How long should a mistake follow people through their lives? Should it prevent them from earning a living? The "criminal history checkbox" on many standardized job application forms often keeps otherwise qualified employees from making it to the next stage of the hiring process, where they could explain their past face-to-face. This creates discouraging barriers to employment for people who are looking to rebuild their lives after serving their time and paying their debt to society.
A nationwide "ban the box" movement is urging some simple but important changes to job application processes. Removing questions about conviction histories can level the playing field and give all applicants a fair chance to compete for jobs on the basis of qualifications and skills. Nineteen states, including Georgia, have removed the conviction history question from their applications for state jobs, and a growing number of major corporations have, too. Banning the box helps former inmates become productive members of society and provide for their families. It could do the same for thousands of Alabamians.
A home is more than just somewhere to sleep at night. It’s a stable foundation from which people can work to build better lives for themselves and their families. It’s a place where people can put down roots and team with their neighbors to create and maintain a supportive, thriving community. It’s a sanctuary that gives children a better chance to succeed in school, confident that they won’t be uprooted before they can develop and sustain relationships with teachers and friends. A home, in short, is somewhere that allows people to feel that they belong.
Alabama has a shortage of almost 90,000 affordable and available homes for residents with extremely low incomes, but the Alabama Housing Trust Fund (HTF) could reduce this shortfall and make dreams of home a reality for tens of thousands of families, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. This fact sheet examines how the HTF could improve lives and how the Legislature could develop a dedicated funding stream for those efforts.
Alabama is leading its neighbors on an important aspect of childhood health: the uninsured rate for children. Alabama’s 2014 uninsured rate of 3.8 percent is the lowest in the Deep South, according to a new report by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families (CCF).
“Alabama is doing right by its kids,” said Kimble Forrister, executive director of Arise Citizens’ Policy Project. “When children have health coverage, they can get the care they need to show up for school ready to learn. Their families can take them to the doctor when they’re sick so they don’t wind up even sicker and in need of more expensive care in a hospital.”
Alabama fails to employ several budgeting techniques that could help the state avoid budget shortfalls, according to a report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C. Alabama could promote greater government efficiency and improve its business climate by adopting budget-planning tools that have worked in neighboring states, the report finds. Among those tools are multi-year revenue projections and cost estimates for continuing to provide current service levels.
“Alabama has bounced from budget crisis to budget crisis for several years,” ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister said. “Our leaders should look at what works in other states and use those methods to bring more stability to Alabama’s budgeting system. People across the political spectrum can agree that having the tools to make good long-term decisions about our state’s future is in everyone’s best interest.”
Long-term General Fund solutions, affordable housing, and payday and auto title lending reform are among the goals on Alabama Arise’s 2016 legislative agenda. Other issues are tax reform, “ban the box” legislation, death penalty reform and voting rights legislation. Arise members selected the group’s issue priorities at their annual meeting Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in Montgomery.
“We believe in an Alabama where everyone has a voice and an opportunity to get ahead,” Arise’s Kimble Forrister said. “These proposals would create a more level playing field, and they would help hard-working Alabamians build a better life for their children.”
ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, after the Alabama Legislature’s passage of a General Fund budget that cuts senior services and other vital programs:
“Barely scraping by for another year is no cause for celebration. Alabama is still shortchanging needed investments in education, health care, child care, public safety and other services that make our state a better place to live and work. We must end the cycle of shortfalls and find lasting, progressive funding solutions for these important services.
“Moving growth revenue to the General Fund while protecting education funding was a positive step. It was also promising to see a bright light shined on Alabama’s fundamental budget problems. But our leaders still need to do far more to raise revenue to provide stable, adequate support for services that help working families get ahead. Ending the numerous tax breaks that favor wealthy people and large corporations would be a great place to start.
“Alabama can’t afford more damaging cuts. We need to do better by our children, our seniors and our most vulnerable neighbors. It’s time to fix the state’s upside-down tax system and invest in Alabama’s future.”