Nearly half of the unemployed Louisianans who were receiving a $600 weekly boost from the federal government until it expired last month would be excluded from enhanced benefits under President Donald Trump’s recent executive order. Gov. John Bel Edwards said the temporary bump, which comes with administrative hurdles, is no substitute for a comprehensive aid package that Congress was trying to negotiate until talks collapsed last week. Nola.com | The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports:
The new policy means that the lowest-wage workers, who are disproportionately women and people of color, wouldn’t get benefits, (LBP Executive Director Jan) Moller said. “The executive order is not nearly enough to address the economic crisis facing hundreds of thousands of Louisianans who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Moller said. “Even under the best-case scenario, it would only provide short-term, inadequate relief to some workers, while leaving out those who need it most.”
Nola.com | The Baton Rouge Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace says the uncertainty brought on by Trump’s executive order is making things worse for people who lost jobs in the pandemic through no fault of their own:
Not surprisingly, officials in Louisiana and other states have been scrambling to figure out what to do. But one thing that’s already clear is that it’s not remotely reasonable to expect them to turn on a dime, find new funding in the midst of an ever-shifting catastrophe, and design and implement a new, functional, and hard-to-defraud government benefit. It was hard enough to ramp up the existing unemployment system when disaster struck in the first place.
Last week, the Louisiana Workforce Commission also moved unilaterally to re-impose the “work search” requirements that Congress has allowed states to suspend since the beginning of the pandemic, forcing unemployed workers to jump through more hoops to claim their benefits when few jobs are available.
Click here to sign a petition urging Gov. John Bel Edwards to cancel the state’s work search requirements during the pandemic.
Summer feeding sites can reduce food insecurity for children
When school is out of session, children facing food insecurity still need access to healthy food. Even when there’s not a pandemic, children and families across Louisiana struggle with summer hunger each year when schools shut their doors and school meals aren’t available. The federally funded Summer Food Service Program can help to fill in the gaps, but Louisiana’s participation rates in that program were low and sinking in the years before the pandemic. According to a new report from the Louisiana Budget Project and Feeding Louisiana, Louisiana can ensure that children have year-round access to nutritious food, regardless of their family’s finances, by making a concerted effort to increase the scale and reach of its summer meals program:
Not only are a declining number of children receiving summer meals in Louisiana, but a declining number of sites in the state participate in the program, leaving Louisiana kids with fewer places to find free summer meals now than they did five years ago. Between the summer of 2015 and the summer of 2019, the number of sites serving summer meals in the state fell by 16.4%. Currently, eight Louisiana parishes lack any summer meal sites, while others have far fewer sites than needed to serve children living in poverty. For Louisiana families, this translates to real hardship: studies consistently show that low-income households with children experience spikes in food insecurity during the summer months.
In addition to this new report, the Louisiana Budget Project’s former intern, Theresa Harriford, has published a story map that visually displays the reduction in summer feeding sites over the years.
Reducing disparities in internet access for kids
Virtual learning has made access to reliable internet more important than ever. But in many school districts, poverty and a lack of rural broadband providers lead to wide gaps in technology access for different students. According to Louisiana State Superintendent Cade Brumley and Kim Nesmith from the Department of Education, Lafayette Parish and Jefferson Parish school districts are being particularly proactive in closing these gaps for their students. JC Canicosa of the Louisiana Illuminator has more:
“(Lafayette Parish) has been determining families’ connectivity through phone surveys, they have been working with providers to find low-cost options and to publicize those so families can take advantage,” said Nesmith. “As for more services made available in their location, they’re looking to establish public access locations as well as mobile access points.” Meanwhile, Jefferson Parish allowed parents to submit applications for assistance getting connected, Nesmith said. They then sought out low-cost options from internet providers for these students — paid for by the school system.
While Jefferson Parish and Lafayette Parish school districts should be applauded for these efforts, many of Louisiana’s rural school districts, particularly in the delta region, may not have capacity or funding to figure out which students are and aren’t connected to the internet. And in many rural areas of Louisiana, broadband internet simply does not exist.
Expanding working family tax credits would boost rural economy
The federal Child Tax Credit (CTC) gives money back to parents to help them cover the costs of raising kids. But credit in its current form only gives full benefits to middle and upper-income households, while providing low-wage families with only a partial credit. Temporarily expanding the credit so low-wage working families can receive the full benefit — as the HEROES Act proposes — would benefit 54% of Louisiana’s rural children and 45% of children living in metro areas in the state, giving a much-needed boost to these households as the recession continues. Chuck Marr, Stephanie Hingtgen, Kris Cox, Arloc Sherman and Katie Windham of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explain:
The current Child Tax Credit is worth up to $2,000 per child and is available to households well up the income scale, only beginning to phase out for married couples when their incomes surpass $400,000. But 27 million children nationwide, including millions in rural areas, receive either no or only a partial credit because their parents lack earnings or their earnings are too low. … Consider a mother with a 2-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son who works part time as a home health aide, earning $9,000 a year. Her family receives a Child Tax Credit of $975, or less than $500 per child. The Heroes Act would, for tax year 2020, make the full per-child credit (now $2,000-per-child) available to low-income families like hers, raising the credit for her two children to $4,000 — a gain of over $3,000.
Number of the Day
204,000 – The number of unemployed Louisianans who receive state unemployment insurance benefits of less than $100 a week, locking them out of the enhanced benefits proposed in President Trump’s legally dubious executive order. (Source: Gov. John Bel Edwards via Nola.com | The Baton Rouge Advocate)