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The Basics: Alabama's Meager but Vital TANF Program
The cost of living has increased in the last two decades, but federal money for temporary cash aid for very low-income families has not kept up. The federal government in 1997 froze its allocations for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, informally known as welfare. Since then, the number of families receiving benefits has plummeted in Alabama and nationwide, even as needs mounted during the Great Recession. Years of inflation also have eroded the buying power of Alabama's already meager benefits.
Fewer Alabama families are receiving TANF aid, and those benefits don't go nearly as far as they once did. This fact sheet by ACPP policy analyst Carol Gundlach details TANF's origins and structure, examines its eligibility requirements and considers how the program could do a better job of helping low-income Alabamians endure tough times.
The Basics: Child Nutrition Programs in Alabama
Many hungry children miss out on far more than regular meals. Hunger can do serious, long-term harm to a child's health and ability to learn, and childhood hunger is a bigger challenge in Alabama than in most other states. More than one in four of the state's children live in families with incomes below the poverty level, and more than one in five Alabama families with children say they have trouble putting enough food on the table.
Three key child nutrition programs -- the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program -- have been shown to help improve children's health and ability to learn. This fact sheet by ACPP policy analyst Carol Gundlach examines what these programs mean for hundreds of thousands of Alabama children and considers some ways the programs could serve even more hungry children.
Out of Step: Alabama's Unusual State Tax State System -- 2014 update
Taxes are the tools that Americans use to pay for education, public health, transportation and other elements of the common good. But in Alabama, the tax system is upside down, with low- and middle-income people paying twice the share of their income in state and local taxes that the top 1 percent pay.
This updated fact sheet looks at the different ways that states collect revenues to pay for public services and examines some of the differences that place Alabama's tax system out of line with the way most other states do things.
Special enrollment periods for health coverage
Initial open enrollment for coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace has ended, but you still may be able to sign up for a plan. Alabamians who experience certain life events may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period without waiting until the next open enrollment period (Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015).
This issue brief looks at the life changes and other opportunities that may allow people to enroll in Marketplace coverage throughout the year.
Montgomery council vote a bold step to protect consumers from spread of high-cost lending
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Wednesday, May 21, 2014, on the Montgomery City Council’s vote May 20, 2014, to limit the locations where new payday lenders and title pawn companies can open:
“Montgomery has lived up to its role as Alabama’s capital city by taking a bold move to protect its citizens from high-cost lending. Montgomery residents should applaud their local leaders for the new ordinance limiting payday and title lenders’ ability to keep spreading across the city. Clusters of these storefronts create blight, and high interest rates leave too many desperate borrowers trapped in deep cycles of debt.
“People deserve fair credit terms, but triple-digit annual interest rates on payday and title loans are nothing of the sort. Statewide reform is only possible at the Legislature, but the City of Montgomery deserves praise for acting boldly to help protect citizens from legalized usury.
“Many other cities across the state also have passed moratoriums or restrictions on such lenders, including Birmingham, Decatur, Eufaula, Jasper, Northport and Tuscaloosa. Support for lending reform is growing across Alabama, and we’re excited that momentum for change keeps building.”
'Community eligibility' could help Alabama schools fight child hunger
More than 900 schools across two-thirds of Alabama's school districts could use "community eligibility" to provide free school meals to all of their students starting this fall, the state Department of Education said May 1, 2014. Districts have until June 30, 2014, to decide if some or all of their schools will participate. Community eligibility helps ensure that low-income children, many of whom live in families struggling to put food on the table, have access to healthy meals at school.
"Schools in Alabama should seize this opportunity," ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister said. "Adopting community eligibility could make a real difference in the lives of thousands of children who otherwise might struggle to get enough food to eat each day."