The cries from Lakes Charles, ravaged by Hurricane Laura, grew louder after Hurricane Delta hit a mere 43 days later. But residents of the working-class city of 78,000 fear that their pleas for help will continue to go unanswered. The New York Times’ Rick Rojas profiles a city struggling to recover from a historic double hit from hurricanes, currently being overlooked in a year of disaster and unrest.
“I want people to know that we’re not OK, we’re not back to normal,” said Mr. (Nic) Hunter, who has been mayor since 2017. “We’re going to do our part. We’re not just sitting on our butts with our hands out, saying, ‘Come do this for me.’ The extent of this catastrophe rises to a level where if it’s going to fall only on locals to help locals, we’re going to be in the thick of recovery much longer than we need to be.” For many residents, life is now consumed by discomfort and distress. Days are spent negotiating bureaucracies for insurance help and government aid, cleaning ravaged homes and businesses and wading through the traffic jams of displaced residents.
Another stimulus bill before the election?
One in 4 Louisianans are behind on rent and 4 in 10 households in the state have difficulty meeting their usual expenses. On Tuesday, those families, along with millions of Americans in similar circumstances, will find out whether Congress will pass another Covid-19 relief bill before Election Day, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 48 hour deadline for negotiations looms. But many are skeptical that a deal will be reached, with Senate Republicans wondering aloud if a newly negotiated package could make its way through their chamber. CNN’s Lauren Fox reports:
For Republicans, the President’s calls to go big on the stimulus have moved relatively few lawmakers as members argue that spending too much money could backfire with conservative voters ahead of the election. For months, the size of the stimulus bill, how much should go to state and local governments and how to handle specific issues like unemployment insurance have consumed private GOP lunches. If Pelosi and Mnuchin were to reach a deal, which remains a big if, Republicans may be forced to openly decide where they stand on another massive stimulus bill just days before the election and if they are going to stand with Trump.
While Congress remains in a bitter fight over more Covid relief, the Federal Reserve is sitting on untapped cash. The Washington Post’s Rachel Siegel and Jeff Stein explain Congress’s uneven response to this crisis.
In March, Congress allotted $454 billion to the Treasury Department to support the central bank’s emergency lending programs, including those for struggling businesses and local governments. Of that pot, only $195 billion has been specifically committed to cover any losses the Fed might take, including through loans that companies fail to repay. Seven months into the crisis, the remaining $259 billion still has not been committed to any of the Fed’s specific programs or for any other purpose, and it is unlikely that it will be anytime soon. The fate of this money — and its inability to address remaining cracks in the economy — show the surprising limits of the nearly $3 trillion in emergency aid Congress approved early in the pandemic.
Pandemic pay for child care workers
Stable, quality child care allows parents to work outside the home. The Covid-19 pandemic has only highlighted the necessity of this profession, as parents lucky enough to remain employed have struggled to work while also caring for their children. But these essential frontline workers earn on average only $9.77 per hour. Kenny Francis, director for policy with Agenda for Children, writing a guest column in Nola.com | The Advocate, explains how a $5 per hour wage supplement for child-care workers would boost the fortunes of workers, centers and employers.
Louisiana should follow the lead of states such as Wisconsin, North Carolina and New Mexico, which are using federal relief dollars to provide child care workers with enhanced pandemic pay. Policies like this would benefit an estimated 7,700 child care workers statewide and provide a meaningful incentive to return to work. The Agenda for Children’s newest policy brief highlights ways to competitively compensate our workers who continue to put themselves at risk to support Louisiana’s children, families, and economy — now and in the future post-COVID.
Seriously, what are we doing here?
Louisiana House Democrats called on Republican leaders to end the current special legislative session, arguing that their colleagues have spent too much time trying to curb Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive powers, to the detriment of the more important goals of shoring up the state’s bankrupt unemployment insurance trust fund and providing relief to residents affected by Hurricanes Laura and Delta. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports:
“This session is costing taxpayers more than $40,000 per day and will cost almost $2 million if we stay here until October 27th. Meanwhile, the legislative process has produced no major solutions to the problems brought to Louisiana by COVID-19 and Hurricanes Laura and Delta,” House Democratic Caucus Leader Sam Jenkins, of Shreveport, wrote House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, and Senate Page Cortez. “There appear to be no new dollars we can appropriate to help struggling workers and small businesses. All indications are that no new federal stimulus is coming until after the election on Nov. 3rd,” Jenkins continued.
Number of the Day
$20, 320 – Average annual wage of a child care worker in Louisiana – half of what a parent with an infant needs to make ends meet in Louisiana. (Source: Agenda for Children).