Friday, Aug. 7

Friday, Aug. 7

Elderly affairs in the spotlight; candidates disappoint on higher education; Nola approves "living wage" ordinance; New rules needed for volatile job schedules

Elderly affairs in the spotlight
It’s a thorny policy question with profound implications for vulnerable Louisianans: Should the state privatize its Medicaid long-term services programs for seniors and people with developmental disabilities by outsourcing oversight to private managed-care companies? Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration announced this week that it was punting the issue to the next governor, amid strenuous opposition from the powerful nursing home industry that fears an erosion of its market dominance. On Thursday, the question was posed to three of the four leading candidates for governor (David Vitter took a rain check) at a forum sponsored by AARP Louisiana and the Councils on Aging. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne was the only one to say unequivocally that he would move forward with managed care, while Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and state Rep. John Bel Edwards hedged their bets. Marsha Shuler was there:

“I want to see some of the outcomes of the program” before making a commitment to expand it to include long-term care for the elderly and developmentally disabled, (Republican Scott) Angelle said, deeming it “a vulnerable population.” … Dardenne said he would move forward with privatization and include providers of nursing homes — who want out — and community-based services. Edwards said he wanted to “work toward comprehensive managed care” but did not say what shape that would take.

 

Candidates disappoint on higher education
Nola.com columnist Bob Mann looks at the candidates’ proposals on higher education and finds them woefully deficient in one critical area: making sure that academically prepared students have access to a college education, regardless of their financial status.

While they might all perform better than Jindal on higher education, none of the candidates mentions a simple idea that could transform the lives of thousands of low-income students. Surprisingly, not one of them mentions the need to fund fully Go Grants, a state program for disadvantaged college students that can offer an annual award of up to $3,000. Sadly, Jindal never found more than half the money this worthy and important program requires. Last school year, the program made $24 million in grants to 23,487 Louisiana students. With only half the funds necessary, however, cash-strapped universities must choose between giving smaller amounts to all their needy students or make larger awards to some and deprive others. The average Go Grant in the LSU system was $1,207. In the Southern University System, the average award was $830. As they discuss study commissions or increasing dual enrollment for high school students, our candidates might devote more attention to the plight of poor families who deserve the same opportunity as wealthy families to send their children to college.

 

“Living wage” ordinance approved by NOLA City Council
Companies doing business with the city of New Orleans will have to pay their workers at least $10.55 per hour starting in January under an ordinance approved Thursday by the City Council. The “living wage” ordinance by Councilman Jared Brossett passed even though most people testifying agreed that it still wouldn’t be enough for most people to live on.

“It’s personal to me,” said Harold Brooks, a construction worker for a nonprofit that gets city money. “I live in this city too, but I have to work two or three jobs to take care of my kids and grand kids. “I want to be able to go to a Saints game. I want to be able to take a day off to enjoy Mardi Gras. I should be able to live in and enjoy this city that I live in.” A Loyola University researcher said that a single-parent would need about $22 per hour to live a reasonable life in New Orleans. Two working parents would need at least $13, she said.

 

New rules needed for volatile job schedules
Millions of American workers have unpredictable work schedules that often vary wildly from week to week and sometimes change with little notice. And when such scheduling volatility causes a worker to quit or get fired because it conflicts with other life and family responsibilities, they often have no access to cash assistance available to other unemployed workers. A new paper from CLASP explores the phenomenon and makes several recommendations for steps that states can take to mitigate this problem.

A primary failing of existing rules and practices is that, while workers under traditional scheduling arrangements who experience significant changes in their working conditions may be able to leave their jobs with good cause and maintain eligibility for UI, the experience of volatility, which is different from a one-time change, is often not recognized under UI law. In short, the UI system has not caught up with the realities of today’s labor market and often fails workers with volatile schedules when they are most in need.   

 

Number of the Day

$830 – Average size of a Go Grant award in the Southern University System. The program provides need-based aid for Louisiana college students. (Source: Nola.com)