Speaking recently on the Senate floor, Sen. John Kennedy said, “I want fewer people to need food stamps. And the best way that we can do that for those who are able to work is to help them get a job.” Kennedy is right: when people are able to find good jobs, they’re less likely to need the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is evidenced by the latest data on SNAP participation and the state’s unemployment rate. LBP’s policy director Jeanie Donovan:
The number of Louisianans receiving SNAP decreased by more than 63,000 people between June 2016 and June 2018. The state’s unemployment rate also decreased from 6.1 percent of 4.7 percent during that time period. That means SNAP is working as the safety net it was designed to be, keeping families from severe hunger and destitution when times are tough and helping them stay healthy enough to get back on their feet when times are better.
But the economy is not improving evenly across Louisiana, as several parishes are still grappling with unemployment rates more than double the statewide average. Many workers in those areas struggle to find full-time year-round work with decent pay, meaning they’re more likely to qualify for SNAP even when they have a job. The punitive SNAP work requirements that Kennedy and many of his Republican colleagues support would not help these families find better jobs. Rather, they could leave many of them without enough food to eat:
That concept is lost on supporters of work requirements included in the the House farm bill, which would take food assistance away from families at the time they need them most – a period of unemployment or job transition. Under the House proposal, if a parent saw their work hours reduced from 25 hours per week to 18 hours per week, they would lose their eligibility for SNAP and could be “locked out” of the program for up to three years. While the children would remain eligible, the total amount of food assistance the family receives would be substantially reduced, forcing a parent to spread their limited food budget even more thinly. Proponents of the harsh changes don’t seem to be fazed by this reality – that Louisiana’s already shamefully high child food insecurity rate (24.1%) would be made worse by the farm bill proposals they support.
Click here to send a letter to your members of Congress asking them to protect and strengthen SNAP in the ongoing Farm Bill negotiations.
An off-base paid family leave proposal
It’s an embarrassment that the United States is the only developed nation without a paid family leave policy. That’s something an increasing number of politicians on both sides of the aisle are beginning to acknowledge, which is a welcome shift from a time when the passage of an unpaid family leave law was controversial. Sen. Marco Rubio recently put forth a proposal that would guarantee caretakers could take two months of paid leave, which, on its face, is remarkable. But, as Bryce Covert explains in an op-ed for the New York Times, there’s a catch:
It would allow a parent to draw from Social Security benefits to take at least two months of paid time off at around 40 to 70 percent of current pay. But those parents would then have to delay retirement or reduce their Social Security benefits to cover the cost of the parental leave.The Urban Institute found that taking 12 weeks at half pay would mean forgoing 25 weeks of retirement or reducing monthly checks by 3 percent. It might not sound like much, but this sacrifice would disproportionately hurt the people who would benefit the most from a public family leave policy.
Covert goes on to suggests an alternative:
There’s a better way to structure paid family leave: Instead of having parents draw on existing Social Security benefits, workers and employers could pay a tiny new tax alongside what they already pay into Social Security. This would create a fund for when they need leave to care for a new child, deal with a serious illness, or care for a sick or disabled family member. It’s the strongest way to gird families against “the social insecurity of our time,” as Mr. Rubio and Ms. Wagner have described it.
John Legend weighs in on unanimous juries
Louisiana voters have an opportunity to make a long-overdue change to the state’s criminal justice system this November with the constitutional amendment that would require jury votes to be unanimous. Efforts are underway to engage and educate voters on the issue, but not all groups are excited about the possibility of reversing Louisiana non-unanimous jury requirement. Celebrity criminal justice reform advocate John Legend shared his thoughts and encouragement in a recent column in The Washington Post:
The Louisiana Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties have all endorsed the passage of a constitutional amendment requiring jury votes to be unanimous. Even so, powerful forces in the state are resistant to change, with some district attorneys fighting to hold on to the jury rule because it makes it easier for prosecutors to get convictions. Now, after 120 years of this oppressive rule, people are canvassing door to door and phone banking to explain to voters how Louisiana’s jury rule undermines the presumption of innocence and runs counter to 48 other states and the federal government. … It’s time to come together, reject prejudice in all its forms and build a future in which everyone is valued and supported. The 1898 constitutional convention was about denying voice to the expression of all of Louisiana’s citizens. This ballot question in November is about giving Louisiana her voice back.
Click to visit the Unanimous Jury Coalition website and sign up for their newsletter.
The facts about the death penalty
The death penalty has become a real political football in Louisiana over the last several weeks, with grandstanding politicians and pundits going as far as criticizing Pope Francis himself. In a letter to the editor in The Advocate, Baton Rouge attorney John DiGiulio says it’s time that we bring some real facts into the debate over capital punishment:
Whether it is the cost of the death penalty, the method of execution, the 11 exonorees off Louisiana’s death row, the 82 percent reversal rate of Louisiana’s death sentences, or the pope declaring the penalty unacceptable, citizens of Louisiana must look long and hard at who gets the death penalty and why 82 percent of those sentences are overturned — and whether this is a policy we want to endorse as a state. It is also very expensive if done legally and constitutionally. Violent crime is a serious problem warranting serious, careful consideration. And we should seek to repair the harm done to every victim — not just politicize the pain of victims’ survivors. We, as citizens, must be better than that.
Number of the Day
6 – Percentage of the lowest-earning 25 percent of private sector workers who have any paid family leave benefits through their employer. (Source: LBP via the Bureau of Labor Statistics).