Many unemployed Alabama adults once again face strict time limits for assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. These “able-bodied adults without dependents” – folks who do not live in a SNAP household with children – will be allowed to receive SNAP benefits for only three months during a three-year period (ending Dec. 31, 2018), unless they either meet complex work requirements or are found to be exempt from the time limit.
This federal rule was part of the 1996 welfare reform law, but because of the recession, it has not been in effect for nearly a decade. Now that the economy has improved, reinstatement of this rule will deny food assistance for many of the nation’s most vulnerable low-income people. Because Alabama’s three-month clock started ticking Jan. 1, 2016, all able-bodied adults without dependents receiving SNAP on Jan. 1, 2016, will lose benefits on April 1, 2016, if they are not working, participating in job training or declared exempt. The change could cut off SNAP benefits for nearly 50,000 Alabamians and as many as 1 million people nationwide.
This fact sheet by ACPP policy analyst Carol Gundlach takes a closer look at the SNAP time limits, the exemptions from them in Alabama and the steps that service providers can take to help people affected by the limits.
Alabama ranks second worst in the country in state K-12 education funding cuts, with state formula support down 17.3 percent since the start of the Great Recession, according to a report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. Only Oklahoma has seen deeper per-student state funding cuts since 2008 than Alabama has. Overall, Alabama cut its total state and local investment in K-12 schools by 11.3 percent per student between 2008 and 2014, the seventh worst cut in the nation.
This erosion in education support could make it harder for workers to compete for highly skilled jobs in the global economy, said Kimble Forrister, executive director of Arise Citizens’ Policy Project (ACPP). Cutting education also could make it more difficult for communities to attract well-paying jobs and could deprive local businesses of a strong customer base, Forrister said.
"If we want a strong future for our state, we need to invest in it now," Forrister said. "Alabama must invest in our schools so our children and grandchildren can receive the education they need to succeed in life and help their families get ahead."
Alabama forever will be linked to the struggle for voting rights. An important question today is whether our state can shed its legacy of voter suppression, or whether we will continue to be seen as hostile to the idea of equal voting access and broad participation in democracy.
A 2015 report on healthy democracies ranked Alabama in last place out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. A big reason for the low ranking is our election participation policies. Alabama doesn’t allow pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and voters aren’t permitted to register online. We lack early voting, and Election Day is not a holiday.
Several proposals have been put forward to make voting easier in Alabama. They include bills to allow prospective voters to register on the same day as the election, give voters five days to cast a ballot, and automatically register eligible voters who apply for a driver's license, allowing them to "opt out" of voter registration instead of having to opt in. Digitization of voting records and restoration of voting rights also are potentially fruitful areas of reform.
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.”