Today is the national Census day. Louisiana received $14.5 billion in 2016 from 55 different federal spending programs tied to data collected by the U.S. Census. Every person who goes uncounted could cost Louisiana $2,291 in funding. This year you can respond to the census online, on your phone, or by mail. New technology isn’t the only change to the process. The Advocate’s Megan Waytt has more on the more detailed demographic information being collected this year:
In previous versions of the census, a person who selected “white” or “black” as his or her race could not identify an ethnicity or country of origin. This year’s form provides that option for the first time. People may overlook the ability to identify as Cajun or Creole, however. Examples provided under the white race option include German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese and Egyptian. Examples provided under the black race option include African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian and Somali.
The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice has more on how you can get involved and be counted.
Reforming unemployment insurance will boost our economy
Tens of thousands of Louisianans have lost their jobs as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Congress has responded by increasing unemployment benefits and providing new funding for states to administer these benefits. But there are several key steps that Gov. John Bel Edwards needs to take in order to maximize these benefits. Louisiana Budget Project policy analyst Neva Butkus outlines them in a new blog:
Louisiana also should take steps to improve how the state’s unemployment insurance program is administered, to make sure that every person who qualifies for these benefits receives them. Only 11% of unemployed Louisianans currently receive unemployment benefits. Only four states – North Carolina, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota – have a lower share of eligible people getting benefits.
Meanwhile, Louisiana’s lack of guaranteed paid sick leave means that some people are likely to keep working even when they feel ill – putting themselves and others at risk. Clarionta Jones, a retail worker who organizes with Step Up Louisiana, wrote a letter in The Advocate on why local governments need to have the ability to be able to entact sick days and medical leave policies:
There is no way to win. I have two kids, a 3-month-old and a 3-year-old. My partner has been laid off so mine is the only income in the house. We need to keep a roof over our heads but I know that customers are not safe when workers like me have to take risks. Essential dollar store workers like me, sanitation workers, and fast-food workers need to stay healthy if the community is going to stay healthy. State laws don’t guarantee pay for workers who need to stay home but there is a law that stops our local leaders from doing what they need to protect our city.
New Orleans Rep. Royce Duplessis has filed House Bill 797 to give local governments the ability to enact policies on sick and medical leave.
Peacock abandons butterfly bill*
Citing the ongoing pandemic that has claimed more than 230 lives, state Sen. Barrow Peacock has abandoned his efforts to designate the Gulf Fritillary as Louisiana’s official state butterfly. When lawmakers eventually reconvene, Peacock said he will amend his bill to have the novel coronavirus named the official state virus. The veteran senator explained his intentions in an exclusive interview:
“I really had my heart set on screwing over the trial lawyers this session,” Peacock said. “But I now realize we may not have time for that. The next best thing we can do is honor this virus that will soon wreak absolute havoc on our state budget. In this way it’s finishing the job that Bobby Jindal started.”
Congress should reject attempts to weaken Medicaid Protections during pandemic
When states received increased Medicaid funding in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, they agreed not to impose new Medicaid eligibility requirements or take away people’s coverage during the coronavirus pandemic. But now some lawmakers are trying to weaken or eliminate these beneficiary protections, called “maintenance of effort” (“MOE”) requirements. Aviva Arone-Dine at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains how removing these key protections will put people insured through Medicaid at risk in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis.
When MOE requirements preventing such actions were not in place, states sought to lower their Medicaid costs by creating significant obstacles to getting and keeping coverage, such as imposing premiums, requiring consumers to provide increased paperwork and verification, or decreasing the staff available to help people complete applications and renewals. … Meanwhile, if the provision of the MOE that prevents states from terminating coverage during the public health emergency were abandoned, people who lose their jobs or experience sharp drops in income could lose coverage as a result of wage matching against outdated data that do not reflect the individuals’ loss of income in recent days and weeks.
Number of the Day
$185 million – Unrestricted cash reserves held by Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center. A coalition of 21 groups is calling for $100 million of the reserves to be used in support of hospitality industry workers who are out of work due to the coronavirus crisis. (Source: The Lens)