Climate change will cause the mass migration of tens of millions of Americans in the coming decades, as life becomes untenable in many parts of the country. Sea-level rise alone could displace as many 13 million Americans along submerged coastlines – like Louisiana’s – by 2050. ProPublica partnered with the New York Times to examine our country’s impending climate migration and the outlook for climate refugees.
Such a shift in population is likely to increase poverty and widen the gulf between the rich and the poor. It will accelerate rapid, perhaps chaotic, urbanization of cities ill-equipped for the burden, testing their capacity to provide basic services and amplifying existing inequities. It will eat away at prosperity, dealing repeated economic blows to coastal, rural and Southern regions, which could in turn push entire communities to the brink of collapse. This process has already begun in rural Louisiana and coastal Georgia, where low-income and Black and Indigenous communities face environmental change on top of poor health and extreme poverty.
As author Abrahm Lustgarten notes, the Covid-19 pandemic may have shortened the time before the mass exodus starts:
Until now, the market mechanisms had essentially socialized the consequences of high-risk development. But as the costs rise — and the insurers quit, and the bankers divest, and the farm subsidies prove too wasteful, and so on — the full weight of responsibility will fall on individual people. And that’s when the real migration might begin.
Sending Covid patients home to die
The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus is demanding answers from Ochsner Health after a report by ProPublica last week revealed that Louisiana’s largest hospital network sent some Covid-19 patients home to hospice care without proper protective equipment for their loved ones. The patients sent home to die were all Black. ProPublica’s Annie Waldman and Joshua Kaplan report:
“We have to make sure that we have a third party look at these things,” Louisiana state Sen. Troy Carter of New Orleans, a member of the caucus, told ProPublica. “We take this example and this opportunity to shine light on something that’s happening in real time, and we put in systems to make sure it never happens again — particularly when you have hospitals that receive state dollars.” … “This information is very disturbing for us as leaders of our state to read,” wrote state Sen. James Harris III and state Rep. Barbara West Carpenter, the chairman and vice chairwoman of the caucus. “Many people normally do not question medical practitioners because they feel they are right with their prognosis, diagnosis and decisions they share with the patients.”
A compromise Covid package?
A bipartisan group of lawmakers will present a Covid-19 relief package Tuesday, with the hopes of restarting negotiations that broke down in August over how to provide relief to Americans suffering under the pandemic and the recession it spawned. The $1.5 trillion proposal offered by the “Problem Solvers Caucus” includes measures that have bipartisan support, such as another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, and others, like extended federal unemployment benefits, that fall in the middle of where the two sides want to be. But as with last week’s vote on the GOP’s ‘skinny’ relief bill, this could be more about politics than providing real relief. The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos and Emily Cochrane explain:
The proposal faces long odds amid partisan divisions over what should be included in such a package, and members of the group — which calls itself the House Problem Solvers Caucus — concede privately that their framework stands little chance of becoming law. But the decision to offer it up publicly reflects frustration among rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties at the failure by their leaders to agree to another round of pandemic aid, and a reluctance to return home weeks before Election Day without cementing such help.
Axios’ Caitlin Owens explain how Congress’ gridlock will make the pandemic worse:
All signs point to a difficult winter ahead, and congressional inaction could make things much worse by forcing millions of people to choose between following public health recommendations or feeding their families. … A lack of resources will serve as a disincentive for people to get tested and then isolate, putting themselves and their communities at risk, experts said. “Desperate individuals who need the money are likely to go to work with mild symptoms, but they could surely be infectious, so this is a major disincentive,” the University of Minnesota’s Michael Osterholm said.
Congress needs to extend P-EBT
States will need powerful tools to mitigate suffering and bolster economic activity in the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. But Congressional inaction is creating more hardship. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Melcher Philbin explains why leaders should extend the P-EBT program, which provides students that qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the school year with extra money for groceries while schools are closed.
(T)he program expires in just a few weeks — even though many school districts have already announced that some or all students will be learning virtually long past September 30. To address this gap, the next COVID-19 relief package should extend and expand P-EBT benefits through fiscal year 2021 to mitigate children’s food hardship, ease the budgets of millions of families that have lost income, and infuse local economies with additional spending. Without such an extension, states will be deprived of a proven tool to help families struggling with severe hardship. Further, such an extension is needed quickly to provide states the opportunity to develop plans for issuing new benefits before the current authority runs out and to reduce the gap between when school meals are missed and when benefits arrive.
For additional information about P-EBT benefits, eligibility and FAQs, visit the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services’ website: www.dcfs.la.gov/pebt.
Number of the Day
732,204 – Number of Louisiana students eligible for P-EBT – a federal benefit that helps families of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals to afford additional groceries while schools are closed. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)