A workforce pilot program in Monroe

A workforce pilot program in Monroe

Gov. John Bel Edwards appears to have abandoned his push for a punitive Medicaid work requirement in favor of a more constructive plan to connect low-income Louisianans with workforce training and job opportunities. A new pilot program in Ouachita Parish, announced Monday, aims to provide free job training for low-income adults who receive health coverage through Medicaid expansion. The program will only focus on a small portion of Medicaid recipients, but hopes are that the program will expand to all in the coming years. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has more:  

Administration officials point out the Legislature didn’t sign off on work requirements and a federal judge last week blocked Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. … The pilot program stems from legislation sponsored by Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Monroe Democrat who said she wanted to help people on public assistance programs access education programs. Delta Community College aims to enroll about 50 Medicaid expansion recipients in training that can help them gain employment in the health, banking, trucking and other industries, said Chris Broadwater, a vice president with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. He said the college has certification programs as short as three days or a few weeks that can help people “gain access to a growing economy, as well as to elevate their station in life.”

Advocates of Medicaid expansion see this proposal as a way to help close the skills gap in Louisiana’s workforce. Mark Armstrong of WBRZ News reports:

More than 500,000 people have enrolled under Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion since 2016. Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project estimates ten percent are in the able-bodied category. “This was debated in the legislature [last year] and they said they did not want anyone to lose coverage because they could not find a job,” he said. “Some regions in the state, particularly in north Louisiana, have unemployment rates well above the state average. So I think this program is trying to match the skills and training with the demand that’s out there,” he added.


Time to end poverty in Louisiana
The United Way of Southeast Louisiana has made poverty reduction a central focus of its work in recent years. The recently released ALICE report highlighted the challenges facing the working poor. As President and CEO of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, Michael Williamson, noted in a recent conversation with Biz New Orleans, even a single unexpected setback could be devastating to people earning barely enough to meet their basic needs. Kim Singletary has the interview:

The numbers I quoted early are really the bare bones basic, meaning you could be making $11.09 an hour as an individual and find a way to put together housing and transportation, etc., but that’s it. You’re not going to have any resources for savings. [You probably would] not be saving for retirement, certainly not saving to evacuate the community if a natural disaster comes. If you happen to have a car and it breaks down and it’s going to cost you $400 to get it fixed, you don’t have that money. What happens is — and we highlight this in a document called Consequences of ALICE — when one thing goes wrong, one health emergency, national disaster, or car repair gets sprung on these individuals, it literally throws them into a downward spiral. They can’t go to work. They’re missing work. They’re getting paid by the hour. They’re losing income. Soon, what started out at as a $400 price tag to get my car fixed, actually turns into several times that with lost wages and productivity and business.


Proposed rule on SNAP would hurt the poorest
President Donald Trump is trying to use the federal rulemaking process to take food benefits away from 755,000 Americans, including tens of thousands of low-income Louisiana residents, by making it harder for states to get waivers from harsh federal time-limits for non-disabled, childless adults unable to document 80 hours of work per month, every month. The proposed rule change, announced in December, comes after a failed attempt to include punitive work requirements in last year’s farm bill. Governing’s Mattie Quinn explains:

According to data released this month from the nonpartisan Mathematica Policy Research, the vast majority of those expected to lose their benefits currently live below the poverty line — 88 percent make $500 a month or less if they are a single person. Researchers also found that 164,000 of them are between the ages of 18 and 21. “SNAP serves the poor, but the people likely impacted by this rule are disproportionately poor,” says Giridhar Mallya, senior policy officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which worked on the report with Mathematica. “It’s shown to reduce hunger, so hunger will likely increase.” SNAP’s current rules require nondisabled, childless adults to work or participate in job training for at least 20 hours a week if they receive food assistance for more than three months in a three-year period. States can request exemptions from this rule if they are struggling with high unemployment, and many have. The USDA’s new policy will make it harder for states to qualify for those exemptions.Alaska, Louisiana, Nevada and New Mexico currently exempt their childless population from work requirements; 29 states have a partial waiver; and 17 have no waiver at all, according to Mathematica.

The good news is that it’s not too late for people to make their voices heard, as the administration must take public comments into account as they consider implementing this rule. But time is rapidly running out. Go to frac.com/timelimitcomments to weigh in on the rule. The deadline to submit a comment is today.


The racial inequities of college athletics
As the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament winds down, a new report by the Center for American Progress reveals racial inequities in the most prominent college athletic conferences. In the Big 12, for example, black scholarship athletes make up 16 percent of the total black student population, while just 2 percent of white students are scholarship athletes. The ratios are similar in the Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences. Jill Berman of Market Watch has more:

The role of college athletics in this dynamic is particularly pernicious, (Sarah) Garcia (of CAP) argues, because the visibility of black male athletes compared with their relatively low levels of representation in their colleges’ student bodies overall can reinforce stereotypes that sports are perhaps the best and most viable path for black men to access higher education. In addition, black men who do end up on college campuses in part through their athletic prowess often get a bad deal, the CAP report argues. They’re more likely to participate in sports that are injury-prone and generate revenue for their schools. While for a lucky few, the opportunity to play college sports in exchange for a scholarship will result in a professional athletic career, for 98% of college athletes that isn’t the case. What’s more, in many cases, black student-athletes are less likely than their white counterparts (and than black college students overall) to have a degree to fall back on if an athletic career doesn’t pan out.


Number of the Day
22.6 percent – The amount less than men that women earned in 2018 after controlling for race, ethnicity, education, age and location. That is 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)