Resuming America: The view from Birmingham, Alabama – Brookings Organization

23June 2020

Reopening America and the World

In Birmingham, Alabama, COVID-19 has not developed a new economic or public health paradigm, however it has actually honed the effects of the old one. As we deal with increasing pressure to reopen the economy, we discover ourselves balancing a number of important truths.


First, Birmingham is particularly susceptible to the disastrous results of COVID-19 as 74 percent of Birmingham’s homeowners are Black, 22 percent are 65+ years of age and 43 percent of our families with children live in hardship. With the 6th highest fatality rate in the 1918 influenza pandemic, it is hard not to notice a century-old boomerang on a returning flight path.

Second, Birmingham’s economy lagged behind its peers prior to COVID-19, with simply 29 percent of jobs in the tradable sector. Consequently, we understood our economy was especially vulnerable to an economic crisis, and we are seeing it take place at eye-watering speed. According to Burning Glass, job postings– at all ability levels– have actually fallen by half, and we are advancing upon a 30 percent joblessness rate. Every day we move closer towards the July 31 expiration of pandemic joblessness insurance coverage (PUI), with 72 percent of our homeowners having less than $1,000 in savings. Family incomes are unsteady, and with more employees than work, residents are more susceptible than at any point in their professions.

Third, in Birmingham our physical and economic health are 2 sides of the exact same coin. Alabama is among 13 states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, so employees who lost their jobs do not have a public safety net because adults are not eligible for Medicaid. They must now weather a pandemic without health insurance at a time when the Kaiser Family Structure approximates the expense of COVID-19 treatment averages $20,000. It is inadequate to put into place measures to avoid the spread of infection when so many of our citizens are experiencing debilitating economic insecurity. Structure for much better starts with 3 assisting principles: (1) stabilize households immediately; (2) make work environments as safe as possible; and (3) carry out a sustainable financial inclusion technique for job growth. We are operationalizing that in a two-part technique that leverages Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding: reaction and healing.


We remain in the response phase– cases have not decreased while joblessness is still rising and household earnings are liquifying. The city has actually currently spent money to stabilize small businesses, invest in personal protective devices, and deal frontline city employees overtime and risk pay. Now, we are developing programs to assist households satisfy basic requirements: rent stabilization, subsistence support, expand WiFi for 23 percent of our families without a web service provider, and establish a corner shop program to ensure food access while transit is limited. In parallel, we are marshalling our local firms and boards to bring dollars into our economy by strategically pursuing state and federal grants.

As our state pushes us to reopen the economy, we have actually enacted a variety of regional steps, consisting of curfews and face-covering regulations, to prevent spreading out the disease and boost consumers’ self-confidence in the security of leaving their homes. We assembled public health officials and restaurant owners to craft practical standards that ensure extensive adoption to help services reopen in a way that safeguards workers and consumers. Finally, we are also partnering with the local health department and UAB– the University of Alabama at Birmingham– to establish a plainly specified screening and tracing strategy that focuses on mobile screening for public housing citizens, elders, and communities of color.


As we look to the healing phase, we need to get ready for an extremely different labor market in COVID-19’s wake. We need data to target growth in markets like population health, supply chain management, data collection, management, and analysis and logistics. We require to reimagine workforce systems (and funding) to repurpose, reskill, and redeploy skill that has actually been placed on the sidelines. We require to recapitalize our #BhamStrong fund as we reopen the economy, specifically targeting minority-owned companies that were disproportionately ignored by the Paycheck Protection Program.

COVID-19 is interfering with life for all people, however it is ruining it for lots of working households. This pandemic has actually exposed the lethality of health disparities and the devastating repercussions of valuing financial growth over economic advancement.

One method we have started this procedure is by establishing the Birmingham Service Corps, a program to use paid volunteer chances to meet the emerging needs of COVID-19. The Birmingham Service Corps empowers workers (currently more than 700 have actually used) who have actually lost tasks to be a part of fighting COVID-19 in our community through paid service opportunities. This paid work not just enhances to these workers that we require them, it offers experience and foundational skills for brand-new career trajectories in information collection and management, customer service, and precision population health. For instance, Birmingham Service Corps is training hundreds of client service workers to become community health workers and contact tracers. As Birmingham purchases precision population health and the needs become higher across the country, these workers are repositioned competitively.

COVID-19 is interfering with life for all individuals, but it is destroying it for many working families. This pandemic has exposed the lethality of health variations and the disastrous repercussions of valuing economic growth over economic advancement. Birmingham and neighborhoods like ours must be intentional about fixing the fragility that made us susceptible in the very first place.

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