P-EBT on the way, despite delays

P-EBT on the way, despite delays

Pandemic-EBT, also called P-EBT, provides additional money for groceries to families with schoolchildren who qualify for free or reduced price meals, helping out with strained household budgets in tough times. While Congress approved the benefit in September, logistical hurdles meant that many states are only now getting benefits to kids in need. In Louisiana, the first P-EBT benefit cards started arriving in mailboxes this month, with more to come over the coming weeks. As Kalena Thomhave reports in the American Prospect, despite delays, summer P-EBT promises meaningful relief for families still struggling to get by – and offers a model for continuing aid in summers to come.

“There’s obviously a problem in having a pandemic response program that’s delayed by so long that we’re really coming out of the pandemic by the time the benefit [is issued], but Louisiana has such high rates of poverty and such high rates of child food insecurity that there’s no scenario in which benefits are coming too late,” says Danny Mintz, director of safety net policy at the Louisiana Budget Project, a policy advocacy nonprofit. “Even with all of these delays, having multiple, regular issuances of P-EBT will be critically important for families who have been struggling against the most difficult conditions during the pandemic.”

Cassidy supports raising federal gas tax
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said Tuesday that he would support a substantially smaller infrastructure bill than the $1.7 trillion plan proposed by the White House. He proposed paying for $579 billion in infrastructure upgrades in part by raising the federal gas tax and tying it to inflation. President Joe Biden’s administration has balked, citing the president’s promise to not raise taxes for people earning under $400,000 a year. The Advocate’s Blake Paterson explains:

With opposition from Biden, the federal gas tax hike appears dead-on-arrival, but even if it was indexed to inflation, experts say it wouldn’t come close to covering the increased spending. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican, estimated that indexing the tax would bring in an extra $2 billion a year. Her talks with Biden fell apart last week, paving the way for the bipartisan gang of lawmakers to take the reins.

Proposals to raise Louisiana’s 20-cent per gallon gas tax failed to gain traction in the state Legislature. Lawmakers instead voted to divert up to $300 million a year from education, health care and other vital services to fund roads and bridges. Gov. John Bel Edwards has not said whether he will sign that bill.

A small step toward drug policy fairness
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed legislation on Tuesday that eliminates jail time for possession of a half-ounce of marijuana or less, replacing it with a fine of $100. But Edwards insisted that the decriminalization law stops short of decriminalizing marijuana possession. Either way, it marks a small but important step toward reducing the harm caused by the war on drugs on Louisianans. Julie O’Donoghue has more in The Illuminator:

“This is not a decision I took lightly,” Edwards said in a written statement Tuesday. “In addition to carefully reviewing the bill, I also believe deeply that the state of Louisiana should no longer incarcerate people for minor legal infractions, especially those that are legal in many states, that can ruin lives and destroy families, as well as cost taxpayers greatly.” Edwards said he saw the legislation as an extension of his efforts to reduce the state’s prison population. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate of any state in the country. “Taking this action is another step toward Louisiana’s criminal justice reform efforts,” he said in a written statement.

Don’t let big companies treat states as their sandbox
“Sandbox” programs let corporations test new financial products on a trial basis while being exempt from state regulations or licensing requirements. Supporters of such policies argue that they attract high-tech companies and create jobs. But critics point out that regular people bear the risks when states let companies experiment on their populations without oversight. Bills to implement sandbox programs showed up in 11 statehouses this year, including in Louisiana (where it was shot down). Stateline’s Sophie Quinton reports:

“We’re really concerned about predatory lending to low-income families and low-income individuals,” said Jackson Voss, economic opportunity policy analyst at the Louisiana Budget Project, a left-leaning public policy nonprofit. The nonprofit opposed a financial technology sandbox bill proposed by Louisiana GOP state Rep. Mark Wright this year. Companies that use sandboxes are “really experimenting on the people of whatever state adopts the sandbox,” Voss said. “And that seems problematic.”

Number of the Day
$100 – The maximum fine in Louisiana for possession of a half-ounce of marijuana or less, once a law signed Tuesday by the governor takes effect in August. Previous penalties included higher fines and jail time for possession of small amounts of pot. (Source: The Advocate)