The Louisiana Association of United Ways recently released its latest ALICE report, which showed that nearly half of Louisiana households do not earn enough to pay for basic necessities. The Nola.com| The Times Picayune editorial board looks at the data and reaches an obvious conclusion: Most families that struggle are working, but the jobs they have don’t pay enough to make ends meet:
Across Louisiana, 66 percent of jobs pay $20 or less per hour. Most of those jobs pay less than $15 an hour, which amounts to $30,000 a year full-time. In New Orleans, 24 percent of residents are living in poverty, which in 2016 meant making less than $24,300 for a family of four, the report said. Another 29 percent fall under the ALICE threshold of $60,732 to allow a family of four to meet living expenses. Jobs aren’t necessarily located in areas where housing is affordable, which also puts pressure on families. Problems with transportation and childcare also can limit a family’s options. Since 2005, housing has become significantly more expensive in New Orleans. Only some of the affordable housing lost in the flooding during Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches has been replaced. Government and nonprofit groups supplement low-income families across Louisiana, but there is still a gap. The household survival budget developed by the United Way also doesn’t allow for any savings, so these families are vulnerable to emergencies.
While the numbers in the ALICE report can be discouraging, the editorial board sees them as a starting point for change.
The benefit of the report is that it allows communities and state leaders to come up with solutions that are more targeted. There are important short-term strategies including food pantries, utility assistance, emergency housing repairs and child care subsidies. Long term, there is a need for more affordable housing, higher wages and job training to fit business needs. The Medicaid expansion that Gov. John Bel Edwards approved his first day in office has made a big difference for tens of thousands of families who were uninsured before.
Shutdown forcing early release of food assistance
Louisianans who depend on federal food stamp assistance will get their February benefits earlier than usual because of the partial government shutdown, now in its 25th day. That means families will to have to budget wisely in these hard times since they will not receive assistance during the month of February. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has more:
Louisiana is joining other states in handing out February food stamps early because of the partial federal government shutdown. The state Department of Children and Family Services said Monday that most of those eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, will receive February benefits on or before Jan. 20. The benefits would usually be distributed during February. The Department of Children and Family Services is trying to ensure recipients realize that is not an extra level of assistance, but the usual food aid a family receives. The agency is warning that recipients should be careful to budget the benefits to last through February.
College attainment goal lags behind schedule
A decade ago, President Barack Obama set an ambitious goal for college attainment: Sixty percent of adults age 25-34 would have a college degree or certificate by 2019. Significant progress has since been made. The percentage of adults with degrees has grown 9 percentage points, from 39 percent to nearly 48 percent. But a combination of tuition hikes, funding cuts and neglect by President Donald Trump’s administration has left America far short of Obama’s ambition. Jon Marcus of the Hechinger Report has more:
To produce more graduates, colleges first need students. But the number of students on the path to degrees is not up. It’s down. Community colleges, which were the focus of the American Graduation Initiative, have in the last 10 years lost nearly 20 percent of their enrollment, the U.S. Department of Education reports. … Higher education institutions of all kinds have two million fewer students now than they did in 2009. That’s partly because the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who comprise traditional college students is declining, even as an improving economy has drawn more people straight into the job market, without stopping to get degrees. But federal and state budget cuts for higher education also haven’t matched the aspirations of ambitious targets like Obama’s; most of the $12 billion he promised to help community colleges fell through, and states are spending an inflation-adjusted $7 billion less on public universities and colleges than they did in 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That’s a cut of 16 percent, on average, pushing up tuition faster than family incomes, and fueling public skepticism about whether college is worth the cost.
Data shed lights on admission policies
Students admitted to Louisiana universities without meeting minimum academic standards had lower grades and were less likely to continue their education than students who met the standards, according to a new study ordered by the state Senate. The analysis by the Board of Regents came after controversy surrounding LSU’s new “holistic” admissions policy, which admits certain students who fall short of the school’s ACT or grade point average but still show academic promise. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard:
Deputy Commissioner Larry Tremblay, whose department conducted the analysis, said the second stage will drill down further to determine what role the ACT scores and GPAs played in admitting students on exception. Tremblay’s personal observation was that report showed that high school preparation was the best predicter of performance on the college level. But one role of the state’s public universities is to provide education to populations that have historically had less access to higher education. The findings for the athletes admitted with exceptions to the Regents minimum admission standards underscored the need for the university to support those students. The institutions routinely provide tutoring, study halls and other services to ensure the athletes remain academically eligible, said Regent Collis Temple III, who played basketball for LSU from 1999 to 2002.
Number of the Day
33 – The number of Louisiana craft breweries that are impacted by the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau closing during the government shutdown. The agency is responsible for licensing and approving labeling for beers distributed out of state (Source: The Daily Advertiser)