Louisiana faces a nearly $1 billion budget hole next year due to the economic fallout of Covid-19. The administration presented their plan yesterday to fill in the gaps and provide $800 million to local governments. But House GOP lawmakers, not pleased with how the proposal was developed, presented their own approach, which the governor’s administration says will delay aid to locals. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has more on the dispute:
The legislative plan would carve out $200 million for small business grants and leave the remaining $600 million-plus for local government expenses related to the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus. The disbursement to local agencies — such as sheriff’s offices, city councils, school districts and more — would flow through a different program than Edwards planned. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the governor’s chief budget adviser, said the proposal advancing in the House would delay the state’s ability to get relief aid to local agencies.
State budgets need federal help
Governors and local leaders have been pleading for federal help to plug huge holes in state budgets caused by Covid-19. The HEROES Act, which passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives on May 15, would include essential aid for cities and states. But while the bill would help avert a deeper economic catastrophe nationwide, it’s facing opposition from conservatives in the Senate, who claim that the economic woes of American states are only a blue state problem. Catherine Rampbell explains in the Washington Post that hits to state budgets are an every-state crisis, and refusing aid to states now will be very expensive in the long term.
Economic experts — including those who have been much more principled in their budget hawkishness — have expressed support for robust federal spending. Expensive as further stimulus might be, they warn, it’s still likely to be cheaper than the alternative. In a survey of high-profile economists called the IGM Economic Experts Panel, most respondents agreed that spending substantially more now would “ultimately be less costly than a smaller program because it will better help to avoid long-term economic damage and promote a stronger recovery.”
We need to patch the holes in the safety net
America’s safety net is riddled with holes, thanks to time limits out of step with household needs, burdensome reporting requirements and other administrative barriers designed to make it harder for people in need to access government support—many of which tie government aid to participants’ employment. As J.C. Pan writes in The New Republic, the pandemic has put a new focus on the cruelty of tying essential health insurance or food to employment in the first place.
[T]he push to get people back to work against the advice of public health experts is not only dangerous—it’s also deeply unpopular with the public, which makes sense considering how quickly the impact of a new wave of infections will touch people’s lives. This push to get back to work, in many ways, is also an extension of a long-standing, ineffective, and punitive American approach to the social safety net in general: Namely that government assistance, in all but a few cases, should be predicated on work.
New aid for Louisiana rural broadband
Louisiana’s rural communities have struggled to access high speed internet—a problem worsened by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration’s failure to accept federal aid to expand access. With many more people working and attending school from home due to the Coronavirus, this problem has new urgency. Now, some help may be on the way: Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell announced that Louisiana is in line to receive $600 million to expand rural internet access. The News staff at KTVE has the story:
Louisiana is in line to receive an estimated $600 million in federal government aid over the next 10 years to spread broadband to “unserved and underserved” rural areas. Campbell said the aid is coming from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund “The Public Service Commission does not regulate the internet, so I can’t magically wave a wand and get it to everybody. And the internet companies want to go where the population is. I’m saying, ‘If you’re going to get into this (FCC) program we’re going to serve some unserved places.’
Number of the Day
$9.2 billion – The amount of fiscal relief funds Louisiana would receive over two years if the HEROES Act is signed into law. (Source: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)