In high-poverty Louisiana, hardly any poor families get cash assistance

In high-poverty Louisiana, hardly any poor families get cash assistance

Louisiana’s child poverty rates are the worst in the nation, but our state provides cash assistance to fewer of its poor families than any other state — only 4 in 100 families in poverty receive cash aid through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This means that nearly none of our state’s poorest families have access to a key form of state funding to help them with necessities like rent, food and diapers, leaving our kids whose families have the least resources even more vulnerable to the effects of deep poverty. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’s Ife Floyd reports, this situation is all too common in states with a larger share of black families, reflecting the choices of those states’ policymakers in the years since a state block grant replaced direct federal aid.

Black children are likelier than white children to live in states [where the fewest families in poverty receive TANF cash assistance]. This is problematic given the history of discrimination in state cash assistance programs and the fact that Black families still face some of the greatest hurdles to economic security. Research generally concurs that more income during early childhood can improve children’s futures. But TANF’s limited reach means that many families that hit upon hard times because they have lost a job, are fleeing domestic violence, or facing a health or mental health crisis have no access to cash assistance.


Raise workers’ wages
Louisiana is one of five states that does not have a state minimum wage, leaving many workers with the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. And because state law also doesn’t allow local governments to set a wage floor that responds to local conditions, businesses like the New Orleans Convention Center are allowed to pay workers far less than they would need to afford basic necessities while working full time. The Advocate’s Editorial Board has more on why the Convention Center should pay people what they are worth: 

That 2015 city requires a minimum wage of at least $10.55 per hour for employees who work for contractors with contract values greater than $25,000, and it adjusts each year for inflation. This is a bit of a fallacy since a minimum wage isn’t a living wage in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette or any number of southeastern Louisiana communities. Our state’s minimum wage mirrors the federal minimum wage, $7.25. Does anyone really expect decent people to live on that with a single, full-time job? The best any public or quasi-public body can do is to find other ways to do what’s right to support businesses and the people who make those businesses work.


Graduation Rates don’t tell the whole story
Differences in six-year college graduation rates across racial and ethnic groups are an important traditional measure of disparities that persist in higher education even after students enroll in college. But a new report from Andrew Nichols and Marshall Anthony of The Education Trust finds that six-year completion rates alone don’t tell the full story of racial inequities in higher education. For that, they argue, we need to look after graduation:

This data shows that slightly more than half of Black and Latino (51.5%) students earned a degree after six years, compared with nearly 70% of White students. That’s a graduation rate gap of roughly 18 percentage points. While alarming, this discrepancy doesn’t fully capture the extent of the problem, because post-college success isn’t included. Think about it. How many students would bother to take out loans and enroll in college and earn a degree (or credential) knowing that their work would not lead to employment that would enable them to repay their loans? The answer is: not many.


New rule will lead to hunger in Louisiana
Nearly 4% – as many as 31,000 – of Louisiana’s food stamp recipients stand to lose their food benefits because of strict work reporting requirements imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration. Previously, the state was waived from the rule because of its high unemployment rate. Starting April 1st, however, unless a court intervenes, Louisianans with some of the state’s lowest incomes will be subject to a harsh time limit when they can’t document at least 80 hours of work a month of only three months of benefits every three years. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports: 

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services will be contacting the affected people who get food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, with information about how they can keep getting assistance. “We want to help SNAP recipients understand whether this rule applies to them and what they need to do to keep their benefits,” Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters said in a statement. “We also want to help direct them to the many career and educational opportunities that currently exist and are in development.”

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is hearing arguments today in a lawsuit that aims to stop the rule from going forward.


Number of the Day
9% – The percent of $226 million in federal and state funds under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that Louisiana spent on basic assistance in 2018. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)