Louisiana could ensure tens of thousands of laid off workers can keep food on the tables for their families by eliminating an “asset test” on SNAP benefits. As LBP’s Danny Mintz explains, food assistance remains out of reach for many people because they put aside modest savings toward things like a security deposit for a safer apartment or a down payment on a reliable car. But Louisiana can avoid this trap by exercising an option called Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE, or, “categorical eligibility”). Doing so would help people affected by the virus to continue feeding their families without sacrificing their hard-won economic security.
Now, as Louisiana faces another crisis, lifting SNAP’s asset test and raising the program’s gross income threshold are more important than ever. Making sure that Louisianans who need help to stay fed, can get that help without giving up their economic cushion will put them — and the state — in a better position to bounce back from the coronavirus recession. And for people earning moderate incomes who face high medical bills, as is likely to be common in a pandemic, the ability to access food assistance is a lifeline.
This Equal Pay Day is different
March 31 is Equal Pay Day, marking how long American women must work into the year to earn the same salary as their male counterparts did in 2019. But as women’s equality activist Lilly Ledbetter explains in a guest column for CNN, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the brutal economic reality of low-paid women workers who toil in some of the hardest-hit industries. They aren’t just struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic-induced recession, but the earnings lost to the gender wage gap.
If there will be a silver lining to this pandemic, when it ends, we will hopefully remember what we saw and who got hurt. Let’s never forget the workers who demonstrated grit and commitment during the crisis –as they’ve always done. Let this public health crisis be a catalyst for supporting economic protections, like raising the minimum wage, offering paid sick days, and expanding health insurance. And let it be a catalyst for finally closing the wage gap.
A ‘bloodbath’ for oil & gas
The price of a barrel of oil is nearing $20 on the world market. That has created an “existential threat” to the industry that employs 34,000 Louisianans and brings in 6% of all revenue to the state budget, LSU energy economist David Dismukes told The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges. Industry officials say the price drop has already led companies to cut back sharply on new investments, a trend that is bound to get much worse in the months ahead.
Gifford Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, said a recent survey of members indicated that independent drillers and service companies will probably reduce their job force by 60% to 70% in the coming three months. … “As one operator told me, if prices haven’t recovered to $40 by June 1, there will be a blood bath,” Briggs said. The blood bath would extend to the state’s finances. For every $1 drop in oil over a year, the state loses about $12 million in revenue. State officials were expecting a price of $59 per barrel in 2020.
The coronavirus test isn’t always free
While the coronavirus bills that Congress recently passed provide relief for hospitals, patients can still find themselves on the hook for costly coronavirus tests and treatments. That’s what Andrew Cencini, a computer science professor at Bennington College, found out when he followed his doctor’s advice to get tested for COVID-19 at a local emergency room. The New York Times’ Elisabeth Rosenthal and Emmarie Huetteman tell his story.
Mr. Cencini went to the E.R. to get a test, as he was instructed to do. When he called to protest his $1,622.52 for hospital charges (his insurer’s discounted rate from over $2,500 in the hospital’s billed charges), a patient representative confirmed that the E.R. visit and other services performed would be “eligible for cost-sharing” (in his case, all of it, since he’d not met his deductible). This weekend he was notified that the physician charge from Emergency Care Services of New York was $1,166. Though “covered” by his insurance, he owes another $321 for that, bringing his out-of-pocket costs to nearly $2,000. By the way, his test came back negative.
Number of the Day
967 – Number of ventilators that will be needed in Louisiana when hospital resource demand is expected to peak on April 10. (Source: Axios)