Louisiana will stop accepting the federal $300 weekly unemployment benefits at the end of July, dropping unemployed residents down to an average weekly benefit amount that is the lowest in the nation. The decision came as part of a trade made in the final hours of the legislative session: Lawmakers would agree to raise state unemployment benefits by $28 per week starting in January, if Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed to cancel the federal enhancement. The deal was sought by corporate lobbyists who believe the federal dollars are making it harder to find people willing to accept low-wage jobs with few or no benefits. Mark Ballard has more in The Advocate:
The deal drew the support of the state’s largest business groups, and enraged some of Edwards’ progressive allies, including members of the Black caucus. The House voted 75-26 in favor of the legislation and the Senate voted 32-5 to send it to Edwards’ desk. Both chambers voted in the final hour of the session, which ended 6 p.m. Thursday. … The state American Federation of Labor, presenting organized labor, and the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry had agreed to the increase in weekly benefits. But the Louisiana branch of the National Federation of Independent Business did not and rallied enough representatives in the House to block acceptance of the Senate’s amendments.
LBP’s Davante Lewis spoke with CNN about the decision:
“While we are of course supportive and want to see benefits increase at the state level, we did not think pulling the rug out from under people in the middle of a pandemic still was an acceptable deal,” said Davante Lewis, director of public affairs and outreach at the Louisiana Budget Project.
This Juneteenth, let’s talk about reparations
President Joe Biden is expected to sign a bill today that will make Juneteenth – the day chattel slavery ended in the United States – a federal holiday. While recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday is a step forward, it is important to remember that the legacy of slavery and institutional racism is with us today. Policymakers should consider how they can right the wrongs of the past through reparations. Andre M. Perry and Rashawn Ray at the Brookings Institution explain how this work is taking shape at the state and local level:
This March, the city of Evanston, Ill. approved the country’s first municipal reparations program, providing housing grants of $25,000 to cover mortgage costs, down payments, and home improvements for Black residents injured by the city’s past redlining practices. In 2020, Asheville, N.C. passed a “community reparations” program, which endeavors to invest in Black neighborhoods. In the same year, the town council of Amherst, Mass. approved a resolution to engage in “a path of remedy” for Black residents “injured or harmed by discrimination and racial injustice.” States such as California, Virginia, and Maryland are also moving in this direction. In 2019, Georgetown University students overwhelmingly approved the addition of a $27.20 per semester tuition fee to help pay reparations to the descendants of the slaves the university sold in the 1830s.
Racial disparities in dual enrollment
The implications of Louisiana’s highly segregated school districts show up in many ways. Schools that tend to serve Black communities have access to less money for infrastructure, higher teacher turnover and fewer certified teachers. A new study now shows that Black students also have less access to dual-enrollment courses while in high school than their white peers. Will Sentell of The Advocate reports:
Studies show that 22% of Black students take the classes — called dual enrollment — compared to 42% of White students, according to Adam Lowe, a consultant with Education Strategy Group, which is based in suburban Washington, D. C. In addition, the percentage of students enrolled in the classes drops as the percentage of Black students in a school rises, Lowe said. Schools with Black enrollment of up to 20% have 46% taking dual enrollment courses while those comprised of up to 80% of Black students include only 28% taking classes for both high school and college credit.
A status quo recovery is not good enough
Fifty-one percent of Louisianans were struggling to make ends meet before anyone had even heard of Covid-19. A recovery that returns us to that status quo should not be the goal of recovery policy. Instead, our policymakers must work to build a more inclusive economy and a more equitable tax system that allows everyone to share in prosperity. Citizens for Tax Justice makes the case in a post on Medium:
The pre-pandemic “normal,” was an economy in which rising stock market values and low unemployment masked precarious financial circumstances for a large majority of us. “Normal” was an economy in which the rich amassed more and more wealth while four in 10 of the rest of us didn’t have ready access to $400 to cover an emergency expense. Complacency with the status quo reflects a failure of imagination. The United States is among the world’s richest nations. It can do better. Our elected officials should take a hard look at these and other facts and concede that this isn’t a status quo worth returning to.
Number of the Day
22% – Percent of Black students who enrolled in dual-enrollment courses in Louisiana. Forty-two percent of our state’s white students participate in dual enrollment in high-school, lowering their college costs and time to graduation. (Source: The Advocate)