Playing with fire

Playing with fire

Angered by restrictions on bars, restaurants and football games, GOP lawmakers’ chief objective in the current special session is to curb some of the governor’s executive powers. But GOP lawmakers remain unsettled on the best ways to achieve their goal. The measures moving through the process vary widely in their effects, ranging from resolutions that would end the current emergency declaration immediately and temporarily strip the governor’s powers to declare emergencies relative to Covid-19 to a bill that would require a legislative body to review proposed emergency declarations without otherwise altering the governor’s authority to issue them. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, a hasty end to the emergency declaration could imperil the state’s ability to test for the virus and to get federal aid to protect frontline workers:

James Waskom, the governor’s homeland security director, cautioned that yanking the public health emergency declaration issued by Edwards would put at risk hundreds of millions of dollars in federal assistance for virus testing, protective equipment and other response work. “Be careful of unintended consequences,” Waskom told the House committee. “You are introducing chaos and confusion to an already chaotic and confusing situation.”

The Illuminator’s Jarvis DeBerry asks whether news that President Donald Trump has tested positive for Covid might temper enthusiasm at the Capitol for taking power from the experts who have kept the state relatively safe:

Maybe Thursday night’s bombshell news that President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19 will be the wake-up call the state’s Republicans need to acknowledge that this is not the time for the state (or the country) to let things take their course or to let the good times roll. Acting like COVID-19 isn’t a thing or is behind us or isn’t that big a deal has consequences.

Meanwhile, ordinary Louisianans continue to face extraordinary hardship, which won’t end if the state lifts Covid restrictions. LBP’s Danny Mintz explains how a premature end to the emergency declaration could suck $42.6 million of federal food aid out of the Louisianans’ pockets each month, even as households across the state struggle to afford basic needs.

The loss of SNAP Emergency Allotments would come at a terrible time for everyday Louisianans. The $300 weekly Lost Wage Assistance that helped supplement unemployment benefits expired last month, and talks on additional federal aid remain stalled on Capitol Hill. The result is that struggling Louisiana families will have inadequate assistance to meet their basic needs.


Pass Covid relief now
Congress has made little progress on a new Covid stimulus package. But while the recession may be over for the rich, millions of people in America are facing increasingly dire economic situations. Nelson D. Schwartz and Gillian Friedman report for the New York Times on new signs from the labor market that suggest huge sections of America will see little relief from hunger and hardship without additional help from Washington:

“The layoffs are an additional headwind in an already weak labor market,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. “As long as the virus isn’t contained, this is going to be an ongoing phenomenon.” The concern has grown as measures that helped the economy weather the initial contraction have wound down. The expiration of a $600-a-week federal supplement to unemployment benefits was followed by a 2.7 percent drop in personal income in August, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

The U.S. economy added 661,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.9%, which represents the smallest gains since May and was seen by economists as a sign that the recovery is slowing down. 


Wide support for a federal jobs guarantee
The Covid-19 recession has exacerbated economic inequities across lines of race, class and gender. But bold policy responses could create a recovery that’s more fair and more robust. As recent polling by Prosperity Now finds, steps like expanding the full Child Tax Credit  to all low-income families, granting universal basic income and instituting a federal jobs guarantee are also widely popular:

(T)he most popular of the economic policy proposals was a federal jobs guarantee for all American adults. Nationally, 70 percent of Black Americans, 71 percent of Latinxs, and 60 percent of whites said this was a high priority (score of 4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale). Likewise, in Minnesota, where the Black unemployment rate has skyrocketed since the Covid-19 pandemic, 71 percent of Black respondents said a jobs guarantee was a high priority, and over half (53 percent) scored it a 5—“the highest priority.” “The dual crisis of social unrest and Covid-19 gives our nation an opportunity to build a new economy that serves all Americans,” said Gary L. Cunningham, President of Prosperity Now.


Waiting on the bus during a pandemic
For people with low incomes, getting around can be a challenge, particularly in rural areas and in cities that have disinvested in public transportation. But during Covid, what has always been a serious practical problem is now also a significant health risk. Alaina Leary explains in Talk Poverty how living without a reliable car in a country designed around private transportation has made it harder for many to carry out the activities of daily life.

The transportation options that exist for people without cars were already imperfect — they’re time consuming, don’t cover many areas, and can be inaccessible and unsafe for disabled people and people of color — but they’re even more challenging in a pandemic. Taking public transportation is a risk right now, as is taking a cab or a ride share service like Uber or Lyft (if that’s even an option, since it’s become more difficult to find a ride). At the same time, budgets for public transit across the country have been cut and service has been reduced, making it increasingly risky and difficult for those who do need these services to use them safely and effectively. This combination directly impacts people who don’t have cars, especially people at a high risk of complications from COVID-19 — disabled people and others with underlying and chronic health conditions.


Programming notes

  • If you have children under 5 in your home, the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children wants to know how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected your family. Please take a few minutes to fill out the “Louisiana Child Care Parent Poll”. This survey is for any parent, guardian or caregiver raising children, not just moms and dads. Participants can take the survey at
  • LBP is hiring! The Louisiana Budget Project is seeking a Public Policy Advocate to lead a new initiative that will focus on improving the enrollment experience for people covered by Medicaid. This is an exciting opportunity for someone with a strong knowledge of healthcare policy, top-notch research, analysis and writing skills, and a desire to work directly with state officials and other stakeholders to help reduce or eliminate the administrative barriers that prevent people from obtaining and retaining health coverage. The successful candidate will have a commitment to advancing racial and economic equity, strong interpersonal skills, and experience in healthcare policy in a research or advocacy capacity. Click here for more information on how to apply.


Number of the Day
12.1% – Unemployment rate for Black Americans in September 2020. This contrasts with an overall national unemployment rate of 7.9% (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)