A Portrait of Louisiana

A Portrait of Louisiana

Louisiana has made significant strides over the past decade to improve its citizens’ well-being. But the state still lags well behind the rest of the country in ensuring that every person has an equal chance at a “freely chosen life of value.” A new report from Measure of America –  A Portrait of Louisiana – breaks down Louisiana’s Human Development Index (HDI) score. Under this global standard for measuring well-being, life expectancy and overall earnings have increased slightly, and there was a substantial increase in the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree. But significant gaps exist by race, gender and geography. Many of the communities with lower scores also face disproportionate harm from the current crises, which threaten to worsen existing disparities. 

“Our research aims to illuminate the gaps that prevent every individual in every community from living a freely chosen life of value,” said Kristen Lewis, Director of Measure of America. “Louisiana has made important progress over the past decade, but that progress has not been distributed equally. As the state recovers from the catastrophic health and economic impacts of Covid-19 and a devastating storm season, policymakers should use the map of vulnerability offered by A Portrait of Louisiana to target resources and support to the places and people who need them most.”


States face budget crisis
Unlike the federal government, states must balance their budget every year. This is more difficult in a recession, when demand for state services go up while the revenue to pay for them goes down.

The economic fallout from Covid-19 has sharply reduced the revenue states get from sales and income taxes, oil production, gambling and other sources, which are used to fund vital investments in education, health care and other services. The Wall Street Journal’s Heather Gillers and Gunjan Banerji explain how states are facing the biggest cash crisis since the Great Depression: 

Nationwide, the U.S. state budget shortfall from 2020 through 2022 could amount to about $434 billion, according to data from Moody’s Analytics, the economic analysis arm of Moody’s Corp. The estimates assume no additional fiscal stimulus from Washington, further coronavirus-fueled restrictions on business and travel, and extra costs for Medicaid amid high unemployment. That’s greater than the 2019 K-12 education budget for every state combined, or more than twice the amount spent that year on state roads and other transportation infrastructure, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

States are also frustrated by the lack of federal support in distributing the first doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine. The Washington Post’s Lena H. Sun reports: 

“It is absolutely ridiculous that the administration, after spending $10 billion for a Warp Speed effort to develop a vaccine, has no interest in a similar investment in a Warp Speed campaign to get the vaccine to every American as quickly as possible after it is approved,” said Michael Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. … “The now accelerated timeline underscores the need to address the issue of funding for state and territorial health agencies to make this all work,” Fraser said. “There are many other costs that have no clear way to be paid for at this point.”


Red state blue state
“Blue” states have been hit harder than “red” states by the coronavirus recession, thanks largely to a different mix of jobs. But the jobs gap has remained even as red states have experienced higher infection and death rates since the summer. Jed Kolko, writing for the New York Times’ Upshot Blog, explains why we’re seeing this difference. 

The partisan gap in jobs hasn’t gone away because it’s rooted in fundamental economic differences related to job types. The worst job losses have been in the leisure and hospitality sector, and in travel and recreation destinations like Honolulu, Las Vegas and New Orleans. The sectors with the biggest job losses in the pandemic tend to be located in bluer counties. Across all industries, 57 percent of employed people live in counties that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Among hard-hit sectors in the pandemic, 59 percent of workers in lodging and food service; 63 percent in arts, entertainment and recreation; and 66 percent in information industries like publishing, film and telecommunications live in counties that Mrs. Clinton won. In contrast, jobs in most sectors less harmed by the pandemic, like utilities, construction and manufacturing, are disproportionately located in counties that President Trump won in 2016.


Feeding kids in Baton Rouge
Students in Baton Rouge who are learning strictly at home this year will now be able to have school meals delivered to them. The East Baton Rouge Parish school system announced on Thursday a new program that will provide this vital service starting Monday, and run through the end of the school year in May. The Advocate’s Charles Lussier reports: 

“I’m really pumped about this,” said Nadine Mann, director of child nutrition for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. “I am really excited that we now have a vehicle where we can deliver meals in a different way.” … Mann said there are 12,000 children — about 30% of the students in the school district — who are learning strictly at home. It’s been a struggle feeding them. “I’m not really doing justice in providing meals to those students,” she said. “The students in the virtual environment are entitled to meals as well.”

Number of the Day

$434 billion – The projected U.S. state budget shortfall from 2020 through 2022. This total is greater than the 2019 K-12 education budget for every state combined. (Source: National Association of State Budget Officers via the Wall Street Journal).