Paid leave passes first hurdle in Louisiana legislature

Paid leave passes first hurdle in Louisiana legislature

Legislation that would provide Louisiana workers with a portion of their wages when they need time off from work to care for an ill family member, bond with a new baby or recover from a serious illness passed its first hurdle on Thursday. Senate Bill 186, by Sen. J.P. Morrell, provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave to the vast majority of Louisiana workers through modest contributions from employees and employers into a statewide paid leave fund. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard explains:

Proponents say this is (the) first time in a deep red state the idea of paid family leave has gotten out of the starting gate. SB186 would create a fund administered by the Louisiana Workforce Commission. About 0.0064 percent of the employee’s pay would be sent to the dedicated fund. Of that amount the employee would pay 55 percent and the employer would contribute 45 percent. For an employee making $45,000 a year, the taxed amount would be about $288 spread over the year, which would amount to the cost of a cappuccino each week. The fund would allow employees to collect at least a portion of their pay while taking time off to handle family crisis, serious illnesses or pregnancies.

A policy brief  by Louisiana Budget Project Senior Policy Analyst, Stacey Roussel, lays out the case for paid leave and details one model of how it could work in Louisiana. For more on the need for paid family leave, check out the Louisiana Families First website.


Tuition or Food? Too many college students are going hungry

When many people think of college students, they imagine young adults, fresh out of high-school and supported by their parents, whose most pressing worries are coursework and exams. But those ideas are sorely out of date: Nationally, fewer than 1 in 3 people attending college are “traditional” students, and for many, the challenges of college include paying for groceries and finding stable housing. Kaya Laterman of The New York Times writes about a recent report from Temple University that puts new numbers on what has largely been anecdotal data on college hunger. Forty-five percent of the 86,000 students surveyed for the report faced food insecurity in the 30 days before the survey. Some reported hunger naps, delirium and dreams of eating breakfast, as they tried to make ends meet while attending school. While many campuses have created food pantries and have begun outreach for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) registration at orientation, proposed public policies such as expanding school lunch programs to higher education would do more to address what for too long has remained a hidden problem on our nation’s campuses.  

CUNY has discovered that signing up students for SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has helped. In 2009, the school system brought in Single Stop USA, a nonprofit that connects individuals with social services. Since then, the nonprofit and other partners have served over 122,000 CUNY students, each of whom have received about $3,000 worth of benefits each year, said Sarah Crawford, the nonprofit’s national education director. Many states, including New York, have work requirements to get SNAP, but such a requirement should be waived if the recipient is a student, Ms. Crawford argued. In addition, many advocates say that SNAP benefits should be redeemable at dining halls and stores on campus.


Tale of two cities

Louisiana often gets labeled as a poor state. But Cyril Vetter writes in The Advocate that we’re really a rich state with a lot of poor people. And that is largely the result of a generations-long failure to adequately educate citizens for knowledge-economy jobs. Drawing comparisons between Austin and Baton Rouge, Vetter highlights how Louisiana’s use of its extraction economy has not led to shared prosperity:  

Exxon, Dow, Copolymer, Texas Brine and countless other extraction based companies are the backbone of the Baton Rouge area economy. Fine companies they may be, but after these massive refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants are built, they don’t employ many people, and they generate environmental challenges that are subsumed by “a shell road to the camp and free cable.” And just for the record, these extraction economy companies require access to the Mississippi River and cheap and abundant natural gas. They can’t get that anywhere but Louisiana, and yet we shower them with massive tax incentives and greased wheels for the privilege of locating where they have to locate. An ironic curse of being natural resource-blessed comes with the insecurity of not being able to leverage it.


Housing and childcare: two expenses with too little help

Families living on the margins pay a disproportionate share of their income on housing and childcare, and policymakers have failed to find adequate funding for the public programs designed to help them pay for these necessities, leaving too many families and children vulnerable. A recent report by Douglas Rice of The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Stephanie Schmit and Hannah Matthews of CLASP explains why these programs are essential to families’ economic stability, and what our lawmakers must do to help close the gap between the need and current funding:

Stable, affordable housing and high-quality, affordable child care are essential to families’ economic stability, parents’ ability to work, and children’s healthy development. But due to inadequate funding, just 1 in 6 children eligible for child care assistance — and 1 in 5 families with children eligible for housing assistance — receives it. As a result, many low-income families struggle to pay for child care and housing, and many are forced into lower-quality or less stable child care arrangements and housing that is overcrowded, substandard, or located in neighborhoods with fewer opportunities for parents and children.