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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.”
It's time for Alabama to get real and stop the Medicaid cuts
ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Tuesday, May 3, 2016, after a proposal to use BP settlement money to avoid deep Medicaid cuts failed to win an Alabama Senate committee’s approval:
“Putting health care at risk for children, seniors, and people with disabilities is no way to build a stronger Alabama. Neither is lurching from one budget crisis to another because of our state’s failure to solve the General Fund’s long-term funding shortfall.
“Alabama’s looming Medicaid cuts would be devastating for our most vulnerable neighbors. The cuts could prompt many pediatricians to leave the state and could end coverage of essential services like outpatient dialysis and adult eyeglasses.
“The governor and the Legislature need to act quickly to prevent these Medicaid cuts from becoming a reality later this year. And our state needs to get serious about raising the long-term, sustainable new revenue needed to invest in a healthier, stronger Alabama for all.”
#IamMedicaid campaign seeks to show human faces of Alabama's Medicaid debate
Alabama’s looming Medicaid cuts would harm hundreds of thousands of people across the state – mostly children, seniors, and people with disabilities. The new #IamMedicaid campaign is a grassroots effort to remind lawmakers and the public of the real people with real lives affected by the state’s ongoing Medicaid funding debate. (Click here for a PDF version of this news release.)
“Alabama’s Medicaid debate is about more than numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s about people,” Alabama Arise state coordinator Kimble Forrister said. “Medicaid cuts would reduce health care access and make life harder for many of the most vulnerable Alabamians: children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Their voices must be heard in this debate, and we’re excited about this new effort to change the conversation around Medicaid.”
The 2017 General Fund budget leaves Medicaid $85 million short of the funding that the agency says is needed to avoid cuts to services like outpatient dialysis and adult eyeglasses. Without new revenue to maintain current service levels, Medicaid also will make deep cuts in its payments to doctors and other providers. Those cuts could result in the closures of many hospitals and clinics, reducing health care access for families across the state.
“Medicaid coverage is essential to protect the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of children in Alabama,” Alabama Children First executive director Christy Cain said. “So many times, we get caught up in the numbers, and we forget those numbers represent real people with real lives and that they deal with real challenges.”
Posted April 20, 2016.
Alabama Senate's vote a huge step for payday lending reform
ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Tuesday, April 5, 2016, after the Alabama Senate voted 28-1 to pass SB 91, a payday lending reform bill sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur:
“The Senate’s vote for meaningful payday lending reform today was a big win for Alabama consumers. SB 91 would give payday borrowers a more realistic path out of debt by allowing them to make installment payments over time. The bill also would slash interest rates and place other overdue, common-sense limits on payday loans in Alabama.
“Today’s vote was a historic breakthrough for the growing bipartisan movement to rein in high-cost lending in our state. Now it’s the House’s turn to keep that momentum going and make life better for thousands of Alabama families.
“Thanks to all the folks who contacted their senators, especially the dozens of advocates who went to the State House. Thanks to Sen. Arthur Orr, the bill sponsor, and to Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison for her help in the floor debate.”