Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Yellowhammer state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need.
Virtually all states have budget deficits and extensive financial problems this year and beyond. The states are also the custodians and administrators of multi billions of dollars of federal assistance programs. State policies related to hunger and poverty contain a great deal of state money that is in short supply right now but much more federal money that can grow as the use of the programs grows.
These state policy questions are meant to begin a conversation about how states can deliver more services to their citizens who are facing extreme long term unemployment, hunger, home foreclosures and loss of health insurance and pensions.
Please read them and let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need, especially the poorest of the poor, the millions of new poor, seniors, returning vets, children and the homeless.
Our intention is to create a place on our website that will highlight policy actions that state based organizations are taking and how they are proceeding. We also hope to host a WhyHunger State Policy Award for the best state policies in the U.S.A.
1) Alabama is one of the poorest states in the country with among the lowest per capita incomes. It has the 6th highest index of inequality. It has the highest poverty rate in the nation, along with the 6th highest child poverty rate. The percentage of the population living in extreme poverty is well above the national average at 7.5%. What is being done to address the serious problem of poverty in Alabama?
2) More than a third of all jobs pay below the Federal Poverty level. Alabama is also one of the few states that do not have a minimum wage. Is there any movement in the legislature or among organizations to establish a state minimum wage? Who is involved?
3) The average weekly Unemployment Benefit is only $207.07. It is the 2nd lowest in the country. Is there any movement in the legislature or among organizations to raise the benefit? Who is involved?
4) There is no Shared Work Program. Why not? Is there any movement to start one? Who is involved?
5) Most states do not impose a tax on food. Is there any movement to exempt food from the general 4% state sales tax in Alabama?
6) The lowest 20% of income earners pay 10.2% of their income in taxes. The highest 1% of income earners only pay 4% of their income in taxes. Is anything being done to shift the tax burden off the low-income population?
7) SNAP participation among the working poor is ten percent below the national average. Is there any movement to increase SNAP participation?
8) Participation in the Summer Nutrition Program is much lower than the national average. Has the state requested participation in a summer SNAP card for students who do not have a program in their area? What else has the state done to increase participation?
9) The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program has a low benefit of $20. Is anyone trying to increase it to at least the US average of $30?
10) Only 4% of students are enrolled in state pre-k programs. Is there a plan to increase the percentage? Which organizations are working on this?
11) The high school completion rate is well below the national average of 85% with only 65.9% of students graduating. Who is working to keep students in school? What programs are in place to help students succeed?
12) The percentage of people receiving TANF is less than half the national average in one of the poorest states in the country during the worst economy in seventy years. Why? Is there any movement to increase the number of families on TANF? Which organizations or legislators are involved?
13) Almost one third of the population is obese, one of the highest rates in the country. What programs does the state have to combat this epidemic? How successful have they been?
14) Infant mortality is the 2nd highest in the country. What is the state doing to combat this? How successful have the programs been?
15) What other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?
Please let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction to address these questions by contacting Executive Director and Co-Founder Bill Ayres at [email protected].
Feel free to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in any of these questions. Also we would appreciate any comments on policies or statistics that might have been overlooked.