Federal aid provided by the CARES Act kept millions of Americans from slipping into poverty in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic. That economic relief has mostly expired, and U.S. Senate Republicans are refusing to pass a much-needed renewal. Two new studies show the result of this policy failure: millions of Americans face financial ruin and immediate hardship. The New York Times’s Jason DeParle explains the costs of our senators’ failure:
The number of poor people has grown by eight million since May, according to researchers at Columbia University, after falling by four million at the pandemic’s start as a result of an $2 trillion emergency package known as the Cares Act. Using a different definition of poverty, researchers from the University of Chicago and Notre Dame found that poverty has grown by six million people in the past three months, with circumstances worsening most for Black people and children.
The Supreme Court fails Louisiana
The Covid-19 pandemic has complicated the decennial effort to count every person living in America. As a result, the Census Bureau pushed back the deadline for the count, initially to Oct. 31. But President Donald Trump’s administration moved to shorten the deadline again, and the Supreme Court agreed to a pause in the count, effectively ending the Census today. As Adam Liptak and Michael Wines explain in the New York Times, the premature end to the count is tied to administration efforts to exclude undocumented people from the official tally used to set legislative and congressional districts:
Its early end could mean that White House officials, rather than Census Bureau experts, may use the population numbers to determine representation in the House of Representatives and in state and local governments. President Trump has insisted those numbers should not include undocumented immigrants living in the United States. That conflicts with the mandate of the Constitution that the census count all residents of the country and would almost certainly give more representation to Republicans.
Writing in the Illuminator, Jarvis Deberry points out that with two major storms complicating Louisiana’s efforts at a complete count, our state is poised to take the biggest hit from this decision.
Of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, Louisiana ranks dead last in the percentage of households counted, the only one of those jurisdictions Tuesday with fewer than 99.5 percent of its households counted and one of only two with fewer than 99.9 percent of households counted. According to a census bureau website, 98.4 percent of households in Louisiana have been counted and 99.5 percent of households in Mississippi. It’s 99.9 percent everywhere else in the country, including Alabama, the one state Louisiana led at the end of September.
After Laura and Delta, a long wait for FEMA
Dual hurricanes pummeled Southwest Louisiana this season in an unusual event made more likely by the changing climate. But while Lake Charles and the surrounding areas rebuild, federal housing help from FEMA has been slow to arrive. The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe reports on the families stuck in small hotel rooms, waiting for meaningful assistance to arrive.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter told The Washington Post that there were about 6,600 documented evacuees from Lake Charles outside the city after Laura. Overall, about 7,968 people who evacuated for Laura are occupying 3,457 hotel rooms in Louisiana and Texas, FEMA said in a statement in response to questions from The Washington Post. Some are from rural, coastal Cameron Parish, where homes were swept away in a cauldron of storm surge, howling winds and driving rain. Hunter has pleaded with FEMA for a “rapid and robust housing plan,” he said, and has been told that within the next couple of weeks, the first temporary housing units — trailers, most likely — will arrive in Lake Charles and the surrounding area. … “It can’t happen a moment too soon,” Hunter said, noting that many of the evacuees have low or moderate incomes. “We need to get people out of shelters, out of hotel rooms and get them back home.”
Sowing confusion in state election rules
When a federal court struck down Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s restrictive rules on pandemic absentee voting in late September, Ardoin vowed that he wouldn’t appeal the decision before the election, declaring that, “I and the voters deserve certainty.” Now, Ardoin is appealing the decision. As Nola.com | The Advocate’s Sam Karlin explains, the Nov. 3 election will go on under existing rules, but it’s unclear what would happen if Ardoin’s appeal succeeds.
“The Harding v. Edwards decision, which extended early voting in Louisiana to October 16-27 and added five Covid-related excuses that people can use to vote by mail, was good for Louisiana voters,” Ashley Shelton, Executive Director of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a prepared statement. “Many Louisianans have already applied to vote by mail using those reasons and returned their ballots, and early voting starts this Friday. The Attorney General has almost no chance of winning this appeal, and he will likely only add to his long record of wasting taxpayer dollars on frivolous, unsuccessful litigation.”
Number of the Day
898,000 – Number of Americans who filed a new claim for unemployment benefits last week. This represents an increase in claims over the previous week and signals a slowdown in hiring as federal aid becomes increasingly scarce. (Source: Associated Press)