Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

10,000 Louisiana veterans fall into health care coverage gap; $925 million deficit likely to cause mid-year cuts; Federal rules could protect Louisiana military members from payday loans; Nola.com cites Al Jazeera story on Louisiana child care shortfall

10,000 Louisiana veterans fall into health care coverage gap
Men and women who served to defend our nation should have access to quality health care. And while some receive access to health care through the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, others don’t qualify due to federal laws. Alma Stewart points out in her letter to The Advocate that Louisiana could improve health care for tens of thousands of Louisiana veterans by accepting federal Medicaid expansion:

According to a 2013 report by the Urban Institute, more than 10,000 uninsured Louisiana veterans and 4,000 of their spouses would qualify for health care coverage if the state elected to accept federal Medicaid dollars. Our governor and legislators claim Louisiana cannot afford Medicaid expansion. We say that it is Louisiana’s moral duty to not leave one veteran behind.


$925 million deficit likely to cause mid-year cuts
Louisiana’s revenues for the current fiscal year are coming in lower than projected, prompting concerns that the state will face another devastating mid-year budget shortfall. Economists from the Legislative Fiscal Office say part of the shortfall is due to lower oil prices and flat personal income and sales tax collections. While it’s not unusual for the state to run at a deficit at this point in the fiscal year, State Treasurer John Kennedy noted that the state’s current $925 million deficit is greater than any amount borrowed at this point in the past.

Mid-year budget cuts have plagued Gov. Bobby Jindal throughout his time in office. While the governor avoided mid-year cuts last year—although the year ended with a $141 million deficit—the administration had to make cuts the five consecutive previous years. The persistent cuts highlight that Louisiana has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. Until policymakers confront that fact, Louisiana will continue to under-invest in education, infrastructure and a healthy workforce—ingredients that we know are essential for strong economic growth and job creation in the future.


Federal rules could protect Louisiana military members from payday loans
As the nation marks this day in honor of those who have served the country, advocates across Louisiana are raising awareness about a new federal Department of Defense effort to protect active duty military members from payday and predatory lending. The federal action would enforce a 36 percent interest rate cap on all loan products to active military members and their families. That would close a loophole in the current Military Lending Act, which only bans specific types of predatory loans.

The action would significantly affect veterans in Louisiana, because the state has the nation’s second-highest density of payday lenders per 1,000 veterans. Data gathered by the Center for Responsible Lending shows Louisiana has 3.47 payday and auto title loan storefronts per 1,000 veterans. The national average is a mere 0.92. In addition to military members, payday lenders market their products to low-income workers and retirees who are not able to repay their loan and afford basic necessities like groceries and rent. This results in a continuous cycle of debt, with borrowers paying 400 percent in interest and fees before repaying their “short-term” loan.


Nola.com cites Al Jazeera story on Louisiana child care shortfall
Louisiana is one of many states that does a poor job of targeting federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars to cash assistance and child care programs. Instead, much of the funding has shifted to filling budget holes. Nola.com points to an Al Jazeera America story that highlights this trend and its effects on households struggling to provide their children with quality childcare:

The number of families receiving child care assistance has dropped by more than 60 percent over the past five years. Federal law allows for some welfare money to be used to pay for child care, to allow welfare recipients to work. But Louisiana and other states have consistently funneled that money to other state needs that critics say are unrelated to easing poverty. Louisiana’s money has mostly gone to its pre-kindergarten programs or to child welfare.


Number of the Day
– Louisiana’s rank for the number of payday and auto title loan storefronts per 1,000 veterans. (Source: Center for Responsible Lending)