Birmingham considers food tax rebate program

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Buying groceries could soon be a little less expensive for people living in Birmingham. Birmingham City Council is holding a public hearing Monday at 6 p.m. on the proposed food tax rebate program.

Alabama is one of just a few states that has a food tax without providing a rebate program for low income families.

Anyone living at or below the poverty line would qualify for the program, getting as much as $150 for the amount of sales tax paid on groceries.

The program is also open to people over 65 and the disabled. The program is contingent on the budget every year and enrollment.

The hope is that this program will help ease the strain put on low income families who may have to choose between food and other necessities.

Greater Birmingham Ministries, a resource for low-income families, hands out groceries to the community every week.

Tari Williams says she’s faced with people all the time who have to make hard decisions about buying food or getting their medications. Williams says the rebate program is a great first step, but getting rid of a tax on food all together would be even better.

In the meantime, Williams says the rebate program will definitely help.

“That could make the difference between you having a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner –t could mean the difference between you being able to get your medication for your blood pressure or your diabetes,” said Williams.

Councilor Steven Hoyt says the program will take a little chunk out of the city’s budget, but it will be worth it.

“Two million is minuscule compared to $420 million budget, that’s nothing to us, but a great benefit for those in need,” said Hoyt.

Looking at the bigger picture, organizers at Arise and Greater Birmingham Ministries say more needs to be done and getting rid of a tax on food all together would be ideal.

“I would love to see that, I mean we would probably have a little fight with the state legislature because we can’t get an increase in the minimum wage, if that’s alarming to them, then certainly a food tax rebate might be overboard,” said Hoyt.

The public hearing is Monday at the Birmingham CrossPlex at 6 p.m.

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