The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all Louisiana families, but it has had a disproportionate impact on those who were already struggling. The pandemic-induced recession hit low-income households harder than richer ones. Now, people of color are recovering more slowly from the economic fallout than their white peers. This year, state policymakers have an opportunity to provide much-needed relief to Louisianans that need it most and to prepare the state for a more equitable recovery in the years to come. Louisiana Budget Project and Invest in Louisiana campaign have outlined our policy priorities for the 2021 legislative session to create a stronger economy that works for everyone.
The Louisiana Budget Project supports policy changes that create a stronger economy that works for everyone. This starts with a stable, adequate and fair tax structure that can support investments in people and communities that need help the most. It continues with common sense investments in our workers, children, healthcare system and local and state economies that put people first. We all rely on the state budget for investments in our communities now more than ever.
What will Louisiana do with ARPA funding?
Political leaders throughout the state are meeting behind the scenes to determine how to use the influx of federal Covid relief dollars Louisiana is receiving. Gov. John Bel Edwards and others seem intent on using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, despite a litany of unfunded needs throughout the state. The rationale behind the push seems to be to avoid a small tax on businesses to replenish the fund, even though the rates businesses currently pay and the amount unemployed workers receive are among the lowest in the nation. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports:
Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, said the state would be better advised to upgrade its access to unemployment assistance rather than “bailing out” the unemployment trust fund. “The goal should not be to avoid a small additional assessment on businesses,” Moller said. “It should be to help people who work in those businesses and no longer have jobs.”
Listen to LBP’s Neva Butkus break down the structural issues with Louisiana’s unemployment insurance system – and how to fix them – and better ways to use federal recovery dollars.
Biden’s effort to combat hunger
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequities that many Americans face and how close many others are to living below the poverty line. That has led the Biden administration to accelerate a vast campaign of hunger relief to address the more than 1 in 10 families who currently don’t have enough to eat, including an estimated 1 in 4 Louisiana children who are food insecure. The Washington Post’s Jason DeParle writes about Americans, like Anna Chaney, who experienced hunger during the pandemic and profound change marked by Biden’s efforts:
“I wish that the lawmakers would have realized prior to us being in a pandemic that poor people needed more,” she said. “It took more of the middle class, and some of the upper class, to find that they needed help for people to act. For me to go in and tell the Indiana legislature, ‘Hey, guys, $75 isn’t enough to eat for a week,’ that’s going to be a real hard sell. But when the whole world is suffering, that’s a different situation.” The Biden administration shares the hope — that demonstrating the value of the aid expansions, most of them temporary, will lead to permanent change. “We can build a stronger, longer-lasting safety net,” Ms. Dean said.
Lagging prison vaccination rates
Louisiana – one of the most incarcerated states in the nation – is struggling to provide adequate health care to people in the state prison system. The latest example is lagging Covid-19 vaccination rates, which stand at 14.5% compared to the general population at 17%. This is despite the fact that most of the prison population is eligible to take the vaccine and vaccine hesitancy is low. But, while the pandemic lends new urgency to the issue, the problem with health care is broader than Covid-19. Julie O’Donoghue of the Louisiana Illuminator has the story:
Louisiana has the 12th highest COVID-19 death rate among all states when it comes to prison population, according to The Marshall Project. The prison system will soon be facing extra scrutiny regarding all of the health care it delivers. U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick ruled this week that the state must improve its medical care at Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola. Dick said the prison had inadequate equipment, staff and unsanitary conditions. She plans to force improvements with a court order.
Number of the Day
300,000 – The number of unfilled public teaching jobs needed to keep up with enrollment nationally (Source: Economic Policy Institute)