Louisiana legislators are expecting a high-stakes battle among themselves and with Gov. John Bel Edwards on tort “reform” and the state budget. But a quiet consensus appears to be building – even among political opponents – that early childhood education should be a top funding priority in 2020 and beyond. The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate’s Stephanie Grace reports:
Just about everyone in state politics these days will say that they understand the importance of investing in education and care for Louisiana’s youngest and most vulnerable, and that they get that many kids who start out behind in school never catch up. For that, credit a broad and committed coalition of community and business groups who’ve spent the past several years methodically educating politicians and amassing support.
Reality check: Despite the recent momentum, Louisiana still has a long way to go just to catch up to where it was in 2008, when 40,000 young children from low-income families were receiving subsidized early education services. Today the number is 22,000.
Ohio prepares for restrictive SNAP rule
A restrictive new work requirement rule is projected to take away much-needed food assistance from an estimated 700,000 Americans starting later this year. Three thousand of them live in the Cleveland area, where The New York Times’ Lola Fadulu recently met Carl Thomas. The 48-year-old’s story shows why it’s not always simple for “able-bodied” adults to find work, even in a growing economy.
He spends most of his time holed up at a public library, making use of its internet access to apply for all of the jobs he can find. Before 2016, when his mother died at age 84 of sepsis, he had spent most of his life caring for her. He has been job hunting ever since her death. Some employers want to see a lengthy work history and a college degree. Some are far away, and he does not have a car.
Hope – and jobs – in Lake Providence
The northeast Louisiana town of Lake Providence hasn’t seen much good news in recent decades. It’s a poor town in one of the poorest regions of the country; a place CNN once described as “the most unequal place in America” because of the wide disparity between rich and poor. But a Baton Rouge-based piping company is bringing 50 jobs to the town – a rare economic development “win” that is already transforming the lives of some residents. Gannett’s Greg Hilburn reports:
Epic Piping, which is headquartered in Baton Rouge, has initially invested $2 million to rehab a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at the Lake Providence Port to serve its global customer base. More than 20 workers have been hired this month after the first face of the project was complete, with as many as 30 more to join them before the end of the year. Workers earn $43,500 on average with full benefits, three times the average household income here. “There just aren’t jobs like this here; this has lifted the spirits of the community,” (employee Kevin) Jackson said.
Medicaid contract kerfuffle continues
The Louisiana Department of Health is appealing a decision by the state’s top procurement official to throw out its award of lucrative Medicaid contracts to four insurance companies. The contracts are worth an estimated $21 billion over their three-year lifespan, and the winners will oversee the health care of about 1.5 million Louisianans. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte is tracking the story, including the political implications in a Legislature that’s often hostile to the federal-state medical program that serves low-income people and people with disabilities.
The decision heaps more scrutiny on the Democratic governor for a Medicaid program that has been the target of Republican scorn since he took office in 2016 and expanded it to cover 450,000 additional people. It also comes as Edwards needs both a new health secretary and a new Medicaid director for his second term, adding another wrinkle to the search for those key positions.
Number of the Day
3.4 million – Number of Americans who are lifted out of poverty each year by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)