Louisiana leads the nation in hungry seniors

Louisiana leads the nation in hungry seniors

A new study of senior hunger in America commissioned by Feeding America found that rates of senior food insecurity decline as the population ages. But this statistic is not as hopeful as it sounds. The fact that life expectancy drops as poverty increases suggests that America is not more successful at helping older Americans, but rather that poor Americans, who are far more likely than rich Americans to be food insecure, are less likely to live to see older ages. As advocates head to the state capitol this morning for Hunger Advocacy Day, LBP’s Danny Mintz analyzes on the crisis of senior hunger in Louisiana in a new blog post:

Whitney, a 65 year old Mississippi woman interviewed for MAZON’s This Is Hunger project, tells a story emblematic of how seniors in the South often experience hunger: After a lifetime of work, Whitney was left with few resources when she suddenly lost her job. She faced impossible choices between getting the health care she needs and keeping food on her table, all in a landscape emptied of opportunity by racism and economic hardship. According to a new report by Feeding America, situations like Whitney’s are particularly common in Louisiana, where a greater percentage of senior citizens experience food insecurity than in any other state. In 2017, 12.3% of the state’s seniors were “food insecure,” meaning they reduced the quality or quantity of their food because they lacked the money for fuller or more nutritious meals.


No vote, no accountability
A measure to raise the minimum wage to $9 per hour died in the Senate on Tuesday without a vote. As a constitutional amendment, it would have required approval from the voters of the state. The people of Louisiana already expressed broad, bipartisan support for an increase to the minimum wage in a recent LSU survey. But lawmakers, who ostensibly represent their constituents, couldn’t be bothered to vote on a measure that would have allowed the people who elect them to decide for themselves. The Advocate’s Stephanie Grace explains:

As to who such a proposal would help, the Louisiana Budget Project, which advocated for the measure, offered these numbers: 112,700 workers would get a slight raise, a population that includes a disproportionate share of women and people of color. A number of Democratic senators went to the mic to tell some of their stories Tuesday, including state Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who described having to contact the mother of some children in a non-profit program late at night because the woman was working three jobs to support her family. But nobody stood up to make an argument against the bill. Opponents instead let Carter know that he would fall far short of a win if he called the vote. Carter then did what politicians sometimes do in these circumstances; he tabled the measure so that nobody would have to go on record. Well, why not demand a vote and make them own their positions? The people proponents described labor long and hard, with little reward, to take care of their business. The least the senators deciding their fate could have done is to take the same level of personal responsibility for how they handle theirs.


Understanding five major federal tax credit proposals
Research has shown that the vast majority of benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went to the wealthy and large corporations. But five proposals from federal lawmakers aim to reverse this trend by expanding existing tax credits or creating new ones that would benefit low-and moderate-income people. A new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy breaks them down, explaining how they would affect the Earned Income Tax Credit, and how they would help groups that benefited little from the federal tax cut.

The most significant changes under both proposals would be for individuals or married couples with no children living with them. Under current law, the maximum EITC for this group will be roughly just $540 in 2020. Under the Cost-of-Living Refund Act, the maximum EITC for this group would be nearly six times that amount; and under the Working Families Tax Relief Act it would be nearly four times that amount. …  Both proposals would allow more people without children to benefit from the EITC by phasing it out at higher income levels compared to current law and by loosening age restrictions … . The Cost-of-Living Refund Act also provides an EITC of $1,200 to certain students and those with children under age seven even if their earnings fall below what would otherwise qualify them for that amount.


More Medicaid denial letters
The Louisiana Department of Health has notified 17,000 Medicaid recipients that their enrollment in the health insurance program would be terminated unless they prove they qualify. The letters are the result of a new computer upgrade that regularly checks to determine if enrollees earn too much money to receive the taxpayer-financed health coverage. But they also come with the possibility of eligible Medicaid recipients losing their coverage because of computer errors. It follows an initial round of letters to 40,000 people in February, resulting in more than more than 30,000 losing coverage. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports:

“We really need them to respond,” said Medicaid director Jen Steele, who added the agency has boosted its call center staffing to deal with the influx of calls from enrollees. The letters tell recipients their Medicaid coverage status is “pending,” and that they need to call or send information proving they are eligible for the program. While the vast majority of those lost coverage in March were kicked off because they did not respond, about 7% have since come back onto the rolls because they proved they qualify, Steele said. In the coming months, Steele said more still could come back on the rolls as they learn they have been kicked off Medicaid. The health department is also trying to “strike the right balance” of having a robust wage verification system while also not kicking off people who actually qualify for Medicaid, Steele said.


Number of the Day
3 – Number of Louisiana cities (New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport) that are in the top 5 of the most politically polarized cities in the United States. (Source: FiveThirtyEight)