As families increasingly struggle to put food on the table, the programs designed to help aren’t reaching everyone in need. In Louisiana, over 600,000 school-age children qualify for free- and reduced price lunch, making them eligible for the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program, which provides families with money to replace the food kids aren’t getting at school. Unfortunately, one-third of Louisiana kids who qualify haven’t received the benefit. Karina Piser of The Nation has the story:
Some families haven’t even been able to apply, said Danny Mintz, an anti-hunger advocate at the Louisiana Budget Project. Many in the state don’t have access to a computer or stable Internet access, and the application isn’t mobile-friendly. P-EBT, he added, “could have served as a lifeline for immigrant families”—low-income children receive free school lunch regardless of immigration status, making the benefit one of few undocumented families can access—but the online application was available only in English. “Our concern is that the state may have already gotten the lowest-hanging fruit but that the people who are most in need are likely having trouble getting a benefit that’s owed to them.”
There are no race-neutral policies
The disparate racial impact of Covid-19 will be felt by communities of color long after the public health emergency is over. This is true not only because black people are dying of the disease at disproportionately higher rates than whites, but also because centuries of structural racism have kept black and brown families from accumulating the same wealth and access to resources that white families enjoy. A new comprehensive report by Elise Gould and Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute analyzes the longstanding racial economic divide in our country and its implications for families of color today:
Although the current strain of the coronavirus is one that humans have never experienced before, the disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing social and economic injustices. Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income, and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus—both economically and physically.
LBP stands with communities of color in the struggle toward a more equitable society. In a statement released this week, LBP Executive Director, Jan Moller, shares our views:
Dismantling institutional racism means crafting a budget and tax structure where the wealthy pay their fair share so investments can be made in the things that build a fair economy – access to good schools, safe and affordable housing, and reliable transportation. It means breaking the school-to-prison pipeline that has made Louisiana the world’s leading incarcerator, and ensuring that the right to vote is protected for everyone. It means making sure all Louisianans, regardless of their citizenship status, have access to affordable health care and the conditions that ensure good health, such as healthy food and neighborhoods free from pollution.
Hijacking the pandemic
The $30 billion state operating budget – hit hard by revenue losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic – is supposed to be the central focus of the 30-day special legislative session that began this week. Unfortunately, the effort to fund vital services could become much harder than necessary, with business lobbyists pushing for an array of tax breaks that would take more money from the public services that the people of Louisiana increasingly need to recover from the pandemic and the recession. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has the story:
Rep. Ted James, who nearly died after being hospitalized with complications from COVID-19, panned the special session as a giveaway to business. He said business groups are seeking to tie a long-held wish list of tax proposals that failed in previous sessions to virus recovery in hopes of gaining traction for the ideas. “They hijacked this whole pandemic. Pushing these in the name of COVID is shameful,” said James, a Baton Rouge Democrat. “It’s just not honest to the people of our state.” James said the agenda has “nothing geared toward the workers who start these businesses up.”
Mental health an immediate and long term concern
The Covid-19 pandemic is taking a toll on America’s mental health. Frontline workers and people who’ve been laid off or had their hours cut are at particular risk, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And while the need for mental health care is rising, the public resources available to pay for that care is declining. Jake Clapp writes in the Gambit about this unfolding crisis:
New Orleans mental health professionals are “all trying very hard to make the quality of care that is needed for our community,” (Dr. Howard Osofsky, chair of LSU’s Department of Psychiatry) says. “But school districts will be faced with, in all likelihood, budget cuts. The city, as you know, is dealing with the economic costs, and starting off with some underlying problems that I know everyone would like to address and … economic difficulties add a further layer of concern.” (…) “We do have resources. But do we have enough? The answer is no,” he says.
Number of the Day
$6 – The gap in median hourly wages between white and black workers in Louisiana in 2018. The gap has widened from $4.70 in 1979 when adjusted for inflation. (Source: Economic Policy Institute analysis of Current Population Survey)