Birmingham City Council hopes to lighten low-income burden with food tax rebates

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Birmingham City Council is considering a plan that would provide low-income citizens with rebates on food taxes.

The program, which Council President Johnathan Austin hopes could go into effect as soon as next April, would provide rebates between $50 and $150 a year per household, depending on income level.

Those who are at or below the poverty line, people 65 years old or older, and the disabled would be eligible for the program. The rebate would focus on healthy eating, although Austin said the program would not require participants to buy a certain type of food or provide receipts for those purchases.

On Monday night, Austin held a public meeting at the Crossplex, full of people who came to learn more about the rebate program, most of them in support of it.

“We’ve heard from the public. Now we’re going to take it back, make sure the council is fully informed on what’s going on, and we’ll pass this ordinance,” Austin said.

Alabama is one of seven states that taxes groceries, Austin explained at the meeting. He told attendees at the meeting that the plan is modeled after one passed by a Colorado city.

“You will see that over this year, because we passed this food tax rebate, more people are buying healthier food choices,” he said.

Austin said Mayor William Bell is not supportive of the proposal because legal advisers told him it violates a state law that doesn’t permit city government to provide “gifts” to citizens. Bell has not responded to that claim.

The council wants to pass the rebates this year, so people could begin applying in April. The program would go into effect August 1st.

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