The Tuscaloosa City Council, each wearing face masks at their separate tables spread across the room, returned to its chambers Tuesday afternoon to hear Mayor Walt Maddox’s proposal to reopen the city. The plan serves to remedy both the economic and social losses the city has succumbed to due to the ongoing coronavirus.
While the dates predicted for each phase of restoration are not set in stone, Maddox will work closely with health officials in hopes that nothing is done prematurely. The council will meet on May 4, 5, 11 and 12 to discuss the particulars of the plan, and the vote will take place on May 12.
REOPENING AND RESTARTING
“As you know today, Gov. Ivey announced, with Alabama Department of Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, their plan to reopen Alabama,” Maddox said. “This coincides with what we’ve been working on over the past few weeks, and reason why the city has earned this opportunity to reopen business with a medically sound approach is because the City of Tuscaloosa, and more importantly, the people of Tuscaloosa, took action to help us mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, and it’s put us in a position to begin thinking about the future that is on our horizon.”
Maddox’s plan has three phases, which begin Thursday, April 30, when the state’s stay-at-home order will expire:
Phase 1 – April 30
Mirroring Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan announced earlier today, Phase 1 includes the continued operation of the businesses that are currently open, and retail and commercial services operating at no more than 50% capacity, with by-appointment meetings encouraged.
Phase 2 – No earlier than May 15
Businesses open during Phase 1 would continue to operate, restaurant dining rooms can open at 50% capacity, bars can operate table service, and personal services, such as barber shops and nail salons, may operate by appointment only.
“It’s important to note that the Phase 2 component is going to be dependent upon the governor’s directions moving forward,” Maddox said. “At this point, based off the governor’s comments today, we don’t anticipate a Phase 2 before May 15.”
Phase 3 – Around May 22
Businesses from Phase 1 and 2 would continue to operate, all businesses including entertainment and fitness venues will open, and community operations could begin operating at 50% capacity.
Since March 14, 19,253 people in Tuscaloosa County have filed for unemployment. This puts Tuscaloosa’s unemployment rate near 9%, when it was at 2.2% just before the spike occurred.
“To think about that, nearly 1 in 10 of the people that we work for every day in the City of Tuscaloosa have lost their jobs because of COVID-19,” Maddox said. “It begs for a plan of action. It calls upon us to do something to help our community get through this crisis.”
To remedy this, Maddox hopes to reopen the ability for people to obtain business licenses.
“There’s other things we can do that doesn’t cost us any money, and it’s acting on the urgency of now,” Maddox said. “I am requesting that the City Council resume public hearings for rezoning applications and alcohol licenses. I’m also requesting that the meetings resume for the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Adjustment and Historic Preservation Commission, whether it’s in person or virtual. We have businesses that are ready to go.”
SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF FUND PLAN
“We want to be able to help our small business owners get back,” Maddox said.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama created the Small Business Relief Fund, which Maddox hopes to invest $1 million into. Maddox asked that when considering this investment, the council also accepts his following four conditions for businesses hoping to benefit from the fund:
The businesses must be in the City of Tuscaloosa.
The business does not have to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
Each council district is awarded a minimum of $50,000, so that every business in every single council district has an opportunity for this investment.
The funds must be dispersed by Dec. 31, 2020.
Tuscaloosa business owners can look up what phase their business falls into at Tuscaloosa.com/Reopen. For questions, contact 311.