As families continue to struggle with the economic fallout of COVID-19, the state reported an unprecedented number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly “food stamp”) applications as unemployment soared and families faced the first of the month without a paycheck. According to data obtained from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the agency responsible for processing the claims, there has been more than a 500% increase in the number of SNAP applications from mid-February to late March. LBP Anti-Hunger Policy Advocate Danny Mintz has the numbers, and a sobering estimate of how long families may have to wait:
If caseworkers were to process applications at the fastest pace they have achieved since Feb 1 (2,871 applications per day), it would still take over 30 working days to process the current backlog. That is without accounting for the new applications that the agency continues to receive.
Bridging the achievement gap
Louisiana students may not return to school this spring, and if they do, they will have missed about two months of classroom instruction right before leaving for summer break. School leaders are considering several options – from summer school to an early start to the school year or individual education plans (IEPs) – to help make up for the lost time. For kids who are already struggling, a lack of resources like high-speed internet access, especially while COVID-19 keeps libraries and other public hotspots closed, means they will have even further to go to catch up. Will Sentell of The Advocate reports:
‘You can’t just start school in August and say a fourth-grader who was in the third-grade last year, you are going to start here,” said Mike Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents. “What happens to that third-grader that fell behind? What happens to that third-grader that did not have access to wi-fi? That is not being fair to the kids,” Faulk said. “That is not being fair to the teachers.”
Race and coronavirus
Louisiana made national headlines this week with the disclosure that black people are dying from coronavirus at far higher rates than whites. But Louisiana is far from alone. Centuries of injustice and structural racism have left minority communities more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. John Eligon, Audra D. S. Burch, Dionne Searcey and Richard A. Oppel Jr. of the New York Times dig in to the data and explore the root causes:
For many public health experts, the reasons behind the disparities are not difficult to explain, the result of longstanding structural inequalities. At a time when the authorities have advocated staying home as the best way to avoid the virus, black Americans disproportionately belong to part of the work force that does not have the luxury of working from home, experts said. … Longstanding inequalities also make African-Americans less likely to be insured, and more likely to have existing health conditions and face racial bias that prevents them from getting proper treatment.
Glimmer of hope for rural America
The COVID-19 pandemic will leave no part of the American economy completely untouched, but some areas may fare better than others. And, rural communities may have an advantage over larger, more globally connected and densely populated urban centers according to analysis from Moody Analytics. But, as April Simpson of The Pew Charitable Trust reports, while rural communities may fare better in some ways, they are not immune, and many have unique vulnerabilities of their own:
(I)t’s harder for rural areas to recover from setbacks, especially when they lack economic diversity, said (Juliette) Tennert, (director of economic and public policy research at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute) with the University of Utah. “At this point, a handful of our rural economies still have not made up the jobs they have lost in the great recession,” Tennert said. “That’s what I get concerned about. What does this thing look like long term? If this goes on for a long time, we’d be especially concerned about rural economies.”
Number of the Day
$50 billion – The amount needed to stabilize the vital childcare industry in the next round of federal coronavirus-related legislation. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)