Mayor’s Minute June – Restart Tuscaloosa
May 20, 2020
Since our first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 13, the City of Tuscaloosa’s focus has been to protect the health of our citizens and the capacity of DCH Health Systems. The City has risen to the occasion and our fatalities, confirmed cases and inpatient COVID-19 patients have remained well below the major cities in Alabama. Each of you made sacrifices to protect your community and together, have earned this opportunity to begin reclaiming your life.
Protecting our community has required deep sacrifices, especially for our small business owners. In March alone, 2,535 small businesses were unable to remit their sales taxes. Unemployment claims in Tuscaloosa County have risen to above 23,000, which is 11 percent of the county’s population. Now is the time to, while maintaining the health and safety of our community members, shift our focus to the recovery of our economy. This is why I proposed the Restart Tuscaloosa plan, which will work as a catalyst to jumpstart Tuscaloosa’s economy by investing $15 million in small businesses, jobs, public safety, neighborhoods and community service agencies.
The Restart Tuscaloosa plan can be broken down into four areas, which I consider pillars of Tuscaloosa’s economy. The first of these pillars is small businesses. Restart Tuscaloosa will invest $1 million into the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Relief Fund and give business a quick infusion of capital which will bolster owners and employees who are living paycheck to paycheck. The Chamber’s program has been effective and has made a real difference already. We look forward to the ways this partnership can do even more for our small businesses. The next pillar is the experience economy, which will work as a catalyst to our economy’s financial recovery – building up our local businesses and increasing jobs by bringing more visitors to our City. Restart Tuscaloosa will invest $3 million into Tuscaloosa’s experience economy for more live music events, festivals, sports and other tourism related events. The third pillar is public safety. Restart invests $4 million into our police and fire departments for the purchase of equipment, vehicles and technology. Finally, because our homes are our largest investment, the last pillar is neighborhoods. Restart invests $7 million into neighborhood street resurfacing and curb/gutter and sidewalk rehabilitation to keep our neighborhoods at their best.
I proposed this plan on April 28, and the City Council voted 5-2 to approve it on May 12. One of the most critical aspects of this initiative is the immediacy of the funding, particularly as our small businesses are concerned. I’m proud of the speed at which we were able to get Restart Tuscaloosa into motion, and that the distribution of funding is designed to move at the speed of urgency.
I believe that Restart Tuscaloosa is what Tuscaloosa needs to recover economically from the effects of COVID-19. We are in unprecedented times with unpredictable outcomes; however, our City is resilient and prepared to meet this challenge now and into the future.