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The Alabama Legislature adjourned Monday, May 17, wrapping up session with several major wins for women and our 2021 Agenda for Women.
This year, both the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund Budgets were the largest in history and funded state agencies and Alabama’s schools at levels that will sustain and build on recent successes. The Legislature raised state worker and education employees’ salaries while adding over $455 million in new education spending and another $25 million in General Fund spending.
Wins: Alabama Legislature Invests in Women
- Increase in the appropriation for The Women’s Fund’s innovative post-secondary model propelling women into in-demand jobs – Our efforts this session resulted in an increase to our Education Trust Fund appropriation for our community college work. The model – developed by The Women’s Fund and which we will continue to scale – provides wrap-around services such as child care, coaching, and transportation to women who are working toward a certificate that would put them on the path to an in-demand job. As you know, workforce is a hot topic not only in Montgomery but around the state as our leaders try to reach the attainment goal of a half million newly skilled workers by 2025.
- Level funding for the Maternal Mortality Review Committee, a group first funded early last year and on which The Women’s Fund serves. The committee is tasked with examining why women in Alabama die from pregnancy-related or associated conditions.
Missed Opportunities for Women
The Women’s Fund’s 2021 Agenda for Women renewed our efforts to highlight women as key drivers of the state’s economy. With women bearing the brunt of the pandemic and disproportionately being impacted by unemployment, it is vital to address women’s unique needs and barriers, including physical and mental health and child care access and affordability. Unfortunately, in these key areas, the legislature fell short this session:
- Alabama’s maternal mortality rate is the 3rd highest in the nation. While the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HB 352) did not receive a vote in committee, Rep. Neil Rafferty, the bill’s sponsor, presented the legislation to the committee using data from The Women’s Fund. Rep. Rafferty has already pre-filed the legislation for the 2022 session – it will be HB 1 — and we look forward to working with him to advance this commonsense legislation for Alabama’s working moms.
- There was no state investment for child care this year; however, Alabama did receive close to $1 billion in federal money specifically for child care. A state investment will be paramount in the near future; right now, federal money can work as a stop-gap measure to bolster the system for working parents, children, and the industry – run mostly by women.
- Governor Ivey has still not expanded Medicaid despite strong support across all demographics in Alabama, including age, gender, income, education, and geography. Sixty-nine percent of Alabamians, including 64% of Republican voters, support expanding Medicaid according to the statewide poll conducted in January. Medicaid expansion is a critical piece of our Agenda for Women and could provide health care coverage for an additional 300,000, Alabamians, including 152,000 women.
Finally, The Women’s Fund extends a special thanks to all our advocates for their sustained and strong efforts throughout this legislative session. Your voice, action, interest, and support drives our work to build equity for women. There is still work to be done and we look forward to doing it alongside you.