1 month ago

Alabama House okays proposed teacher retirement change

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — As the state faces a teacher shortage, the Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that proposes changes to retirement benefits to try to lure people to stay in the classroom.

Representatives voted unanimously for the bill called the Education Workforce Investment Act, which would alter the retirement structure for public education employees hired after 2013. The changes include allowing employees to retire with benefits after 30 years even if they haven’t reached age 62.

The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.

“We have a shortage among educators, particularly we recognize the teachers in the classroom but it goes beyond that,” Republican Rep. Alan Baker of Brewton said. Baker said there are also shortages of bus drivers and other school employees.

The bill would reverse some of the changes lawmakers implemented in 2013 when they changed retirement structure for new hires because of concerns about the long-term cost of pension benefits. “It’s been deemed that might have been a slight over-correction,” Baker said.

Currently, participants in the teachers retirement system are classified as Tier 1, if they were first hired before 2013, or Tier 2, if they were hired on, or after, Jan. 1, 2013. The tiers have different contribution rates, formulas and service requirements to collect benefits.

The bill would create anew Tier 3 retirement level and allow employees to retire at any age after 30 years of service with up to 80 percent of their final salary, Baker said. The bill alsoproposes increasingthe multiplier used in retirement calculations and allows employees to convert unused sick leave, similar to the Tier 1 system.

The bill would raise what employees must contribute to their retirement to make it the same as the old system. Tier 2 employees would be automatically shifted to Tier 3 unless they opt out of the change.

The bill passed without a dissenting vote, although Rep. Thomas Jackson criticized Republicans’ past cuts to educators’ benefits.

“It’s you all that took all that good stuff away from these good teachers in the state … I’m glad to know that you all saw the light and see where we are losing good teachers,“said Jackson, a Democrat.

Republican Rep. Bill Poole, who chairs the education budget committee, said it is a “reasonable” action.

“We’ve looked really hard at it. It’s part of the component of teacher recruitment and retention efforts to address a teacher shortage,” Poole, a Tuscaloosa Republican, said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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12 hours ago

Website seeks to connect still-operating local restaurants with Alabama customers

The Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association (ARHA) has created a website to try and connect local restaurants with Alabama consumers.

The precautions being taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus have devastated the restaurant industry. A website that tracks the industry estimates that 3% of America’s restaurants have permanently gone out of business since the virus began spreading in the United States.

The website created by ARHA — carryoutal.com — is seeking to prevent that fate for restaurants in Alabama. Visitors are asked to select Carryout, Curbside or Delivery and the site then provides them with the options in their area.

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The site currently has around 300 restaurants in its database.

There is an option for any locally-owned business to list their establishment for free.

“Most restaurants in Alabama remain open and they need your support more than ever,” says the website’s description.

The site assures any skeptical customers, “While recent governmental orders and recommendations to limit social gatherings have forced restaurants to change the way they operate, the commitment to food safety and sanitation has not changed.”

The ARHA has also created a fund to provide relief for hospitality workers across the state. As of 2:45 p.m on Tuesday, it has raised $1,810 of its $100,000 goal.

Contributions to the fund are tax-deductible.

The description of the fund reads, “On March 19, 2020, restaurants and bars across the state were ordered to close dining area service to the public in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. The shutdowns have catastrophically impacted the restaurant and hotel industry.”

Those interested in donating can click here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

13 hours ago

Treasury Department issues guidance for small businesses seeking relief funds

The U.S. Treasury Department released new information on Tuesday afternoon for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The resources distributed by the agency provide guidance on how to tap into the $340 billion pool of relief funds set aside for the small business sector.

Under the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program, businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive the lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times its payroll over the period of several months.

Banks will distribute the funds in the form of loans granted under criteria contained in the law. Loans may become available as soon as Friday, April 3.

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Call your banker

That is the advice the Treasury Department is giving to small businesses.

The chairman of the Alabama Bankers Association has stated that banks in his state are ready, willing and able to immediately assist with the small business sector’s recovery.

“Banks in our state are already very familiar with helping customers access SBA funding,” said David Nast, president and CEO of Progress Bank and Trust. “Nearly 94% of banks headquartered in Alabama are SBA-approved lenders, and that number could easily grow higher over the next few weeks.”

RELATED: Alabama banks preparing to assist small businesses with recovery — ‘Call your banker’

Nast echoed the Treasury Department’s advice that interested small businesses should promptly contact their bank.

“Regardless of how banks are interacting with their customers, our advice for individuals and small businesses has been to put ‘Call Your Banker’ near the top of the to-do list,” Nast emphasized.

Info for small businesses

The Treasury Department is maintaining a comprehensive website for those seeking information about the economic stimulus programs it is administering.

Within the site are documents for small businesses to better understand the programs designed for them and how to apply for funds:

Overview of the Payroll Protection Program

Paycheck Protection Program Information for Borrowers

Application for Borrowers

Paycheck Protection Program Information for Lenders

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

13 hours ago

Jeff Sessions has a clear message for China: The world knows your communist regime is culpable for the Wuhan coronavirus

Former Attorney General and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions seems to have a clear message for China: The United States will not take your Godless, communist regime’s lying and cheating anymore.

During an appearance on WVNN this week, Sessions said the United States and the world know that China covered up the origins and spread of the virus for months, and we know they are now engaging in a disinformation campaign to shed their culpability.

Sessions on Monday’s broadcast of “The Dale Jackson Show” took some strong punches at China, saying, “It’s a duty we have to explain to the American people, and to the world, really, the danger of this kind of government. It cannot be the dominant government in the world, it will not be if we stand up to it.”

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Sessions acknowledged that we have allowed this to happen with weak trade and foreign policy. He noted the reaction of the world would be far different if America was responsible.

“Imagine an American company, or American government, had learned about this virus and sat on it for weeks and allowed the world to be infected,” he stated. “I mean, the world would be in an outrage.”

But what can be done?

If elected to his old Senate seat, what will he specifically work to do?

Sessions isn’t the first politician to point out that we can’t allow China to dominate the markets of critical supplies and infrastructure needs, such as medical supplies and high-speed internet.

Specifically, Sessions outlined, “This is one where we need to send a message to China. No. You’re not gonna supply our medicines. Especially when you say you might cut them off. You’re not gonna supply our 5G high tech communications system, high speed. We’re not gonna let you dominate that.”

My takeaway:

This is nothing new for Jeff Sessions.

He has long been a leading critic on China for most of his career. He was calling for us to get tough on China before anyone else even cared.

The world has been too soft on China, and the United States has an obligation to end that. This is our wakeup call. This isn’t about trade, it is about the lives of Americans, which Sessions correctly noted that China’s state-run press has threatened.

America has an obligation to make sure the world knows this coronavirus is the fault of China and punish them for unleashing this on the world.

The coronavirus pandemic proves Jeff Sessions has been correct on China for decades. They lie, cheat and steal to achieve world dominance. He is also right when he says we cannot allow this to continue and our allies around the globe can’t keep turning a blind eye to it or they will win.

China has a plan to continue to dominate globally, and we need people that understand it and know how to combat it at the forefront of this fight.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

14 hours ago

Friends launch Local Distancing to support Birmingham businesses

Three friends in Birmingham were wrestling with a major dilemma created by the coronavirus pandemic: How can you lend support to your favorite restaurants and local businesses while maintaining the proper social distancing practices?

Their solution — a pay-it-forward approach. Local Distancing, an online platform, allows customers to help these Birmingham area enterprises pay their staff, cover overhead and survive the crisis without having to leave the security of their home.

Through the Local Distancing web site, consumers can purchase gift certificates from a wide range of restaurants, breweries, retailers and other Birmingham businesses. The site also includes links to GoFundMe accounts for displaced workers.

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The initiative appears to have struck a chord in the community, with more than 4,000 unique visitors in the first week eager to support more than 150 Birmingham businesses listed on the platform.

“Local businesses are the heartbeat of the Magic City, and they need our help during these challenging times,” said Vince Perez, a senior project manager at the Alabama Department of Commerce and one of the initiative’s founders. “This is a way that all of us can let local business owners and their employees know that we’re in their corner during this crisis.”

The way Local Distancing’s founders see it, buying online gift certificates represents the most practical way for loyal customers to support their favorite local businesses right now while remaining at their homes.

The web site does not charge businesses to participate and will not receive any portion of the gift card purchases. Moreover, it works with gift card processing companies like Square and Gift Up! that provide money immediately to businesses, instead of when the certificates are redeemed.

Instagift, a Birmingham-based firm that provides electronic gift card services to local businesses, is also supporting the effort by waiving monthly fees for new sign-ups and providing promotion on its social media.

Joining Perez in launching Local Distancing are Dylan Spencer, a web developer who built the site and founder of a marketing firm bearing his name, and Trey Oliver, an attorney at the Bradley Arant law firm. The three are childhood friends and all attended Auburn University.

“We all wish we weren’t in this situation, but here we are,“ Spencer said. “Thankfully, hard times have their way of bringing people together, and I believe this will somehow make Birmingham stronger. All we can do for now is stay home, stay healthy, and take care of our city – especially the businesses and restaurants that make it special.”

Local Distancing may just be the perfect substitute for an upcoming anniversary, birthday gift, and more, he said.

“Order food and buy gift certificates, even if to give away as a ‘thank you’ to grocery store workers, restaurant workers, delivery folks, medical workers, and the many others who are working so hard to keep us going,” Spencer urged.

You can also find Local Distancing on Twitter and Instagram under @localdistancing.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

15 hours ago

Video: Ride along with ULA’s Alabama-built rocket on U.S. Space Force’s first national security mission

Alabama’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) teamed up last week with the U.S. Space Force to complete the newly-formed agency’s first national security space mission.

A Decatur-built Atlas V rocket delivered the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite. The AEHF-6 will enhance the communications capabilities for American warfighters around the world.

The mission became ULA’s 138th overall. With its completion, ULA maintained its 100% mission success rate.

Watch rocket preparation, launch and satellite delivery in space:

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Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia