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Economy

Newly published studies shine light on child poverty and social injustice

Bill Britt

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Two recently released studies show Alabama is sixth highest in child poverty and ranks forty-ninth in social justice.

Nearly 13 million children in the United States live in families with incomes below the federal poverty line. The Census Bureau poverty threshold in 2018, for a family of three with one child under 18 years old, was $20,212.

A study by 24/7 Wall St., which reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey, found that Alabama is home to 255,186 children living in poverty.

In November, the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans released its JustSouth Index, which found that Alabama ranks forty-ninth in social justice.

Even with record unemployment, poverty and social inequities plague large portions of the state’s inhabitants.

According to 24/7 Wall St.’s analysis of Alabama:

Children in poverty: 255,186 (16th most)

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Child poverty rate: 23.8 percent (6th highest)

State poverty rate: 16.8 percent (7th highest)

Families with incomes below $10,000/year: 5.1 percent (6th highest)

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Adult achievement is related to childhood poverty, according to research by Urban.org. “Children who are poor are less likely to achieve important adult milestones, such as graduating from high school and enrolling in and completing college than children who are never poor. For example, although more than 9 in 10 never-poor children (92.7 percent) complete high school, only 3 in 4 ever-poor children (77.9 percent) do so.”

The JustSouth Index produced by the Jesuit Social Research Institute concluded that Alabama ranked:

44 in Poverty

50 in Racial Disparity

45 in Immigrant Exclusion

With an overall social justice rating of 49.

Social justice according to the JustSouth Index is defined by Catholic social teaching, which holds, “Justice…is not a simple human convention, because as Saint John Paul II stated, ‘what is ‘just’ is not first determined by the law, but by the profound identity of the human being.” It further states, “Every person’s right to human dignity is derived from their creation in the image of God; therefore, social, political, and economic aspects of society must serve to protect and promote the inherent dignity of individuals.”

The social justice index measures poverty, racial disparity and immigrant exclusion; the study also found that Alabama is:

First in the largest white-minority wage gap in the U.S.

Third in the highest percentage of foreign-born disconnected youth in the U.S.

The fifth largest gap in health insurance coverage between native and foreign-born residents in the U.S and fifth lowest average income among low-income households.

“Our goal is to help citizens and policy-makers, business and labor, church and community leaders— all of us—know more about our social realities and the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors,” writes Fr. Fred Kammer in his introduction to the JustSouth Index. “With enhanced awareness should come action to promote the common good in our communities, states, and nation.”

According to the study, “A just society is one that fosters the common good,” and the “JustSouth Index is part of a growing movement among social scientists to better understand and illustrate complex human and societal challenges through the analysis of concrete indicators.”

The Gulf South states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas for the third consecutive year rank at the bottom of the Index.

The Index focuses on two major public policies: Minimum wage and Medicaid expansion, which the study concluded has a “real impact on the economic and social conditions of the states and their citizens.”

Hawaii came in first in the Index, followed in the top 10 by Vermont, New Hampshire, Montana, Virginia, Washington, Minnesota, Maine, Massachusetts and Maryland.

Of the ten highest-ranked states overall, all expanded Medicaid, also among the top ten states, only two had a $7.25 minimum wage–the federally established floor. Seven of the top ten had a minimum wage of $9 or more.

In contrast, the six states in the bottom ten of the Index didn’t expand Medicaid or raised the minimum wage above $7.50/hour; this includes Alabama, Texas and Mississippi.

In the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Economic Justice for All the National Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, “We can best measure our life together by how the poor and the vulnerable are treated.”

Both studies paint a bleak reality for many living in Alabama; lawmakers who ignore these hard facts condemn the state to remain near or at the bottom in every measurable metric of success.

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Economy

Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan

Bill Britt

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A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.

Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.

The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.

Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.

Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.

Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.

Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.

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Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.

PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.

Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.

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PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.

The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.

 

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Economy

ADECA names Elaine J. Fincannon as new deputy director

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Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell announced on Thursday that Elaine J. Fincannon has been appointed as the agency’s deputy director.

Fincannon most recently served as Senior Vice President for Investor Relations for the Business Council of Alabama. She worked with BCA for over 25 years as part of its senior team, working with a diverse range of business leaders and CEOs of Alabama’s largest employers. During that time, she also served as BCA’s liaison to Alabama’s trade associations and to the more than 100 chambers of commerce throughout the state. She also served on the President’s Committee and Corporate Partners Committee for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturer’s Association and was a part of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association’s membership committee.

“Elaine Fincannon’s extensive knowledge and experience with the public and private sector in our state made her an ideal choice to be ADECA’s new deputy director, and I am pleased that she has decided to bring those talents to the agency,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “Elaine is mission-focused, forward-thinking and detailed-oriented, which are the exact skills needed to serve as deputy director of ADECA. She and I will work closely together to continue supporting Gov. Ivey’s mission of improving the lives of all Alabamians.”

Fincannon is an active member of the community, serving as a member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Montgomery, the Montgomery Humane Society, Auburn University Montgomery Alumni Association and other volunteer efforts. She also served as a member of the American Society of Association Executives and was an officer of the Association of State Chamber Professionals. She has a bachelor’s degree of science from AUM and was honored with a Distinguished Chamber Professional Award in 2019 by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.

Fincannon joins ADECA with a focus on working with Boswell to meet the agency’s mission to strengthen and support local communities.

“It is an honor to join ADECA during this time, and I am grateful to Director Boswell and Gov. Ivey for this appointment,” Fincannon said. “I plan to work diligently to serve the people of Alabama to the absolute best of my ability.”

 

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Alabama Workforce Council delivers annual report touting improved career pathways

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The Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) recently delivered its Annual Report to Gov. Kay Ivey and members of the legislature. The report highlights the many and varied workforce successes from 2019. It also outlines policy recommendations to further solidify Alabama as a leader in workforce development and push the state closer to Ivey’s goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the state’s workforce by 2025.

Gov. Ivey acknowledged the recent progress stating, “the continued efforts of the AWC and the various state agency partners in transforming our workforce are substantial. Significant work has been accomplished to ensure all Alabamians have a strong start and strong finish. We will continue to bolster our state’s economy through dynamic workforce development solutions to help us reach our ambitious goal.”

The AWC, formed in 2015, was created as an employer-led, statewide effort to understand the structure, function, organization and perception of the Alabama workforce system. The goal of the AWC is to facilitate collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable workforce that is competitive on a global scale. 

“This report details the tremendous efforts of the dedicated AWC members and their partners who have greatly contributed to the progress of building a highly-skilled workforce.” noted Tim McCartney, Chairman of the AWC. “To meet ever-growing job needs of an expanding economy, we have put forth recommendations to bring working-age Alabamians sitting on the sidelines back into the workforce to address our low workforce participation rate.”

Included among the many highlights from the report are:

  • Created the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to support apprenticeships and work-based learning statewide.
  • Established the Alabama Committee on Credentialing & Career Pathways (ACCCP) to identify credentials of value that align with in-demand career pathways across Alabama.
  • Furthered foundational work toward cross-agency outcome sharing through the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS).
  • Commissioned statewide surveys to better understand the characteristics, and potential barriers, of the priority population groups (during record-low unemployment) identified as likely to enter or re-enter the state’s workforce. 
  • Provided technical assistance, support staff and grant writing services to a cohort of over 30 nonprofits from across the state enabling them to expand services and directly connect more Alabamians to training and economic opportunity. Services helped cohort members secure over $6.4 million in grant money through various out-of-state grant programs.
  • Identified and evaluated 17 population segments of potential workers and determined the likelihood of adding members of those respective population segments into the workforce. Within this process, issues affecting the state’s labor participation rate were also detailed. 

Vice-Chair of the AWC Sandra Koblas of Austal USA commented, “the energy around workforce development in Alabama right now is incredibly exciting. We are working together with businesses, nonprofits and agency partners to reduce barriers, increase opportunities and grow the state’s overall economy.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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To learn more about the Alabama Workforce Council please visit: www.alabamaworks.com/alabama-workforce-council

 

 

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Economy

Shelby announces $733,150 ARC POWER Grant for Opportunity Alabama

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Wednesday announced that Opportunity Alabama, Inc., a nonprofit initiative in Birmingham, Alabama, is the recipient of a $733,150 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant.  This grant will fund the Creating Opportunity for Alabama (COAL) Initiative.

“ARC’s decision to award this funding to Opportunity Alabama will help significantly boost private investment and business development throughout our state’s coal-impacted communities,” said Senator Shelby.  “I am proud this nonprofit initiative is working to help our local communities understand and capitalize on Opportunity Zones.  These federal funds will facilitate an improved quality of life in Appalachian Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs and dozens of new businesses.”

“Opportunity Zones, and the private investment they incentivize, are helping uplift communities throughout the Appalachian Region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas.  “Opportunity Alabama is working to ensure communities understand and are able to capitalize on this program to improve Appalachian Alabama, and this POWER investment will have a big impact on that mission.”

 The project will create an investment funding and business development ecosystem targeted to the federally designated Opportunity Zones in 36 coal-impacted counties in Alabama.  As a result of the ARC grant, Opportunity Alabama will work with a team of local, state, and national partners in a three-phased approach.  The first phase will work on building a local capacity to effectively prepare for and attract Opportunity Zone investments, focusing particularly on rural communities.  The second phase will create a pipeline of investment opportunities to attract substantial private investment by facilitating demand studies, environmental assessments, and construction cost estimates.  The third and final phase will focus on developing and implementing an impact-investment data collection and analysis process to make it easier for investors to deploy their capital.

This project will yield 250 new jobs, create 25 new businesses, and leverage $100 million in private investment.  In addition to the federal grant provided for the project, Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation are expected to provide private financial support.

Opportunity Alabama is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama’s Opportunity Zones.

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