ACPP news releases

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 in fall 2014, the state Department of Education said. Districts have until June 30, 2014, to decide if 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.

In the 11 states that offered the community eligibility provision as part of the initial rollout, more than 4,000 high-poverty schools participated. This fall, the community eligibility option will be available to qualifying schools in every state. Initial results show community eligibility leads to more children eating school meals and boosts the number of children eating breakfast, an underutilized program that many schools are seeking to expand.

“We’ve seen community eligibility succeed in reaching at-risk children in other states, and it’s exciting that schools in Alabama will be able to take part this year,” Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said. “One in five households with children in Alabama lack access to adequate food. Community eligibility will help us reach more children who need a nutritious breakfast and lunch. It’ll help kids succeed in the classroom, and it’ll help improve their health and well-being.”

Community eligibility is available to school districts where 40 percent or more of the students are approved for free meals without an application because they have been found eligible by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or another program with a rigorous eligibility determination process. Community eligibility helps schools and districts streamline their operations and reduce paperwork. When more children eat, the per-meal cost of serving meals decreases. These economies of scale help cover the cost of providing meals to all students.

“Schools in Alabama should seize this opportunity,” 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.”

Alabama Marketplace numbers a big win for our state

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Thursday, May 1, 2014, on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ release of Alabama figures for the initial open enrollment period in the Health Insurance Marketplace:

“Alabamians are eager for the chance to access quality, affordable health coverage, and today’s enrollment report for the Health Insurance Marketplace proves it. Nearly 98,000 Alabamians signed up for Marketplace plans during the first open enrollment period. That number tops the federal sign-up goal for Alabama, and it means tens of thousands of hard-working Alabamians can rest easier every night knowing they have the protection of health insurance.

“Alabama’s strong performance shows the power of word of mouth and strategic partnerships. Interest grew throughout the open enrollment period as more people told their friends and families how easy it is to enroll and how good it feels to have coverage. As the technical challenges subsided, enrollment organizations across the state had more time to build partnerships, identify gaps and work together on outreach.

“One number we’re especially proud of in Alabama is the 31 percent of our enrollees who are in the 18 to 34 age group, the healthiest segment of the population. The Bama Covered initiative played a big role by encouraging young people to enroll themselves and also to spread the word in their communities. That youthful energy helped Alabama pass our sign-up goal, and it created momentum for continuing efforts to extend quality health coverage to even more Alabamians in the future.”

Alabama's higher education cuts are nation's fifth worst, report finds

Alabama has cut state funding for public colleges and universities more than all but four other states since the Great Recession, according to a new report released Thursday, May 1, 2014, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C. As a result, soaring tuition costs have forced many young workers to start their careers with high debt loads and have made college increasingly unaffordable for many low- and middle-income Alabamians.

State funding for higher education in Alabama has fallen 37.5 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, the CBPP report finds. That’s a decrease of $4,413 per student. Over the same period, the average tuition at a public four-year institution in Alabama has jumped by 55.2 percent, or $3,250 per student. Alabama’s tuition increases are the nation’s seventh highest as a percentage and the sixth highest as a dollar amount, according to the CBPP report.

“Too many students are taking on oppressive levels of debt, and high tuition costs are scaring many would-be students away from college altogether,” Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said. “Alabama needs to invest in education and look for ways to make college more affordable.”

When revenues plummeted amid the recession, many states responded primarily with deep spending cuts to higher education and other services instead of a more balanced blend of cuts and revenue increases. Most states, including Alabama, have begun to restore some of these cuts. Still, states are spending 23 percent less per student on higher education than they did in 2008 after adjusting for inflation, and tuition at four-year public colleges has grown nationally by 28 percent since 2007-08.

As the economy recovers, Alabama should make college affordability a high priority, Forrister said. “Making higher education more accessible now will strengthen Alabama’s economy tomorrow,” he said. “Areas with highly educated residents attract employers who pay good wages, and people who make good wages spend those dollars in their communities. That boosts the entire economy, and that’s good for our entire state.”

Alabama House vote on payday loan bill a good first step

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Thursday, March 13, 2014, on the Alabama House’s 93-1 vote for HB 145, which would create a statewide common database of payday loans:

“The House voted today to help protect working Alabamians from falling into crippling debt. We’re pleased to see the House’s overwhelming support for a statewide common database for payday loans. This reform will make it possible to enforce current law and help keep borrowers from racking up thousands of dollars in high-interest debt.

“Alabama still needs to limit interest rates on payday loans to something far more reasonable than the current 456 percent APR. But today’s House vote is a good first step toward protecting borrowers and communities from the high costs of high-interest loans.”

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