Louisiana families, many who already are struggling to pay bills amid a global pandemic, are about to see a spike in their utility bills after this week’s historic deep freeze. The added costs will include higher bills in the short term to cover the increased electricity use, as well as long-term surcharges to cover the costs associated with repairs to the power grid. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports:
Utility companies also can collect from their customers the cost of restoring power after a storm. (Entergy CEO Philip) May said this week’s event won’t be as expensive as after hurricanes. … Restoration after hurricanes Katrina and Rita cost about $732 million, which translated to $2.49 to $3.92 per month for residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours over a period of years, according to the PSC.
Covid relief bill may leave out aid for sick workers
Public health officials have warned that the workplace can be a top breeding ground for Covid-19. But a key to convincing workers to stay home when they feel sick is making sure they have the economic means to do so through programs like paid leave and by requiring an adequate minimum wage. But some of these tools could be scaled back in the Covid relief package as some members of Congress try to reduce its cost. Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein explains the disastrous consequences of leaving out this key preventive measure.
“You don’t want someone saying, ‘I have a sore throat and cough, but I have to go to work because otherwise I can’t pay the rent or put food on the table.’ That’s how you get a spreader event,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) — one of a group of senators who tried to broker a bipartisan deal last month. … “When people risk losing their incomes or jobs if they stay home for multiple weeks, there is very little incentive for them to take the public health actions that are necessary. In fact, there’s a strong disincentive,” said Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Security.
40 Acres and new hope for reparations
America has been a slave economy longer than it hasn’t. In recent years this grim reality has given rise to the idea of making reparations to the descendants of chattel slavery. More than 160 Democrats in Congress have signed on to a bill to study the matter, and President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed support. As Ariana Figueroa of the Louisiana Illuminator reports, H.R. 40 would create a starting point, and follow the lead of states that have already tackled the issue:
An example of reparations on the state level is in Oklahoma. One of the most wealthy Black communities in the early 1900s was in Tulsa. Known as Black Wall Street, it was burned to the ground in 1921 by a white mob that left 10,000 Black people homeless, millions in property damage and more than 100 dead. The state legislature opened in 2001 its own commission into the riot, which found that the city conspired with the mob to attack its own Black citizens. The commission recommended reparations to the survivors and descendants of the massacre, which the state later passed.
Overdose deaths on the rise
Louisiana saw a 53% rise in overdose deaths during the 12-month period that ended in July – the largest increase in the country. Experts say one reason for the increase is the prevalence of Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate often mixed with other drugs. As The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Jeff Adelson reports, the Covid-19 lockdowns also served to isolate people who use drugs from family, friends, group meetings and other supports that could help prevent unnecessary deaths.
Much of that (overdose) surge came as the state, and the country as a whole, were dealing with the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, when orders to isolate may have posed additional dangers and taken a greater toll on mental health that could have spurred more drug use. They also come amid a decade-long increase in overdose deaths driven in large part by fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid whose use has been on the rise in recent years.
Deadline today for the State Policy Fellowship Program
Applications for the 2021 class of State Policy Fellows are due today – Friday, February 19, 2021. The State Policy Fellowship is an exceptional opportunity to develop in-depth policy expertise. Fellowship responsibilities include tracking and analyzing legislative proposals and state budgets as well as conducting research and analysis on state budget, tax and other issues to improve the lives of families from all backgrounds. Fellows in this cohort would begin in August 2021. Please email email@example.com if you have any questions. Click here to apply.
Number of the Day:
1.6 million – Number of Louisianans (of 4.6 million) who will be eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations on Monday when eligibility expands to teachers and support staff, pregnant women, medical transportation workers and people aged 55-64 with certain underlying medical conditions (Source: Louisiana Governor’s office via The Advocate)