Shelter from the storms

Shelter from the storms

Hurricanes are equal-opportunity destroyers, affecting rich and poor alike. But recovery from natural disasters typically takes longer and requires more effort for those who had the least to begin with. Nearly two months after Hurricane Laura roared ashore near Lake Charles, thousands of Southwest Louisiana residents remain scattered in hotels and shelters in Louisiana and Texas. | The Advocate’s Sam Karlin visits a “mega-shelter” in Alexandria to report on families who still have not returned home. 

After staying in hotels for nearly two months, while hurricanes roiled their southwest Louisiana homes, many evacuees are being told to go back to Lake Charles. That process has proved complex and at times frustrating for evacuees, some of whom have been away from home since August. After Hurricane Delta delayed the return home for many, the state recently restarted bus trips to and from the Alexandria shelter, New Orleans, Lake Charles and Texas, where storm victims have been scattered. Hundreds have filtered in and out of the mega-shelter in recent weeks, as it serves as a central stop along the various routes.

Hurricane victims who remain in Southwest Louisiana have another enemy to contend with – higher-than-normal mosquito activity, likely brought on by climate change. Sara Sneath in the Louisiana Illuminator reports

Since Hurricane Laura, eight parishes have sprayed pesticide over two million acres of land to control mosquitoes, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. The type of mosquitoes that hatch after a hurricane — called floodwater mosquitoes —  are not primarily the carrier of diseases. But the mosquitoes torment cattle already stressed from weathering a storm. In some areas, weakened cattle died from suffocation when they breathed the insects in through their nostrils.


The (session) end is near
The Legislature’s special session could be heading toward an early adjournment after lawmakers gave final approval on Tuesday to legislation that restrains the governor’s emergency powers. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports on House Bill 4, which would give the Legislature new authority to revoke emergency declarations. 

Under the bill, if one of the top two elected leaders of both the House and Senate agree that provisions of a governor’s renewed order exceed his authority or “are not narrowly tailored to address the disaster,” they could ask lawmakers to vote by mailed ballot on whether to revoke individual sections of that order. That means they could pick and choose which coronavirus restrictions enacted by Edwards they want to end.

Legislators called themselves into session with the goal of lifting coronavirus restrictions, which they believe are holding back Louisiana’s economy. In fact, as | The Times-Picayune’s Jessica Williams reports, it is the virus – not the social distancing measures – that is keeping visitors away from Louisiana. 

Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno and other administration officials said at a city revenue estimating conference that people’s discomfort with travel, dining and large gatherings right now will persist regardless of city rules that restrict such activity. And that wariness will likely remain until a coronavirus vaccine is released.  

The | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial board has seen enough: 

Did those issues justify a month of legislative expenses, at about $40,000 a day? We don’t think so, and it was a mistake for the new leaders in House and Senate to usher in a 30-day session with a 70-item agenda during a time of chaos and confusion.


U.S. Senate leaves millions without Covid relief
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has discouraged the White House from pursuing a deal on more Covid relief. While Senate Republicans worry that a stimulus debate would distract from the Supreme Court confirmation, more than 1 in 3 Louisianans is currently struggling to make ends meet.  Many people who lost their jobs have now gone nearly three months without the $600 per week pandemic unemployment insurance benefits, and many are now also losing eligibility for relatively meager state unemployment benefits. Jeff Stein and Erica Werner of the Washington Post report:

McConnell suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is not negotiating in good faith with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and any deal they reach could disrupt the Senate’s plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next week.

Recent polling shows that most Americans believe Congress should pass additional stimulus, but the Senate is digging in its heels:

House Democrats passed two far-reaching bills, but Senate Republicans rejected them. A significant minority of Senate Republicans believe enough money already has been spent and nothing more needs to be done.


Trump rebuked on food assistance
President Donald Trump’s effort to make it harder for working-age adults without children to get food assistance was struck down over the weekend by a federal judge. That’s good news for approximately 700,000 Americans who were at risk of losing their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits if they failed to meet strict work reporting rules. Route Fifty’s Laura Maggi reports:

‘Despite the agency’s blinkered effort to downplay or disregard the predicted outcomes of the Final Rule, the backdrop of the pandemic has provided, in stark relief, its procedural and substantive flaws,’ wrote Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia… Howell wrote that the rule ‘radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans.’


Didja Know?: LBP Guide to the 2020 Constitutional Amendments
Louisiana voters will decide on seven amendments to the state constitution in the November elections, along with an eighth ballot measure that deals with the legalization of sports gambling. While most of these measures will have little effect on the day-to-day lives of most citizens, two amendments have the potential to inflict long-term damage on the ability of state and local governments to provide basic services. LBP Executive Director Jan Moller joins the podcast to highlight what’s at stake in the proposals. Click here to listen

Click here to read LBP’s full guide to the constitutional amendments


Number of the Day:
258,017 – The number of Louisianans who turned out to vote in the first two days of early voting in the 2020 election cycle. Louisiana early voting turnout so far is up 58% over the first two days of voting in 2016—nearly 9% of all eligible voters having already cast a ballot. (Source: The Advocate)