Medicaid ‘unwinding’ hits halfway mark in Alabama

In April, Medicaid ended a continuous coverage eligibility period brought on by the public health emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic. What followed was a return to traditional eligibility requirements. This return to normal rules is called “unwinding.” Coverage losses have begun, and tens of thousands of Alabamians likely will lose their Medicaid coverage by June 2024.

A little more than halfway through the unwinding process, Alabama Medicaid members have a renewal rate of 68%. Only 4% of Medicaid members have been determined to be ineligible, while 27% of members lost coverage for procedural reasons.

From this information, we know more than 70% of Medicaid members have responded to requests for eligibility information from Alabama Medicaid. This response rate can be credited to Alabama Medicaid having a clear and concise communication plan. It also is a testament to the strong support of health care advocates in communities across Alabama.

But this does leave many thousands of people who are disenrolled for procedural reasons. And these losses are especially harsh for those who still may be eligible for coverage. When coverage loss occurs for procedural reasons, enrollees may need to submit further information to keep or maintain coverage. To prevent unnecessary coverage loss, please return any application materials to Alabama Medicaid, even if you do not think you are eligible. Only Alabama Medicaid can determine eligibility status.

A graphic promoting an Alabama Arise toolkit. Headline: What you need to know about Alabama Medicaid's unwinding period. Text: Visit Between the headline and text is a close-cropped photo of a woman reaching out to accept an insurance card while handing a clipboard to them. The clipboard includes a paper with "health insurance" as the headline. An Arise logo is at the bottom of the image.

If you have lost coverage, you may reapply with Alabama Medicaid. You also can contact Enroll Alabama for information on options for Marketplace insurance under the Affordable Care Act. If you feel that Medicaid terminated your coverage in error, you may appeal that decision. Call our partners at ADAP at 800-826-1675 for help.

For more information, please check out Alabama Arise’s Alabama Medicaid unwinding toolkit.

Budget priorities for the people

Two weeks before the Alabama Legislature’s 2023 regular session, lawmakers, lobbyists and advocates packed into the State House in late February for the annual joint legislative budget hearings. One might call it the Super Bowl for budget nerds.

After years of scarcity, both Alabama budgets are starting out with a revenue surplus. There’s $351 million in “excess” revenue for the General Fund, and $2.7 billion for the Education Trust Fund. That’s not even counting the remaining $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds still awaiting allocation.

What we heard at this year’s budget hearings was not surprising. Public services like education, health care, mental health and supportive services need more resources after years of underinvestment. State agencies are struggling with worker shortages and the consequences of underfunding – and understaffing – critical programs. It’s no surprise that lawmakers heard a long, detailed list of opportunities to meet these needs. Most agency heads were clear that new funding can’t fix all of the problems – but it’s a start.

Some lawmakers have floated the idea that this one-time surplus is a sign we need a tax rebate. If that proposal materializes, Arise will be front and center advocating for funds to go directly to low- and moderate-income households bearing the brunt of higher costs. But Arise’s proposal, which comes directly from listening to our members, is a longer-term solution to our upside-down tax code. Our bill to untax groceries would help families keep food on the table while also protecting funding for public schools. It’s a solution that goes beyond just one year to create more foundational and sustainable change.

One concern you may have heard is that nobody has enough workers. Too many Alabamians are still disconnected from the workforce due to missing critical infrastructure investments in child care, public transportation, health care and affordable housing. This year, we’ll be pushing for investments in these supports to help people get and keep work, and to build the healthy and educated workforce Alabama needs.

Our 2023 policy proposals provide that roadmap for change. Expand Medicaid to ensure nobody has to die for lack of preventive care or live in poverty because they have a chronic health condition. Invest in infrastructure to support workers, including child care, housing, public transportation and education. Stop funding public services with punitive fines and fees, and start ensuring the wealthiest Alabamians pay their fair share.

We look forward to seeing you all at our Legislative Day this April. If we continue to stand and work together, we will make significant progress for Alabama.

How Alabama can protect health coverage during the Medicaid ‘unwinding’ period

In 2020, we watched as the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. Many of us searched for toilet paper, stocked up on groceries and spent a lot of quality time in our homes as we sheltered in place. But the world did not change only in our daily lives. This public health emergency (PHE) also led Medicaid officials to take additional steps to ensure people could afford to get medical care when they needed it.

As the PHE’s end approaches, though, tens of thousands of Alabamians will start paying more for critical medical care – or simply be unable to afford it – unless our state lawmakers take action. About 61,000 Alabamians are expected to lose Medicaid coverage by June 2024 due to this change, according to a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Urban Institute.

These coverage losses and higher health care costs would come during a pandemic that is still ongoing. And they would leave many Alabamians with no realistic option for affordable coverage because our state still has not expanded Medicaid to cover adults with low incomes.

Medicaid expansion is the single best step Alabama could take to preserve health coverage and reduce costs for people who cannot afford a private plan and otherwise would be uninsured. In the meantime, state officials should be proactive in communicating with enrollees and facilitating transitions to Marketplace coverage where possible.

Continuous coverage eligibility kept many Alabamians insured

When federal officials declared the official public health emergency (PHE) in 2020, they activated measures to ensure that millions of Americans maintained access to health coverage. Medicaid, the health insurance program funded by federal and state governments and administered by states, was essential to these efforts.

Medicaid received additional federal funding to keep current and new enrollees eligible until the PHE’s end. Under this maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement, traditional eligibility criteria were relaxed.

The relaxed criteria led to continuous coverage eligibility. That meant Medicaid enrollees would not lose eligibility unless they requested in writing to be removed, moved out of state or died. Continuous coverage eligibility also meant changes in income or family size no longer caused removal from Medicaid during the PHE.

The MOE requirement increased the Alabama Medicaid rolls by approximately 50%. The additional federal funding, through an increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), was necessary to help ensure everyone had access to health care services. But now that the MOE has been separated from the PHE, so too is continuous coverage eligibility. Alabama Medicaid will begin reviewing people for eligibility again starting April 1, 2023.

What is Medicaid unwinding, and how might it affect you?

The end of continuous coverage eligibility means states may return to traditional eligibility rules to determine continued Medicaid coverage. This return to normal rules is called “unwinding.” Alabama Medicaid will begin the unwinding process on April 1.

On that date, Alabama Medicaid will resume its traditional process for verification of eligibility. Alabama Medicaid officials say they will take one year to complete the unwinding process.

Current Medicaid enrollees will receive a mailing to their home addresses from Alabama Medicaid discussing these changes. Current enrollees should ensure their most current and up-to-date information is on file by visiting the recipient portal here.

Take action to maintain coverage

The stakes of unwinding are high. Approximately 61,000 Alabamians may lose their Medicaid coverage during the unwinding period. This could result in a 16% increase in the number of uninsured Alabamians.

The Alabama Unwinding Task Force, which Alabama Arise chairs, is working with Alabama Medicaid to support outreach and communication efforts. This task force is ensuring that support is available for current eligible Medicaid enrollees to maintain their coverage. It also is working to ensure that people who no longer meet Alabama Medicaid’s eligibility criteria know their available options for continued coverage. To get involved with the Unwinding Task Force, email Arise’s Jennifer Harris at

A notice from Alabama Medicaid to check your mail for important information beginning April 1.

Individuals who remain eligible for Medicaid could be at risk of losing coverage during unwinding due to administrative barriers. To ensure they maintain coverage, eligible enrollees first should verify their current contact information. Next, they can elect to receive text messages from Medicaid with vital information by signing up here. And finally, enrollees should respond promptly to Alabama Medicaid’s requests for information to determine eligibility.

If an enrollee is no longer eligible for coverage through Alabama Medicaid, they should contact Enroll Alabama to discuss health insurance options that may be available to them on the Health Insurance Marketplace. They also can dial 211 to connect with an Enroll Alabama navigator who can assist in finding coverage.

Ultimately, state lawmakers should step up to ensure every Alabamian can afford the health care they need to thrive. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have invested in their people’s health and well-being by expanding Medicaid. Alabama can and should do the same.

82 Alabama groups urge Ivey, legislators to fund public transportation using ARPA funds

Lawmakers should jump-start public transportation across Alabama with an allocation of $20 million from the state’s remaining federal COVID-19 relief money, according to a letter that 82 churches and organizations across the state sent Wednesday to Gov. Kay Ivey and legislators. Alabama Arise is among the groups that co-signed the letter.

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.”

Click here to read the full letter from 82 organizations to the governor and legislators.

Alabama Arise, 81 partner groups urge Alabama to fund public transportation

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.

Letter text

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:

  1. AIDS Alabama
  2. Alabama Arise
  3. Alabama Black Women’s Roundtable
  4. Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  5. Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice
  6. Alabama Forward
  7. Alabama Rivers Alliance
  8. Alabama Rural Ministry
  9. Alabama State Conference of the NAACP
  10. All Nations Church of God (Montgomery)
  11. All Saints Episcopal Church (Mobile)
  12. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 770
  13. American Association of University Women Alabama (AAUW)
  14. American Association of University Women (AAUW) – Huntsville Branch
  15. Anniston First United Methodist Church – Church & Society Committee
  16. Baldwin County Trailblazers
  17. Bay Area Women Coalition, Inc. (Mobile)
  18. Beloved Community Church, UCC (Birmingham)
  19. Birmingham Footmad
  20. Birmingham Friends Meeting (Quakers)
  21. Bold Goals Coalition (Central Alabama)
  22. Childcare Resources (Birmingham)
  23. Christian Methodist Episcopal Church – Birmingham District Lay Leadership
  24. Church Women United Montgomery
  25. Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Alabama
  26. Collaborative Solutions (Birmingham)
  27. Communities of Transformation
  28. Community Action Association of Alabama
  29. Community Enabler (Anniston)
  30. Eastwood Neighborhood Association (Birmingham)
  31. Edgewood Presbyterian Church (Homewood)
  32. Fairhope Unitarian Fellowship
  33. Faith in Action Alabama
  34. First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
  35. GASP
  36. Grace Presbyterian Church, PCUSA (Tuscaloosa)
  37. Greater Birmingham Ministries
  38. Gulf Coast Creation Care
  39. ¡HICA! Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama
  40. H.I.V.E. Alabama
  41. Heritage Training and Career Center (Montgomery)
  42. Holy Comforter Episcopal Church Gadsden Missions Committee
  43. Hometown Action
  44. Immanuel Presbyterian Church PCUSA (Montgomery)
  45. Independent Living Center of Mobile
  46. Inspire United Appeal Fund Corporation (Mobile)
  47. Jackson District Women’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society A.M.E. Zion Church
  48. Jobs to Move America
  49. League of Women Voters of Alabama
  50. Lighthouse Community Development Corporation (Mobile)
  51. Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama
  52. Mary’s House Catholic Worker (Birmingham)
  53. Mission Committee, First Presbyterian Church of Auburn
  54. Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition
  55. Monte Sano United Methodist Church – Missions Chair
  56. NAACP Tuscaloosa Branch
  57. National Federation of the Blind of Alabama
  58. Neighborhood Concepts, Inc. (Huntsville)
  59. North Alabama Peace Network
  60. One Roof (Birmingham)
  61. Open Table United Church of Christ (Mobile)
  62. Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy, Inc. (Mobile)
  63. Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty
  64. Sisters of Mercy Alabama
  65. SPLC Action Fund
  66. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (Jacksonville)
  67. St. Peter AME Church (Montgomery)
  68. SWEET Alabama (Birmingham)
  69. Systems Change/Economic Justice Workgroup – Greater Birmingham Ministries
  70. The Downtown Jimmie Hale Mission (Birmingham)
  71. The Horizons School (Birmingham)
  72. The Institute for Community, Youth & Family Services (Birmingham)
  73. The Right Place, Inc. (Anniston)
  74. The Sisters (Tuscaloosa)
  75. Thrive Alabama (Huntsville)
  76. Transform Alabama
  77. Transit Citizens Advisory Board (Birmingham)
  78. Trinity United Methodist Church (Homewood)
  79. Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham
  80. Unitarian Universalist Church of Huntsville
  81. YMBC Civic Forum (Birmingham)
  82. Youth Towers Incorporated (Birmingham)

P-EBT in 2022: What Alabama parents need to know

No family should have to wonder how they will afford their next meal. But increased food costs during the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to a second, quieter epidemic: hunger. Fortunately, a food assistance program called Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) has helped hundreds of thousands of Alabamians and tens of millions of Americans keep food on the table.

During the pandemic’s early months, 13% of Alabama families with children told the Census Bureau that they either sometimes or often didn’t have enough food to eat. Hunger rates were more than two times higher for Black and Hispanic families in our state. In response to this challenge, the federal and state governments created P-EBT to help replace missed school meals. The program helped significantly. Thanks to P-EBT and other federal assistance, the share of Alabama families with children who sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat declined to 9% by July 2021.

Summer P-EBT expands these efforts by reducing hunger while school is out. This program replaces missed school meals during the summer with cash assistance that families can spend on groceries. Summer P-EBT offers relief to families with children who otherwise sometimes would not have enough to eat.

In late May, Alabama became the first state to get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue to receive Summer P-EBT benefits. Alabama Arise is working with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, which oversees and administers Summer P-EBT, to provide more information to help parents and families throughout the state.

What is P-EBT?

P-EBT is a federally funded, state-operated program that supplements and replaces missed school meals with benefits that families can spend on groceries for their children. P-EBT is delivered on a debit-like card (called an Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, card). For households with children under age 6 who already receive food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), P-EBT is deposited onto their EBT card.

What is Summer P-EBT?

Summer P-EBT supplements meals for the summer months with benefits that families can use to purchase groceries for their children.

Describing aspects of Summer Pandemic EBT - Apply for free or reduced-price school meals for your children during open enrollment, July 1 through August 31, 2022; Children under age 6 in SNAP households including those newly eligible before August 31, 2022, will recieve Summer P-EBT benefits; Benefits will be deposited on the same P-EBT card. Call the P-EBT hotline (1-800-410-5827 M-F 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.) if you misplaced the card; Immigration status does NOT matter for P-EBT.

What is the difference? 

P-EBT (for the school year) and Summer P-EBT (for summer months) are separate programs, each with its own eligibility rules. Each child’s benefit amounts also may vary based on multiple factors, including status of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency.

Who is eligible for P-EBT?

  1. Children under age 6 living in families who received SNAP benefits anytime between August 2021 and May 2022. These children do not have to be enrolled in child care to receive P-EBT. Eligible children will receive both school-year and Summer P-EBT,  though benefit amounts may vary depending on the months for which they were eligible.
  2. Children under age 6 who live in households that became newly eligible for SNAP by Aug. 31, 2022. These children will receive only Summer P-EBT benefits.
  3. School-aged children who were eligible for free/reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program during the 2021-22 school year. This includes children who attended a school that has adopted either the Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2. Receipt of free meals under another federal child nutrition program does not automatically make a child eligible for P-EBT. (See below for what parents should do to ensure their child is eligible.) These children will receive only Summer P-EBT benefits.
  4. School-aged children approved between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2022, for free/reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program. These children will receive only Summer P-EBT benefits.

Alabama’s school-aged children will not receive school-year P-EBT. This is because the USDA requires states to track and verify days that a child missed school because of COVID-19. Most states, including Alabama, do not track which specific illness resulted in missed school days.

What benefits will eligible children receive?

  1. Children under age 6 living in a household that received SNAP benefits will receive approximately $26 per month for each month that the child was receiving SNAP benefits between August 2021 and May 2022. They also will receive $391 in Summer P-EBT benefits.
  2. School-aged children approved for free/reduced-price National School Lunch Program meals will receive $391 in Summer P-EBT benefits.

How will children receive their benefits?

  1. Children under age 6 living in a household that receives SNAP will receive benefits automatically on their family’s SNAP EBT card (“blue card”).
  2. Eligible school-aged children who received P-EBT in 2021 and had no changes in name or address will receive benefits on the P-EBT card issued in 2021 (“white card”).
  3. Eligible school-aged children who did not receive P-EBT in 2021 or whose name or address has changed will receive a P-EBT card in the mail, along with instructions on how to activate it.

When will the benefits be issued?

  1. Eligible children under age 6 receiving school-year SNAP probably will receive half of their school-year benefits in June. The other half probably will come in July 2022.
  2. Eligible children under age 6 in SNAP households probably will receive summer benefits in September 2022. Summer P-EBT benefits will be issued retroactively to include newly eligible children and to prevent duplication and/or overissuance of benefits.
  3. Eligible school-aged children will receive Summer P-EBT benefits in September 2022. Summer P-EBT benefits will be issued retroactively beginning in September 2022 to include newly eligible children and to prevent duplication and/or overissuance of benefits.

What do parents have to do for their children to receive P-EBT?

Parents with children under age 6 who receive SNAP food assistance do not have to do anything to receive P-EBT. It automatically will be added to the SNAP EBT (“blue”) card.

Parents with school-aged children must ensure their child either (1) attends a school that provides universal free meals under the Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2 or (2) has been approved for free/reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program. This is particularly complicated, because nearly every school in Alabama provided free school meals during the 2021-22 school year under a different child nutrition program (called Seamless Summer) that does not make a child eligible for P-EBT.

To ensure their school-aged child is eligible for P-EBT, parents should apply at their child’s school for free/reduced-price meals.

What if there is a problem?

Alabama has established a Customer Service Unit and hotline to answer and resolve problems, questions or concerns. The hotline number is 800-410-5827. It operates Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Summer food service programs need to be preserved

The COVID-19 pandemic added to the hunger challenges already facing many Alabamians. In response came a wave of federal flexibilities and waivers for the nation’s programs that feed children. As a result, many Alabama students have received nutritious, often free meals with fewer administrative barriers.

However, many of these child nutrition waivers could be coming to an end soon ‒ unless state officials and concerned Alabamians act quickly.

For the past two summers, the Summer Food Service Program’s flexibilities have included permitting non-congregate meal service. This allows parents, guardians or children to take meals from the pickup site. It also allows meal provision for multiple days at once.

But unless the Alabama State Department of Education requests an extension, these flexibilities will end June 30. That would be in the middle of summer food service, causing undue stress and confusion to students, educators and families. Alabama Arise and other partners in the Hunger-Free Alabama coalition sent a letter to state school Superintendent Eric Mackey urging him to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an extension for the rest of summer.

Above: Arise’s Celida Soto Garcia explains how community eligibility helps keep Alabama children fed.

The continued push for community eligibility

As we continue pushing for extended flexibility, it is important to keep building support for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This option allows more than 450 high-poverty schools across Alabama to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. Arise members should contact their local school superintendents and urge them to opt into CEP if they haven’t already. Parents and guardians can take an extra step by submitting their school meal application to the appropriate school district.

Food insecurity is a challenge for 16.1% of Alabamians, including 20.4% of Alabama’s children, according to 2021 projections from Feeding America. These numbers are unacceptable and should not increase further because of preventable deadlines. Arise will continue to work proactively with local, state and national partners to expand food access across the state.

Alabama Arise, partners urge no disruption to summer food program in Alabama

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:

Letter text

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.


Robyn Hyden
Executive Director, Alabama Arise

New poll: Alabamians strongly support use of ARPA funds to protect rural hospitals, increase mental health services

Alabama’s likely voters overwhelmingly support using federal COVID-19 relief funds to increase funding for mental health and rural hospitals, according to a new Alabama Arise poll released Monday.

More than four in five respondents (81.1%) supported using a portion of Alabama’s funding under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to invest in rural hospitals and increase rural Alabamians’ access to health care. And nearly three in four likely voters (73.6%) said lawmakers should boost mental health funding to increase access to services across Alabama. Among Republican voters, 80.1% supported investments in rural hospitals and 67.7% supported more mental health care funding.

“Alabamians are loud and clear that they want our lawmakers to use federal relief money to strengthen our state’s health care system,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has strained health care workers like nothing before in our lifetimes. And it has exposed and worsened our state’s persistent racial and geographic health disparities.

“ARPA offers an unprecedented chance to protect rural hospitals and increase access to mental health care and other services. We must seize this opportunity to build a healthier future for Alabama.”

Photo of a smiling couple and their child. Headline: Alabama should use ARPA funds to build a better, more inclusive future.

Child care, housing, public transportation also enjoy strong public support

Sizable majorities also approved of other potential uses of ARPA money to improve living conditions for Alabama’s children and families. Those proposals include:

  • Expanding access to subsidized child care for working families.
  • Establishing a state child tax credit to lower costs for working families.
  • Expanding access to affordable housing throughout the state.
  • Investing in public transportation, particularly in rural areas.

Alabama will receive a total of more than $2 billion in ARPA funds. Lawmakers last year appropriated $400 million of that amount toward prison construction and $80 million to hospitals and nursing homes. This week, the Legislature will vote on a plan to spend another $772 million of ARPA funds. Most of that money would go toward broadband internet expansion, water and sewer improvements, and additional funding for hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The state expects to receive the remaining $1 billion in ARPA funds later this year. Arise’s poll shows the public wants legislators to use that money to ease economic stress on Alabama households, Hyden said.

“The pandemic has made it harder for people across our state to find child care, keep a roof overhead and get where they need to go,” Hyden said. “We should use ARPA funding to ease families’ suffering and provide the supports needed to help every Alabamian succeed. It’s time for our lawmakers to meet this moment and ensure Alabama’s post-pandemic future is a bright and inclusive one.”

About the survey

Alabama Arise commissioned the poll, which the Montgomery-based firm Cygnal conducted Jan. 13-14. The poll surveyed 631 likely voters across Alabama and has a margin of error of +/- 3.85%. Interviews of known registered voters occurred via live phone calls, online panel, texts and email invitation.

Click here for Arise’s poll results on ARPA funding priorities in Alabama.

Six ways Alabama should use ARPA funds to build a better, more inclusive future

The Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session, which began Tuesday, will be unusual in one important way. For the first time in many years, Alabama has more than enough revenue to maintain its bare-bones public services. That means instead of scrambling to avoid cuts, the legislative focus can be on strengthening investments in our state’s future.

Both the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget and the General Fund (GF) budget, which funds non-education programs, have seen tax revenues rise more than 10% in the last year. ETF revenues actually increased 16% in 2021. In addition, Alabama has about $1.6 billion of federal relief funds remaining under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). President Joe Biden signed ARPA into law in March 2021.

Alabama lawmakers already allocated $480 million of the state’s ARPA money last year. Of that amount, $400 million went toward prison construction and $80 million went to hospitals and nursing homes.

Budget growth faces sustainability challenges

State budget officials have steadily cautioned lawmakers to consider the one-time nature of both relief money and the bump in tax revenues. Recent revenue growth almost certainly will not be sustained in future years, budget officials warn. And one-time ARPA funds are by definition only temporary.

Alabama’s budget officials have strongly recommended that both ARPA funds and increased state revenues be invested in programs and services that won’t require regular, recurring revenue but that still meet critical needs for the people of the state. Alabama Arise questions whether the new revenue is as unsustainable as budget officials predict. But Arise agrees that this money needs to fund big ideas that will benefit the state for years to come.

Areas for investment

If spent wisely, ARPA funds could create vital long-term improvements for Alabamians. Alabama Arise has numerous specific suggestions for what those big ideas, and investments, could be.

Serve underserved communities

ARPA investments should focus on the most underserved areas and most underserved Alabamians. Communities of color and communities with low incomes, particularly in the Black Belt, have long-festering unmet infrastructure needs. The lack of wastewater treatment, accessible broadband internet, affordable housing and public transportation has held these communities back for decades.

In deciding where to spend new one-time dollars, the most historically neglected parts of Alabama should come first. An urgent public health need in many rural Black Belt counties is for sewer and other water treatment systems. These should be a top priority.

Modernize state technology

A major lesson from the COVID-19 recession was that Alabama’s technology infrastructure is totally inadequate for remote access to services. Suddenly unemployed people desperately tried to apply for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, food assistance, COVID-19 tests and other services on overwhelmed state computer and telephone systems. People who had never before applied for public assistance couldn’t find one-stop sources of information about services for which they might be eligible. And when new federal programs were created, they were hard to implement. That’s because Alabama’s computer systems didn’t talk to each other and couldn’t share information needed to help people get assistance.

Modernizing the state’s computer systems would be a great investment to increase efficiency and prepare us for the next crisis. This would allow for integrated eligibility and data sharing systems across state agencies. And it would be an opportunity to modernize and upgrade the state’s UI application and payment process.

Expand Medicaid and strengthen public health

Alabama has failed for decades to invest adequately in our health care infrastructure, including Medicaid. The devastating toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the consequences of that failure apparent to everyone in the state. We need to invest now in a health care infrastructure that will improve the delivery of health services to underserved individuals and communities.

Medicaid expansion to cover adults with low incomes is an essential step to strengthen Alabama’s health care system. Other investments should include more funding for mobile health services and telehealth services. Alabama also should provide additional resources for our local and state public health departments.

Reduce hunger and promote healthier communities

Hunger was already a large and perpetual problem across Alabama even before the pandemic. But the COVID-19 recession and its aftermath exacerbated this problem by fueling a rapid, major increase in food insecurity. Sudden income loss, rising prices and occasional shortages have made it much more difficult for many people to feed their children and families.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and various child nutrition programs are essential standing resources to fight hunger in Alabama. But the state can and should do more to support our food infrastructure. Alabama should provide healthy food financing grants to expand community groceries, farmers markets and mobile markets. This would improve access to healthy foods in communities without ready access to fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Invest in affordable housing

The COVID-19 recession has caused a wave of evictions and foreclosures across Alabama. This has occurred as the cost of housing has been driven up amid supply chain issues and fewer available workers.

Alabama could help address its housing shortage and resulting homelessness by providing $25 million for the state Housing Trust Fund. This investment would create and support jobs across the state. And it would reduce Alabama’s shortfall of more than 73,000 affordable homes for people with incomes below the federal poverty level.

Fund public transportation

Alabama’s elected leaders, including Gov. Kay Ivey in her State of the State address, have celebrated the state’s low unemployment rate. But they also are bemoaning our state’s associated low rate of labor force participation. For more Alabamians to return to work during and after the pandemic, the state must ensure they have essential work supports. Not the least of these is transportation to and from a job or school.

Lawmakers can help people reenter the job market by investing $20 million in ARPA funds and $10 million in GF dollars in the state Public Transportation Trust Fund. These dollars would go a long way toward ensuring that people, especially those in rural areas, can get to a job and to job training. They also would help Alabama match other federal transportation dollars that can benefit the entire state.