues, Alabama might reach its 2010 response rate on October 1, after the new-end date of September 30, but clearly before the original end date of October 31. 

Top 10 Alabama County and City Response Rates, as of August 3

Top 10 Counties  Top 10 Cities
Shelby (74.9%)
Madison (72.7%)
Autauga (69.1%)
Morgan (68.4%)
St. Clair (66.7%)
Lauderdale (65.9%)
Elmore (65.7%)
Colbert (64.8%)
Etowah (64.7%)
Blount (64.2%)  
Indian Springs (85.9%)
Trussville (84.0%)
Mountain Brook (82.9%)
Helena (82.6%)
Priceville (82.5%)
Lake View (80.3%)
Chelsea (80.2%)
Vestavia Hills (79.4%)
Springville (78.4%)
Pelham (78.5%)

Even if Alabama reaches its 2010 initial response rate of 62.5%, that means as many as 37.5% of households must be contacted by other means, including by a Census worker knocking on the door, to ensure every household is counted. Reducing the time for this contact will inevitably mean people are not counted—in Alabama and every state.

Traditionally, populations likely to be under-counted are Blacks, Hispanics, the elderly, college students, and renters—all populations which are important to Alabama—and critical to some cities and towns.

While much of the Census promotion concentrates on Congressional representation and federal funding, it is important to note a critical consequence of an under-count.

People may not be counted in Alabama, but they still live here. They require services and use infrastructure, all with potentially less federal, state, and even philanthropic funds. Census data is critical to decisions of funders at all levels, public and private.

Likewise, communities desire new amenities, businesses, and services to enhance the quality of life and the economic base. Decisions to relocate or expand businesses are informed, in part, by Census data. Incomplete data can underestimate market demand and workforce potential.

An incomplete count will have long-lasting ramifications for the entire state.

The map below, provided by the Census Bureau, reports self-response rates by state, congressional district, county, city, and census tract.

Explore state and local data here.

For more on the 2020 Census, see The 2020 Census: What’s at Stake for the State of Alabama published by PARCA last fall.


A Statement from PARCA

PARCA—the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama— works to inform and improve state and local government in Alabama through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We pursue this work to improve the lives of all Alabamians. This is the legacy given to us by our founder, Governor Albert Brewer.

Independent, objective, nonpartisan research requires speaking the truth and calling a thing by its name.

The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks are a series of brutal acts that have gripped our nation’s consciousness and remind us of the racial motivations of segregation, hate, and discrimination. Sadly, this is nothing new. These Americans are among the most recent to join the tragic company of those who have died because of the color of their skin. This is the legacy of systemic racism, injustice, and inequality. This must change.  

Refusing to see, or worse yet, tolerating racism, injustice, and inequality must end. Responding to racism, injustice, and inequality with silence must end. Policies, intentional or otherwise, that sustain racism, injustice, and inequality must change. Until we see these changes, the promise of liberty and justice for all remains hollow. 

PARCA is committed to doing its part to effect such change. In this spirit:

We condemn attitudes, actions, and policies that sustain racism, injustice, and inequality.

We affirm demands for justice, equality, and fairness for African Americans. These are inalienable rights, not policies to debate.  

We support the right to peaceful protests and condemn all acts of violence. 

We invite all people of goodwill to engage in honest self-reflection, to seek a better understanding of the history of African Americans in Alabama and the United States, and to work toward opportunities for reconciliation.

We implore policymakers and leaders at all levels to seek honest information and hear diverse voices to identify and enact policies that will combat systemic racism.

We remain committed to our cause and mission with a renewed sense of responsibility to these concerns.

We continue to produce independent, objective, and nonpartisan research, equipping citizens and leaders with facts that empower, enlighten, and promote mutual understanding.

We reaffirm PARCA’s fundamental premise: Alabama—and the nation—can always do better.

We stand ready to do our part.


Billions Coming to Alabama through the CARES Act

Alabama is in line to receive more than $2.47 billion from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act signed into law by President Trump on March 27. A supplemental act passed Congress on April 23.

Below, PARCA explores key provisions of the Act, with attention to funds allocated for state and local governments and schools.

These projections do not include funds for hospitals, medical providers, airports, the value of business tax credits, or funds for expanded unemployment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program.

The CARES Act provides $2.3 trillion in funding for individuals, schools, state and local governments, and businesses. The Act, running more than 800 pages, is complex and expansive. Many organizations and law firms have provided detailed explanations of the CARES Act and general COVID-19 responses, including:

State and Local Governments

The Act allocates $150 billion to support state and local governments’ responses to the pandemic.

State Government

Of the $150 billion, $8 billion is allocated for tribal governments, $2.5 billion for territories, and $500 million for Washington, D.C. The balance is allocated to states on a per capita basis based on population figures in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 Population Estimates. Regardless of population, every state will receive at least $1.250 billion.

Based on these numbers, Alabama can expect $1.9 billion in funding. The chart below displays the total funding each state can expect.1 Alabama’s share, like all states, is reduced by the amount of funding directed to local governments.

CARES Act COVID Response Funding to State Governments

StateDistribution (billions)
Alabama$1.901
Alaska$1.250
Arizona$2.822
Arkansas$1.250
California$15.321
Colorado$2.233
Connecticut$1.382
Delaware$1.250
Florida$8.328
Georgia$4.117
Hawaii$1.250
Idaho$1.250
Illinois$4.914
Indiana$2.610
Iowa$1.250
Kansas$1.250
Kentucky$1.732
Louisiana$1.803
Maine$1.250
Maryland$2.344
Massachusetts$2.673
Michigan$3.873
Minnesota$2.187
Mississippi$1.250
Missouri$2.380
Montana$1.250
Nebraska$1.250
Nevada$1.250
New Hampshire$1.250
New Jersey$3.444
New Mexico$1.250
New York$7.543
North Carolina$4.067
North Dakota$1.250
Ohio$4.533
Oklahoma$1.534
Oregon$1.635
Pennsylvania$4.964
Puerto Rico$2.241
Rhode Island$1.250
South Carolina$1.996
South Dakota$1.250
Tennessee$2.648
Texas$11.243
Utah$1.250
Vermont$1.250
Virginia$3.310
Washington$2.953
West Virginia$1.250
Wisconsin$2.258
Wyoming$1.250
Subtotal$141.239
Territories$263
Tribal governments$8
District of Columbia$495
U.S. TOTAL$150,000,000,000

Local Governments

Local governments with populations of at least 500,000 also receive funding through the CARES Act. Local funds are deducted from their states’ shares. In Alabama, only Jefferson County meets the population threshold. Jefferson County should receive approximately $114.9 million of Alabama’s allocation, reducing the state government’s share to $1.786 billion.

Allowed Expenses

These are not insignificant amounts—$144.9 million represents 20% of Jefferson County’s FY20 budget; $1.786 billion represents 10.7% of the budgeted General Fund expenditures.

However, leaders do not have full discretion over how funds may be spent. The CARES Act limits expenditures to those that “are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency,” 2 are not included in current budgets, and are expensed between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020.

“Due to” implies direct and indirect expenses arising from governments’ responses to COVID-19. These include direct medical and public health expenses and economic support for affected employees and businesses. Some states allow governments to make loans and grants to businesses. A recent opinion by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall states that transactions are prohibited under the Alabama Constitution.3

The Treasury Department provides examples of allowed and disallowed expenditures.4

Allowed ExpendituresDisallowed Expenditures
Direct medical expensesDamages covered by insurance
COVID-19 testingPayroll or benefits expenses for employees whose work duties are not substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Emergency medical responseExpenses that have been or will be reimbursed under any federal program.
Public telemedicineReimbursement to donors for donated items or services.
Public health communicationsWorkforce bonuses other than hazard pay or overtime.
Personal Protective EquipmentSeverance pay
Cleaning and disinfecting public areasLegal settlements
Quarantine expenses
Payroll for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees responding to COVID-19
Food delivery to vulnerable populations
Facilitating distance learning for schools
Costs of sanitation and social distancing in prisons and county jails
Care for homeless populations
Unreimbursed unemployment insurance costs related to COVID-19

CARES Act funds cannot be used to offset declines in revenue, which are expected to be substantial.

Education Funding

The CARES Act provides $30.75 billion to education: $14.25 billion for higher education and $13.2 billion for elementary and secondary education.

Higher Education

Of the higher education funding, 90% is allocated directly to institutions of higher education. Allocations are based on the percentages of students receiving Pell grants. At least 50% of these funds must be used to provide emergency financial aid to students. The balance of the funds can be used for other purposes, including recouping student refunds for tuition, fees, room, and board, technology purchases for students, and additional aid to students.

Fifty-four institutions in Alabama should expect approximately $193.5 million in total funding with $96.8 million allocated to student aid.5

Public institutions are eligible for $167 million–$56.3 for two-year schools and $110.7 million for four-year schools.

Private institutions are eligible for $26.5 million.

SchoolTotal AllocationMinimum Allocation to  be Awarded for  Emergency Financial Aid  Grants to Students
Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University$9,121,201$4,560,601
Alabama College Of Osteopathic Medicine$186,805$93,403
Alabama State University$6,284,463$3,142,232
Athens State University$845,033$422,517
Auburn University$15,769,779$7,884,890
Auburn University Montgomery$5,075,473$2,537,737
Bevill State Community College$2,642,839$1,321,420
Birmingham-Southern College$1,069,855$534,928
Bishop State Community College$2,871,392$1,435,696
Calhoun Community College$4,392,248$2,196,124
Central Alabama Community College$1,222,052$611,026
Chattahoochee Valley Community College$1,645,716$822,858
Coastal Alabama Community College$4,437,762$2,218,881
Drake State Community And Technical College$761,763$380,882
Faulkner University$2,422,978$1,211,489
Enterprise State Community College$1,240,737$620,369
Gadsden State Community College$3,756,166$1,878,083
Wallace Community College$3,655,757$1,827,879
Wallace State Community College$4,064,802$2,032,401
Wallace State Community College - Selma$1,298,325$649,163
Heritage Christian University$25,804$12,902
Herzing University$4,328,833$2,164,417
Huntingdon College$1,225,333$612,667
Ingram State Technical College$448,264$224,132
Jefferson State Community College$3,729,878$1,864,939
Jacksonville State University$6,050,640$3,025,320
Lawson State Community College$3,522,022$1,761,011
Judson College$369,009$184,505
Lurleen B. Wallace Community College$1,546,138$773,069
Northeast Alabama Community College$1,901,781$950,891
Marion Military Institute$514,237$257,119
Miles College$3,257,934$1,628,967
Northwest - Shoals Community College$2,069,470$1,034,735
Reid State Technical College$435,328$217,664
Oakwood University$1,573,749$786,875
Shelton State Community College$2,965,439$1,482,720
Samford University$2,381,353$1,190,677
Snead State Community College$1,239,198$619,599
Southern Union State Community College$3,196,100$1,598,050
Trenholm State Community College$1,892,834$946,417
Spring Hill College$1,372,682$686,341
Stillman College$1,206,208$603,104
Talladega College$2,069,544$1,034,772
Troy University$8,544,084$4,272,042
Tuskegee University$3,756,522$1,878,261
University Of Alabama$20,722,538$10,361,269
University Of Alabama At Birmingham$12,131,256$6,065,628
University Of Alabama In Huntsville$5,679,758$2,839,879
University Of Mobile$1,257,422$628,711
University Of Montevallo$2,560,001$1,280,001
University Of North Alabama$5,002,648$2,501,324
University Of South Alabama$11,408,535$5,704,268
University Of West Alabama$2,384,585$1,192,293

Elementary and Secondary Education

The $13.2 billion for elementary and secondary education is divided among the states based on the same formulas that allocate Title I funds — federal dollars that support low-income students.

The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) is set to receive $216.9 million, 10% of the 2020 ETF budget. At least 90% ($195.3) is restricted to local systems. ALSDE can reserve up to 10% ($21.7 million) for departmental costs, including $1.084 million for administrative expenses. 6

ALSDE will disperse the $195.3 million to local school systems based on the systems’ shares of Title I funding in fiscal year 2020.

PARCA’s analysis of these numbers suggests the median dollar figure for Alabama schools in $780,000. Half of the systems would get more than this amount and half would get less. On the extreme ends, systems would get considerably more or less. PARCA estimates the largest allocation at $23.3 million and the smallest allocation at $84,000.

Final allocation numbers are expected from ALSDE soon.

Allowed Expenses

School systems appear to have more discretion than state and local governments. Authorizing legislation says systems can essentially spend these funds to:  

  • coordinate COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts
  • address the needs of special populations such as low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, and students experiencing homelessness
  • train employees on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases
  • purchase cleaning and sanitation supplies
  • plan and coordinate during long-term closures
  • provide meals
  • provide technology
  • provide mental health services  
  • sponsor summer learning, including classroom instruction or online learning
  • sponsor after-school programs
  • address the needs of the individual schools

Maintenance of Effort

States cannot use these funds to supplant traditional education funding. The Act requires that in both 2020 and 2021, states budget and fund education at amounts equal to or greater than the average spent between 2017 and 2019. However, the U.S. Secretary of Education can waive this requirement.

Childcare

The Act allocates $3.5 billion for childcare. The funds can be used to make payments to childcare providers dealing with declining enrollment or closure, provide childcare assistance to healthcare, emergency response, and sanitation workers, or for other needs.7

Exact allocations are not final, but based on guidance provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, Alabama could receive approximately $65.4 million. These funds are administered by the Child Care Services Division of the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

Public Transportation

The Act allocates $25 billion for transit agencies “to help to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”8

Alabama should expect to receive $59 million [efn_]https://cms7.fta.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/funding/apportionments/148421/table-3-cares-act-apportionment-section-5311-appalachian-allocations.xlsx[/efn_note] to support COVID-19 responses in rural and inter-city transportation programs. This is approximately 300% of the total annual federal appropriation for rural and inter-city transportation in Alabama.

Additionally, local governments could receive almost $68.75 million to support COVID-19 responses in local mass transit programs.9

Anniston-Oxford$3,582,050
Auburn-Opelika$3,156,205
Birmingham-Hoover$21,450,875
Daphne-Fairhope$1,992,086
Decatur$2,678,574
Dothan$2,659,981
Florence$2,946,627
Gadsden$2,241,726
Huntsville$6,830,268
Mobile$8,833,150
Montgomery$7,610,574
Tuscaloosa$5,766,327

Community Development Block Grants

The Act allocates $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and related programs managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Jurisdictions have broad leeway in how to spend these funds, and the Act does not appear to specify that funds must be used in COVID-19 response. A HUD press release lists possible uses.

To date, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced $39.9 million in additional funds for Alabama through traditional Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and programs for people who are homeless and for people with HIV/AIDS.[efn_fn]10

CityCDBGHome Investment PartnershipEmergency SolutionsHousing Opportunities for Persons With AIDSHousing Trust FundTotal
Anniston$554,171$404,132$0$0$0$958,303
Auburn$645,889$0$0$0$0$645,889
Bessemer$590,538$0$0$0$0$590,538
Birmingham$5,969,972$1,402,448$515,798$1,444,186$0$9,332,404
Decatur$483,015$0$0$0$0$483,015
Dothan$502,786$0$0$0$0$502,786
Florence$327,756$0$0$0$0$327,756
Gadsden$1,057,180$0$0$0$0$1,057,180
Huntsville$1,408,479$714,011$0$0$0$2,122,490
Mobile$2,415,548$833,588$208,702$0$0$3,457,838
Montgomery$1,690,472$912,271$146,352$0$0$2,749,095
Opelika$271,786$0$0$0$0$271,786
Tuscaloosa$823,209$456,439$0$0$0$1,279,648
Jefferson County$2,414,493$1,022,067$204,775$0$0$3,641,335
Mobile County$1,622,148$580,826$0$0$0$2,202,974
Non-metropolitan areas$23,848,737$11,381,870$2,719,098$2,514,357$3,123,706$43,587,768


Re-Opening Alabama: Congressional Recommendations

Alabama’s seven congressional representatives issued recommendations on re-opening Alabama’s economy to Governor Ivey last week. Governor Ivey plans to announce her decision on April 28.

Guidelines for Opening Up America Again

Several of the reports reference the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again published by the White House and the Centers for Disease Control on April 16. A summary of those recommendations is useful before considering the reports from Alabama’s congressional delegation.

The Guidelines suggest a three-phased strategy for re-opening. Phase One is most relevant now. Five metrics determine when a Phase One re-opening is safe:

  1. When flu-like illnesses decline for 14 days
  2. When COVID-like syndromic cases decline for 14 days
  3. When documented cases of COVID-19 or the percentage of positive tests decline for 14 days
  4. When hospitals are able to treat all patients without crisis care
  5. When robust testing, including anti-body testing, is in place for at-risk healthcare workers

Presuming the above conditions are met, the Guidelines make the following recommendations for a Phase One re-opening.

  • Vulnerable individuals should shelter in place.
  • All individuals should practice social distancing.
  • All individuals should avoid groups larger than 10.
  • Minimize non-essential travel.
  • Employers should:
    • encourage telework
    • return to work in phases
    • close common areas
    • minimize non-essential travel
    • consider special accommodations for vulnerable populations.
  • Schools and youth organizations should remain closed.
  • Visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should be prohibited.
  • Restaurants, theaters, sporting venues, gyms, and houses of worship can operate under strict social distancing guidelines.
  • Bars should remain closed.
  • Elective medical procedures can resume.

Congressional Recommendations

Below is a high-level summary of the reports. By necessity, the reports are summarized. Not all recommendations of every report are included. Unique contributions are summarized or quoted. Likewise, inclusion below does not reflect PARCA’s endorsement and should not be seen as an affirmation of the efficacy, practicality, or legality of the recommendation.

Disclosures: PARCA Board Secretary Tyrone Fenderson served on the Advisory Committee for Rep. Bradley Byrne. PARCA Board Member Ted Hosp served on the Advisory Committee for Rep. Terri Sewell. PARCA staff designed and conducted a stakeholder survey for Rep. Sewell’s report. PARCA Executive Director Ryan Hankins is listed in Rep. Sewell’s Advisory Committee because of PARCA’s work on the survey.

Key Themes

The reports differ in accessibility, approach, and focus, but there are common and reoccurring themes in the report, including:

  • balancing economic and public health concerns
  • the danger of mixed messages
  • the need for the state to speak a clear message with one voice
  • the need for expanded testing
  • accuracy of data reporting
  • the need to reduce maximum occupancy guidelines
  • the importance of social distancing
  • the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • the need for input from professional associations, licensing agencies, and regulatory boards
  • the availability of safety equipment, hygiene, and cleaning supplies

When Should Alabama Re-Open?

Immediately: according to Rep. Brooks. This is an inference. Opening immediately did not receive the most votes from Rep. Brooks’ committee, but it is listed first among the proposals. “When COVID-19 is no longer a threat” received the most votes among Rep. Brooks’ re-opening proposals.

May 1: according to Reps. Aderholt and Byrne.

After 14 days of declining hospitalizations: Rep. Sewell

No specific date or metric: Reps. Palmer, Roby, and Rogers

Recommendations from Rep. Bradley Byrne and Alabama’s 1st Congressional District

Rep. Bradley Byrne issued a 22-page report summarizing the recommendations of a 28-member advisory group. The report notes that every member may not agree with every recommendation in the report.

The report recommends the 1st Congressional District implement the CDC’s Phase One recommendations summarized above. The report includes data suggesting the District will reach the CDC benchmarks by May 1.

Thus, the report recommends retail and personal services businesses, beaches, and in-house restaurant service should re-open or resume on May 1. 

However, a key caveat is included. Rep, Byrne states his recommendations should be superseded if expected data trends do not hold, or “by the advice of public health professionals on whom Governor Ivey relies.”

Rep. Byrne’s report includes the most extensive discussion of the mental health implications of the economic shutdown.

The report includes topline recommendations.

  • Retail and personal services businesses should reopen beginning on May 1.
  • Restaurants should reopen for in-house dining beginning May 1
  • Beaches should reopen beginning May 1.
  • Self-enforcement and reporting are critical.
  • “Future closures should be implemented on an individual basis for businesses/organizations who fail to comply with guidelines.”
  • Local law enforcement and health department officials must be prepared to handle oversight and complaints related to non-compliant businesses.
  • The state must prioritize expanding testing and workforce contract tracing.
  • The state must increase the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • The state must improve reporting.
  • The state should expand mental health services.

Recommendations from Rep. Martha Roby and Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District

Rep. Roby issued an 8-page report summarizing recommendations from “individuals from a cross-section of Alabama’s Second Congressional District.” The report includes five concise recommendations that summarize the thoughts of people in the district.

“1. There must be an increase of personal protective equipment (PPE) available and more testing capacity.

2. Any changes to the existing State order should be clear and concise.

3. The re-opening of businesses should be on a rolling or tiered base consistent with set benchmarks.

4. Social distancing guidelines should be in place inside buildings such as businesses, restaurants, and schools.

5. Health and prevention measures should be implemented in places of business.”

Also included in the report are other suggestions and recommendations from constituents. These comments may not be representative of the entire district but offer a glimpse of Alabamians’ ideas and concerns. Unique recommendations in the report include:

  • declaring community colleges as essential businesses
  • fines or other legal action for businesses failing to comply with public health regulations
  • rolling or tiered reopening as determined by state officials, then county and local officials
  • staggering of class schedules to reduce the number of students on campus (the report does not clarify if this recommendation is restricted to higher education or could apply to elementary and secondary schools also)
  • increasing social distancing from 6 feet to 25 feet
  • deferring re-opening guidelines for business regulated by state boards and agencies to those board and agencies

The top five recommendations and subsequent suggestions are presented as the sentiments of those in the 2nd District and not the formal recommendations of Rep. Roby or her office.

Recommendations from Rep. Mike Rogers and Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District

Rep. Rogers issued a four-page letter based on talks with “numerous small business owners, farmers, employees, elected leaders, EMA directors, hospital administrators, law enforcement, and Chambers of Commerce….” and “…conference calls with Alabama’s National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Members of the State Legislative delegation, mayors and city councils, and county commissioners.”

Unique observations and recommendations from the report include:

  • recognition of the uniqueness of businesses, even if in the same industry
  • high levels of cleanliness and regulations already required of restaurants
  • the impossibility of social distancing in most medical fields
  • hospitals’ reliance on elective medical procedures
  • coordinating with various sports’ governing bodies and conferences to determine “…appropriate public health protocols, including the possibility of a closed venue setting regarding these sporting events.’”
  • providing virtual job fairs and job training
  • limitations on businesses’ cash transactions and new requirements for PPE and sanitation
  • tax deductions for supplies necessary to comply with public health mandates
  • incentives for Alabama manufacturers to produce PPE and other goods in short supply
  • creating resiliency plans to prepare for future public health crises

Recommendations from Rep. Mike Aderholt and Alabama’s 4th Congressional District

Rep. Aderholt issued a two-page letter, posted on his website summarizing the recommendations of a 13-member advisory board and input from 26 chambers in the 4th District. Rep. Aderholt’s office also sent surveys to both chambers and chambers’ members. The office collected 400 responses to the survey or similar surveys conducted by chambers.

The report notes that 29% of respondents are in favor of opening immediately, 35% on May 1, 9% on May 15, 7% on June 1, and 20% chose “other,” with the caveat that most respondents choosing other had not closed.

Similar to Rep. Byrne, Rep. Aderholt recommends Alabama follow the CDC guidelines summarized above and re-open on May 1 on a county-by-county basis.

The report noted the need and opportunity to seek guidance from various professional associations and regulatory agencies.

The report also notes concerns that employees cannot or will not return to work due to a lack of childcare.

He also notes concerns that some employees may earn more collecting unemployment than working.

Recommendations from Rep. Mo Brooks and Alabama’s 5th Congressional District

Rep. Mo Brooks’ report, a letter and appendices, present the results of the votes of a 14-member advisory committee on various re-opening proposals. The proposals are designed as responses to Alabama Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris’ April 3 stay home order. The appendices include Governor Ivey’s request to the Congressional delegation and a set of recommendations to keep employees safe.

The report makes no direct mention of public health measures or metrics but does note that the advisory committee voted 13 – 1 to maintain the stay-home orders “so long as a COVID-19 Pandemic emergency exists.”

Other proposals and votes include:

  • rescinding the stay at home order immediately [April 20], without any replacement government mandates [emphasis in the original] (10-0)
  • allowing the order to expire on April 30, without any replacement government mandates [emphasis in the original] (10-4)
  • following the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, summarized above (11-3)
  • the state adopt mandates and recommendations concerning employee safety (12-0)
  • “promoting and continuing” telehealth and telemedicine (12-0)
  • repealing Certificate of Need (CON) laws governing the numbering allowable hospital beds and other medical services (10-0)

Specific recommendations regarding employee safety mirror those made in other reports. Noticeable variances include:

  1. training employees on CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  2. noting that employees are free to wear reasonable PPE provided by employers
  3. requiring employees interacting with the public at a fixed workstation wear face masks/shields or be shielded by a barrier and wear gloves.  
  4. retail establishments may ask customers to wear masks
  5. personal care providers such as barbers, nail, and beauty salons should wear masks and gloves
  6. self-serving resturants and buffets should be avoided.
  7. employers of high-risk workers should consider:
    • telework
    • FMLA-like policies
    • loosened sick pay regulations
    • unpaid leave with positions held
    • leave advances
    • no or low-interest employee loans

Recommendations from Rep. Gary Palmer, Alabama’s 6th Congressional District

Rep. Palmer’s four-page letter references “…ideas and concerns … received from business owners representing a broad cross section of Alabama’s economy. “

Chief among these concerns and recommendations are:

  • Strong oversight of unemployment benefits. Rep. Palmer notes concerns about some people earning more in unemployment, employs filing for—and receiving—unemployment while still working, and employees refusing to return to work when called by their employers.
  • The need for a steady supply of PPE and the importance of both removing barriers to production and enforcement of anti-gouging laws.
  • The opportunity for “non-essential businesses” to open and demonstrate the capacity to comply with current or new occupancy and social distancing regulations
  • Clear expectations and clear communications.

Rep. Palmer includes general and specific suggestions for medical facilities (screen all patients), restaurants (disposable menus and tableware, reservations), hotels, industry, childcare (waivers from social distancing), home builders, barbers and salons (requiring masks, gloves, gowns).

Recommendations from Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s 7th Congressional District

Rep. Sewell issued the longest report (55 pages). The report reflects the general, but not unanimous, consensus of a 61–member advisory committee, including several public health professionals.

The report established a 14-day downward trend in hospitalizations by public health district as the primary metric for a safe re-open.

The report makes recommendations in three broad areas: public health, workplace and workforce, protecting vulnerable communities. These include:

Public Health

  • provide widespread testing
  • recruit a contact tracing workforce,
  • ensure widespread access to affordable treatment when developed
  • establish information systems that allow for the swift detection of any increase in cases following the reopening.

Workplace and Workforce  

  • create flexibility for businesses
  • implement phased re-openings based on employees’ exposure to the public
  • work with the State Superintendent to address the childcare needs of workers, including grant possibilities and state funding for childcare, after-school care, summer learning, and care for young children.
  • provide increased support to small businesses, hospitals, and nonprofits through expanded loans and grants
  • ensure that COVID-related federal resources received by these businesses are not taxable at the state level

Protecting Vulnerable Communities

  • prioritize testing, tracing, and treatment for vulnerable communities and essential workers
  • ensure testing in all 67 counties
  • provide financial assistance for disadvantaged businesses
  • protect Alabama’s uninsured population by expanding Medicaid
  • expand broadband access
  • incentivize paid sick leave and emergency family leave
  • provide hazard pay or state tax credits to health care and essential workers

What’s Next?

The current stay-at-home order expires on April 30. Governor Ivey has indicated she will announce a decision on April 28.


COVID-19: Data and Resources

In support of the work of the government and health care professionals involved in the Coronavirus containment effort, PARCA is gathering information and resources as the situation unfolds. Check back PARCA’s Coronavirus Resource page for updates.

PARCA’s evolving list of information, resources, and data.


COVID-19: The Alabama Legislature’s Response

The Alabama Legislature’s two-week recess is over, but the session will not resume on March 31. No date has been set to reconvene either house. The Legislature is constitutionally mandated to enact General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets and end the session by May 18.   

Enacted Legislation  

Before the recess, the Legislature acted on one bill relating to COVID-19.

The Legislature approved, and Governor Ivey signed, HB 186 appropriating an additional $5 million from the General Fund to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) for COVID-19 preparation and response.

For perspective, ADPH’s fiscal year 2020 budget is $861,467,948, but only $52 million are state appropriations. This additional $5 million represents a 9.6% increase in the state appropriation. In its 2018 Annual Report, ADPH reported spending approximately 22.7% of state appropriations on infectious diseases.  

Proposed Legislation

HB 448  proposes to expand Medicaid coverage for new mothers for 60 days after the birth of a baby to one year.

HB 447 proposes to expand Medicaid, as described in the Affordable Care Act. 

Resolutions

SR 49 urges Congress to provide additional rental assistance to eligible families in USDA rural housing units. According to the resolution, there are approximately 13,000 Alabama families living in such units.

HR 107 urges the promotion, sharing and posting of practices to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

SJR 40 asks Alabamians to fist bump rather than shake hands.

HJR 121 is a joint resolution from Democrats in both houses asking the Governor to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  

Other Actions

Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) plans to file a bill providing businesses civil immunity from lawsuits that allege contraction of COVID-19 on those business’ premises.


The 2020 Census: Alabamians Are Responding

2020 Census Logo

While the COVID-19 pandemic rightly consumes so much of our attention, it is important—and perhaps comforting—to remember that other important aspects of public life continue. One of these is the 2020 Census

Census information began to arrive in the mail last week, and already, people are participating. An accurate Census count is now more important than ever as state and local governments will be coping with a very different post-pandemic reality. 

The map below, provided by the Census Bureau, reports self-response rates by state, congressional district, county, city, and census tract. The self-response rate, sometimes called the initial response rate, is the percentage of households that respond to the initial request to participate. Households that do not respond to this initial request receive additional requests and, ultimately, a visit from a Census worker.

Tracking the self-participation rate is a good measure of the effectiveness of Census promotion efforts and helps the Census Bureau adjust strategies. The self-response rate does NOT indicate the total percentage of households counted.

For more on the 2020 Census, see The 2020 Census: What’s at Stake for the State of Alabama published by PARCA last fall.

Are Alabamians participating?

As of March 25, Alabama’s self-participation rate is slightly ahead of the nation at 27.7% compared to 26.2%. For comparison, the state’s final self-response rate in 2010 was 62.5%. Within Alabama, Autauga County leads all counties at 33.4%.

You can complete the Census here.

The map below allows you to explore response rates at all geographic levels and is updated every day at 2 PM CST.


Prisons, education, taxes, trust in government. What do Alabamians think?

See the Full Survey

A slight majority of Alabamians oppose building new prisons, but an overwhelming majority support expanding rehabilitation and re-entry programs for people leaving prison, returning nonviolent offenders to the community, and spending more on education.

These are among the key findings of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama’s Public Opinion Survey: 2019 Edition, released today.

The survey, conducted in partnership with Samford University and led by Dr. Randolph Horn, again found high levels of agreement on critical issues facing the state.

Alabamians value education, rating it a top priority among major state services. State residents say education investment should be increased, as too little is now spent on education. While not agreeing on the source of revenue, a majority of residents are willing to pay more in taxes to increase funding for education.

There is some evidence that the current tax system is seen as regressive: majorities of residents say low-income residents pay too much, and those with higher incomes pay too little.

Consistently high percentages of Alabamians feel that they have no say in Montgomery or that state officials do not care what they think suggests that Alabamians do not believe state government is responsive to their concerns.

 Corrections

  • 86% support expanded rehabilitation and re-entry programs for people in prison.
  • 83% support moving people with nonviolent convictions back to the community.
  • 58% oppose building new prisons to address overcrowding.  
  • 54% believe only violent offenders should go to prison.  

Education

  • 74% believe the state spends too little on education.  
  • 69% support increasing taxes to support education, but no single option garners majority support.  

Taxes

  • 45% say they pay the right amount of taxes.  
  • 45% say lower-income earners pay too much.  
  • 52% say upper-income earners pay too little.  

Trust in Government

  • 82% support keeping the General Fund and Education Trust Fund separate.
  • 69% believe state government officials do not care about their opinions.
  • 57% believe they have no say in state government.

The survey of 410 randomly selected Alabamians was conducted between January 28 and March 3, 2019 and yields a margin of error of +/-4.8 percent.

See the Full Survey


Alabama’s Prison System: A Crisis in Corrections

How we view, value, and fund the justice system generally, and prisons, in particular, is complex and value-laden, particularly in Alabama. Our prisons have been marked by violence, overcrowding, poor healthcare, and federal court intervention for more than a century. Our current crisis is again brought into focus through a series of recent and current federal lawsuits.

The status and conditions of Alabama’s prisons will be a major focus in the 2019 legislative session. Governor Ivey has proposed building three new prisons at a cost of $950 million, only the most recent in a series of construction proposals.

At the same time, others are calling for robust reform of the entire criminal justice system.

To help frame this conversation, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama is providing a series of briefs which:

  • explore the general state of Alabama’s prison system;
  • summarize recent sentencing reforms;
  • analyze sentencing in Alabama compared to neighboring states;
  • explore alternative sentencing and community-based responses, and
  • pose questions that advocates of sentencing reform and construction should address.

These forthcoming briefs provide a high-level analysis for state and local policymakers and concerned citizens. They do not provide the solution to Alabama’s prison crisis. Indeed, it may be that no single solution exists. Rather, the goal of the reports is to inform and spur policymakers to action—while there is still time.

Read Brief #1: Introduction