Sept. 21: Funding for flood relief, Flint linked

Sept. 21: Funding for flood relief, Flint linked

As gutted remnants of homes continue to line streets throughout south Louisiana, a federal aid package remains on hold as part of a temporary government funding bill.

As gutted remnants of homes continue to line streets throughout south Louisiana, a federal aid package remains on hold as part of a temporary government funding bill. One sticking point: Some Democrats in Congress want flood relief for Louisiana linked to an aid package for Flint, Michigan, where lead contaminated water sparked a public health crisis. A bipartisan funding bill for Flint stalled earlier this year. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports that the governor’s office remains optimistic:

“There is bipartisan support in Congress for a flood relief package to assist Louisiana residents,” Gov. John Bel Edwards’ spokesman Richard Carbo said Tuesday night. “Gov. Edwards is continuing these conversations with members of Congress, including the Louisiana congressional delegation. We’re hopeful that assistance will come sooner, rather than later, but are confident that help is on the way for the people impacted by this flooding.”


Community and technical colleges report record number of graduates, transfers

A record number of students graduated from community and technical colleges in Louisiana last year – and the number of students transferring to four-year institutions also set a record. The Louisiana Community and Technical College System reports that 80 percent of its graduates will enter “high demand, high income” fields such as health care, computer science and accounting. The news comes despite repeated cuts in state support for higher education, which has prompted community colleges to trim programs and narrow its focus. As The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen notes, LCTCS wants more people to consider a community college as a path to a four-year school:

Louisiana as a whole has lower transfer rates than many other states, as it’s less commonplace for a student in this state who wants a four-year degree to start at a local community college. In states like Texas and Florida, where there’s tremendous demand to get into the universities, many local students commonly start at a two-year program before making the switch. (LCTCS President Monty) Sullivan said they’re trying to change that mentality in Louisiana. “It’s very important for people across Louisiana to understand that a bachelor’s degree is within their reach and the place they should begin is a community and technical college,” he said. “It’s the best bridge to a baccalaureate degree.”


Asset tests don’t save states money

In addition to income limits on eligibility for public programs, many states impose asset tests that limit access to programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Supporters of asset tests claim they save money by reducing the number of people receiving benefits. But research from the Urban Institute, the Pew Charitable Trusts and SAGE Open finds that asset tests do not save states money, Governing Magazine’s J.B. Wogan reports. In fact, by increasing “churn” (people cycling on and off programs as their assets fluctuate) states can incur additional costs administering the federal benefit programs. Worst of all, asset tests impede the important policy goal of helping low-income families save money.

Opponents of asset limits, including (the Corporation for Enterprise Development,) CFED, insist that such policies actually incentivize people to stay dependent on government aid and “can discourage anyone considering or receiving public benefits from saving for the future,” the group states on its website. A July report by the Urban Institute supports that claim. It found that when states eliminated or relaxed asset limits for food stamps between 1997 and 2013, users were more likely to have a bank account and at least $500. Such a policy shift, however, had no effect on the length of time people received the benefits.

CFED tracks asset test policies across the country. Louisiana imposes an asset test for food assistance, but not for its limited cash assistance program or for the home energy assistance program.


Tea Party environmentalists in Louisiana

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild spent time in the Bayou State to try to better understand why people distrust government, especially those who stand to gain the most from regulation and government oversight. In a review of her book, “Strangers in Their Own Land,” The New York Times’ Jason DeParle presents a picture of people leery of big business, but who distrust public officials more. Some have been directly impacted by pollution but resist government intervention, believing regulation will cost jobs and feeling that tax dollars will be spent disproportionately on welfare.

In welfare politics, this is déjà vu all over again. It’s been two decades since Bill Clinton signed a tough welfare law aimed in part to end the politics of blame. “Ending welfare as we know it” would recast the needy as workers, he said, and build support for a new safety net. The rolls of the main federal cash program have fallen by 80 percent from their 1990s highs — in Louisiana, by 95 percent. But reverse class anger is more potent than ever.


Number of the Day

28,853 – The number of students earning an industry certification or associate’s degree from a Louisiana community or technical college during the 2015 – 2016 school year. (Source: Louisiana Community and Technical College System via The Advocate)