Aug. 25: Post-flood housing plan emerges

Aug. 25: Post-flood housing plan emerges

People displaced by this month’s flooding will have several housing options as they try to rebuild and recover, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced at a Wednesday press conference.


People displaced by this month’s flooding will have several housing options as they try to rebuild and recover, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced at a Wednesday press conference. The housing options include funding to pay for hotel stays and money to repair rental properties. As The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp describes, people will also be able to apply for FEMA temporary housing units, which officials described as superior to the much-maligned “FEMA trailers” provided post-Katrina. With more than 2,000 people still in shelters, many more living with friends or relatives, and 120,000 who have registered for FEMA assistance, the need is extraordinary.

“This is not the FEMA travel trailers,” FEMA head Craig Fugate said last week. “If we need to bring in any kind of temporary housing units, they are better than they’ve ever been. They are all HUD approved.” Edwards described the one- to three-bedroom units as being more akin to mobile-homes. He said preferably they will be placed on homeowners lots and secured, rather than on wheels like the travel trailers.

Also new is the Shelter at Home program, which provides money to make at least a portion of flooded dwellings habitable.

Homeowners who can quickly get their houses into a habitable state with less than $15,000 can have some immediate work covered by the program. Repairs covered will run from patching and weatherproofing homes to the removal of water-logged carpet and insulation; electrical inspections; repairs to toilets, sinks or showers so that homes have working bathrooms; and even providing mini-refrigerators or microwaves as needed. The program will run on a state-federal match, but will not cost homeowners and won’t count against their individual assistance grants from FEMA.

Details on eligibility and the application process can be found here.


Anti-poverty funding formula has bipartisan support

Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina has long pressed for increased investments in struggling communities through what’s known as the 10-20-30 plan. His idea is to ensure that federal dollars make their way to places of persistent poverty; 10 percent of any federal program dollars would have to go to communities where 20 percent of people have lived below the poverty line for at least 30 years. 10-20-30 is already making its way into federal appropriations bills and has key support from House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Politico’s Ben Weyl has the story:

Nearly 500 counties across the United States suffer from the kind of persistent poverty that would make them eligible for the plan’s targeted funding, Clyburn says — and it would give more Republican lawmakers something to brag about to constituents than Democrats. In 2009, Clyburn likes to note, 84 Republicans represented those counties, compared with 43 Democrats. The GOP held 311 counties and Democrats represented 149. (In terms of total population, the parties were more evenly split, with Republicans representing 8.3 million people from those counties and Democrats representing 8.8 million; another 14 counties with 5.3 million people were split between Republicans and Democrats.) Perhaps for that reason, along with a new House speaker interested in chipping away at poverty, Clyburn has seen progress on Capitol Hill this year.

The plan would lead to significant investments in Louisiana.


Film credits offer minimal return on investment

A number of studies have found little or no benefit to state film tax credit programs. Proponents of the costly program claim that the credits spur state job growth. But researcher Michael Thom at the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy finds that in states with film credit programs, sustained job growth doesn’t materialize and wage gains are short-term. Emily Geresma of USC News has more:

“The incentives are a bad investment. States pour millions of tax dollars into a program that offers little return,” said lead author Michael Thom, an assistant professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy who specializes in public finance. “We looked at job growth, wage growth, states’ share of the motion picture industry and the industry’s output in each state. On average, the only benefits were short-term wage gains, mostly to people who already work in the industry. Job growth was almost nonexistent. Market share and industry output didn’t budge.”


Boosting noncognitive skills through schools

Research shows that so-called noncognitive skills- problem solving, creativity, self-control, and the like- boost productivity and overall academic achievement. While there are important exceptions, schools across the country haven’t fully embraced a focus on these skills alongside traditional academic subjects. Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss provide policy recommendations for  in a report for the Economic Policy Institute:

  • Better defining and measuring these skills: Integrating social emotional skills into the education policy agenda requires, first, the identification of a satisfactory and concrete list of these skills, and systems or scales to measure them. Measurement and methodological research are required to validate a complete and accurate list of education-related noncognitive skills, and to provide metrics that are both reliable and usable.
  • Broadening the curriculum: The identification of those noncognitive skills that play important roles in education should prompt a discussion of how to design broader curricula and specific instructional strategies to promote those skills, including promoting school and classroom environments conducive to them.
  • Enhancing teacher preparation, training, and support: Fully integrating noncognitive skills into the curriculum also requires that teachers’ preparation and professional support are geared toward the development of these skills in their students, as well as an emphasis on the importance of relationships.
  • Revisiting school disciplinary policies: Many current disciplinary measures used to combat student misbehavior are at odds with the goal of nurturing noncognitive skills. Disciplinary measures should be rooted in schools’ efforts to support and promote better behavior, and in the prevention of misbehavior, rather than simply or mainly in punishing wrongdoing.
  • Broadening assessment and accountability: Accountability practices and policies must be broadened to make explicit the expectation that schools and teachers contribute to the development of noncognitive skills and to make the development of the whole child central to the mission of education policy. Specifically, incentives promoted by an enhanced accountability system should be aligned with broadening the curriculum, cultivating the proper climate within the school, promoting teachers’ investment in strong relationships with their students, and ensuring teaching time for strategies that are conducive to the development of both noncognitive and cognitive skills.


Number of the Day

311 – Number of counties/parishes that face persistent poverty and are represented by Republicans in Congress. (Source: Politico)