Today is the first of 10 days of early voting in Louisiana—a longer period than normal thanks to a federal judge’s ruling requiring the state to build more health and safety precautions into its election process due to Covid-19. On the ballot are the presidential election, and races for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and a host of local seats and issues. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte has more:
After the attention-grabbing presidential race, Louisiana also has a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot, six U.S. House seats, a statewide referendum on sports gambling, seven constitutional amendments, judges’ jobs and other municipal elections. In any race where no candidate tops 50% of the vote, the leading two vote-getters will face each other in a Dec. 5 runoff. That doesn’t apply for the presidential contest.
Blake Patterson reports in Nola.com | The Advocate that officials expect long lines at the polls due to heavy turnout and social distancing requirements:
Baton Rouge pollster John Couvillon forecasts heavy turnout for the first day of in-person early voting. He said 78,000 mail-in ballots have already been submitted in Louisiana, dwarfing the 22,000 mail-in ballots submitted by the start of early voting four years ago. Couvillon expects in-person early voting to be just as substantial, and predicts that the number of ballots cast statewide will exceed the 65,000 cast on the first day of early voting in 2016.
There are also seven constitutional amendments on the ballot, including two (Nos. 4 and 5) that are likely to do real harm to Louisiana’s ability to provide basic services to its residents. You can read LBP’s guide to the constitutional amendments here.
Legislative earmarks come galloping back
The Covid-19 pandemic has put a strain on the Office of Public Health and Hurricane Laura destroyed the Public Defender’s office in Lake Charles. But the supplemental budget that legislators sent to the governor is packed with legislators’ pet projects, funded at the expense of public health and public defenders. Juile O’Donoghue of the Illuminator has more on the budget bill and the return of earmarks:
Previous versions of the bill approved by the Senate and House had included, for example, $15 million in funding for cash-strapped public defenders seeking to purchase office space. An earlier version of the Senate budget plan had also included an extra $15 million for the state Office of Public Health, which is primarily responsible for running the Louisiana’s COVID-19 response.But the final version bill that was approved Thursday included just $3 million for public defender office space and $10 million for the Office of Public Health. The additional funding for those services appear to have been diverted to over 100 pet projects — including those for small town drainage systems, village roads, community fire hydrants, local jails, and neighborhood beautification projects.
The effects of ending extra unemployment benefits
While Louisiana’s unemployment insurance benefits are nearly the lowest in the nation, the federal CARES Act provided unemployed families an additional $600 each week to help make ends meet. This expansion of the safety net allowed families to pay their bills and, for some, to build up small savings while keeping money flowing through the economy as a whole. But since Congress failed to extend the benefits families have all but lost any cushion they were able to build up when higher federal benefits were available. As a result, Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui report in The New York Times’ Upshot blog, many are now facing impossible choices between meeting their day-to-day needs and paying off their obligations.
Faced with dwindling savings and constant bills, most households face a dilemma. “The choices are to stop spending on regular everyday purchases, or stop making payments like mortgages, student loans, auto loans, credit cards,” Professor Ganong said. “That’s a terrible choice for a family to have to make. It’s a terrible choice for the macro economy.” The analysis found unemployed workers did cut their spending after the $600 supplement ended, by an average of $93 a week across the month of August, compared to July. Professor Ganong suspects that the decline in spending might have continued in September, based on the dwindling savings workers had left.
Covid-19 is pushing community college students to drop out
Jasmine Justice is a 39-year-old mother who works full-time while attending community college. But for Jasmine, juggling work, school and parenting is a persistent struggle. Her story is one of thousands of college students who are now dropping out because of the hardships of learning virtually, working and trying to hold their lives together during a pandemic. Lindsay Schnell, writing for USA Today, has the story on how students are trying to weather this pandemic and college:
Across the country, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend normalcy and infect Americans, students of every level are trying to adjust to virtual learning and socially distanced schools. But the virus and the ensuing recession have taken a particularly hard toll on community college students like Justice. They’re often older, balancing school and full-time work. Many are single parents. Statistically, they’re often the first in their family to pursue post-secondary education and likely to come from a lower socioeconomic bracket — which impacts access to distance learning necessities like high-speed internet.
Number of the Day
21.1 Million – The number of people who will be uninsured in 2022 If the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, a 69% increase nationally. State Attorney General Jeff Landry signed Louisiana on to a lawsuit seeking to strike down the law. (Source: Urban Institute)