With the early voting period beginning on Friday and mail balloting underway, Louisiana voters are already making their voices heard. This fall, several proposed changes to the state constitution could have a harmful and long lasting impact on the state budget, hampering the ability of state and local leaders to fund essential services. LBP Executive Director Jan Moller highlights what’s at stake in the proposals in LBP’s guide to the constitutional amendments:
While most of these measures will have little effect on the day-to-day lives of most citizens, two amendments have the potential to inflict long-term damage on the ability of state and local governments to provide basic services. The two harmful amendments are No. 4, which would change the rules that govern the state budget in ways that would force unnecessary cuts to education, healthcare and other basic state services; and No. 5, which allows manufacturing corporations to receive additional property tax breaks at the local level beyond the lavish tax incentives that already exist.
Triple Covid-19 Crisis
The Covid-19 pandemic stuck when in child health uninsured rates were rising at a historic clip. With the ongoing impacts of racial injustice and the devastating economic downturn that has put already vulnerable families at greater risk, many children now face a triple threat to child health and long term well being. Charles Bruner, Kay Johnson, Maxine Hayes, David Willis, Paul Dworkin, and Wendy Ellis write in a guest column for Georgetown Center for Children and Families about the implications of this triple threat, including how it exacerbates existing inequities:
The disruptions in the health care system place child health care at a crossroads. Current conditions have underscored the critical role primary care providers must play in assuring the health and well-being of children and families, particularly in times of stress and crisis. COVID-19 has accelerated the use of telemedicine and other virtual services, which in turn revealed gaps in access due to the digital divide that exists among communities of color, the poor, and rural populations.
The authors lay out a roadmap to counter these harmful trends, noting that the knowledge and expertise exists to ensure our children have what they need to grow and thrive:
Science points to the value of fostering optimal health and development for children, with benefits across the lifespan. Research shows what works in transforming from standard practice to more holistic, two-generational, and relational approaches. Measures of child well-being show the imperative for closing disparities by race, language, and culture and countering the profound harm caused by racism. While the complexity of the child health care system and magnitude of the change from current practice can seem overwhelming, there is expertise in the field, as represented in the InCK Marks’ national resource network, to do so in practice, metrics, financing, and culture.
Reimagining consumer protections
Financial institutions, from traditional banks to private student loan lenders to payday lenders, have long had the upper hand over marginalized communities in need of financial services. In recognition of this unequal playing field, Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to give consumers a voice and acting in their best interest. As Diane Thompson writes in a guest column for the Economic Policy Institute, the Bureau has fallen down on this promise and should renew its focus on the under- and mis-served:
The agency needs to center the voices of marginalized communities as a necessary adjunct to promoting accountability under the statute. The recognition that racial and economic justice are linked and that the pandemic is amplifying and embedding existing racial disparities, demand that we move beyond the generalities of the statutory language. Poor, rural, and immigrant communities, across racial differences, are all both underserved and poorly served by financial institutions. Black people in particular have always been excluded from the financial mainstream in this country.
An avoidable meltdown
Louisiana is facing a housing crisis unrivaled in modern times as protections in the CARES Act expire at the end of the year and Washington has failed to pass a replacement bill that protects workers and their families. The Covid-19 pandemic threatens to do even more damage than the 2008 housing bubble, which wiped out billions of dollars in middle-class wealth. A new report by Joe Distefano of Urban Footprint chronicles the crisis across Louisiana, including detailed census-tract level analysis of housing vulnerability. Ryan Whirty writing for Louisiana Weekly has the story, and common-sense policy recommendations to help families weather this storm:
The recommendations include examining if soft second mortgages can help vulnerable households refinance their mortgages; use leftover monies from the post-Katrina Road Home Assistance fund to establish assistance coffers; enact policies at the federal level that prevent the predatory banking industry from abandoning struggling homeowners; look into state policy changes in the areas of insurance, property taxes and utility costs to help homeowners; and demand that Congress hammer out further economic and financial relief bills.
William Tickle writes in a letter to Nola.com | The Advocate about the need for federal action to aid early learning centers as they too struggle to survive:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, child care costs are 47% higher and enrollment is down by 67%. Two of five providers are certain they will close permanently without federal funding. Twenty-one percent of companies have had employees quit and 13% of parents have lost jobs due to lack of child care.
Lastly, local governments, too, are in need of federal aid as CARES Act funding proves inadequate for the full scale of the need. Julie O’Donoghue of Louisiana Illuminator has the story:
“I think the only option we have is a federal stimulus package,” said John Gallagher, executive director of the organization (Louisiana Municipal Association). Gallagher said New Orleans is not the only local government facing massive budget problems in Louisiana. Some smaller cities — including Ruston and Pineville — have already had to lay off public employees because of revenue shortages.
Number of the Day
29% – the share of New Orleans renters paying more than half of their household income on housing and utilities in pre-pandemic 2019. (Source: The Data Center “Who Lives in New Orleans and Metro Parishes Now?”)