Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, bowing to the demands of Republicans in the state Legislature, crafted a “plan” for the Nov. 3 election that will actually make it harder for people to vote absentee than it was in the July primary. Gov. John Bel Edwards has rejected the proposal, and a federal judge will likely have the final say in how Louisianans vote, thanks to a suit filed by the NAACP and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. For Nola.com | The Advocate capitol bureau chief Mark Ballard, the issue is deeply personal. His wife, Baton Rouge broadcasting icon Donna Britt, suffers from ALS. In a Sunday column, Ballard describes the bureaucratic hoops Donna Britt will have to jump through in order to vote under Ardoin’s plan:
The instructions are complex, but if read correctly, enrolling in the disability program requires filling out a three-page application. Some can submit a disability identification card or Social Security documents. But in Donna Britt’s situation, her main physician is required to provide a letter, as stated in one part of the instructions, and a “certificate for disability program,” a downloadable form required by another part of the instructions. Once those documents are collected and since ALS has robbed her of her ability to use her hands, my wife will need to make her mark on the application while two witnesses watch. Nobody faxes anymore, so the application and documents are either mailed or hand-delivered by a member of the immediate family who must produce identification and also sign at the bottom of the application. The ballot arrives by mail. When she votes, a witness will need to sign the ballot, which can be mailed or delivered by an immediate family member.
Before he became an editor at the New York Times, Talmon Joseph-Smith was an eighth-generation New Orleanian who grew up in Gentilly. Fifteen years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the poorly constructed floodwalls that protected New Orleans, Joseph-Smith takes an unsparing look at what’s happened to his city: spiraling home prices, a growing schism between rich and poor, and a chronic failure to lift up the workers who staff the city’s tourism industry.
Most New Orleanians are renters. Pre-Katrina, the market rate for a one-bedroom apartment was around $578 monthly. It has roughly doubled since then, meaning a full-time worker must now earn about $18 per hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment. Real wages, however, have stalled, and many of the places that employ New Orleanians remain closed. Tens of thousands of workers in the city’s beloved music, drinks, food and tourism businesses — who were the most likely to lose their livelihoods both after the storm and now during the pandemic — make a minimum wage of $7.25.
The entire essay is worth a read.
Evictions highlight need for federal relief
The federal unemployment benefits that were keeping millions of unemployed Americans from economic despair expired in late July, and Congress remains deadlocked on a new relief bill. The result is that many households will not be able to afford their September rent, due tomorrow, which means the threat of eviction looms over families from coast to coast. Matthew Desmond writes in The New York Times about “the greediest of bills.”
Medical professionals have sounded the alarm about how the eviction crisis will exacerbate our public health emergency. At the beginning of August, 26 medical associations signed a letter urging Congress to provide housing resources to renting families, recognizing the housing crisis to be a health crisis. Our efforts to defeat Covid-19 and recover from the economic damage it has wrought will be deeply compromised if we fail to help families keep their homes. Besides pushing up coronavirus infection rates, the eviction crisis will also aggravate our unemployment crisis, as workers get displaced far from their jobs, and it will further complicate school reopenings, as evicted children, themselves at heightened risk of infection, shuffle from one school to the next.
No room at the inn
Families in and around Lake Charles are looking at weeks – if not months – without electricity and water after Hurricane Laura tore a destructive path through the Southwest Louisiana petrochemical hub last week. Instead of helping, the city-parish government in nearby Lafayette is closing its doors to evacuees, with Mayor-President Josh Guillory citing the peaceful protests that arose after police in that city recently killed a man outside a convenience store. The Acadiana Advocate’s Megan Wyatt explains:
Lafayette was spared the worst of Hurricane Laura, but the city’s leadership doesn’t plan to open an emergency shelter anytime soon for those in neighboring communities who have been displaced by the storm. … Cydra Wingerter, Guillory’s chief administrative officer, sent a Saturday email to those involved in disaster response, urging them to “take a pause on any action to establish shelters at this time.”
Number of the Day
37,700 – Estimated number of vacant housing units in New Orleans. Rents have doubled since Katrina, and a full-time worker needs to earn $18 an hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the city. (Source: Housing NOLA via The New York Times).