Nearly 7 in 10 new moms in Louisiana do not have access to paid leave from their job. This is despite ample evidence that being able to take sufficient time away from work has long-term benefits for both new parents and their children. Paid leave is especially important in Louisiana, which ranks at or near the bottom on many national indicators of maternal and child health. Legislation sponsored by Sen. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans (Senate Bill 186) would affect 80 percent of Louisiana workers, giving them the security of knowing they could take time off from work to bond with a new child or deal with a family emergency without losing their whole paycheck. Katherine P. Theall and Phyllis Hutton Raabe, in a guest column for The Advocate, explain why that’s important:
(U)se of paid leave after giving birth is associated with reductions in maternal postpartum depression and stress, a lower rate of re-hospitalization, longer periods of breast-feeding (which promote the health of mothers and children), greater employment continuity, and enhanced financial security. Lessening chronic financial stress (due to employment and economic insecurities) is itself a pathway to better health. Establishing a paid family leave insurance program in Louisiana would help prevent the health and social problems in Louisiana that impair individuals, families, and communities — and increase health care costs.
A recent policy brief by LBP’s Stacey Roussel explains in detail how a paid leave program could work in Louisiana.
Overdue for a higher minimum wage
Raising the minimum wage in Louisiana shouldn’t be a tough call for lawmakers. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for a decade, during which many cities and states around the country have chosen to boost the pay of those at the bottom. There is plenty of research to refute the idea that higher wages kill jobs. Yet a higher minimum wage remains a tough sell in the halls of the Capitol, where corporate lobbyists continue to peddle outdated economic theories. Nola.com/The Times-Picayune weighs in with a weekend editorial:
(M)any legislators are fearful of upsetting businesses that don’t want to be forced to pay higher wages. So, they let families suffer in the name of economic development, although that argument is undermined by the fact that other Southern states with a higher minimum wage are outpacing Louisiana in key economic categories. Florida, Arkansas and 27 other states have set a minimum wage higher than the $7.25 federal rate, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Arkansas voted to increase its minimum wage from $8.50 to $11 by 2021. Florida is at $8.46 for 2019. Florida and Arkansas both have lower unemployment rates and much lower percentages of people at risk of poverty than Louisiana. And they both outdid Louisiana in job growth and other measures on U.S. News & World Report’s most recent employment rankings.
Don’t backslide on Medicaid expansion
The most profound public policy change in Louisiana in decades happened on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ first full day in office. With the stroke of a pen, he expanded the state’s Medicaid coverage eligibility to include low-income adults. Nearly 500,000 Louisianans have gained health coverage as a result. To their credit, neither of Edwards’ two main opponents in the October primary – U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone – have proposed doing away with the expansion, though Rispone has talked of “freezing” enrollment in the program. The Advocate’s Sunday editorial looks at why expansion has been good for the state:
The critics ought to wake up and smell the coffee about the real-world problems of administering such a big program. … We see Medicaid expansion as being a benefit for the state, and not just because higher federal rates of matching funds help Louisiana’s general fund balance. A healthier population remains a fundamental building block of a better economy. Rural hospitals, in particular, benefit from Medicaid expansion. We should not “freeze” it, nor invent ways to kick hardworking folks off the rolls, but we welcome sensible initiatives to make it more efficient.
Being poor in the digital age
As the debate over digital privacy heats up – The New York Times recently launched a monthslong series on the subject – scant attention has been paid to the unique privacy concerns experienced by low-income people, immigrants and other marginalized communities. But as researcher Mary Madden writes in a Times’ op-ed, poor people can be harmed by privacy issues at both ends of the spectrum – by being subject to oversurveilliance and monitoring in their communities and when applying for government benefits, and by losing out on career opportunities when their online profiles aren’t visible enough.
The poor experience these two extremes — hypervisibility and invisibility — while often lacking the agency or resources to challenge unfair outcomes. For instance, they may be unfairly targeted by predictive policing tools designed with biased training data or unfairly excluded from hiring algorithms that scour social media networks to make determinations about potential candidates.
As with so many issues of wealth and inequality, the privacy debate is closely intertwined with race and immigration.
In addition to understanding the differing concerns of economically marginalized groups, it’s critical to understand how different racial and ethnic groups experience privacy. From the government surveillance of black civil rights leaders in the 1960s to the surveillance of Black Lives Matter protesters on social media today, there are myriad examples of communities of color enduring a disproportionate level of scrutiny when compared with white Americans engaged in the same kinds of activities. More recently, the ongoing government tracking of the foreign-born Hispanic population — which is also among the poorest and least-educated group of adults in the country — has resulted in raids and deportations that have separated family members and created a climate of widespread fear. This mass surveillance is causing eligible families not to apply for life-sustaining supports like food stamps, to avoid getting the health care they need and to pull their children out of school.
Number of the Day
$38,681 – Median income in New Orleans in 2016, which is slightly below what it was in 2000. Meanwhile, rents in the Crescent City increased nearly 25 percent from 2012 to 2016. (Source: Unity of Greater New Orleans via Nola.com/The Times-Picayune)