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Statewide payday loan database a good first step for Alabama consumers
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, after a Montgomery circuit judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the state Banking Department’s proposal to create a statewide common database of payday loans in Alabama:
“We’re excited about this week’s ruling. A statewide payday loan database will make it possible to enforce current limits on how much payday loan debt a borrower can have at one time. That will help protect vulnerable borrowers from racking up thousands of dollars in high-interest debt, and it’ll help slow the drain of millions of dollars from our state’s retail economy.
“Alabama still needs to reduce interest rates on payday loans. It’s outrageous that our state condones an interest rate of 456 percent APR on these loans. But a statewide database is a good first step toward protecting borrowers and communities from the high costs of high-interest loans.”
Report: Alabama's process to estimate revenues lags those of other states
Alabama should improve the way it estimates revenues to create a more fiscally responsible budget, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C. In the report's evaluation of how states estimate annual revenues, Alabama scored only a 1 on a scale of zero to five because it lacks some practices that Kentucky, Louisiana and other states use to help create strong estimates to guide state spending on education, health care, public safety and other vital public services.
"Our state's revenue estimating process has room for improvement," ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister said. "Lawmakers should reform it to improve fiscal discipline and create a more robust debate about how Alabama raises and spends money."
Most Alabamians who would benefit from Medicaid expansion are working
Nearly 185,000 uninsured Alabamians working in a range of important jobs could gain health coverage if Alabama closed its Medicaid coverage gap, according to a new report released by ACPP and Families USA. That number is more than half of the 342,000 low-income Alabamians who could gain access to affordable health coverage through Medicaid expansion, the report finds.
"Too many hard-working Alabamians are caught in the coverage gap," ACPP policy director Jim Carnes said. "These are the people all around us who keep things going. Without coverage, they often struggle to work while health problems sap their productivity, add stress to their households and get worse without timely care. Imagine what a difference regular health care could make for families' lives, for our workforce and for our economy."
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.