Congress faces a Jan. 19 deadline to strike a budget deal or trigger a government shutdown. Spending negotiations started Wednesday with a meeting between the White House budget director and Congress’s highest ranking members. GOP leaders are demanding funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while Democrats are prioritizing DACA protections for undocumented children and safety net programs. Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis report for the Washington Post:
Lawmakers are also working on disaster relief for areas ravaged by hurricanes last year. The House passed an $81 billion funding bill in December, but the Senate didn’t act on it. Instead, it punted that issue onto the pile of other urgent matters now confronting Congress. “We keep getting the can kicked down the road. We need to get that addressed, and so that’s why I’m still hoping for January 19, but obviously there are a lot of moving parts,” said [Sen. John] Cornyn, who is also involved in the disaster relief negotiations.
Racial disparities in unemployment
At 4.7 percent, Louisiana’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point in 10 years – even though it continues to track higher than the national rate. However, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) says that Louisiana and 15 other states have African American unemployment rates at least twice the rates of white unemployment. In the third quarter of 2017, overall unemployment in Louisiana was 5.2 percent. But the African American unemployment was at 9.5 percent, nearly three times higher than white unemployment at 3.3 percent. A healthy economy is an inclusive economy, and further efforts to reduce unemployment in Louisiana should focus on jobs where they’re needed most. From economic analyst Janelle Jones at EPI:
In the third quarter of 2017, African American workers had the highest unemployment rate nationally, at 7.5 percent, followed by Hispanic (4.9 percent), Asian (3.7 percent), and white workers (3.5 percent). While the African American unemployment rate is at or below its pre-recession level in 16 states (of the 22 states and the District of Columbia for which these data are available), in 16 states and the District of Columbia, African American unemployment rates exceed white unemployment rates by a ratio of 2-to-1 or higher.
The safety net in 2017
The past year saw several significant changes to federal safety net programs, though not as many as were proposed by the White House and Congress. Some changes with potentially the greatest impacts stemmed from inaction. Congress failed to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expired at the end of September, and Louisiana is still tracking to run out of CHIP funds within the next two months. Congress also failed to reauthorize funding for community health centers, further threatening access to health care as cuts loom. Funding for ACA outreach was cut by 90 percent, and programs to prevent teen pregnancy saw significant cuts as well. Congress signaled that a review of safety-net programs would be the next priority after tax reform. Olivia Arena and Nicole DuBois at the Urban Institute are tracking potential changes in 2018:
Although we don’t know the cuts and programmatic changes that may result from a final budget deal, the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget and House Speaker Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan can provide insight into what we might see. Urban Institute analysis of the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget found that about 20 percent of all families and 30 percent of families with children would lose resources if cuts to key safety net programs—including SNAP and LIHEAP—were approved. Children’s education and health programs would also face deep cuts.
Health care linked to reduced crime
Communities with greater access to education, employment, housing and health care suffer lower crime rates. As New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, and others, have said, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” According to the Brookings Institute, however, nothing stops crime like health care. A study by Sam Bondurant, Jason Lindo, and Isaac Swensen showed that community access to health care and substance abuse treatment significantly lowered rates of violent and financially motivated crime. What’s more, a paper newly published by Jacob Vogler showed that across the country, Medicaid expansion has reduced violent crime by 5.8 percent and property crime by 3 percent. Jennifer L. Doleac of Brookings reports:
Previous studies had shown that providing substance abuse and mental health treatment makes the individuals receiving that treatment better off. But these are the first studies showing that increasing access to treatment makes the entire community better off by reducing violence and property crime. Reducing crime could, in turn, lead to lower incarceration rates. This is a better outcome for everyone. Would-be offenders can maintain their roles in the community and with their families rather than being sent behind bars, and would-be victims can avoid needless suffering. With the social benefits of expanding treatment far outweighing the costs, this is surely one of the smartest investments any community can make.
Number of the Day
5.8 percent – The reduction of violent crime attributed to Medicaid expansion and access to substance abuse treatment overall in expansion states. (Source: Brookings Institute)