Child hunger on the rise

Child hunger on the rise

Families with children who receive free- or reduced-price lunch can qualify for a federal program that provides money to replace the food children would have received at school. So far, 4 out of 10 Louisiana kids who qualify haven’t received the benefit known as the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT). Louisiana is only one of two participating states that requires parents to apply instead of issuing the benefit automatically, which is causing problems in reaching the neediest children. Aubri Juhasz of New Orleans Public Radio has the story: 

“I think the huge downside of this approach is that it’s the students who face the highest barriers to food access that are most likely to be left out of the online application,” (Danny Mintz, an anti-hunger policy advocate for the Louisiana Budget Project) Mintz said. He’s talking about families that don’t have computer or internet access, or those who speak little or no English. … Even though schools are required to contact all eligible families, Mintz said it’s likely some families still don’t know that the benefit exists. “This is one of the few benefits that’s available to all children, regardless of their or their family’s immigration status,” Mintz said. “This program represents a real potential lifeline to those families.”

Help spread the word: Louisiana’s P-EBT application portal is open until Monday, June 15 at 4:30 p.m. Families seeking help with their application should call the LAHelpU Call Center at 1-888-524-3578.


Invest in childcare so families can return to work
Child care centers play a vital role in ensuring parents are able to work while their youngest members receive high-quality care and early education. The affordability of that care has long been a struggle for low-income parents and it may be even further out of reach as centers reopen under new restrictions. Months of closure and new costs associated with Covid-19 like reduced class size and enhanced safety measures will likely mean higher prices. Leigh Guidry of the Lafayette Daily Advertiser has the story, including the need for increased federal funding while families and the economy recover: 

(Libbie) Sonnier (Executive Director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children) said parents will have more difficulty affording child care, as some face job loss at the same time as child care costs could go from $12,000 a year to $16,000 a year, according to averages included in a cost modeling report by the institute. Cost of child care and access for families have long been issues. Prior to COVID-19 the state was serving about only 15% of children 3 and under, Sonnier said. “What the pandemic really did was illuminate where cracks were in the system,” Sonnier said. “If we build a child care system back exactly the way it was, shame on us. This is a chance to make changes.”


Medicaid expansion strengthens communities
Louisiana has seen tremendous benefits from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to expand Medicaid in 2016, including historically low uninsured rates, sustained access to health care in rural areas even as rural hospitals close in other states and a more robust health care infrastructure to respond to public health emergencies like Covid-19. The program is now being credited for permanently reopening Baton Rouge General’s emergency room in Mid City Baton Rouge, which had closed in 2015. Stephanie Riegel of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report has the story: 

What has changed in five years to make operating the ER financially sustainable? Medicaid expansion, says BRG (Baton Rouge General)  President and CEO Edgardo Tenreiro. In 2015, uninsured patients accounted for roughly 20% of BRG’s payer mix. Today, they comprise fewer than 10%. “Not only was the increase in patients covered by Medicaid but changes to the Medicaid model,” Tenreiro says. “It is shifting to a dollar-follow-the-patient model, which is what we had been saying for 10 years needed to happen. It’s a credit to the Legislature and Gov. Edwards that we were able to move to this model.”


Support for workers, not just businesses
Federal aid to states through the CARES Act is helping state and local governments grapple with the economic fallout of Covid-19, including $1.8 billion in aid to Louisiana. State Republicans have earmarked $300 million of these funds for business, but proposed legislation by Rep. Sam Jenkins would redirect between $50 and $75 million to front line workers in the form of one-time payments.  Sam Karlin of The Advocate has the details: 

Under draft legislation that (Rep. Sam) Jenkins plans to file, potentially as an amendment to a funding bill awaiting approval in the Senate, workers in health care, child care, law enforcement, public safety or other first responders who make less than $70,000 a year would be eligible. The workers would have to “provide in-person services” outside their homes dedicated to responding to or mitigating the public health emergency. If approved, the workers would receive a $250 check.

Come work with us
LBP is accepting applications for paid, part-time interns in its Baton Rouge office for Summer 2020. This is an exciting opportunity for candidates interested in developing research, data analysis, writing and advocacy skills. Apply today!


Number of the Day
$9,736 – The difference between the annual state subsidy for an infant in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and the actual cost of care under Covid-19 guidelines. (Source: Louisiana Policy Institute for Children)