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The State of Working Alabama 2014: On Labor Day, Alabama workers face high unemployment, lost jobs, stagnant wages and increased inequality
Many Alabama workers may find little reason to celebrate as we approach this Labor Day. The Great Recession is officially over, but the average Alabama worker has not yet recovered from it, as employment and jobs continue to lag behind and wages remain stagnant.
Policy analyst Carol Gundlach's new report, part of ACPP's State of Working Alabama 2014 series, examines the difficult employment, job and wage trends that working Alabamians face, as well as the growing income inequality between the top 1 percent and the rest of the population. The report also considers how Medicaid expansion, investments in infrastructure, an end to the state sales tax on groceries and other policies could help boost job growth, reduce unemployment and support Alabama workers.
The Basics: WIC Saves Lives, Prevents Malnutrition
Congress established WIC in the 1970s to try to reduce disturbingly high infant death rates, and the program has been a success story ever since. Infant mortality rates in Alabama and nationwide have fallen by nearly two-thirds since the creation of the program officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
WIC has saved tens of thousands of lives and improved the health of hundreds of thousands, all while pumping billions of dollars a year into the economy. But WIC also sometimes runs out of money and has to remove participants until the next budget year. This fact sheet by ACPP policy analyst Carol Gundlach looks at what makes WIC so effective and considers some of the near-term challenges that may lie ahead for the program.
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.