Louisiana policymakers will soon get the first official estimate of the damage done to Louisiana’s budget by the coronavirus pandemic. All indications are that the revenue shortfalls will be severe, as tax collections from sales, gambling, oil drilling and personal income come in below expectations. Yet in its first day back at work after a seven-week layoff, a legislative committee approved a $150 million tax break for the oil industry. The Advocate editorial board agrees with LBP that this is a terrible idea:
Perhaps legislators are just that short-sighted, or perhaps they’re all influenced by oil and gas lobbyists’ extensive contributions to their campaigns. Or perhaps they look at their counterparts in Washington, D.C., lavishing money on people and businesses, and just don’t get the fact that the federal budget does not need to be in balance, like Louisiana’s is required to be. … This bill is unlikely to keep a single well open in these circumstances. The cut is phased-in but who on the committee can tell us what oil prices will be in, say, 2023? Making the cut permanent over five years is either based on a belief that oil prices will never come back — we don’t agree, although it may take a while — or an ideological belief that tax cuts are the solution to every problem, every time.
Reducing the barriers of college debt
Colleges and universities are currently allowed to withhold grades, transcripts and even diplomas from students because of unpaid debt. For low- and moderate-income students who may not have the means to pay off their debt until they have jobs, this can present a significant barrier, both to continuing their education and to getting employment in their chosen field. House Bill 676 by Rep. Julie Emerson, which cleared a legislative committee on Wednesday, aims to fix this. Will Sentell of Nola.com | The Advocate was there:
“We have a number of more effective tools that we can utilize on student debt,” said Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System. Henderson told the committee it makes no sense to put up barriers for students at the same time college leaders are trying to remove roadblocks, including his announcement Tuesday of reduced tuition for the fall semester. Henderson said linking student access to grades and transcripts to debt could be seen as sort of a “debtor’s prison”. He said problem debt probably applies to hundreds of students and that the state Office of Debt Recovery does a good job of resolving issues. “That is probably the most effective tool we have,” Henderson told the panel.
Thank an undocumented worker for the food on your table
The agricultural workers who are keeping food on the table for millions of Americans during the pandemic are now deemed essential, despite the fact that they have been targeted and demonized by President Donald Trump’s administration and allies. Alfredo Corchado, who is from a family of Mexican farmworkers who worked the fields in California, writes in the New York Times, calling for an end to this hypocrisy and a path to citizenship for these essential workers:
Tino, an undocumented worker from Oaxaca, Mexico, is hoeing asparagus on the same farm where my family once worked. He picks tomatoes in the summer and melons in the fall. He told me his employer has given him a letter — tucked inside his wallet, next to a picture of his family — assuring any who ask that he is “critical to the food supply chain.” The letter was sanctioned by the Department of Homeland Security, the same agency that has spent 17 years trying to deport him.
Joe L. Del Bosque, a Mexican-American and owner of Del Bosque Farms elaborates on America’s dependence on foreign labor to keep food on our tables:
“Sadly, it’s taken a pandemic for Americans to realize that the food in their grocery stores, on their tables, is courtesy of mostly Mexican workers, the majority of them without documents,” Mr. Del Bosque told me.
Rural communities had no chance against Covid-19
Rural Americans were grappling with poverty and lack of access to healthcare at higher rates than other parts of the country, even before Covid-19. In the South, many of these rural areas are often disproportionately African American, and continuing labor market discrimination and unequal access to opportunities and high-quality public services, add an additional layer of barriers to healthcare and good jobs for many members of the community. Claire Galofaro of the AP writes a heartbreaking story on COVID-19’s impact on rural southwest Georgia:
More than a quarter of people in Terrell County live in poverty, the local hospital shuttered decades ago, and businesses have been closing for years, sending many young and able fleeing for cities. Those left behind are sicker and more vulnerable; even before the virus arrived, the life expectancy for men here was six years shorter than the American average. Rural people, African Americans and the poor are more likely to work in jobs not conducive to social distancing, like the food processing plant in nearby Mitchell County where four employees died of COVID-19. They have less access to health care and so more often delay treatment for chronic conditions; in southwest Georgia, the diabetes rate of 16 percent is twice as high as in Atlanta. Transportation alone can be a challenge, so that by the time they make it to the hospital, they’re harder to save.
Number of the Day
51.8% – The number of Louisianans who have responded to the 2020 Census. Louisiana’s response rate is 41 out of the 50 states, District of Columbia., and Puerto Rico. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)