Without funding, Act 3 may limit early childhood education accessibility
There is no better investment the state can make than helping young children from low-income families get prepared for school through high-quality child-care programs. But the cost of such care is going up, and the average cost of care for an infant is now almost equal to the cost of tuition and fees at a public college. And the Legislature has reduced funding for child-care assistance programs by more than 50 percent in recent years, putting high-quality programs out of reach for most low-income parents. This makes it more difficult for parents to work, in turn making it more difficult for families to make ends meet in Louisiana. This also flies in the face of all current research, which shows a return of $8 for every $1 the state invests in early childhood education. Compare that to a 16-cent return on investment for the highly popular film tax credit, which pays one-third of production costs for films and television shows filmed in Louisiana.
Affordable Care Act hurts some businesses, helps others
While the debate rages over whether or not the Affordable Care Act will go down in history as landmark legislation or a total disaster, the Associated Press takes a look at how the law is affecting businesses across the spectrum. The results are predictable: while some businesses are looking at higher costs and administrative headaches, others are benefiting from the law’s cost-control measures.
Here in Louisiana, businesses are sure to feel the burn from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to turn down federal money that would have allowed the state to expand health coverage to low-income residents. Not only are their employees going to be less healthy without access to health coverage, therefore missing more work days and being less productive, the businesses will either have pay for that same coverage out of pocket or face between $41 million and $62 million annually in penalties.
Bills to pay down state retirement debt stall
The funds used to pay state retirees are $19 billion short of the amount they need to cover all of Louisiana’s pension liabilities, and a proposal that would attempt to shore up those accounts stalled in committee Thursday. The money would have come from an account used to pay cost of living adjustments for retirees. “Opponents said the bills would unfairly harm retirees who weren’t responsible for building the debt. They argued taking dollars out of the COLA savings accounts would break a pledge to retirees told if system investment earnings were good, they would get boosts in their pension payments.”
Some NOLA homeowners still struggling with Road Home program
Nearly five years after the Road Home rebuilding program ended, thousands of homeowners in the New Orleans area are still stuck in bureaucratic limbo because the state’s troubled contractor, ICF International, botched their paperwork years ago. As NOLA.com reports, about 2,100 homeowners received a collective $94 million in overpayments. Everyone agrees that the money doesn’t need to be paid back, as it was the company’s fault. But the state is refusing to provide written assurances that they aren’t liable. “Pat Forbes, director of the office, recently told lawmakers on the Select Committee on Hurricane Recovery that the homeowners had complied with Road Home program rules and had used the money to rehabilitate their homes.
But he is refusing to send homeowners a written notice saying the state won’t hold them liable for overpayments. His lawyers argue that would hurt ICF’s ability to sue the homeowners and, therefore, undermine the state’s negotiations for repayment from ICF. As New Orleans Sen. Ed Murray, a lawyer, said during a March 6 committee meeting: ‘You have got to be kidding me. You have got to be kidding me.’”