Louisiana needs more robust federal support

Louisiana needs more robust federal support

Federal aid, such as stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits, lifted millions of Americans out of poverty last year, despite dire economic conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While federal aid has played a vital role in helping families during the pandemic, the need for aid remains critical, as the pandemic continues and Louisiana families have suffered through natural disasters. In a letter to The Advocate, LBP policy director Stacey Roussel explains why Louisiana desperately needs the Build Back Better plan that’s currently being negotiated in Congress. 

The Build Back Better plan permanently extends the enhanced child tax credit, which helps nearly 90% of Louisiana kids, and ensures that the child credit gets to the families that need it most. It delivers on the promise of family medical leave by making it paid, so people can afford to take time off from work to care for themselves or an ailing family member. It invests in more affordable housing, strengthens childcare so that quality care is available and affordable, reduces food hardship and more. Lawmakers must act to invest in Louisiana and ensure every family has what they need to thrive.

Passage of the Build Back Better plan is closely tied to the passage of a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill that Sen. Bill Cassidy helped craft, which is scheduled for a vote later today in the House. Louisiana would receive $6 billion to upgrade roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure, which would put more of the state’s residents to work in good jobs. All five Louisiana House republicans plan to vote against the bill. Gannett’s Greg Hilburn previews the consequential vote: 

“This is Louisiana’s chance to catch up in areas that we’ve fallen behind in and position our state’s economy to move forward in the future independent of the bill itself,” Cassidy said in a previous interview with USA Today Network. “It will have a huge impact in every parish of my state and create tens of thousands of new jobs here and nationwide.”

Make the Child Tax Credit permanent
Congress has a historic opportunity to give more than 1 million Louisiana children a surer footing on the road to success by making the expanded Child Tax Credit permanent as part of the Build Back Better plan. As part of the previously passed American Rescue Plan, Congress temporarily made the credit fully refundable, increased its size – $3,000 per child, and $3,600 per child under 6 – and issued it in monthly installments, rather than as a lump sum. But as LBP director of safety net policy Danny Mintz explains in a new blog, Louisiana stands to benefit from a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit more than any other state.

One Louisiana mother that the Budget Project recently interviewed explained how the monthly Child Tax Credit payments were a key support when a bout of Covid forced her out of work for two weeks. “It’s allowed me to go ahead and pay my rent,” she said. “If I miss one day of work, it impacts us. And so being off work for almost two weeks is definitely a huge, huge impact. […] It’s allowed me to not have to stress out and worry about being able to pay the bills that are due.”

Essential(ly) disposable workers 
For many American workers – retail employees, day laborers, emergency personnel, medical staff – the reality of the pandemic has looked like a more dangerous version of reality before the pandemic: a working world where nothing ever closed and where customers hostile to even the most basic safety measures, such as mask wearing, made work harder and riskier. The New York Times’ Chris Colin describes the experience of Peter Naughton, a Walmart employee in Baton Rouge.

At fast food restaurants, grocery stores, warehouses, nursing homes and anywhere else frontline workers show up each day, a deep schism has taken hold. Workers nervous about the virus find themselves at the mercy of those who aren’t. “If I ask people to wear a mask or socially distance at work, they get mad and tell the manager. Then I have to get coached. If you get coached too many times, you lose your job,” Mr. Naughton said, referring to the company’s system for managing worker infractions. (Charles Crowson, a Walmart spokesman, did not dispute that an accumulation of coachings could lead to termination.)

Cold truth about hot lunch
School nutrition programs across the nation are reaching crisis points as they run out of food and workers. This could prove disastrous for low-income students who get most of their nutrition from school meals. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced $1.5 billion in funding to help resolve the crisis, many experts are skeptical that it’s enough. The Washington Post’s Laura Reiley reports

The USDA has yet to detail how or when exactly the $1.5 billion will be doled out. While the funding can address the increased cost of food and supplies as well as bump up salaries to woo more lunch program workers, advocates said the money could fall short when it comes to resolving supply-chain snarls, depending on how long those persist. If contracts have already been canceled and foods diverted elsewhere, there still may be holes. “It will take some time to purchase the food through USDA, but they know how urgent this is,” said Katie Wilson, executive director of the Urban School Food Alliance, a nonprofit created by school-food-service professionals.”

LBP’s Didja Know Podcast: Census poverty data 
In the latest edition of LBP’s podcast, policy director Stacey Roussel and economic opportunity analyst Jackson Voss explain the latest U.S. Census data, the crucial role of federal pandemic aid in keeping people from falling into poverty and why the economic recovery legislation being developed on Capitol Hill must address the weaknesses in our economy laid bare by the pandemic. Click here to listen. 

Number of the Day
96,000 –
Number of Louisiana children who would be lifted above the poverty line if the enhanced Child Tax Credit was made permanent. (Source: Urban Institute