When conservative politicians push for work requirements as a condition of receiving food benefits, they often argue that food banks can step in to fill any gaps created if people lose government assistance. But as the holiday season kicks into high gear – traditionally a high point for giving – the shelves at many Louisiana food banks are bare, partly because food assistance has been going to areas that were hit by recent disasters. Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards are calling for donations. KFLY.com has more:
Heading into the holidays with depleted shelves is a bit unusual and only further stresses the need for food banks to be top of mind as families and businesses look for ways to give back to their communities. “This is why we are launching a call to action today and asking everyone who has the resources to consider donating to their local food bank.” “The shortage of available bulk food product and empty shelves we are seeing right now in Baton Rouge makes for a very tough situation heading into the holidays. It means less available food for those in need,” said Mike Manning. “We believe there is still time to turn it around and are thankful for the Governor and First Lady’s efforts to build awareness and inspire the community to take action.”
A guest column by LBP’s Danny Mintz in Nola.com| Times-Picayune highlights how food banks can’t alone meet the need for regular and ongoing food assistance that SNAP provides:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that even with the aid of programs like SNAP and charitable food distribution, 1,837,000 Louisianans lack consistent access to enough nutritious food for an active and healthy life. Without food assistance programs, that number would be significantly higher. And even as food bank supplies fluctuate throughout the year, SNAP is there as a vital support for more than 900,000 people in Louisiana, who rely on the program’s benefits to keep healthy food on the table and to free up resources for other basic needs such as rent and utilities.
The good news: Congress is on the verge of passing a new farm bill that does not include the harsh work requirements pushed by Republicans in the House.
Correcting the record on Medicaid expansion
In a recent opinion column in The Advocate, Jeff Sadow used the findings of a recent legislative audit to make the case that Medicaid expansion has burdened the state and wasted funds. Some of these claims just didn’t pass the smell test. Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Rebekah Gee responded in a letter in The Advocate to correct the record:
The reality is that Gov. Edward’s Medicaid expansion has real and lasting benefits for hundreds of thousands of people throughout our state. More people are employed in the health care sector than at any time in our state’s history. Local and state governments have benefited from these new jobs, resulting in more people with the ability to earn a living wage. A recent study by LSU found that by leveraging $1.85 billion in federal funds, Louisiana generated $3.57 billion in economic activity and created or retained 19,195 jobs. Doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals have welcomed expansion as they now are reimbursed for the care they provide to people who were once uninsured. In states where Medicaid has not been expanded rural hospitals are closing, yet they are thriving in Louisiana. Most importantly, nearly 480,000 citizens now have health care coverage. Coverage allows individuals and families better health and peace of mind because they now have access to primary care, cancer screenings and lifesaving treatments for diabetes, mental health conditions, and high blood pressure. For the first time in generations, our state has the opportunity to improve our overall health.
A double punch for soybean farmers
Tariffs are a tax on American consumers. And when other countries retaliate against U.S. tariffs, it can spell trouble for American producers. Such is the case with Louisiana soybean farmers, who have been hit by a double punch of bad weather and decreased demand from China as a result of President Trump’s tariffs. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports on what the trade war has wrought:
China is by far the largest market for U.S. — and Louisiana — soybeans. This year, China has dramatically reduced its imports since tacking a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans in retaliation to the Trump administration’s tariffs against Chinese products. A truce, worked out between the U.S. and China over the weekend at the G-20 summit in Argentina, puts in place a 90-day cease on expanding or implementing any new tariffs but has no effect on tariffs in place that already have affected soybean farmers. As a result of the tariff on soybeans, grain elevators had a harder time finding buyers for the crop, and the grain stacked up in storage facilities. Farmers in turn couldn’t find grain elevators willing to buy their crop, especially because it was more damaged by rain than a normal year. The problems have snowballed into a disaster for many Louisiana soybean farmers, especially in the southwest part of the state.
One and done college financial aid application
The rising cost of college has made access to financial aid crucial for students entering college. At the center of the debate is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). Students must submit a new application every year they’re in school, and any mistakes or missed deadline can jeopardize the financial aid that lets them attend school. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree that the process needs to be simplified. A new proposal by the Center for American Progress aims to do just that. The Center for American Progress’ Colleen Campbell details the One and Done FASA proposal:
To date, most simplification efforts have focused on drastically reducing the number of questions on the FAFSA. Sen. Alexander has even proposed a two-question form, which would only ask for family size and adjusted gross income.29 However, such shortened forms risk unintended consequences that could have deleterious effects on students. In an absence of more information, institutions or states could start requiring additional aid applications, which would do nothing to reduce the paperwork burden on students—and, for that matter, on institutions. It would also reduce the amount of information the federal government collects on students and families who use the aid program, which can provide valuable insight into the demographics of the college-going population and how it is changing.A one-time FAFSA would remove much of the administrative hassle for students, colleges, and the federal government, as well as ensure that students receive consistent access to aid for the duration of their enrollment. This change represents an alternative to having a form that only asks a few questions and instead leaves in place the system that exists today. As an added bonus, savings from moving to a one-time FAFSA could be funneled into providing better supports for low-income and other underrepresented students.
Number of the Day
$1.44 trillion – The amount of outstanding student loan debt in America, an increase of $37 billion in the third quarter of 2018. (Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York via Bloomberg)