Schools are a vital link in combating child hunger. But when schools go virtual because of the pandemic, keeping kids fed becomes much harder. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture – following pressure from activists and elected officials – announced that it would extend school meal waivers through Dec. 31 instead of letting them expire at the end of this month. That means schools will have greater flexibility to provide free meals to kids regardless of age and income status. Karina Piser of Food and Environmental Reporting Network (FERN) reports on the program’s role, especially in vulnerable communities:
The USDA waivers and other tools are particularly important for rural families, who have struggled to reap the benefits of emergency anti-hunger tools. “Rural areas already had high levels of food insecurity and are now being hit very hard by the pandemic, suggesting schools that have opened will have to close again,” said Danny Mintz, the anti-hunger policy advocate at the Louisiana Budget Project.
The announcement to modestly extend the program comes as Wall Street reported its best August in more than 30 years, according to Antonia Noori Farzan and Jennifer Hassan of the Washington Post.
Recovering from Laura
The damage from Hurricane Laura will take a long time to repair, and recovery will likely be uneven as lower-income neighborhoods struggle to rebuild. Families who were already having a hard time making ends meet before the storm will now face the financial burden of rebuilding or relocating amid a global pandemic. Nomaan Merchant and Sudhin Thanawala of The Associated Press report on the damage and on the frustrations that low income families often face when they attempt to access much needed aid:
One silver pickup truck winding through Lake Charles’ streets carried four generations of a single family — six people inside the cab and three riding on the flatbed along with suitcases and bags filled with belongings. The family was visiting homes where they each lived, assessing what they had lost. Driving the pickup was 53-year-old Patricia Mingo Lavergne. When Lavergne parked outside the house she shares with her husband, a duplex just north of train tracks bisecting the city, several family members began to pray and wipe away tears. (…) They have requested help from FEMA, but Lavergne said she didn’t have a checking account in which to receive federal money.
The Illuminator’s Wesley Muller looks at the volunteers that have rushed to Lake Charles to help with the cleanup, while Julia O’Donoghue digs into some numbers that shed light on the tragedy in Southwest Louisiana.
Good jobs in jeopardy
The United States Post Office has been in the spotlight recently for proposed changes that would hamstring its ability to process mail-in ballots in this fall’s national elections. But the proposed changes – which have only been delayed, not abandoned – could impact more than our election’s integrity. For more than a century, the postal service has been a leader in providing Black workers with good jobs and a foothold on the economic ladder. Jeff Brady of National Public Radio reports on the unique role of the postal service and the broader impact good jobs has on communities:
“The Postal Service is not a business. It’s a service. It’s a service to the American people,” says Judy Beard, legislative and political director of the American Postal Workers Union. Beard says she started at the Postal Service more than 50 years ago to pay her way through college. She says these jobs benefit more than black postal workers and their families. “By shopping in the community, buying gas in the community, going to church in the community,” she says. “All of that just raises the whole community.”
Sue Sturgis of Facing South chronicles the pioneering anti-racist policies that lead to the creation and preservation of economic opportunity for Black workers and the threat it now faces.
The bottom of another “good list,” Louisiana can do better
The federal government will allocate $1.5 trillion in funding for vital programs and services based on the decennial census. Yet, even with these crucial investment dollars at stake, Louisiana ranks 46th in its response rate with 30 days left to be counted. Only 58.2% of households have responded, a task that has been complicated by Hurricane Laura and Covid-19. This is compared to states like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Washington with more than 70% of households responding. Will Sutton of NOLA.com | The Baton Rouge Advocate has the numbers and an important reminder of what’s at stake:
Just one example: early childhood education and head start centers. (Arthur) Walton (of the Census Bureau) said they’re primarily federally funded. “If the government is going to give our head start centers some money and we tell them we have 100 children and we really have 400 children, they’re going to give us money for 100 children,” he said. They don’t care what we say; they rely on the numbers, the data.
With Labor Day coming up, we’re excited to share that LBP is sponsoring a national screening event for the new documentary film: WAGING CHANGE. The FREE Virtual Screening + Live Panel Discussion will occur on Thursday, Sept. 10 from 6-8 pm CST. Watch the trailer & RSVP here.
WAGING CHANGE shines a light on an American struggle hidden in plain sight: the women-led movement to end the federal tipped minimum wage for restaurant workers. It weaves together the stories of workers struggling to make ends meet with the efforts of Saru Jayaraman and others at One Fair Wage. Together they face off against the powerful National Restaurant Association lobby and fight for one fair wage.
Number of the Day
19% – Percentage of Louisiana’s labor force either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for approval during the week ending Aug. 22. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)