While Louisiana’s combined state and local sales tax is among the highest in the country, the state constitution protects low-income consumers by exempting many basic necessities – groceries, prescription drugs and home utilities – from the state portion of the tax. But our male-dominated Legislature has left important necessities out of those exemptions: feminine hygiene products and diapers. Former Sen. J.P. Morrell led the charge for years to change that. Now, newly-elected Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, writing in The Advocate, explains why she has taken the lead on this important issue.
As a mother and grandmother, and someone working in and listening to the needs of our community for decades, I know the importance of this legislation. Cash-strapped families should not have to choose between food and diapers for their babies. Girls who cannot afford tampons should not be forced to skip school because they are menstruating. Elderly people on fixed incomes should have every opportunity to live out their days in sanitary conditions.
Without paid sick leave, more of us get sick
Unlike almost every other wealthy nation, the United States doesn’t mandate paid sick leave for workers. As a result, workers who can’t afford to stay home go to work sick, and often infect their co-workers and co-commuters. In fact, a recent study of flu trends in cities that imposed mandatory sick leave policies found flu infections may have dropped by 25% to 50% when sick workers were allowed to stay home without sacrificing all of their pay. That’s why, as Chris Ingraham reports in The Washington Post, paid sick leave is an essential public health measure:
The absence of paid sick days creates “a near-guarantee that workers will defy public health warnings and trudge into their workplaces, regardless of symptoms,” as Karen Scott, a doctoral student studying workplace issues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, put it recently in The Conversation. “In this way, a manageable health crisis can spiral out of control.”
More evidence that Medicaid work requirements don’t work
Michigan is one of several states that decided to take health coverage away from people who don’t report a set number of working hours each month, despite clear and consistent evidence that such a policy does far more harm than good. Now, nearly 80,000 Michiganders are at risk of losing their health coverage in May, when the state’s Medicaid program begins booting them from the rolls. As Jesse Cross-Call of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, this is particularly notable because Michigan spent $68 million to inform people of the new rules, but the evidence suggests that thousands are still falling through the cracks.
Despite predictions to the contrary from the sponsor of the 2018 legislation that created Michigan’s work requirement, the state’s experience thus far has been similar to Arkansas’ and New Hampshire’s. In both of those states, evidence suggests that people who were working and people with serious health needs who should have been eligible for exemptions lost coverage due to red tape. Large numbers of beneficiaries in both states reported that they didn’t know about the work requirement or whether it applied to them.
Homeless in college
For many community college students, the rigors of college coursework and the pull of responsibilities outside of the classroom are only part of the challenges of pursuing a degree. According to a 2019 survey by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, 17% of the nation’s community college students struggle with housing insecurity, sleeping on couches or in cars, paying only part of their rent, or skimping on utility bills to get by. Kyle Spencer reports in The New York Times about a widespread problem that has long been invisible to higher education policymakers:
Popular perception of the community college student is that he or she lives at home and enjoys family support,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at Temple University and founder of the Hope Center, which conducts surveys and produces policy papers on the economic challenges facing college students. “A more accurate description is that these are people who are very much on their own,” she said. “They are working adults with children and they are in college because they are not making enough money and are trying to get ahead.”
Number of the Day
4 in 100 – Proportion of families with children living in poverty who receive cash assistance through the TANF program in Louisiana, the lowest “TANF-to-poverty” ratio in the country. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)