Voting against democracy

Voting against democracy

Hours after President Donald Trump incited a mob of his supporters to attack and vandalize the U.S. Capitol, the Congress reconvened to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election. On the losing side of that vote – and history – were five members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation. Sen. John Kennedy and Reps. Garret Graves, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson and Steve Scalise each voted against certifying the tallies for Arizona, Pennsylvania, or both, in effect voting to disenfranchise millions of American voters who voiced their preferences in free and fair elections. The Advocate | Nola.com’s editorial board calls out these votes as acts of cowardice:

If the Republicans putting country before party deserve honor — including, we note with pride, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge — the bulk of Louisiana’s GOP delegation deserve condemnation. U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, showed himself unworthy of the moment. Condemnation is not too harsh a word. That Wednesday’s riot is disgraceful is obvious. What should also be clear is that congressional Republicans loyal to Trump are culpable.

Racial disparities in Covid rules enforcement
Many observers have noted stark differences between the lenient police response to the mostly white rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol yesterday and the aggressive responses to Black Lives Matter protests over the summer. The police response marks a new instance of an old problem: Black people and other people of color are policed more aggressively, and punished more severely than their white counterparts. A new study of police enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions finds that even as communities of color struggle against high rates of Covid exposure, infection and death, they are also targeted for harsher enforcement of public health regulations. Timothy Colman, Pascal Emmer, Andrea Ritchie and Tiffany Wang explain in the Guardian:

The Covid-19 Policing Project reviewed public information about enforcement over the past six months and found that Black, Indigenous and people of color (Bipoc) were 2.5 times more likely to be policed and punished for violations of Covid-19 orders than white people. Black people specifically were 4.5 times more likely to be policed and punished for coronavirus orders than white people. Black women – who disproportionately work as healthcare and essential service workers, and are quite literally saving our lives – experienced the highest rates of racial disparity in enforcement of public health orders. According to our statistical analysis, Black women were five times more likely than white women to be policed and punished for violations of Covid-19 orders. Black men were 3.7 times more likely than white men to be policed and punished for such violations.

Relief money for Louisiana schools
Louisiana’s public schools will receive more than $1 billion in new federal funding as part of the $900 billion Covid-19 relief bill signed into law in late December. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports, this is far more than what Louisiana’s schools received under last year’s CARES Act, and is projected to go toward efforts to stem the learning loss that many students suffered during the pandemic. As a whole, Black and Brown students face significantly higher hurdles to virtual learning, statewide.

Like the first round of aid in 2020, the latest assistance is expected to help finance summer school classes aimed at addressing the academic interruptions. Officials of the state Department of Education plan to unveil an aggressive tutoring program for the spring. “We have to be aggressive to make sure that our kids recover from the school building closures,” [State Superintendent Cade] Brumley said. “They are critical years and we have to make sure we are intervening so that this does not create a generational problem.”

State rental assistance slow to flow
As the pandemic drags on with no direct federal assistance for renters and mortgage holders, many Louisiana residents are falling increasingly behind on rent. And while the Centers for Disease Control has mandated a halt to evictions, now extended through the end of January, some families are still being kicked out of their homes, and many thousands more have little prospect of catching up on rent payments once the eviction moratorium ends. While Louisiana has allocated federal funds for rental assistance, housing advocates argue that the process for distributing that aid falls far short of the efficiency that renters and landlords need. WGNO reporter LBJ has the story:

Andreanecia Morris of [The Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance] says, “The big concern we have is the fact that we have millions of dollars of rental assistance that has just been sitting at the state level that could have stabilized households for the past 6 months.” … Morris claims, “People are still getting evicted despite the moratorium because they have not been able to pay their rents.” That CDC moratorium has been extended to January 31st, and the housing advocates allege that the state has only helped a little over 700 of the 40,000 people that applied. … Morris and other housing advocates blame a poorly designed program with antiquated controls on the state level for a lack of help.

Number of the Day
291,000 – Estimated number of Louisiana adults in rental housing not caught up on rent between Nov. 25 and Dec. 21, encompassing roughly 1 in 3 adults in the state who rent their homes. (Source: U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey via Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)