President Donald Trump is proposing to make life much harder for legal immigrants to the United States. A new federal rule – long anticipated but filed late Saturday night – would make it more difficult for people to stay in the country if they use “non-cash” forms of public assistance such as housing vouchers, food benefits or Medicare drug benefits. The change to the “public charge” rule is the work of nativist hard-liners in the administration and means many families with children are likely to forgo needed help in order to preserve their immigration status. The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff:
The changes, if adopted, would potentially affect those applying for immigration visas or those with temporary residency seeking to remain in the country. It would have little or no bearing on immigrants who entered the country illegally, but it could weigh on the cases of the more than 600,000 with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival benefits if they file for permanent residency.
The New York Times’ Michael Shear and Emily Baumgaertner report that the change would weigh hardest on the poor, and transform legal immigration in the United States into a “pay-to-play” system favoring the rich.
There are political implications to the move, which comes less than two months before the midterm elections, which will determine who controls the House and the Senate for the next two years of Mr. Trump’s tenure. Focusing on the use of public benefits is often an effective way to galvanize conservative supporters. Drawing attention to the use of those benefits by immigrants could be especially persuasive in turning out Mr. Trump’s supporters across the country.
The move could affect up to 61,000 Louisiana children who have immigrant parents. Read LBP’s statement on the new rule here.
The surplus kerfuffle (cont … )
The good folks who cover Louisiana state government keep shaking their collective heads about the decision by some conservatives to lash out at Gov. John Bel Edwards about the state’s $300 million budget surplus. Rep. Nancy Landry of Lafayette, for example, sees the surplus as evidence that “fuzzy numbers” were used to support unnecessary taxes. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte notes that the revenue forecast was prepared by nonpartisan state economists and approved unanimously by a forecasting panel that includes the House Speaker and Senate President – a process designed specifically to avoid the kind of political shenanigans that are now happening.
Edwards and House Speaker Taylor Barras said the latest surplus stems from better-than-expected income tax collections, but they diverge on the reasons. The governor hailed an economic uptick, while the GOP House speaker said other forces may be at work in a state that still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Barras said some higher-than-predicted tax collections likely were tied to federal tax changes and some improved corporate collections could stem from cuts to tax break programs that lawmakers enacted over several years. But the two leaders agree the surplus figure wasn’t expected when the tax debate raged across three special sessions.
The Advocate’s editorial board credits the state’s economic recovery.
In real life, the predicted surplus — a fraction of the $9 billion general fund — was probably influenced less by specific tax decisions in the last fiscal year than by the gradual economic recovery, particularly in Landry’s own Acadiana, hard-hit by the 2014 collapse of the price of oil. A surplus of this size means there won’t be a midyear Jindalnomics crisis in agencies and colleges and other state institutions, of the sort Landry and others supported in the blown-up budgets of the past decade.
Farm bill includes punitive SNAP change
People convicted of certain violent crimes or sex offenses would face a lifetime ban from federal food benefits, even after they’ve served their time, under a version of the federal farm bill being debated on Capitol Hill. The policy change would save little money – about $23 million over a decade – but have far-reaching effects on ex-offenders trying hard to rebuild their lives outside the prison walls. The Advocate’s Matt Sledge and Bryn Stole report:
For Osby Bryant, $35 is a lifeline. That’s how much the federal food stamp program sends every month to the Shreveport native, who spent 43 years in prison for murder. Now free on parole in New Orleans, the 70-year-old Bryant is slowly rebuilding his life. He works from 5 a.m. to noon every day as a carpenter while he saves money for an apartment. “When you get out, you’re struggling to make ends meet. So you need all the little help you can get,” he said.
Reining in prescription drug costs
Americans continue to list health care costs among their chief economic concerns – not surprising, considering out-of-pocket costs for things such as co-pays, deductibles and prescription drugs keep climbing. But a new state law sponsored by Sen. J.P. Morrell takes aim at one aspect of the problem by removing a gag rule on pharmacists that sometimes left patients paying more than necessary for prescriptions. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune’s Tim Morris explains the problem with pharmacy benefit managers:
Using your insurance to pay for your medications down at the local pharmacy, for example, is sometimes more expensive than just paying for the prescription out of pocket. But until about six weeks ago, your Louisiana pharmacist was prohibited by contract from giving you that cost-saving information. Yes, amid rising health care costs and the burden of paying for life-saving prescriptions, the powerful companies that manage drug benefits for insurers and employers decided to include clauses in their contracts to force pharmacists to remain silent if, for example, the prescription drug to treat diabetes or high blood pressure required a $20 copay using insurance but could be had for $8 to $15 if the patient just paid cash.
Number of the Day
24,197 – Number of people on a waiting list for affordable housing vouchers in New Orleans in 2017-18. Overall, the New Orleans area saw a decrease in availability of affordable housing over the past year (Source: HousingNola, 2018 Report Card)