Gov. John Bel Edwards announced last week that jobless workers in Louisiana will begin receiving their reduced $300 per week unemployment benefits – half of what they received before CARES Act benefits expired at the end of July. The reduced benefits come as Louisiana’s Covid-19 job losses are twice what the state endured after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. It’s up to Congress to fix this mess, as The Advocate editorial board explains:
[Gary] Wagner’s forecast of Louisiana’s economic activity says a national full recovery is not projected until likely 2022. In Louisiana, he noted, that recovery will be slower. “Louisiana’s (GDP) contraction of 6.6% was one of the sharpest drops in the nation,” he wrote in the quarterly Louisiana Economic Activity Forecast. “Only Michigan, New York, Nevada and Hawaii experienced larger downturns in economic activity.” An important economic difference: Louisiana was buoyed in 2005 and later by insurance payments, allowing thousands of families to repair their homes and buy refrigerators and other big household purchases, particularly in New Orleans. There will be no such upside of the coronavirus recession. In fact, there is an inability of Congress to agree on even basic extensions of unemployment relief.
Raiding FEMA while hurricanes approach
The president’s decision to raid FEMA funds to finance the temporary boost in unemployment benefits could prove to be disastrous for Louisiana, as the state prepares to weather Hurricane Laura later this week. Last week, the Miami Herald’s Alex Daugherty and Michael Wilner prophetically explained how dangerous Trump’s decision would be for states:
A major disaster in the next four weeks could cause a funding crisis. The greatest concentration of hurricanes generally occurs from mid-August through October. A spokesperson for Miami Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala, who represents most of coastal Miami-Dade County, said Trump’s executive order is “playing with fire.”“Anybody who lives in Florida knows that the hurricane season is incredibly unpredictable,” Shalala spokesperson Carlos Condarco said. “We need to be able to marshal all the resources that are available to quickly address these problems. Taking FEMA money to pay for unemployment benefits when [scientists] are predicting the most active season on record is incredibly risky and the president is playing with fire.”
America’s schools face attack from three directions
Schools across the country are struggling to educate children while also paying for pandemic-related costs such as personal protective equipment and technology upgrades. But these tasks will become nearly impossible if states are forced to make cuts to K-12 education because of state revenue crises. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Nick Johnson explains how upended learning methods, state revenue crises and racial disparities in education threaten to weaken our children’s education and our communities’ economic future.
While state funding typically reduces disparities between wealthy and poor school districts, funding cuts magnify those disparities — and that’s what happened during the Great Recession, when state funding fell as a share of total school funding. Today, in only about a third of states is total state and local funding higher in the poorest school districts — which face higher costs —than in the least-poor districts. Now, new school funding cuts seem to be following a similar path.
New Jersey baby bonds invest in low- to moderate-income kids
New Jersey Gov. Phillip D. Murphy will introduce what is believed to be the first state benefit to provide a $1,000 state-financed nest egg to babies. The initiative – aimed at narrowing the widening wealth gap between the richest and poorest Americans – would cost an estimated $80 million per year and apply to children born into families earning below $131,000 per year. The New York Times’ Tracey Tulley gives insight into Murphy’s push for this initiative:
Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, said the move would be a small but tangible step toward confronting inequities that have been brought into particularly stark relief by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black and Latino people, who have died and lost jobs at far higher rates. “The inequities are too wide, too raw, to ignore,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview.
Number of the Day
59% – Percent of Black-owned businesses in Baton Rouge that were negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This is a significantly higher rate than the 38% of all businesses affected nationwide, another example of how people of color have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis. (Source: Baton Rouge Area Chamber via The Advocate)