Minimum wage should not be a poverty wage

Minimum wage should not be a poverty wage

Louisiana’s lack of minimum wage and preemption laws keep many in poverty across the state, as local communities cannot address their rising cost of living through wage increases. It particularly affects New Orleans, where the cost of living is skyrocketing. Anthony Alefosio, Sharika Evans, and Peter Robins-Brown, writing in CityLab, explain how these policies hurt workers. Alefosio discusses moving to New Orleans and working for the city post-Katrina to assist with clean-up:

I didn’t think I had much of a chance of getting hired—in Seattle, working for the city was a good job and there was a three-year waiting list—so I was surprised when I got a call three days after I applied. They told me they wanted to hire me right away. Then they told me what they paid: $7.50 per hour. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know you could get paid that little. But it wasn’t about the money for me. I just wanted to help. So I took the job. Now it’s 13 years later, and I’m 62 years old. I still work for Parks and Parkways, as a Big Equipment Operator, and I make $12.65 per hour. On that pay, I can only afford to live in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Orleans.

Evans discusses the volatility of shift work and low-wages:

Until recently, I’ve been working at a fast-food chain, earning $8 an hour after getting a raise from $7.75. Then my baby was born prematurely due to pre-eclampsia (a pregnancy disorder caused by high blood pressure and hypertension). When I had to take additional time off when he got out of the NICU, I got fired. I’d been a good employee, and had only taken four of my six weeks of maternity leave when I first gave birth. I just wanted to use that other two weeks to care for my son when he got out of the hospital. That didn’t matter. My boss said she had a business to run.

 

Medicaid audit facts
A recent audit of Louisiana’s Medicaid program made misleading claims about how many enrollees in the health insurance program are ineligible because of their income. A new blog by Jennifer Wagner of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sets the record straight on the study and its implications:

The audit focused on a specific group of beneficiaries: single-person households enrolled through the state’s Medicaid expansion (under the Affordable Care Act) whose earnings, as reported in the state’s quarterly wage database, suggested that their incomes may have risen above the Medicaid eligibility threshold after they enrolled. That group represents a little less than 10 percent of single-person households enrolled through the expansion. … So the share of beneficiaries who were potentially ineligible represents 8 to 9 percent of single-person households in the expansion population (that is, 82 to 93 percent of 100 cases, which in turn was just under 10 percent of all single-person households in the expansion), not 82 to 93 percent of the expansion population — much less of the entire Medicaid population. Some have implied that these cases show fraud. In fact, the vast majority of these people were eligible when they first enrolled in Medicaid — the state verified their eligibility using electronic data sources, including information on citizenship and income — but their income later changed, which is not uncommon among low-income people.

 

No money for early childhood
Louisiana State Superintendent John White spoke to the Baton Rouge Press Club about the need for a Pre K-20 approach to education. To compete with other states, Louisiana must stop looking at Pre-K, K-12, and higher education as separate silos, which is why White is disappointed in the stagnant funding proposed for early childhood education. Julia O’Donoghue of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune share more:

“There is zero money for an increase of any size,” White told the Baton Rouge Press Club. “This budget does not include a dime” more for early childhood education. White said 3,300 families are on a wait list for early childhood education services. The count could balloon to 10,000 by year’s end because two federal sources Louisiana uses to fund its early childhood programs are drying up. … The governor, superintendent and education advocates all agree that early childhood education — programs with qualified instructors for children too young to attend school — helps close education performance gaps between poor and wealthy students as well as between white people and people of color before they reach school age. But the programs aren’t cheap. White said Monday it would cost $15 million to $20 million annually to get the 3,300 families seeking those services off the current wait list. If that wait list grows to 10,000, it could cost the state as much as $50 million annually, White said.

 

The LEAP test and violent crime
Louisiana students who repeat eighth grade are more likely to commit a violent crime later in life, according to new research by National Bureau of Economic Research. The study by three authors, including LSU economist Naci Mocan, compared students who scored just high enough on their LEAP exams to enter high school with those who barely missed the cutoff. Students that were held back were 58 percent more likely to commit a violent crime in their early adult years. Della Hasselle of The Advocate has more:

The study claims to be the first of its kind to link grade-based retention to violent crime later in life. The authors found little effect on juvenile crime rates, which suggests the effects on adult criminal behavior are driven by fewer job market prospects and non-cognitive skills that stem from lower education levels. Ken Bradford, an assistant superintendent in the Louisiana Department of Education, said he wasn’t surprised by the results of the study. In 2014, he and others created an optional transitional grade in Louisiana known as “T9,” which allows some eighth-grade students who are not on track to pass the LEAP tests to continue their education on a high school campus, rather than being retained in middle school. “What stood out to the department is 40 percent of retained eighth-graders were not arriving on a high school campus,” Bradford said, meaning they were dropping out rather than repeat eighth grade. “They’re youth that don’t have education, going into society at this age.”

 

Number of the day
10,000 – The waitlist for early childhood education in Louisiana, up from 3,300, if federal revenue streams are not reinstated.(Source: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)