Stephan Bisaha

Wealth and Poverty Reporter



Stephan Bisaha is the wealth and poverty reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a regional collaboration between NPR and member stations in Alabama (WBHM), Mississippi (MPB) and Louisiana (WWNO and WRKF). He reports on the systemic drivers of poverty in the region and economic development.

Before joining the team, Stephan spent three years as an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a network of member stations in Kansas. He also spent a year as a Kroc Fellow for NPR, where he did the data analysis for an investigation into the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, produced Weekend Edition and reported in Birmingham.

He was born and raised in New Jersey. His hobbies include cooking, improv and physical fitness.

4 factors besides cold weather that explain expensive winter power bills

Like many in the Gulf South, Will Burt’s power bill spiked in January due to extreme weather. But how much of the increase can be attributed to the cold?

Jackson estimated his water bill and overcharged him by thousands. He fought back and won

When James Henley suspected his water bill was inaccurate, he put his spreadsheet skills to use and got back $3,208. Now, he’s helping others do the same.

Mercedes-Benz autoworkers in Alabama want to join the UAW. Here’s what the past could teach them

Amid a new push in a region that’s historically unwelcoming to unionization, author Stephen Silvia details what the UAW could learn from its past efforts.

Despite strong economic signs, food pantry lines are still growing in the Gulf South

The U.S. economy had a strong year, but more people found themselves in line at their local food pantry due to inflation and a weakened social safety net.

She owed $7K due to a water leak. Her utility saw the signs but didn’t tell her

Birmingham Water Works flagged Claire Ahalt’s account for unusually high water use, but she did not find out until asking a utility worker weeks later.

The Gulf South looks to ‘charge up’ its economy with electric vehicles

While some believe electric vehicles could lead to a southern manufacturing renaissance, workers and experts caution that it must be done carefully.

The Gulf South’s record heat brought another pain for residents — higher power bills

This summer’s high temperatures also brought higher utility bills. The spike caused some, like Christopher Bogan, to make tough choices with their budget.

Alabama finally has a new congressional map after a lengthy legal fight

After a high-profile legal fight, a panel of three federal judges on Thursday picked a map that will be used when Alabamians cast their 2024 vote.

She looked for help after her power bill doubled. But aid for utilities often falls short

Dolabriel Curry-Hurst’s January power bill in Alabama jumped above $700 — more than twice of what she owed the previous year.

Gulf South’s ‘Hot Labor Summer’ is heating up heading into the fall

The seven strikes in the region signify a slow-growing labor movement that gained momentum in 2021.

Alabama argues its new standards — not SCOTUS order — should dictate congressional map redraw

Lawyers for the state defended Alabama’s new congressional map before a panel of judges who previously ruled the 2021 map violated the Voting Rights Act.

As the peak of hurricane season nears, Southwest Louisiana is still recovering from 2020 storms

Three years after Hurricanes Laura and Delta, Lake Charles residents are anxious about the chances of a new storm.

An Alabama family’s water bill tripled after moving just outside of city limits. Here’s why

Rural water customers typically pay more for the same water that city residents use. Some residents, like Jason Clayton, believe the upcharge is unfair.

She thought one call would fix her power bill. A year later, she’s still not satisfied

Power bill disputes usually sway in the utility company's favor. But as this New Orleans renter's story shows, there are ways customers can get answers.

A water leak led to a $20K bill for an Alabama couple. A smart meter could have saved them

When smart water meters work, they can detect expensive leaks early. But the tech’s costly to do right — and even more so when it’s done wrong.

With ‘dollar stores in every direction,’ some communities are saying enough

Dollar General opens about three locations a day. Advocates against the rapid expansion released a four-step guide for keeping stores from opening.

Advocates warn of a ‘dollar store invasion.’ Researchers are still figuring out the consequences

A recent report from the Institute for Local Self Reliance laid out 17 problems with dollar stores, but some researchers said there isn’t a consensus yet.

Dollar stores are everywhere in the South. These 5 charts explain what’s behind their growth

Dollar store brands have expanded at a fast rate across the U.S. — especially in the Gulf South — over the past 15 years. Here’s what’s driving the trend.

As Alabama coal miners strike nears end, a look at why it started, and how it failed

After 700 days, the United Mine Workers of America Union asked Warrior Met Coal to allow the strikers to come back to work unconditionally.

While rebuilding homes, Amish volunteers bond with South Louisiana over faith and food

Amish groups have stepped in to help Louisiana storm victims rebuild when other forms of aid have ended. It’s also led to cultural exchanges and connections.

Why 2022 was a rough year for Gulf South food pantries, and those who need them

The federal aid that Gulf South food pantries have relied on during the pandemic ended this year, but the demand for food assistance still remained high.

Alabama coal miners begin their 20th month on strike

The miners have survived more than 600 days on the picket line, thanks to widespread support and anger at their employer, Warrior Met Coal. Even now, neither side seems ready to budge.

6 ways the conversation around a guaranteed income in the US has changed

A guaranteed income conference held in Atlanta shows how the movement has progressed since 2017, with more than 50 pilots currently handing out cash.

In Jackson, Miss., volunteers work hard to bring water to residents who need help

Local nonprofits have been delivering water directly to some residents, but the groups are still working on scaling up to dealing with a problem that stretches across the city.

In Jackson, Miss., football goes on despite the water crisis

Football is a way of life in Jackson, Mississippi. So are boil water notices. The latest water crisis has not stopped fans from filling the stands to support a local college team.

Confrontations between Alabama miners, strikebreakers a part of a rough labor history

Federal labor officials fined the United Mine Workers of America union $13.3 million for, among other things, property damage at the picket lines.

Dollar store workers are organizing for a better workplace. Just don’t call it a union.

Fired up by a labor movement that’s seen big union victories recently, dollar store workers are organizing in their own way to improve work conditions.

How 3 Gulf South country stores are adapting to high inflation: ‘It’s hurt everybody’

General store owners in the Gulf South are — once again — looking for new ways to get by as high inflation becomes the latest threat to their businesses.

Workers at New Orleans Starbucks say yes to unionizing; the 1st in Louisiana

The successful, 11-to-1 vote happened weeks after a former shift supervisor that led the unionization effort was fired by higher management.

With vanpooling, workers and employers find a ‘win-win’ amid a tight labor market, high gas costs

As 2022's economic woes continue, more people are using vanpools as a cost-effective way to get to work. It’s also helping out their employers.

Workers at a Birmingham Starbucks become 1st to unionize in Alabama

Workers at the downtown Birmingham coffee shop cast a near-unanimous vote to become the first Starbucks location in the state to say yes to forming a union.

‘Better isn’t good enough’: Starbucks workers in Birmingham, New Orleans discuss unionizing

Starbucks stores in Birmingham and New Orleans could be the next to unionize. Those leading the efforts sit down to discuss why and what they've learned so far.