The reduced unemployment benefits included in President Donald Trump’s executive order will only provide a boost to jobless workers for three weeks, and probably won’t hit bank accounts until the end of this month. This is the latest example of how the president’s actions are no substitute for a comprehensive aid package that Congress must negotiate. Unfortunately, the three-week delay may be the best-case scenario, as states will likely have trouble updating their systems with the new unemployment benefit calculation. The Washington Post’s Tony Romm reports:
Many states have warned in recent days they face the prospect of immense delays as they race to upgrade their computer systems to implement Trump’s order. Others state unemployment officials have said they fear the program’s confusing criteria may prevent them from sending any new aid at all. “It’s just more uncertainty for workers at a time when uncertainty is a bad idea,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Center.
The majority of states remain uncommitted to Trump’s stripped-down boost to unemployment benefits. While 18 states, including Louisiana, have accepted them, 30 states remain undecided and two have said no. The AP’s Geoff Mulvihill reports on why so many governors have reservations:
Many governors say the costs to states to receive the bigger boost offered by Trump is more than their battered budgets can bear. They also say the federal government’s guidelines on how it will work are too murky. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, called it a “convoluted, temporary, half-baked concept (that) has left many states, including Pennsylvania, with more questions.”
Red city, blue city
Without substantial, targeted economic aid from the federal government, America’s cities face massive revenue shortfalls. That will likely result in major cuts to vital services, which in turn could stymie economic growth for years to come. Louisiana’s two largest cities, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, are estimated to have revenue shortfalls of more than 12% in 2021. Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui of the New York Times’ Upshot Blog note that the fiscal crisis cuts across political and ideological lines.
Many cities facing steep losses are in states represented by Republican senators, like Florida or Louisiana. And the analysis found little relationship between whether a place was fiscally healthy before the pandemic and the most dire projections of revenue shortfalls. What matters more in this pandemic moment is how a city generates money: Those highly dependent on tourism, on direct state aid or on volatile sales taxes will hurt the most. Cities like Boston, which rely heavily on the most stable revenue, property taxes, are in the strongest position — for now.
New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced on Monday that the city plans to open a $100 million line of credit to plug budget holes caused by Covid-19. Jeff Adelson of Nola.com | The Advocate describes how the CARES Act came up short for the Crescent City.
New Orleans also has less access to that pot of money now, an ironic result of its success in controlling the outbreak — since the formula used to distribute the funds takes into account both a city’s total population and its infection rate. Early in the outbreak, New Orleans was one of the hardest-hit areas in the nation, but the number of new cases lately has been relatively low compared to other Louisiana parishes. As a result, when the city put in a request for about $40 million in funds covering costs from late spring, it was told it will receive only about $9 million, Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño said.
Black women in the fight for voting rights
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted most American women the right to vote. But the amendment didn’t technically grant universal suffrage, and Black women faced barriers to the ballot box long after 1920. NBC News’ P.R. Lockhart explains how Black women have been at the forefront of advocating for voting rights and access for a century.
But as the centennial of suffrage approaches, bringing with it new opportunities to reflect on the ways Black communities fought for and seized civil rights even when other groups overlooked them, advocates say they continue to look to the legacies of the Black women who preceded them. “Even when Black women did not win all that they should be able to, they continued to fight and continued to struggle in service of this more perfect union that we are all striving for,” (Adrianne) Shropshire (the executive director of BlackPAC) said. “It is important to understand who is making those contributions and working towards the sort of multiracial democracy that we are all striving for.
Keeping up the non-unanimous jury convictions
Criminal justice advocates in Louisiana working to overturn previous split-jury verdicts have gained a new ally: Kim Kardashian. The reality TV megastar is using her celebrity profile in support of two Louisianans serving prison time after being convicted of crimes by non-unanimous juries. Her activism follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year that outlawed non-unanimous jury convictions, but punted on the question of whether that decision should be retroactive. The Nola.com | Baton Rouge Advocate’s editorial board reminds us there’s more work to do.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision noted that retrials would be expensive. They certainly will be. Miller’s situation makes it clear, once again, that it is important that Louisiana deal with the anticipated costs and consider the complications as a critical part of ensuring foundational constitutional rights. If someone is wrongly accused and convicted, that’s wrong. If an entire jury isn’t certain, there shouldn’t be a conviction. Kardashian and advocates like her with less fame are right that the split-jury’s time has come and gone.
Number of the Day:
20% – The proportion of New Orleans’ annual budget that comes from sales tax collections. The average for 150 major U.S. cities is 7%. (Source: New York Times via the National Tax Journal)