Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Peach 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) Georgia’s per capita income is well below the national average. The distribution of income is the 8th most unequal distribution in that nation. Additionally, the minimum wage is only $5.15, much lower than the federal minimum wage. Almost a third (29.3%) of jobs pay below the federal poverty level. Are there any initiatives to create more equality? Is there any movement to increase the state minimum wage, or bring more living wage jobs into the state?
2) Poverty rates in Georgia are among the highest in the country, especially the percentage of seniors living in poverty (14.4%). How is the issue of poverty being addressed? Who is involved and how successful have they been?
3) Georgia has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, yet one of the lowest unemployment insurance recipient rates. The average weekly benefit is also lower than the national average. Is there any effort to enroll more eligible people or increase the benefit rate?
4) Georgia does not have a Shared Work Program. Why not? Is there any effort to bring one to the state?
5) Georgia is a Right-to-Work state. Is there any legislation or group in support of workers who want to join and organize Unions more easily?
6) Only 6% of people living below the FPL receive TANF. This is the 5th lowest in the country. Is there any legislator or organization working to enroll more people so they also receive government assistance?
7) The infant mortality rate is the 8th highest in the county. The percentages of adults and children without insurance are the 7th and 10th highest in the country, respectively. What is the state doing to lower the infant mortality rate and provide health insurance for more children and adults?
8) Almost one third of the population is obese. Is there anything being done about this epidemic?
9) Even though food is exempt from the general state tax, a local tax applies to food purchases in Georgia. Georgia also taxes non-prescription drugs at the state tax rate of 4%. Why tax non-prescription drugs if prescription drugs are not taxed? Is there any movement towards eliminating local tax on food as well?
10) The lowest 20% of income earners pay 11.7% of their income in taxes, while the highest 1% of income earners only pay 5.7% of their income in taxes. Is anything being done to remove the tax burden from low-income individuals?
11) Only 7.6% of households were served by LIHEAP in 2009. This is well below the national average of 19.6%. What is being done to increase LIHEAP outreach?
12) There is no state EITC program. Is there any movement in the legislature or among organizations to establish one?
13) There are no 3 year olds enrolled in the Pre-K Program. Is there a movement to institutionalize a universal Pre-K Program? The president is spending billions on education. How would federal funding be used for this?
14) Georgia has the 3rd worst high school completion rates in the country. What can be done to encourage students to continue on in their education?
15) The number of people in prison is among the highest in the country. Why is this? Has the state or other organizations looked into alternative measures of correction for lesser crimes? What about programs to reduce recidivism?
16) 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.