Kimble Forrister, who is the Executive Director of Alabama Arise, was asked to write an article for this issue on the work of his organization. Alabama Arise is an organization that works extremely hard to help low-income Alabama citizens. Kimble explains the work of Alabama Arise below.
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project is a coalition of 150 congregations and organizations that promote fairer public policies toward low-income Alabamians. Last month its members chose seven issue priorities for 2014:
Adequate state budgets – Fairer state policies toward low-income Alabamians depend on adequate funding of human services. Cuts to education, child care, health care and other human services can have a lopsided impact on the ability of “the least of these” to climb the economic ladder.
Tax reform – Alabama continues to tax low-income people deeper into poverty. We’re one of only four states with no tax break for groceries. And some state income tax deductions favor the highest earners disproportionately.
Utility rate issues – Many low-income Alabamians use a sizable share of their incomes to cover energy costs. Average annual residential electricity costs in Alabama were the nation’s second highest as a share of state median income in 2011.
Debt collection exemptions – Alabama’s homestead and personal property exemptions from debt collection are far lower than those in nearby states. The state’s current exemption levels make it hard for a family to save their home or vehicle and to hold onto enough resources to make a fresh start after a judgment. Alabama last updated its exemptions more than 30 years ago.
Death penalty reform – Studies have shown that income and race can be significant factors in the application of the death penalty in Alabama. Some state laws on capital punishment also do not fully conform with recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
Payday lending reform and title lending reform – Payday and auto title lending can deepen poverty for some Alabamians caught in the gap between low wages and the real cost of living. With maximum annual interest rates of up to 456 percent for payday loans and up to 300 percent for title loans, even a short-term payoff for these loans can take a sizable chunk from a borrower’s paycheck.
Lifting lifetime SNAP ban for people with drug convictions – Alabama is one of the only states to forbid people with a prior felony drug conviction from ever receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Most states have either opted out of the ban or modified it.
We really appreciate Kimble taking the time to write this article. If any of our readers would like to keep up with the issues set out in the article, I recommend signing up for the Arise Daily News Digest. You can also support the work of Arise with a tax-deductible donation. For more information, go to www.arisecitizens.org. You can also call Alabama Arise at 800-832-9060.
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