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Poverty group focuses on issues

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Mem-bers of state House task force looking for realistic ways to help poor Alabamians vowed
to focus on key goals, with in-put from people living in poverty.

"It is important to focus on those we can help, people mo tivated to move out of pover ty," said Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, chairwoman of the House Task Force on Poverty.

She told task force members at the group's first meeting Tuesday that she wants their focus to exclude two issues often connected with poverty: immigration and substance abuse and addiction.

Other groups are working on those issues, she said, and both are so huge that Todd says they would bog down the task force.

The group hopes to introduce at least one major piece of legislation related to poverty when the Legislature convenes in February.

One idea is a "one-stop shop" computer database for resources to help people trying to get out of poverty.

'No silver bullet'

Vice Chairman Mike Ball, R-Huntsville, said poverty is a broad term that many issues impact.

"There is no silver bullet" to end poverty, he said.

"One of the biggest reasons people stay in poverty is ignorance," Ball said.

He said education is empowerment that helps people leave poverty.

Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, said teen pregnancy and access to health care are major reasons for poverty.

And Joel Sanders of the
Department of Human Resources said poverty is a major factor in child abuse and elder abuse.

Kimble Forrester, director of Alabama Arise, an advocacy group for the poor, said Alabama's tax laws, particularly regarding sales and income, are areas where the state needs change.

Only Mississippi and Alabama tax groceries without a possibility of even a rebate for the poor, he said.

Also, "people at the bottom of the income ladder pay a much greater share of their income in taxes than people at higher levels," he said.

The committee meets again at 9 a.m. Nov. 6 at the Statehouse.

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