A big boost for Louisiana’s kids

A big boost for Louisiana’s kids

Before the pandemic, Louisiana had nearly the highest rate of child poverty in the nation. Since the pandemic, things have gotten worse. In February, an estimated 1 in 5 Louisiana children weren’t getting enough to eat, and nearly half of all Louisiana adults reported difficulty meeting their usual household expenses. For hundreds of thousands of those Louisiana families, a major expansion of the child tax credit proposal likely to pass in Congress today would provide essential relief in the form of monthly checks to subsidize the expenses of childhood. President Joe Biden’s plan would provide $3,600 per year for each child under 6 and $3,000 per year for each child age 6-17. It’s a one-year, $100 billion investment in America’s kids. Unlike previous Child Tax Credits, which provided less money to low-income families than to higher income families, this credit would be fully available to families with very low incomes. WVUE’s Sabrina Wilson has the story:

“[The] American Rescue Plan would be probably a generational change for children in Louisiana and around the country,” [said Jan Moller. Executive Director of the Louisiana Budget Project]. [Agenda for Children’s Kenny] Francis discussed how the additional help will help Louisiana children. “Almost 300,000 children in Louisiana lived in poverty in 2019 and so this one tax policy change would bring roughly a third of those children who were living in poverty out of poverty, so it’s a big deal,” Francis stated. The Louisiana Budget Projects wants a state child tax credit. “The money would be specifically targeted to families with low incomes and families with the youngest children,” Moller said.

The Budget Project’s Strong Families Tax Credit would provide additional support for Louisiana’s kids, investing in the state’s families and future and supporting a fair and full Covid recovery.

Black women best 
As director of research and policy at the Groundwork Collaborative, Janelle Jones was part of the team that developed the “Black Women Best” framework for economic advancement — a program for dismantling inequities building economic gains across American society. Now, in her new position as chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, Jones may be poised to put those principles into practice. As Black History month ended and Women’s History month begins, Kendra Bozarth explains in Ms. Magazine how centering Black women in policy can produce a strong society and better economic outcomes for all:

“Centering Black women also means centering other marginalized identities, all of which intersect with race and gender and are identities that Black women hold and live. It means centering trans and queer people; incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people; people with disabilities; and immigrants, documented and undocumented. Centering Black women in policymaking, and all the intersecting identities Black women hold, ensures that Black women can build economic security.”

The high cost of IRS cuts
With hundreds of billions of relief dollars set to be distributed through the tax code in the form of stimulus checks and child tax credits, the IRS will play a key role in putting Congress’s recovery package into action. But years of politically motivated budget cuts that have weakened the agency’s ability to police tax fraud among the wealthy and powerful have also left the agency with outdated systems and reduced staff to administer central components of America’s recovery strategy. The Washington Post’s Tony Romm, Jeff Stein and Rachel Siegel report on how years-long efforts to defund the nation’s tax agency may have put sand in the gears of Covid relief:

“I think struggle is inevitable,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who chairs a key House committee overseeing government operations, when asked about the IRS. Connolly cited years of budget cuts under Republicans — and woefully outdated computer systems at the IRS — as potential threats to the agency’s ability to administer the new stimulus programs. The $1.9 trillion package includes money to help the IRS fix some of these deficiencies. “It’s a very critical public policy program to be implemented,” he said. “But I think they’re going to be struggling with it, not because of intrinsic flaws of the IRS but because we’re paying a price for the disinvestment in the IRS over the past decade.”

Local governments feeling the pinch
Small local entities, from town governments to school boards, provide necessary services for the Louisianans who live outside the state’s large metro areas. According to recent testimony from the state’s legislative auditor, nearly 100 of these entities are close to financial distress. As David Jacobs reports in the Center Square, additional stresses from the Covid-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters are likely to push more local agencies into financial distress, and to swell the ranks of those on the brink.

Poorly maintained water infrastructure is one of the most common liabilities for communities across the state. Cryer called it a “multibillion-dollar problem.” The Louisiana Department of Health is pushing systems to merge and create economies of scale “so the rates don’t go from $30 a month to $70 a month just because you had to build a tower for 300 people when you can build it for 3,000 people,” he said. “That long-term effort will certainly help,” Cryer said. “It takes time for that to happen.” Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, said he hoped “things are going to happen in Washington this week” to provide funding to fix some of those infrastructure issues.

Number of the Day
50 – Louisiana’s ranking in a U.S. News Report list of “best” and “worst” states – unchanged from the previous two years (Source: U.S. News and World Report