ACPP news releases

Medicaid expansion, payday lending reform highlight Arise's 2017 priorities

Medicaid expansion, consumer-friendly lending reforms and creation of a state minimum wage are among the goals on Arise’s 2017 legislative agenda. Nearly 300 Arise members picked the group’s issue priorities at its annual meeting Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Montgomery. The eight goals chosen were:

  • Tax reform, including untaxing groceries and closing corporate income tax loopholes;
  • Adequate funding for vital services like education, health care and child care, including Medicaid expansion and approval of new tax revenue for General Fund services;
  • Creation of a state minimum wage to help families make ends meet;
  • Interest rate caps for payday loans and auto title loans in Alabama;
  • “Ban the box” legislation to remove the criminal history checkbox from job applications so employers can consider an applicant’s qualifications first before a background check;
  • State funding for public transportation in rural, urban and suburban areas;
  • Reforms of Alabama’s death penalty system to add transparency and end the practice of allowing judges to impose capital punishment despite a jury recommendation against it; and
  • Dedicated state revenue for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund to help expand housing opportunities for low-income Alabamians.

“We believe in a more just and inclusive society for all Alabamians, and these proposals are a roadmap to get us there,” ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister said. “We’re excited to renew our work for policy changes to help hard-working Alabamians build a better life for their children.”

Nearly 300,000 uninsured adult Alabamians – most of them working adults and college students – would benefit from Medicaid expansion. “Closing the Medicaid coverage gap would keep workers and students healthier and more productive,” Forrister said. “It also would create thousands of new jobs and allow Alabama to save state money on mental health care and other important services.”

Alabama allows payday and title loans to carry annual interest rates of 456 percent and 300 percent, respectively. The movement for consumer-friendly reform has broad support and keeps gaining momentum, Forrister said. The state Senate voted overwhelmingly this year to reduce interest rates on payday loans, and about two dozen cities have placed moratoriums on new high-cost lenders.

Click here for a PDF version of this news release.

Expand Medicaid and end Alabama's cycle of shortfalls

ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, after the Alabama Legislature passed a bill to use BP settlement money to stop deep Medicaid cuts in Alabama:

“We’re relieved that the Legislature pulled Alabama back from the brink of devastating Medicaid cuts that would have hurt more than 1 million people – mostly children, seniors, and people with disabilities. And we’re pleased to see lawmakers take steps to help shore up Medicaid funding for the next two years. Still, the bottom line is that we got yet another temporary solution. Vulnerable Alabamians’ access to health care shouldn’t be left up to stopgaps or one-time money.

“Medicaid is essential to the hospitals and clinics on which we all rely. Putting our state’s health care infrastructure at risk is no way to build a stronger Alabama. Neither is lurching from one crisis to another because of a repeated failure to solve the General Fund’s long-term shortfall.

“Alabama needs sustainable new revenue for General Fund services, and Medicaid expansion should be part of the solution. Closing the coverage gap for working people and college students would keep folks healthier, create thousands of jobs, and save the state millions of dollars on mental health care and other services. Expanding Medicaid would be a victory for Alabama’s economy, budgets and families.”

Alabama Arise's position on a state lottery

Since 1988, Alabama Arise has worked to unite people from a range of backgrounds behind our shared goal: improving the lives of low-income Alabamians. On the question of a state lottery, Arise’s member organizations hold widely varying positions, some of them based on strong moral or religious beliefs. Because our bylaws prevent us from taking positions that deeply divide our membership or offend the deeply held beliefs of our members, Alabama Arise is neutral on the lottery.

CFPB action on payday and title loans a good start, but Alabama still needs state-level reforms

ACPP policy analyst Stephen Stetson issued the following statement Thursday, June 2, 2016, after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced new proposed federal rules on payday and title loans:

“Today’s CFPB announcement is an important step in the right direction for payday and title loan borrowers in Alabama, but it’s not enough. The new federal rules would strengthen consumer protections by requiring lenders to verify borrowers’ ability to repay for many loans. But the rules contain many exceptions, and they may not go into effect for quite some time.

“The new rules also would not change the extremely high annual interest rates that Alabama allows those loans to carry: up to 456 percent a year for payday loans, and up to 300 percent a year for title loans. Alabama needs to build on these rules at the state level by closing loopholes and encouraging more affordable short-term loans for borrowers.

“Far too many Alabamians are struggling under the crushing weight of high-interest debt, and they need a better way to climb out of it. Real reform of payday and title lending in Alabama would be good for consumers, good for the economy and good for our entire state.”

Alabama's higher education cuts remain among nation's worst, report finds

Years of reduced investment in higher education in Alabama have helped drive up college tuition, making higher education less affordable and risking long-term damage to the state’s economic growth, according to a report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Alabama has cut state higher education funding by 36.2 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, a decrease of $4,337 per student, the CBPP finds. As the state has slashed funding, the price of attending public universities has risen considerably. The average tuition at Alabama’s four-year public institutions has risen by $3,757, or 62.7 percent, since the 2007-08 school year – significantly faster than median income growth. For the average student, federal and state aid has not kept pace with rising costs, the report found.

“Too many young Alabamians are having to take on huge debt to try to get ahead, and rapidly rising tuition is scaring many low- and middle-income students away from college altogether,” Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said. “Alabama will be stronger, and our communities will be more vibrant, if college is more affordable for students and their families.”

Getting a college degree is increasingly important for professional success and entry into the middle class. Rapidly rising tuition jeopardizes many families’ ability to afford the college education that is often key to economic advancement. This problem is especially significant for low-income students, and it also reduces campus diversity, Forrister said.

Communities benefit when more residents have college degrees. Areas with highly educated residents attract employers that pay higher wages. Those workers, in turn, use those wages to buy goods and services from others in the community, boosting the wages of workers at all education levels, according to the CBPP’s report.

“College-educated workers are essential to our economic success,” Forrister said. “Alabama must invest in higher education now to build the workforce needed to compete in decades to come.”

Get a PDF of ACPP's news release here.

Read the full CBPP report here.

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