Before the Alabama Legislature returns this week, Arise’s Akiesha Anderson welcomes everyone with an update on an upcoming special session on federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and an overview of Arise’s member-chosen policy priorities for 2023.
Issue: Tax Reform
Fresh opportunities to push for a better Alabama
The Alabama Legislature will welcome 37 new lawmakers to its halls when its 2023 regular session begins March 7. Alabama Arise sees this as an opportunity to educate new legislators and identify new allies on issues of importance to our members. We urge folks to join us in calling for change, including at Arise Legislative Day on April 11.
Eliminate the state grocery tax
In early February, 11% of Alabama households said they sometimes or often didn’t have enough food to eat. And those hunger challenges are even more severe in communities of color. More than 23% of Black Alabamians and 13.6% of Hispanic Alabamians said they sometimes or often didn’t have enough food.
Untaxing groceries would help families across Alabama keep food on the table. As we have for more than two decades, Arise once again will support bills this year to remove the state’s 4% sales tax on groceries. We also will support replacing the grocery tax revenue by limiting or ending a tax loophole for the wealthiest households. This legislation by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, and Rep. Penni McClammy, D-Montgomery, would empower Alabama to untax groceries while protecting funding for public schools.
Expand Medicaid to close the health coverage gap
For nearly a decade, Alabama has been outside looking in on a good deal. While hundreds of thousands of Alabamians continue to struggle without health insurance, state leaders have failed to expand Medicaid. Alabama is one of just 11 states that has yet to expand Medicaid. And that inaction has left more than 220,000 Alabamians in a health coverage gap.
Fifteen rural hospitals in Alabama are at imminent risk of closing this year if state leaders don’t act soon to protect health care access. Gov. Kay Ivey should act swiftly to expand Medicaid herself, but the Legislature’s support also will be vital. Arise will keep working to educate lawmakers and the public on the economic, budgetary and humanitarian benefits of Medicaid expansion.
Take bold steps to reform our criminal justice system
Legislators have an opportunity and an obligation to make strides in solving the many problems within Alabama’s criminal justice system. This issue has added urgency as Alabama faces a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging unconstitutional prison conditions.
Many avenues for progress exist. Arise will urge lawmakers to end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for debt-based reasons. We will advocate for reform of the state “three-strikes” law, known as the Habitual Felony Offender Act. And we will support a bill to require the jury to be unanimous before imposing the death penalty.
Address housing and transportation needs
State House insiders expect the Legislature to go into a special session this spring to decide how to use remaining federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). From the start, Arise has taken the position that Alabama should use some of its ARPA funds to jump-start public transportation and help thousands find an affordable place to call home.
During the probable special session, we will continue to uplift the need for these investments in the people of Alabama. Learn more at alarise.org/arpatoolkit.
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.
End of emergency SNAP allotments will increase hunger in Alabama
For many of us, the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted nearly all of normal life. Businesses closed, either temporarily or permanently. People lost jobs and income. Children were not attending school in person. And millions of Americans were suddenly facing an unexpected problem: hunger.
Temporary increases to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits helped ease that suffering for families across Alabama and nationwide. But those benefits will expire at the end of February, and that means hunger is likely to get worse again. As the end of the official federal pandemic emergency declaration approaches, Alabama families receiving SNAP benefits are facing a benefit decrease that will cut their food assistance significantly.
State and local officials can’t stop the expiration of these temporary SNAP benefits. But they can and should act in other ways to help Alabama families deal with higher food costs. School districts should expand access to free school meals. The state should fund a program that makes fruits and vegetables more readily available for SNAP participants. And legislators should untax groceries to make it easier for every Alabamian to keep food on the table.
The pandemic put a spotlight on hunger
By mid-2020, 12% of Alabama families said they sometimes or often didn’t have enough food to eat, according to the Census Bureau. And those hunger challenges were more severe in communities of color early in the pandemic. Nearly 19% of Hispanic Alabamians and 21% of Black Alabamians said they didn’t have enough food. Enrollment for SNAP food assistance rose to record levels, but that wasn’t enough to solve the sudden and severe hunger crisis.
In response, Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved emergency food assistance benefits for both child nutrition programs and SNAP. One of the most important improvements was SNAP emergency allotments.
This policy raised SNAP benefits for eligible participants to the maximum allowed as long as state and federal emergency declarations existed. In 2021, emergency allotments were revised to ensure all SNAP households received at least an additional $95 a month in emergency food assistance.
Those increases are about to expire, though. Congress passed a budget in December that will end SNAP emergency benefits in February 2023.
What happens now
The Alabama Department of Human Resources has begun sending letters to SNAP participants telling them the extra benefits will stop after Feb. 28. Nearly 400,000 Alabama households will see average cuts to their SNAP benefits of around $170 a month.
Particularly hard hit will be older adults and people with disabilities who live alone. Before the pandemic, SNAP benefits for these households were often minimal and could be as low as $16 per month. Emergency allotments boosted these folks’ benefits to the maximum of $281 per month for an individual. But with these increases ending, all of these participants will now see their food budgets decline, possibly to as little as the current minimum of $23 per month.
The loss of SNAP emergency allotments almost certainly will increase hunger, both in Alabama and nationwide. But individual participants have a few options to help reduce the financial pain:
- SNAP benefits don’t have to be spent in the month in which they are received. Emergency SNAP allotments will roll over on Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards as long as the card is used at least once a month. This will allow participants to stretch their emergency dollars as far as possible.
- Older adults or people with disabilities are eligible to deduct medical costs, including transportation to the doctor or pharmacy, before calculating SNAP benefits. Updating medical costs may result in more assistance than people are receiving.
- All households participating in SNAP can deduct the cost of housing and dependent care. Updating housing costs and the cost of child care or care for adults with disabilities could increase SNAP benefits.
- Some grocery stores and farmers markets offer extra fruits and vegetables for SNAP participants. Find out where you can get these Double Up Food Bucks.
What policymakers can do to help
Hunger is a systemic problem that requires systemic solutions. Federal, state and local officials all have roles to play in helping to reduce hunger in Alabama and the nation. Below are a few of the many policy options available.
Alabama is one of only three states with no tax break on groceries. Removing the state sales tax from food would allow everyone to afford an extra two weeks’ worth of groceries. Lawmakers will introduce legislation to end the state grocery tax during the 2023 regular session, and Arise will support these bills. Join our email list for updates on these bills and alerts on how you can help end the state grocery tax.
Expand free school meals
Many local schools and districts provide free school meals for all their students. Universal free meals improve students’ health and education. They also reduce the financial burden on families struggling to make ends meet.
Eligible school districts that have not adopted the Community Eligibility Provision should work to do so. And state policymakers should remove administrative barriers for schools seeking to expand free school and summer meal programs.
Provide state funding for Double Up Food Bucks
The Double Up Food Bucks program offers extra fruit and vegetables for SNAP participants. This program promotes better health for SNAP participants and more money for Alabama’s farmers. But the absence of state dollars limits the number of stores where these extra benefits are available. Arise encourages the Legislature to provide state funding for Double Up Food Bucks in the 2024 budget year.
Strengthen SNAP in the Farm Bill
Congress must reauthorize the Farm Bill, which includes SNAP, next year. Many advocates are calling for Congress to make the emergency allotment amounts permanent, either in the Farm Bill or through other legislation. Other groups are encouraging Congress to increase all SNAP benefits to a level that better reflects the real cost of food. Sign up for Arise’s email list for action alerts and updates as we get closer to the Farm Bill reauthorization.
The federal income tax deduction is skewed and wrong for Alabama
Wealthy people don’t need a huge, skewed income tax break ‒ but Alabama gives them exactly that. This loophole, called the federal income tax (FIT) deduction, overwhelmingly benefits rich households. It’s an imbalanced tax giveaway that reduces funding for public schools. And it increases the state’s reliance on regressive revenue sources, like the sales tax on groceries, that fall hardest on people who are striving to make ends meet.
A 1965 constitutional amendment created the loophole by allowing Alabamians to deduct federal income tax payments from their income before calculating state income taxes. This deduction doesn’t exist in most other states ‒ and for good reason! Only Alabama and Iowa allow individuals to deduct all federal income tax payments. (Louisiana had an FIT deduction until 2022.) Three other states ‒ Missouri, Montana and Oregon ‒ cap their FIT deductions at around $5,000. There, as here, the benefits go largely to those with the highest incomes.
A tax break for those who need it least
The FIT deduction primarily benefits wealthy households and does little or nothing for families with low and moderate incomes. Unlike Alabama, where the state income tax rate is nearly flat (with most people paying the same percentage of their income), the federal government taxes people at higher rates as their income goes up. This means rich people can use Alabama’s FIT deduction to exclude much more of their total income when calculating state income taxes. And that means the FIT deduction gives the biggest breaks to those who can most afford to pay to fund education, health care and other vital needs.
By contrast, the FIT deduction offers comparatively little benefit to people with low or moderate incomes. For Alabamians with incomes under $22,000, the FIT deduction is worth an average of $3 a year, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates. In fact, for most people in our state, the deduction is worth less than $135 a year. But for the richest 1% in Alabama ‒ whose average income is $1.28 million ‒ the deduction is worth an average of $12,901 a year, ITEP estimates.
A path to untax groceries and support public schools
Ending or capping the FIT deduction would be an important step to improve Alabama’s upside-down tax system. And the effects for individual tax filers would be relatively modest. Even for the richest Alabamians, eliminating the FIT deduction would increase their taxes by only around 1% of total income on average. For most people in our state, the increase would be significantly less ‒ or none at all.
By ending this upside-down tax break for the rich, Alabama lawmakers could generate $833 million in new revenue. More than 85% of that amount would come from the highest-paid 20% of residents. This money would empower Alabama to end the state grocery tax without cutting a dime of funding for public schools. And after untaxing groceries, lawmakers still would have more than $300 million in new revenue every year to strengthen investments in K-12 and higher education.
The FIT deduction is a nearly 60-year-old bad idea. It takes money away from our children’s schools. It forces the Legislature to tax groceries and other necessities instead of income from wealthy residents. And it provides a giant tax loophole for the richest people in our state. By abandoning this failed experiment, lawmakers can help make our state more just and inclusive and build a brighter future for every Alabamian.
52 Alabama groups urge Shelby, Tuberville to support Child Tax Credit, EITC improvements this year
U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville should support expanding the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in year-end budget legislation, 52 organizations across Alabama wrote in a letter sent to the senators Tuesday. Alabama Arise is among the groups that signed the letter.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) temporarily expanded the CTC for hundreds of thousands of Alabama children last year. The law also temporarily increased the maximum EITC for workers without children and broadened the age range for EITC eligibility. Those temporary improvements have expired, but Congress can renew them in the “lame duck” session beginning this week.
“We urge you to put families and workers first,” the groups wrote to Shelby and Tuberville. “There should be no expanded tax breaks for businesses and corporations without expanding the CTC and EITC.”
Click here to read the organizations’ full letter to Shelby and Tuberville.
Child Tax Credit improvements helped cut U.S. child poverty rate by nearly half
Nearly 350,000 Alabama children would benefit from renewing the CTC improvements, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C. The impact would be especially significant for children of color across the state. Among Alabama children who would benefit from renewing the CTC improvements, 161,000 are Black, 130,000 are white and 41,000 are Hispanic, according to CBPP estimates.
The temporary CTC expansion worked swiftly and powerfully to ease suffering and expand economic opportunity, Census data shows. Monthly CTC payments last year helped families cover rising costs for necessities like food, utilities, rent and diapers. Overall, the policy kept more than 5 million Americans above the poverty line. It also contributed to a major nationwide reduction in the child poverty rate in 2021, with the Supplemental Poverty Measure for children falling from nearly 10% to about 5%.
ARPA’s one-year CTC expansion increased the maximum credit for children under age 6 to $3,600, and for all other children to $3,000. It made the full CTC available to children living in families with low or no earnings. And it extended the credit to 17-year-olds, who previously were ineligible.
“Our nation’s historically high child poverty rate is a choice,” the organizations’ letter said. “Recent U.S. Census data reveals a fundamental truth: Congress has the power to make a different choice.”
EITC expansion increases boost financial stability for Alabama workers
The EITC improvements under ARPA also eased hardship for people across Alabama. More than 280,000 Alabamians with low incomes benefited from last year’s temporary EITC expansions. Nearly three in four had incomes below $20,400, according to estimates by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
ARPA temporarily raised the maximum EITC for working adults from roughly $530 to roughly $1,500. It also increased the income eligibility limit and expanded the age range of eligible workers. Those changes allowed adults aged 19-24 who are not full-time students to qualify, as well as people 65 and over.
“[CTC and EITC expansions] have proved effective to reduce child poverty and boost incomes for people who work but aren’t paid enough to make ends meet,” the groups’ letter said. “We hope we can count on you to fight for these policies to support kids and workers.”
Click here to read the organizations’ full letter to Shelby and Tuberville.
Alabama Arise, 51 partner groups urge U.S. senators to support Child Tax Credit, EITC improvements
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) temporarily expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for hundreds of thousands of Alabama children last year. The law also temporarily increased the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for workers without children and broadened the age range for EITC eligibility. Alabama Arise joined 51 partner organizations Tuesday in a letter asking Alabama’s U.S. senators, Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, to support renewing these CTC and EITC improvements this year. The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Senators Shelby and Tuberville,
Our nation’s historically high child poverty rate is a choice. Recent U.S. Census data reveals a fundamental truth: Congress has the power to make a different choice. Congress can and should put families and workers first by expanding the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). These strategies have proved effective to reduce child poverty and boost incomes for people who work but aren’t paid enough to make ends meet.
We, the undersigned organizations representing people with low incomes in Alabama, are writing to urge you to prioritize expanding these programs as part of the anticipated end-of-year budget bill. The time to pass these policies is now, as this may be the last chance this Congress has to act.
Even as Congress has this tremendous opportunity to deliver for families and workers, press reports indicate lobbyists are pressuring Congress to deliver more significant tax breaks for businesses and corporations. One example is the push for a tax break for companies engaged in “research and experimentation,” including tech, pharmaceuticals and other large corporations.
We urge you to put families and workers first. There should be no expanded tax breaks for businesses and corporations without expanding the CTC and EITC.
Under current law, too many children in families with the lowest incomes receive no CTC or receive a smaller credit than children in families with higher incomes. Expanding the CTC so that it reaches more of those children will go a long way toward improving families’ ability to make ends meet and reducing child poverty.
As you know, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) temporarily expanded the CTC for 480,000 children in Alabama, but the expansion has expired. The overwhelming majority of families with low incomes used ARPA’s monthly CTC payments to cover everyday challenges and basic expenses, such as food, utilities, rent and diapers. Before ARPA was passed, roughly 27 million children received less than the full CTC, including many who got no credit at all — not because their families earned too much, but because of a flaw in the law that excludes kids from families with the lowest incomes. Those children excluded from the full credit include roughly half of all children in rural areas.
The Rescue Plan’s CTC expansion, combined with other relief efforts, helped lower child poverty by more than 40% between 2020 and 2021, Census data shows. Investing in children in low-income families by expanding programs like the Child Tax Credit also has shown success in improving outcomes for those children over their whole lives, including higher educational attainment, better health and higher earnings as adults.
We also urge you to expand the EITC for workers paid low wages who do not have children living with them. This part of the EITC has not been adjusted for nearly 30 years (outside of a temporary, one-year Rescue Plan expansion). As a result, about 6 million of these workers 19 and older have incomes below the poverty line, once federal taxes are taken into account. This commonsense proposal is long overdue and has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past.
Congress has a critical choice to make now: Will it expand the CTC and EITC, to put more kids on an upward trajectory for life and help working people make ends meet? Or will it go home without reaching a bipartisan agreement on these straightforward policies?
We hope we can count on you to fight for these policies to support kids and workers – and to make sure any final legislative package in December doesn’t give more tax breaks for corporations without supporting Alabamians.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Robyn Hyden with Alabama Arise at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your time and your consideration of our views.
¡HICA! Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama
Advocacy for Social Justice Team of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church
Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
Alabama Civic Engagement (ACE) Coalition
Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice
Alabama Council on Human Relations (ACHR)
Alabama Institute for Social Justice
Alabama Justice Initiative
Alabama State Nurses Association
Bay Area Women Coalition, Inc.
Beloved Community Church, UCC
Chat World Home Daycare
Cody S. King Home Daycare
Communities of Transformation
Community Action Association of Alabama
Community Enabler Developer, Inc.
Community Food Bank of Central Alabama
DayKara’s Group Home
Faith in Action Alabama
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Montgomery
First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham
Gadsden Outreach Ministries
Grace Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa
Greater Birmingham Ministries
Jobs to Move America
League of Women Voters of Alabama
Monte Sano UMC
Montgomery PRIDE United
Mrs. Mazaheri’s Day Care
NAACP: Tuscaloosa Branch
North Alabama Peace Network
Open Table UCC
Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty
Redemption Earned, Inc.
Sisters of Mercy in Alabama
SPLC Action Fund
Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham
University of Montevallo Alabama Arise Student Chapter
Valley Christian Church
Volunteers of America, Southeast (VOA)
YWCA Central Alabama
Congress should make the Child Tax Credit expansion permanent
Good public policy is vital in the fight against poverty, and U.S. Census data released last month demonstrates its importance. The 2021 Child Tax Credit (CTC) expansion is uplifting proof of how better policies can reduce poverty and ease suffering. And Congress needs to renew this expansion when it returns to Washington, D.C., after the general election.
Many of the people-first policies in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) swiftly combated economic insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the CTC expansion was the most resounding success. It heavily contributed to a major decline in child poverty rates nationwide, with the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) for children dropping by nearly half, falling from nearly 10% to about 5%.
ARPA’s one-year CTC expansion increased the maximum credit for children under age 6 to $3,600, and for all other children to $3,000. It made the full CTC available to children living in families with low or no earnings. And it extended the credit to 17-year-olds, who previously were ineligible. Congress so far has failed to renew the expansion for 2022, but lawmakers should revisit that decision later this year.
The SPM differs from the official poverty measure in that it provides a fuller, more realistic understanding of economic insecurity. The SPM includes the effects of non-cash benefits like housing subsidies and the CTC. And the data shows the CTC expansion alone kept more than 5 million Americans above the poverty line.
CTC expansion reduced racial disparities
Importantly, this impact was especially significant for people of color. Hispanic children saw a dramatic nationwide reduction in poverty, with SPM rates falling from about 15% in 2020 to 8.4% in 2021. SPM rates for Black children saw similar improvement, falling from 18% to 8% during the same period.
Black and Hispanic children are still more likely to experience poverty than white children, but the expanded CTC shows the power of public policy to reduce racial disparities, promote broadly shared prosperity and create a more economically equitable society. The Census Bureau graph below demonstrates the expanded CTC’s dramatic effect on child SPM rates by race.
While the CTC expansion isn’t yet permanent, its impact was clear, immediate and overwhelmingly positive. The expansion’s benefits speak volumes for the power of strong, deliberate public policy to reduce economic insecurity and racial disparities.
People-first public policy works. Just ask the 5.3 million Americans kept out of poverty by the expanded Child Tax Credit. It’s time for Congress to step up to the plate and make the CTC expansion permanent.
Alabama Arise unveils 2023 roadmap for change in Alabama
Expanding Medicaid and ending the state sales tax on groceries will remain top goals on Alabama Arise’s 2023 legislative agenda. More than 400 members voted on Arise’s issue priorities in recent days after the organization’s annual meeting Saturday. The seven issues chosen were:
- Adequate budgets for human services like education, health care and child care, including Medicaid expansion to make health coverage affordable for all Alabamians.
- Tax reform, including untaxing groceries and capping the state’s upside-down deduction for federal income taxes, which overwhelmingly benefits rich households.
- Voting rights, including automatic universal voter registration, removal of barriers to voting rights restoration for disenfranchised Alabamians, and other policies to expand and protect multiracial democracy in the state.
- Criminal justice reform, including retroactive application of state sentencing guidelines and repeal of the Habitual Felony Offender Act.
- Death penalty reform, including a law to require juries to be unanimous in any decision to impose a death sentence.
- Public transportation to empower Alabamians with low incomes to stay connected to work, school, health care and their communities.
- Payday and title lending reform to protect consumers from getting trapped in debt.
“Arise believes in dignity, equity and justice for everyone,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said. “Our 2023 issue priorities reflect the need to work together to break down policy barriers that keep people in poverty, and that disproportionately harm Black and Hispanic Alabamians. We must build a healthier, more just and more inclusive future for our state.”
The time is right to expand Medicaid in Alabama
One essential step toward a healthier future for Alabama is to ensure everyone can afford the health care they need. Arise members believe Medicaid expansion is a policy path to that destination, and research provides strong support for that position.
Expanding Medicaid would reduce racial health disparities and remove financial barriers to health care for more than 340,000 Alabamians. It would support thousands of new jobs across the state. And most importantly, it would save hundreds of lives every year.
Medicaid expansion would ensure health coverage for more than 220,000 Alabamians caught in the coverage gap. These residents earn too much to qualify for the state’s bare-bones Medicaid program but too little to afford private plans. Expansion also would benefit another 120,000 Alabamians who are stretching to pay for coverage they cannot readily afford.
Alabama is one of only 12 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid to cover adults with low incomes. But an Alabama Arise poll earlier this year found that more than seven in 10 Alabamians (71.5%) support Medicaid expansion. That figure included 65.8% of Republican voters.
“Medicaid expansion would boost our economy and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Alabamians,” Hyden said. “It’s time for Gov. Kay Ivey and lawmakers to say yes to the generous federal incentives for Medicaid expansion. Making this crucial investment in Alabamians’ well-being now will make our state better for decades to come.”
Why and how Alabama should untax groceries
Alabama’s state grocery tax makes it harder for people with low incomes to make ends meet. The tax adds hundreds of dollars a year to the cost of a basic necessity for families. And most states have abandoned it: Alabama is one of only three states with no sales tax break on groceries.
The state sales tax on groceries brings in roughly 6% of the Education Trust Fund’s annual revenue. But lawmakers have a path available to end the state grocery tax while protecting funding for public schools. Arise will continue to support legislation to untax groceries and replace the revenue by capping the state income tax deduction for federal income taxes (FIT).
The FIT deduction is a skewed tax break that overwhelmingly benefits the richest households. It is also exceedingly rare: Alabama is one of only two states to allow this deduction in full. The FIT deduction and grocery tax are two policies that contribute heavily to Alabama’s upside-down tax system. On average, Alabamians with low and moderate incomes must pay twice as much of what they make in state and local taxes as the richest households do.
“By untaxing groceries and capping the FIT deduction, lawmakers can make Alabama’s tax system more just and equitable,” Hyden said. “This plan would empower more families to keep food on the table while also protecting funding for our public schools. The Legislature should seize this opportunity to make life better for every Alabamian.”
20+ Alabama community groups call on Hyundai to stop alleged use of child labor at suppliers
The Alabama Coalition for Community Benefits issued an open letter on Thursday to Hyundai Motor of North America calling on the company to stop any use of child labor and to negotiate a community benefits agreement.
The letter from community leaders in Alabama comes as the U.S. Department of Labor continues to investigate widely reported alleged use of child labor by SMART, a Hyundai-owned parts supplier to the Korean company’s large assembly facility in Montgomery.
A Reuters writer initially reported evidence suggesting that as many as 50 underage workers – as young as 12 years old – had worked at the stamping plant that also has a long history of health and safety violations, including amputation hazards.
At the same time, another Hyundai supplier, SL Alabama, was sued by the Department of Labor last month over allegations that the supplier employed children under age 16. SL Alabama manufactures headlights and mirrors for Hyundai. Also last month, Hyundai was sued by Mexican workers who allege that Hyundai discriminated against them by paying them less than white workers at the same plant.
“When our state incentivizes employers to locate here, Alabamians have a right to expect a high level of accountability and transparency,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said. “Alabama has given up tax dollars to help support the Hyundai manufacturing plant and suppliers. We are asking for more accountability for all employers who receive subsidies and profit from state investments.”
“These allegations of child labor at multiple Hyundai subsidiaries suggest a potentially systemic problem with labor practices across the company’s U.S. supply chain,” United Auto Workers President Ray Curry said. “Accordingly, we urge the Biden Administration to use all available tools – administrative, criminal and civil – to investigate the alleged abuses and hold the company, its subsidiaries and suppliers, and any third-party labor recruitment firms accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“The working people of Alabama welcomed Hyundai into our community with open arms and generous financial support, with the expectation that the company would be a good corporate community partner,” said Carmen Paschal, a production worker at the Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery. “The company needs to take responsibility, take action to prevent this kind of terrible exploitation and ensure that Hyundai provides quality jobs and workplace rights across its supply chain. We deserve nothing less.”
The Coalition works toward improving working conditions in Alabama manufacturing plants, including those in the state’s large auto industry. The Coalition includes civil rights groups, faith leaders, labor unions, Latinx organizations and environmental groups.
Scott Douglas, director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, said: “Taking advantage of children and placing them in harm’s way must stop, and as a coalition partner, we will continue to fight until this practice ends.”
Community benefits agreements are legally enforceable agreements between private companies and coalitions of community and labor groups that ensure a wide range of high-road job standards and equity measures. The Coalition recently negotiated such an agreement with New Flyer, the largest bus manufacturer in North America, for its assembly facilities in Anniston, Alabama, and Ontario, California.
Hyundai and its suppliers employ thousands of workers in Alabama and are one of the largest employers in the greater Montgomery area. The region also has a disproportionately high rate of poverty for Black and Latino people ‒ often two to three times that of white people.