"An Alabama Senate budget committee on Wednesday delayed a vote pushing for a flat state income tax. The Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee held a public hearing for a bill that would propose a constitutional amendment creating a flat income tax for individuals and corporations."
"Many people in Montgomery gathered Tuesday to create a unified voice of support for low income Alabamians. This year, Arise Citizen's Policy Project is fighting for 'a healthy, secure and prosperous state.' It believes that cannot be achieved with massive budget cuts."
"With less than a month until the income tax filing deadline for most Americans, a recent study identified the best and worst states for low income earners, and Alabama ranks right in the middle at 25. Alabama’s middle income earners ranked 20th, and those in the high income bracket ranked ninth."
"A new program to ensure the minds of young children get enough stimulation to succeed in the classroom is in the works in Huntsville City Schools. It specifically aims to close the 30-million word gap for children, often in low-income settings, when they start school compared to other children."
"Selma is situated in the center of Dallas County – the poorest in Alabama, and one of the poorest in America. More than 40 percent of Dallas County families and 67 percent of children live below the poverty line. Its violent crime rate is five times the state average. 'America’s Third World' is how the Birmingham News recently and rightly labeled it."
"Alabama lacks about 90,000 homes for low-income Alabamians, and in many counties, the fair market rent rate outpaces the hourly wage of renters. That’s according to the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama and a report it released today."
"Tempers flared as homeowners in Hampton Cove addressed plans to build a low-income housing apartment in the area. It’s a conversation sparked by WAAY 31’s 'Hometown 2031' project."
"Another tie between Trafford and Brighton is the high prevalence of poverty within their respective boundaries. In terms of per capita income — $11,002 dollars per year in Brighton and $11,926 in Trafford — they are the two poorest municipalities in Jefferson County. By comparison, per capita incomes are $19,650 in the city of Birmingham, $23,680 statewide and $26,906 in the county as a whole."
"The Alabama Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a challenge to the Alabama Accountability Act. The law provides state income tax credits to help low-income parents cover the cost of private school tuition with priority given to families zoned for schools designated as failing. The court could be the final stop in a long battle over whether the Republican-backed 2013 school legislation is legal and if it was properly approved during a tumultuous 2013 night in the Alabama Legislature."
"Each year, Voices for Alabama’s Children releases its Kids Count Data Book, which amounts to an encyclopedia on the wellbeing of our youngest residents. Each year, we’re disappointed. This year is no different. Granted, the 2014 book published this week contains bright spots. The state’s infant-mortality rate has slightly decreased. Births to unmarried teens aged 10 to 19 have declined significantly since 2002. For girls aged 15 to 17, unmarried births have declined 40 percent. Proficiency in reading for Alabama fourth-graders has trended northward in recent years. And 4 out of 5 Alabama students now graduate high school."
"The clinic is open to the more than 40,000 low-income residents of Tuscaloosa County coping with civil legal challenges. The clinic lawyers are experienced in various areas of the law and will be available to answer questions about divorce, custody and visitation, landlord and tenant issues, wills and estates, debts, bankruptcy, foreclosure and domestic violence."
“Strathcona County’s Family and Community Services (FCS) recently teamed up with United Way to host an eye-opening simulation. The event was called the Poverty Simulation, and it enabled participants to experience the difficulties and tribulations of Strathcona County’s low-income families.”
“Discussing the realities of the working poor and the minimum wage versus living wage debate, a number of local social profit groups have come together for the region’s first poverty simulation and community conversation.”
“Alabama ranks as the nation's seventh poorest state based on the percentage of people who live in poverty, according to a report issued today by Alabama Possible, a nonprofit group that works to draw attention to poverty and its causes. A family of four earning less than $23,850 is considered to be in poverty, according to the report.”
“Alabama has enacted new laws setting stricter requirements for welfare, including requiring applicants to apply for three jobs before getting aid. Gov. Robert Bentley signed four bills Thursday that were passed by legislators at the end of their 2014 session.”
“This week, the Alabama State Legislature will take up a bill that would drastically improve life in Alabama – for all its citizens. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Darrio Melton, would gradually raise the state's minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $9.80/hour over the next two years.”
“The Alabama Senate is trying to enact stricter welfare regulations, including mandating drug testing for some welfare applicants.”
“Through west Montgomery streets, the homeless approached a van marked with The Friendship Mission, a name synonymous in this community with shelter, food and prayer. The annual point-in-time count through the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless is meant to count the homeless population in the River Region.”
“Two Alabama senators are finding support for bills aimed at toughening the laws on welfare benefits, including requiring drug testing of some welfare applicants.”
“Alabama’s doctor governor lashed out at the Affordable Care Act for part of his State of the State address tonight, saying Alabama's struggles with poverty can't be solved by ‘the net of federal government giveaway programs.’”
“Gov. Robert Bentley began the election-year session of the Alabama Legislature by defending his decision not to expand the state Medicaid program and by presenting better education and more jobs as the best strategy for escaping poverty.”
“The poorest county in the United States of America is located just 73 miles from where we sit tonight.”
“An Alabama senator says he will push legislation requiring drug testing of some welfare applicants even though a court struck down a similar law in Florida.”
“Despite calls asking Alabama to reverse course, the reality is that the state has so far decided against participating in a Medicaid expansion slated to go into effect in less than a month.”
“Many of Birmingham's low-income uninsured adults are expected to continue having trouble finding care despite the ongoing implementation of health care reform.”
“About 191,000 people in Alabama fall into the ‘coverage gap’ between Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, according to a study released today by the Kaiser Foundation. “
“In the case of the Medicaid expansion, which would extend coverage to Alabamians at or below 138 percent of the poverty line (and raise our Medicaid participation from 1 in 5 Alabamians to 1 in 3), Alabama lawmakers and economists should be thinking in terms of return on investment: Does the value of expanding Medicaid exceed the $1.5 billion annual cost?”
“While independence may become more challenging with age, a little assistance can go a long way in keeping people safely in their own homes. Alabama’s Medicaid program should make this a priority in its spending for long-term care.”
“If it’s broke, don’t expand it. That’s Gov. Robert Bentley’s position on broadening Medicaid and making it available to more than 300,000 additional Alabamians under the Affordable Care Act.”
“The level of need in Alabama is staggering. The reluctance to provide assistance to adults is unfortunate, but at least the community is able to join together to help the children.”
“Those who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level – $15,870 for an individual – were initially expected to qualify for Medicaid under health reform, but those plans changed when the Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional for each state.”
“A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a decline in childhood obesity numbers in low-income preschool children. While Alabama numbers have not changed over the past few years — more than 67,000 obese low-income preschoolers were reported in 2011 — state and local experts continue working to provide practical and affordable ways parents can help their children fight this disease — or to prevent it from even developing.”
“A conservative philosophy that’s all the rage among Alabama politicians is that the poor are to blame for the costs they impose on society. It’s a convenient philosophy, but it ignores the reality: Especially in Alabama, changes in the economy are creating a growing class of people who cannot escape poverty because the only available jobs pay too little to sustain them.”
“What does homelessness look like in northwest Alabama? The answer is not the stereotyped cardboard box under a bridge. Instead, it is typically people whose jobs have vanished, or whose family circumstances won't allow a regular roof over their heads. In some cases, drug, alcohol and mental illness issues are at the root of the problem.”
“The children of poverty can grow into amazing assets to society, like Glover, or they can turn to violence. Both for the child’s sake and for that of society, Alabama needs to increase its focus on the many children who are not blessed with family support.”
“On Monday, June 24th, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count Data Book and Alabama is no longer in the bottom five in the nation for overall child well-being. While this is something to celebrate, we still have a long way to go when it comes to child poverty and parents’ economic security. According to the Data Book, Alabama’s child poverty rate is 28 percent, or 307,000 of Alabama’s children. Unfortunately, this is nothing new.”
“There's seldom much ‘good’ news in any index of child poverty, even when some numbers indicate progress. When they go the other way, they paint a bleak picture indeed. The just-released issue of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual Kids Count study again confirms statistically what we already knew anecdotally: Georgia and Alabama continue to be poor states, and much of the deprivation associated with that poverty is borne by our children.”
“Homeless and displaced veterans could have expanded housing, training and counseling options by early 2014 thanks to a $1.4 million federal grant administered by the Mobile County Commission.”
“Eagle's Landing is a 36-unit transitional housing community with supportive services to meet the unique needs of homeless veterans who served in the active military and now find themselves sleeping in shelters or various places not designed for human habitation.”
“Two proposals that would affect welfare recipients, not allowing them to use their cards in bars and strips clubs, and another that would require drug tests for public benefit recipients if there is reasonable suspicion of drug use are in position to pass in the last days of the legislative session.”
“While Birmingham Health Care gets more homeless people seeking medical care than any other medical provider in the city, it also is the place where their efforts to obtain that care fails the most, according to a study published today online in the Journal of Urban Health.”
“The approximately 22,000-square-foot campus will, when completed during the first quarter of 2014, nearly double the services the rescue mission provides. For instance, the number of men who can stay overnight at the mission will spike from 60 to 135, and the number of meals served daily will also double.”
“Catholic Social Services is working to help the homeless individual's ‘get back to independence’ through a program that locates and provides housing, and other assistance.”
“It was the annual River Region Connects program and, for four hours, cosmetologists, opticians, lawyers, health care workers and other volunteers were on hand to do what they could for the homeless.”
“Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, has two bills that would place a 36 percent cap on the short-term loans given out by payday and title loan businesses, which respectively can charge up to 456 percent and 300 percent annual interest on loans. It also would require the businesses to keep track of payments and place limits on what title loan companies could do with property taken for non-payment. ‘The main purpose is to regulate that interest rate so we don't drive more people into poverty by them getting a short-term loan,’ said Todd.”
“With a 2013 operating budget of $1.3 million - an increase of about 8 percent compared with 2012 - Victory Health serves more than 12,000 regular adult patients with no other means of health care coverage. Although the ministry targets low-income patients, Lightfoot is quite clear the operation is not a free clinic, but rather a pay-what-you-can model.”
“Over a thousand volunteers and organizations assembled in Boutwell Auditorium Saturday, March 9 to help those in the Birmingham community affected by homelessness with Project Homeless Connect.”
“By setting a portion of the tax credit scholarship funding aside for students from low-income families, our Legislature has set a strong precedent. For the first time, those Alabama parents that once felt helpless have now been empowered with the freedom of choice.”
“The number of homeless people in the Huntsville area decreased slightly in 2013 over 2012, according to information released today by the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless.”
“Food banks in Morgan County say poverty and hunger are growing in the county, and they are fighting to keep up. Carpenter’s Cabinet food bank in Falkville has doubled the number of people it feeds every year since it opened in 2010. The food bank fed 1,200 mouths in 2012, up from 660 in 2011 and 300 in 2010.”
“Nearly $500,000 in grants will go to local learning programs aimed to keep Birmingham-area students from experiencing the ‘summer slide’ — which research shows happens to children when their minds are idle for three months in the summertime. Summer learning loss contributes to the achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers, research shows.”
“As temperatures begin to dip, the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless is making plans for its annual blanket drive for Montgomery's homeless population.”
“Since 2005, Anniston-based Sarrell Dental Center has reduced its average reimbursement rate from $328 to $131 in 2011, subsisting primarily on Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, coverage - both low-income, government-funded health coverage programs.”
“Today Alabama voters go to the polls to decide whether or not to approve an amendment to the state's constitution that would allow shifting $437 million from the state's gas and oil drilling royalty trust to the state's general fund to cover a $150 million budget deficit. Alabama suggested earlier this year that if the measure is defeated it may become the first state in the country to simply quit the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program, a move that could push more than 40,000 children in the state even deeper into poverty.”
“It's clear the state's General Fund, which pays for most noneducation services such as prisons, public safety, child welfare, public health and Medicaid, is facing challenging financial times. The Legislature wants Alabama voters to endorse tapping into one of the state's savings accounts to keep the fund solvent.”
"'The state has the highest rate of poverty, the highest rate of children living in single parent households, the lowest average life expectancy, and the highest rate of births among teenagers.' Other states listed among the 'least' peaceful states in the country were South Carolina (9th), Arkansas (8th), Texas (7th), Missouri (6th), Arizona (5th), Florida (4th), Nevada (3rd), Tennessee (2nd) and Louisiana (1st)."
"By comparison, just 19 percent of the state's population was enrolled last year in the income-based program that limits benefits mostly to children, pregnant mothers and select groups of low-income adults."
“In the last 10 years, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama have made huge strides in how many low-income children receive dental services. And while the states now exceed the national average, advocates say they still have room for improvement in providing preventive services and access to dental care, noting that only about half of all low-income children receive the services.”
"The doctoring Wednesday was part of a military program to provide free health care in poor areas of the South and whose latest mission came to one of Alabama's most impoverished regions, where the teams have treated more than 12,000 people in less than two weeks."
"The doctoring Wednesday was part of a military program to provide free health care in poor areas of the South and whose latest mission came to one of Alabama's most impoverished regions, where the teams have treated more than 12,000 people in less than two weeks. "
"Low-income residents of three areas in Alabama's economically depressed Black Belt region will receive free medical care, dental exams and vision screenings over the next two weeks thanks to military reservists and National Guard members from across the country."
"Textiles were the economic engine of the area until the 1990s, when the industry went into decline and mills shut down. Now one of the region's leading employers is Pilgrim's, a chicken supplier. The median household income is $31,213, and more than a third of children live below the poverty line."
"But it also serves to highlight complicated links between poverty, nutrition, obesity and overall well-being. Insecurity or hunger? 'Those public service announcements come back to haunt me,' said Mark Nord, the USDA sociologist in charge of food insecurity data."
"Alabama is comfortably on top - yes, it still collects the most state income tax in the nation from working families who live at the federal poverty level, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit research group in Washington, D.C. Alabama collects state income tax of $548 from a twoparent family of four with an income of just more than $23,000 a year."
"Despite having one of the most bare-bones Medicaid programs in the country, Alabama is one of the 26 states arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court today that states shouldn't be forced to expand health coverage to more low-income residents."
"Michigan and Alabama are being singled out by President Obama for cutting support to universities, saying the states did not comply with a federal rule requiring them to provide consistent funding. The states are facing loss of their College Access Challenge Grants, which is aimed at helping low-income families with academic counseling, financial aid and other assistance."
"The legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center said some Alabama Department of Human Resources employees have asked for the immigration status of undocumented parents seeking food assistance for their U.S.-born children."
"The veterans group is new and growing. The first meeting was Dec. 6, said Paul Dickerson, a certified addiction professional in charge of the veterans group. Many of the people who show up to the meetings are homeless, Dickerson said, and the group works to connect those people with the resources available to them."
"The chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund committee thinks the state could reduce Medicaid costs by putting the Alabama Medicaid Agency in the hands of a private firm. The proposal has drawn criticism from physicians' groups and an advocacy group for low-income Alabamians, both of which say there's nothing left to cut in Medicaid except essential care."
"'You combine those two things, as well as the poverty rates and the lack of education you sometimes get down here, and it's just a disaster,' said Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama and a member of the steering committee for the initiative, which goes by the initials SASI."
"The U.S. Census Bureau says more than one in four Alabama children live in poverty, and that the figure has increased since the economic downturn began in 2007."
"As written, the law is also a compliance nightmare. For example, pharmacists must check residency status with each transaction -- a time-waster that makes any complaint about federal regulations look silly. But by far the biggest problem is that in chasing immigrants -- illegal and otherwise -- from the work force, Alabama has put the hammer on businesses that rely on low-wage employees."
"The study released Tuesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said a family of four in Alabama that made the federal poverty level of $22,314 paid $498 in Alabama income taxes last year. The next closest states were Hawaii at $292 and Georgia at $238."
"Many of the area's homeless and unemployed have been in their current situations so long that adequate food and clothing have become little more than distant dreams. One local organization is taking it upon itself to help make those dreams come true."
"Alabama's estimated 130,000 illegal immigrants are worried. They are confused. And in some cases, they have disappeared. They have disappeared from classrooms and from tomato fields."
"Whatley and other team members acknowledge that they're just chipping away at the edges of the bigger problems -- poverty, high rates of obesity and diabetes and lack of access to health care."
"Poverty more than physical location has the greatest impact on a child's wellbeing. Shelby and Blount counties are low-poverty counties. The rural Black Belt has high numbers of residents living in poverty."
"Opponents argue that in the broader context of the immigration-enforcement law, the school provision will serve as a barrier for many families and end up denying innocent children their constitutional right to a public education."
"The U.S. Labor Department on Thursday postponed a federal court hearing that was to be held today in Alexandria over a controversial wage hike for seasonal immigrant workers that businesses nationwide claim would put them out of business."
"Nearly 1 in 5 Alabamians -- roughly 846,000 people -- lived in poverty in 2010, according to new figures from the U.S. Census. The American Community Survey reported 19 percent of Alabama's population lived in poverty in 2010. That number jumped from the 17.5 percent reported to live in poverty in Alabama in 2009, and was well above the national rate of 15.3 percent."
"What is making the problem even worse in this dire economy is that people who are at or above the poverty level are twice as likely to report a dental visit in the past 12 months as those who are below the poverty line."
"All these divorces have policy implications for Alabama. The study points out, for instance, that nationally children living with a parent who divorced in 2009 were more likely to be in a household below the poverty level (28 percent) compared with other children (19 percent). Women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely to receive public assistance."
The first thing he can do is to get back on his motorcycle and travel Alabama, visiting schools and spending quality time in them. Spend a day in a classroom of any high-poverty school. Don't just dash in, wander the halls for a few minutes and leave. Get to understand the context of what teachers and principals face daily.
"But the problem is not evenly distributed. New Hampshire (11 percent), Minnesota (14 percent), and Massachusetts (13 percent) have the least child poverty, while Alabama (25 percent), Louisiana (24 percent), and Mississippi (31 percent) have the most."