A group of 42 churches and organizations across Alabama in a letter to Gov. Kay Ivey asked that the $4 billion in federal pandemic relief to the state and local governments be used to benefit critical needs in healthcare, housing, education and public transportation.
In the letter, those groups ask Ivey to direct the federal aid made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act to expand Medicaid, increase broadband internet access in underserved areas and increase funding for child care, early childhood education and mental health care.
“New funding at this scale can be transformative for our state, but only if we take a transformative approach to how we spend it,” the letter reads. “For too long, Alabama’s leaders … have settled for poor outcomes in health, education, community development and other measures of shared prosperity, because they thought we couldn’t tackle such deep problems. The pandemic is challenging us to reclaim – and redefine – the common good. ARPA funding gives us a rare opportunity to meet the challenge, if we’re willing.”
Expanding Medicaid would give health coverage to more than 340,000 Alabamians with low incomes, the authors wrote in the letter, also encouraging Ivey and state leaders to expand in-home and community-based services for the elderly and disabled.
Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise, one of the signatories on the letter, in a statement said recovery from COVID-19 will require Alabama to go beyond a return to an inadequate status quo.
“Our elected officials must make better policy choices now to build thriving communities in the future, and ARPA funds offer a powerful pathway to help make that vision a reality,” Hyden said. “We urge the governor to seize this opportunity to increase public trust and build a brighter, more equitable future for all Alabamians.”
Ivey and state legislative leaders in June discussed using a portion of those federal funds to build new prisons, according to AL.com. Ivey’s plan to lease two new prisons from the private prison company CoreCivic fell through when the company, faced with pushback from groups opposed to the new prisons and hesitant funders, was unable to secure financing.
The U.S. Department of Justice in December filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections, alleging violations of inmates’ constitutional rights to protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence, sexual abuse and excessive force by prison guards.