“The Inflation Reduction Act will help build a healthier future for people across Alabama. This plan will make health coverage more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Alabamians and millions of Americans. It will improve air quality by investing in clean energy and reducing emissions that fuel climate change. And it will pay for these investments by closing tax loopholes that subsidize profitable corporations and wealthy households.
“This plan will save money for patients and the federal government by allowing Medicare to negotiate certain prescription drug prices. It will cap the cost of insulin and other out-of-pocket drug expenses for Medicare enrollees. And it will extend enhanced subsidies that make health coverage more affordable for many of the 219,000 Alabamians with marketplace plans through the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re happy that the U.S. Senate passed this important legislation. And we look forward to the House approving it and sending it to President Joe Biden to sign into law.
“We also will continue advocating for state lawmakers to make other needed investments in families and communities. We’ll keep working for additional funding to make child care, housing and public transportation more affordable and available across Alabama. And we’ll continue pushing for Medicaid expansion to help more than 340,000 Alabamians who are uninsured or struggling to afford health insurance.
“These policy choices are essential to improve Alabamians’ quality of life and to boost our state’s economic prosperity. We’re determined to see each and every one of them across the finish line.”
The organizations asked Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature to invest $20 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in the state Public Transportation Trust Fund. That amount is just 2% of the state’s roughly $1 billion of remaining unallocated ARPA funds.
Alabama is one of only three states with no state funding for public transportation, the letter says. Lawmakers created the state Public Transportation Trust Fund in 2018, but it has yet to receive state funding. And the consequences of that state inaction have grown in recent years, the letter says.
“The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the harm resulting from lack of state support for public transportation,” the letter says. “We know robust investments in public transit will provide strong benefits for people across Alabama. Greater access to work, school, child care and medical care are just a few examples of how public transit is critical not only for an individual’s quality of life but for the state’s economic development and prosperity.”
More public transit funding means fewer service barriers
Investments in public transportation would expand economic opportunity, advance racial equity and strengthen community connections, a recent Arise report found. Arise’s survey of public transit systems in 42 of Alabama’s 67 counties showed how additional funding would empower those systems to lift many service barriers.
“State public transportation funding is an investment in a stronger economy and healthier communities,” Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said. “This investment would allow Alabama to draw down more federal infrastructure dollars. It would allow systems to hire more drivers and add more routes. It would enable them to extend operating hours and modernize technology. And it would bring us closer to the day when all Alabamians can get where they need to go when they need to get there.”
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) relief funding provides an opportunity for Alabama to jump-start public transportation across the state. Alabama Arise joined 81 partner organizations Wednesday in a letter asking lawmakers to allocate ARPA money to public transportation. The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Governor Ivey, Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth, members of the Cabinet and the Alabama Legislature:
Public transportation creates jobs, improves lives and keeps people connected to their communities. As you consider how to allocate the remaining estimated $1 billion of state funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), we strongly encourage you to support Alabama’s public transportation systems. Specifically, we ask you to invest $20 million of ARPA funds into Alabama’s Public Transportation Trust Fund (PTTF).
The PTTF was established in 2018 but remains unfunded to this day. Alabama is one of only three states that provide no state funding for public transportation. A 1952 constitutional amendment bars the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) from using revenue from the state gas tax or license fees for public transportation, which is how most states fund public transportation. Instead, nearly all money for public transportation in Alabama comes from federal dollars administered by ALDOT.
It is clear to the undersigned organizations that the COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the harm resulting from lack of state support for public transportation. Limited funding has forced some local transit systems to curtail specialized services for riders with disabilities or serious health conditions.
We know robust investments in public transit will provide strong benefits for people across Alabama. Greater access to work, school, child care and medical care are just a few examples of how public transit is critical not only for an individual’s quality of life but for the state’s economic development and prosperity.
We urge you to invest $20 million in the PTTF using ARPA’s designated revenue replacement funds. This move will allow those funds to go even further by matching incoming federal dollars for public transportation. And it will make Alabama a better place to live and work for years to come.
Thank you for your consideration.
82 Alabama community-based organizations:
Alabama Black Women’s Roundtable
Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice
Alabama Rivers Alliance
Alabama Rural Ministry
Alabama State Conference of the NAACP
All Nations Church of God (Montgomery)
All Saints Episcopal Church (Mobile)
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 770
American Association of University Women Alabama (AAUW)
American Association of University Women (AAUW) – Huntsville Branch
Anniston First United Methodist Church – Church & Society Committee
Baldwin County Trailblazers
Bay Area Women Coalition, Inc. (Mobile)
Beloved Community Church, UCC (Birmingham)
Birmingham Friends Meeting (Quakers)
Bold Goals Coalition (Central Alabama)
Childcare Resources (Birmingham)
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church – Birmingham District Lay Leadership
Church Women United Montgomery
Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Alabama
Collaborative Solutions (Birmingham)
Communities of Transformation
Community Action Association of Alabama
Community Enabler (Anniston)
Eastwood Neighborhood Association (Birmingham)
Edgewood Presbyterian Church (Homewood)
Fairhope Unitarian Fellowship
Faith in Action Alabama
First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
Grace Presbyterian Church, PCUSA (Tuscaloosa)
Greater Birmingham Ministries
Gulf Coast Creation Care
¡HICA! Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama
Heritage Training and Career Center (Montgomery)
Holy Comforter Episcopal Church Gadsden Missions Committee
Immanuel Presbyterian Church PCUSA (Montgomery)
Independent Living Center of Mobile
Inspire United Appeal Fund Corporation (Mobile)
Jackson District Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society A.M.E. Zion Church
Jobs to Move America
League of Women Voters of Alabama
Lighthouse Community Development Corporation (Mobile)
Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama
Mary’s House Catholic Worker (Birmingham)
Mission Committee, First Presbyterian Church of Auburn
Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition
Monte Sano United Methodist Church – Missions Chair
NAACP Tuscaloosa Branch
National Federation of the Blind of Alabama
Neighborhood Concepts, Inc. (Huntsville)
North Alabama Peace Network
One Roof (Birmingham)
Open Table United Church of Christ (Mobile)
Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy, Inc. (Mobile)
Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty
Sisters of Mercy Alabama
SPLC Action Fund
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (Jacksonville)
St. Peter AME Church (Montgomery)
SWEET Alabama (Birmingham)
Systems Change/Economic Justice Workgroup – Greater Birmingham Ministries
The Downtown Jimmie Hale Mission (Birmingham)
The Horizons School (Birmingham)
The Institute for Community, Youth & Family Services (Birmingham)
Do you know how hard it is to pass just one bill in the Alabama Legislature? We often measure progress on our issue priorities over periods of four-year quadrenniums, or even decades.
So it’s remarkable that during the 2022 regular session, Arise members helped pass numerous priority bills on everything from equitable tax reforms and adequate state budgets to criminal justice reforms.
Still, many of our lawmakers do not share our vision for a truly inclusive economic recovery.
When it comes to spending the remaining $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds to build a lifeboat for all Alabamians hit hard by COVID-19, it’s our job to help them see the vision.
As we look ahead to another special session on ARPA funds, we’re working to tell lawmakers what you all know to be true: Investments in our people, our most valuable resource, are what matter most.
Check out our ARPA advocacy resources at al-arise.local/arpatoolkit. And tell your lawmakers now that you expect them to use this opportunity to address longstanding human needs.
On Mother’s Day in 2014, I found out I was pregnant. For me, the existential dread set in just as deeply as the morning sickness.
Motherhood and its crushing weight had been drilled into me my entire life. I told myself it was too hard, that I just wasn’t strong enough to handle parenthood and all its pressures. And I feared that my family’s legacy would repeat itself.
One summer day in 1932, while pregnant with her 14th child, my great-grandmother Maude Wakefield finally reached her breaking point. She set off behind her home in Winston County and climbed high into a tree on my family’s land. She had been pregnant regularly since 1906 and decided enough was enough.
So she offered an ultimatum: She would return to her infinite load of daily household duties only if my great-grandfather would promise that this was it – no more babies. Not long after what would become her infamous last stand, she passed away due to a stroke worsened by postpartum hypertension. My grandmother was left to live without her mother at age 12.
Nearly a century later, during a routine blood pressure check, I was deemed high risk for the same life-threatening condition that killed my great-grandmother.
I didn’t want that same lonely future for my daughter.
The life-saving power of health coverage
Fortunately, I had health insurance. My blood pressure continued to rise to dangerous levels as my pregnancy progressed. After reviewing my family history, my doctor decided it was best for both me and the baby to deliver early under supervision to prevent preeclampsia, a condition that can lead to maternal death during or after delivery.
Because I had access to care, I was easily treated, and it ended up saving my life. Now, when I take my blood pressure pill every morning, I can’t help but think how things could have been different for my great-grandmother.
Hope can be hard to come by in Alabama. Stories like mine remind us how far we’ve come. But when you’re left without coverage, it’s never as simple as a pill and a copay.
Medicaid covers about half of all births in Alabama. And for many new moms, health coverage expires shortly after the baby is born.
Medicaid postpartum coverage extension is a step in the right direction
Some good news could be coming as soon as this fall. On April 7, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a new General Fund budget into law. It includes an extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days of coverage to 12 months. This life-saving change will provide thousands of families consistency in care during the critical time after childbirth.
In Alabama, children living in households with low or middle incomes are widely eligible for coverage through Medicaid or ALL Kids, Alabama’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For adults, it is much harder to qualify for Medicaid. Just 17% of Medicaid participants in Alabama are adults under age 65 who do not have a disability.
Our state has some of the most stringent income limitations for Medicaid. For example, a single parent of two without a disability is ineligible if they make more than $346 a month. These harsh Medicaid eligibility limits mean affordable health insurance is simply not an option for many people in our state.
Medicaid expansion would ensure coverage for more than 340,000 Alabamians, including those left uninsured by these tight limits. These folks do not qualify for Medicaid, but they are unable to afford a marketplace plan or other private coverage. However, the new postpartum coverage extension means there will now be a brief inclusive window during and after pregnancy.
A lifeline in a time of need
Moms like my friend Brittany Kendrick of Blountsville call this coverage a lifeline.
Brittany lost her fiance, Dylan, in a car accident two months before her daughter Khaleesi was born. They had everything planned out, but her health insurance expired after Dylan’s death. Brittany turned to Medicaid to cover the costs.
Then, in August 2021, she made the hour-long drive to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, where she found out her newborn had contracted COVID-19. After getting emergency care, her baby made a recovery. But as soon as they got home, Brittany tested positive and started to feel worse.
Being able to see a doctor and seek treatment quickly was just the blessing they needed during what Brittany calls the hardest year of her life.
“Medicaid paid for all of our hospital and doctor bills,” Brittany said. “It gave me a chance to use the money I had in savings for a safer car and a new apartment for me and the baby.”
Brittany hopes she will be among those eligible for the new postpartum extension. Having consistent care has brought balance to her life in more ways than one. “I can take medicine for anxiety and depression now. I need that, to stay strong for her,” she said.
‘Why not offer this to all mothers?’
Extending Medicaid coverage doesn’t just support new or single parents.
Sarita Edwards of Madison is a mother of five and founder of the E.WE Foundation, a health care advocacy organization. She began her foundation after receiving a rare prenatal diagnosis of Edwards’ Syndrome (trisomy 18) for her son Elijah. The high mortality rate associated with her son’s diagnosis meant her family racked up thousands in medical debt before baby Elijah was even born.
Sarita says every day with Elijah has been a juggling act. Elijah’s condition is terminal, and his care can be exhausting and expensive. She now spends her time advocating for more equitable treatment and access in health care. She knows our leaders can do more, because she’s seen it firsthand.
“I know what our state can do when offering care to mothers and children with rare diseases,” Sarita said. “Why not offer this to all mothers?”
The new General Fund budget includes more than $8 million to extend Medicaid coverage for 12 months after childbirth. But the funding is guaranteed only for one year – on a trial basis.
This year marked another Mother’s Day when Alabama mothers are still dying from pregnancy and childbirth at twice the national rate. Reliable health coverage – and the access to care that comes with it – can prevent many of those deaths. Sarita sees no reason to hold off on making Medicaid’s postpartum coverage extension permanent.
“Our babies are taken care of, but what about the mothers?” Sarita asked. “I don’t know why it takes Alabama so long to do the right thing sometimes.”
About Alabama Arise and Cover Alabama
Whit Sides is the story collection coordinator for Alabama Arise, a statewide, member-led organization advancing public policies to improve the lives of Alabamians who are marginalized by poverty. Arise’s membership includes faith-based, community, nonprofit and civic groups, grassroots leaders and individuals from across Alabama. Email: .
Arise is a founding member of the Cover Alabama Coalition. Cover Alabama is a nonpartisan alliance of more than 115 advocacy groups, businesses, community organizations, consumer groups, health care providers and religious congregations advocating for Alabama to provide quality, affordable health coverage to its residents and implement a sustainable health care system.
The Summer Food Service Program has been a critical tool to fight child hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic. But many key program flexibilities will expire June 30 unless Alabama applies for a waiver. Alabama Arise and our partners in the Hunger-Free Alabama coalition wrote a letter Thursday to state school Superintendent Eric Mackey to urge him to request federal permission to continue uninterrupted program service throughout the summer:
Dear Dr. Mackey,
Alabama Arise appreciates the Alabama State Department of Education’s (ALSDE) commitment to ensuring that Alabama’s children receive the meals they need to learn and thrive, especially during these last few difficult pandemic years. As you know, access to nutritious meals is key to our children’s ability to learn and succeed in school and in life. Nowhere is that access more important than in our schools, both during the school year and during the summer, when childhood hunger often increases.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently informed state Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) administrators, including the ALSDE, that some program flexibilities, scheduled to expire on June 30, could now be continued for the entire summer if the state requests to do so. These flexibilities include:
Permitting non-congregate meal service, which allows parents, guardians or children to take meals from the pickup site and allows meal provision for multiple days at once;
Allowing parents or guardians to pick up meals for their children; and
Allowing state flexibility in program monitoring.
Alabama Arise, our 150 member groups and more than 20 partners in the Hunger-Free Alabama coalition believe these flexibilities are critical for the 2022 Summer Food Service Program. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of, and apply for, these waivers.
The June 30 end of the original waivers would happen right in the middle of summer food service. This could not be more problematic for both families and providers. Changing food service operations, including the reimposition of on-site food consumption, would disrupt families’ work and child care arrangements and would require that providers completely alter how they feed children in midstream. Providers would have to try to communicate these changes, and the reason for them, adequately to children and their parents. We expect this would result in considerable confusion and frustration. For exactly these reasons, many SFSP providers already have decided to discontinue operations on July 1 if this waiver is not extended. Others, unfortunately, may not participate in the program at all this summer.
We know the hunger crisis caused by the pandemic and its economic disruption has not ended yet. The latest Census Household Pulse Survey (March 30-April 11) found that 15% of responding families with children said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat. Of those families with children identified by the Census Bureau as food insecure, 25% said their children sometimes or often were not eating enough because food was unaffordable. School meals and the SFSP are critical for these families and their children.
The SFSP waivers have been important during the pandemic, addressing health concerns, supply chain disruptions and community program disruptions caused by the health crisis and economic challenges. Keeping these flexibilities in place for the remainder of the summer will help feed children and help summer meal sites operate safely and efficiently. We urge you to apply for these waivers as quickly as possible, knowing that time is of the essence as providers and families complete their summer planning process.
We appreciate your attention and your continued concern for the needs of our children. And we look forward to working with you to continue to feed Alabama’s schoolchildren this summer and into the future.
The Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session adjourned sine die late on Thursday, April 7. Lawmakers capped off the session’s last week with intense debates and late nights, with the final gavel dropping just before midnight.
Alabama Arise is grateful for the many positive outcomes that came out of the State House this year. We also were glad to play a role in stopping several misguided pieces of legislation from becoming law. These wins wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Arise’s determined members and various coalition partners.
We were not able to get every good bill across the finish line or stop every harmful legislative effort from happening. But Arise saw real progress on several important issue priorities this year. Keep reading below for recaps on some of the key bills we supported or opposed in 2022. Then visit our Bills of Interest page for updates on all of the legislation we tracked.
Adequate state budgets
Alabama’s fiscal year 2023 General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets are both the largest in state history. The General Fund budget of $2.7 billion includes a provision to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months, which will help reduce maternal mortality and improve health outcomes for more than 30,000 women. Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, has been a longtime legislative champion for postpartum Medicaid extension.
The Education Trust Fund budget of $8.2 billion will provide a major boost in teacher pay. The increases will range from 4% all the way to 21% depending on seniority.
SB 140, sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, did not pass this session. The bill would have allowed the diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools to private schools. Arise opposed this effort.
SB 261, sponsored by Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, passed out of both chambers. This bill will increase the income tax credit filers can claim for contributions to scholarship granting organizations for private schools. Arise opposed this effort.
HB 163 and SB 19, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, passed out of both chambers. This legislation will increase the standard deduction and dependent exemption. That change will provide a small but significant income tax cut for low- and moderate-income Alabamians. Arise supported this effort.
SB 43, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, did not pass this session. The bill would have repealed the state’s 4% grocery tax and capped the state deduction for federal income taxes. Despite strong bipartisan leadership from Jones and Rep. Penni McClammy, D-Montgomery, the bill did not come up for committee consideration. Arise supported this effort.
HB 53 and SB 6, sponsored by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, and Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, passed the Senate but did not advance to the House floor. This bill would have eliminated application requirements for voting rights restoration. It also would have restored the right to vote for many indigent individuals. Arise supported this effort.
HB 63, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, did not pass this session. The bill would have criminalized the prefilling of any voter application or absentee ballot application. Arise opposed this effort.
Hall’s HB 167 failed to pass this session. This legislation would allow inmate identification cards to be used as valid ID for voting. Arise supported this effort.
HB 194, introduced by Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, passed out of both chambers. The bill will prohibit state and local election officials from soliciting, accepting or using donations for election-related expenses. Arise opposed this effort.
Criminal justice reform
HB 52, sponsored by Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, passed out of both chambers. This bill will allow judges to use discretion in the length of someone’s sentence if their probation is revoked. Arise supported this effort.
HB 95, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika, passed out of both chambers. The bill will create a 180-day grace period for people to repay court-imposed fines and fees following release from incarceration. Arise supported this effort.
SB 203, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, passed out of both chambers. This bill will require the Administrative Office of Courts to establish a database of municipal fines and fees. Arise supported this effort.
HB 230, sponsored by Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, passed out of both chambers. This bill will ban the routine shackling of incarcerated individuals during pregnancy, delivery and immediate postpartum time. Arise supported this effort.
HB 200 and SB 117, sponsored by Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, and Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Montgomery, failed to pass this session. The bill would have ended driver’s license suspensions for failure to pay fines and fees. Arise supported this effort.
SB 220, sponsored by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, failed to pass this session. The bill would have required that time served awaiting a hearing for parole violation be applied retroactively. Arise supported this effort.
HB 2, sponsored by Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, did not pass this session. This anti-protest bill would have created minimum holding periods for people accused of the crimes of rioting or interfering with traffic. It also would have penalized certain local jurisdictions that reduce funding for law enforcement. Arise opposed this effort.
Hill’s HB 55 failed to pass this session. The bill would have required every judicial circuit to establish a community corrections program. Arise supported this effort.
Unemployment insurance benefits
SB 224, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, passed out of both chambers. This bill will impose additional job search requirements as a condition of eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. Specifically, individuals will have to show a “reasonable and active effort” to find work by providing proof every week that they have contacted at least three prospective employers. Unless a new job notice has been posted, a job seeker cannot apply for or seek work at an employer where they already made contact. Arise opposed this effort.
SB 156, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, did not pass this session. The bill would have required both custodial and non-custodial parents to cooperate with child support enforcement to qualify for SNAP food assistance. Arise opposed this effort.
HB 312 and SB 292, sponsored by Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville, and Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Montgomery, did not pass this session. The bill would have prohibited the teaching of “divisive concepts” related to race, religion and sex in public K-12 schools, colleges, universities and certain state training programs. Arise opposed this effort.
Arise’s Robyn Hyden breaks down successes and missed opportunities from the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session, which ended Thursday night. She highlights breakthroughs on federal ARPA funds, postpartum Medicaid extension and criminal justice reform, among other issues.
Arise’s Jane Adams shares the good news that next year’s General Fund budget includes a provision that would extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to one year after childbirth, up from the current 60 days. The budget has passed both the Alabama House and Senate and has gone to the governor.
More than 50 Arise members gathered in Montgomery on Tuesday for the Untax Groceries Rally to support efforts to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries. The event focused on two bills that would end the state grocery tax while protecting school funding: SB 43 by Sen. Andrew Jones and a forthcoming bill by Rep. Penni McClammy. Check out some key highlights from the rally.