Birmingham trying to help small businesses struggling during COVID-19 pandemic


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin says the coronavirus crisis is leading to an economic crisis, something city leaders want to help local businesses and their workers get through.

Businesses have adapted to recent orders that prohibit people from dining inside restaurants. It’s forced them to rely on options such as curbside service. Some have responded by changing their hours, others have closed temporarily and some have even closed permanently. It’s a difficult situation for the people who own the businesses and the many hourly employees who work there.

“They’re concerned about paying their utility bills, they’re concerned about paying their rent, they’re concerned about just finding a way to live,” Woodfin said. “We as a city are also concerned.”

Woodfin said city leaders started having conversations last week with utility companies about working with their customers.

“The conversations last week started with utility providers such as Alabama Power, such as AT&T, such as Spire and the Birmingham Water Works, who’ve all shared that they are more than willing to continue to work with their individual customers,” he said.

They’re also trying to find assistance for companies to pay their rent, but Woodfin said that’s tougher because it’s out of the city’s control.

“I want you to know that within our power there are certain things that we can and can’t do,” he said. “But what we can do is continue to have conversations with people.”

Woodfin said city leaders don’t have all the answers yet, but they’re trying to find creative ways to help the businesses and workers who are struggling.

“To any hourly employee that’s feeling this pinch, to any small business owner that is feeling the pinch of their commercial rent, we are actively, as a city with our leadership capacity and relationships, doing everything we can to engage those at the state level and the federal level and those in the private sector who are due to be paid,” he said.


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