Feeding kids during a pandemic

Feeding kids during a pandemic

Child hunger is on the rise in Louisiana and around the country as a result of the Covid-19 economic recession. Schools, which have the expertise, resources and reach to feed hundreds of thousands of children each day, are a powerful resource to combat child hunger, even with in-person instruction paused in many parishes. Now, as food insecurity has spiked throughout the state, Louisiana education officials have taken the important step of applying to USDA for a statewide waiver that would allow our state to feed every child for free while streamlining school food operations. Zoë Neuberger of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains the program, called Community Eligibility, that Louisiana officials are looking to expand to feed every schoolchild in the state: 

Community eligibility is associated with a range of positive outcomes for students, including better academic performance, fewer student suspensions, and healthier body mass indexes, a growing body of research shows. With all the hard decisions facing state and local education officials as they try to best serve students during this pandemic, an easy one is to adopt community eligibility for all qualifying schools where it’s financially viable.

 

A step in the right direction on climate change
Louisiana is on the front lines of climate change, and its most vulnerable residents will bear the brunt if policymakers don’t take action. In a step in the right direction, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a goal of “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A newly appointed task force will create a plan to reach the goal, but it will be up to the Legislature, which is heavily influenced by the business lobby, to enact it. Mark Schleifstein of Nola.com | The Advocate has the story, and a word of caution from a veteran environmentalist on how today’s decisions can affect our environment for decades to come:  

“The decisions Governor Edwards makes now, like endorsing the Formosa project that will double air pollution in St. James, will make reaching these goals more difficult,” said Al Armendariz, a Sierra Club official and former director of the Dallas regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency. “Good intentions will disappear unless strong and legally binding regulations are put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from major polluters in Louisiana. ”

A recent report by Mark Paul and Leah Stokes of Southern Economic Advancement Project provides state and local policymakers with a roadmap to combat climate change, and explain how environmental policy impacts racial and economic justice: 

The poverty crisis in the South will continue to be amplified by climate change, making it that much more important for the region to act. High levels of poverty and inequality are associated with energy insecurity, increased vulnerability during extreme weather events, and higher levels of pollution. 

 

A sobering jobs report
Louisiana’s labor market has been hit almost twice as hard by the Covid-19 recession as it was from the 2005 hurricanes. The state lost 218,000 payroll jobs in the first half of the year, and the unemployment rate stood just below the modern-day record set in the depths of the 1980s oil bust. Adam Daigle reports for Nola.com | The Baton Rouge Advocate that economist Gary Wagner of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette expects Louisiana’s recovery to be slower than the rest of the nation.  

“Nothing is going really well at this point in time. Even though I am predicting Baton Rouge to have the strongest job growth in the second half of the year, no region is going to gain back all the jobs that were lost.”

 

Reckless ACA lawsuit advances
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a suit to overturn the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10, exactly one week after the presidential election. A ruling is expected next spring. Attorney General Jeff Landry unilaterally signed Louisiana onto the reckless lawsuit, which could result in 500,000 Louisianans losing coverage and leave people with pre-existing conditions vulnerable to skyrocketing health care costs. Ariane de Vogue of CNN has the latest:  

In 2017, the Republican-led Congress cut the tax penalty for those who lacked insurance to zero as part of the year-end tax overhaul. Texas and other Republican-led states sued, arguing that since the mandate was no longer tied to a specific tax penalty, it had lost its legal underpinning. They also argued that because the individual mandate was intertwined with a multitude of other provisions, the entire law should fall, including protections for people with preexisting conditions. The Trump administration filed briefs siding with Texas for the most part, although they have made a relatively new argument that the entire law should fall but the ruling should only apply to the 18 states that brought the challenge.

 

Number of the Day
7.2% – The share of the federal budget projected to be spent on children in 2030, representing a drop of 20% from the current share (Source: Urban Institute).