HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – More than 6.6 million workers filed for unemployment last week. As more people are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Clay Vandiver, President and CEO of the United Way of Madison County, reminded the community of a key resource.
“You can get help if you call that 211 number. Typically it is for food, it’s for rent assistance, with your mortgage payment, with a car payment, utility bills,” Vandiver said.
Vandiver said the hotline has seen a recent increase in calls since the outbreak.
“We’re tracking the COVID-19 phone calls that are specific people who have been affected by that in some way. We tracked the data. I watched it yesterday, looked at the last two weeks of March versus the first two weeks of March. We’re up about 218 percent in phone calls over that two week period. So a lot of calls coming in. We’re second only to Birmingham right now with phone calls coming in,” Vandiver said.
Vandiver urged business owners to apply for financial assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program.
Vandiver also encouraged anyone that can help to donate to the United Way COVID-19 Assistance Fund or to the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville COVID-19 Community Response Fund. He also for donations to food banks.
“Just today, you know, a study came out there’s six million more people are unemployed in American than there were yesterday,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. I told our city employees last Friday, we all got a paycheck and there were a lot of people who didn’t get a paycheck. And that’s one of the most serious things we can look at. We’re walking a fine line. The fine line is keeping an economy somewhat open, but also closing it down enough so that we don’t spread this virus,”
Battle said the city is working on ways to help people that were laid off.
“Mostly it’s the lodging industry, the hotel industry, the hospitality industry. Those are the ones who are hardest hit right now. And those are the ones who don’t have jobs and we’re trying to redirect some of them,” he said. “Grocery stores are hiring everybody they can to fill their shelves, so maybe we can redirect some people there.
“There are some programs that are being looked at for the downtown area so that some of the waitstaff, cooks, etc., who are laid-off have some opportunity there. Several things are in the works, and then there’s also the state unemployment and the federal programs that are coming in to play. Keeping our companies where they don’t go absolutely bankrupt is very important because we know someday we’re going to be looking in the rear view mirror at this, and we’re going to need those companies.”
Crestwood Medical Center CEO Pam Hudson said they are continuing to work to stop the spread of the virus. She said Crestwood employees could wear homemade masks, but masks are not required for all employees. As of Thursday afternoon, 14 people are under investigation — hospitalized while awaiting test results.