Louisiana has been a national leader in ensuring that children have access to health coverage, including children who qualify for Medicaid and the Louisiana Child Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP). But coverage alone doesn’t ensure that kids and families get the care they need to stay healthy. The federal government uses the Child Core Set to measure the quality of care that kids get through these programs. A detailed review of this data by LBP’s policy director, Stacey Roussel, paints a mixed picture. While Louisiana is doing better than most states on several quality measures – and has seen rapid improvement in areas such as the timeliness of prenatal care – the state continues to fare poorly on other important indicators:
“Louisiana ranks in the top half of states in about half of all measures, but in the bottom quartile of several critical ones, such as the percentage of low-weight births,” Roussel said. “It’s an important reminder that we have lots of work to do to make sure that all children have the ability to thrive.” (…) Louisiana struggles with high child poverty rates and decades of under- and disinvestment in the social drivers of health like housing, neighborhoods, transportation and poverty. Louisiana can build on the progress it has made in quality health care measures by investing in its youngest residents, their families and their communities.
Resilience disparity among Louisiana homeowners
Homeownership is the major source of middle-class wealth in America. This is especially true among low-income households where a family home is often the sole source of generational wealth. However, standard building codes have not kept pace with the increased frequency and severity of storms brought on by climate change, leaving the modest wealth that these families have accumulated vulnerable to the next storm. New voluntary building standards have been developed to help fill the void. And, a group of nonprofit builders and organizations are working together to bring these new Fortified standards to Louisiana. The executive director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, Brenda Breaux, shares the story in The Advocate | Nola.com:
The cost of building elevated homes to the Fortified standard is slightly higher than the cost of standard construction, typically by 1% to 5% for a new home – a modest incremental cost that is more than made up in the long term by reduced insurance rates and loss prevention. … However, while paying an additional 1% to 5% may be a simple investment for affluent homebuyers, it is a significant and, in some cases, prohibitive increase for lower-income residents. Nearly 20% of Louisianans live in poverty, and many above the poverty line still struggle to afford their first home, making the upfront cost of preventing damage unfeasible. This is a tragedy for these families, many of which hold the majority of their wealth in home equity that can vanish in a span of hours when a storm hits. This resilience disparity also impacts governments and taxpayers in the form of higher disaster recovery costs.
Protecting our environment amid climate change threats
As Louisianans undertake the work of recovery and rebuilding after Hurricane Ida – and the ongoing work associated with Hurricane Laura – they can add to their list of concerns a growing number of reported oil and chemical spills. The number of reported spills linked to Hurricane Ida increased this week from 350 to 2,000 – there were 540 confirmed spills linked to Hurricane Katrina. As the frequency and severity of storms increase, more must be done to protect our environment and the natural resources that so many Louisianans rely on to make a living. But as Tristan Baurick of Times-Picayune | Advocate reports, not enough has been done to hold polluters accountable:
Some of the noteworthy incidents include a broken oil pipeline near Port Fourchon, which produced an 11-mile long sheen, and the flooding of the Phillips 66 refinery at Alliance, below Belle Chasse, which has oiled at least 90 birds. … (Darryl) Malek-Wiley (of the Sierra Club) said spills after hurricanes are becoming all too common, but little has been done to hold polluters accountable. “After Katrina, there were no activities to get natural resource damage money from the leakers like they did with BP,” he said, referring to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster that led to billions of dollars in fines and cleanup costs. “But with all those spills after Katrina, I don’t know of anybody who was held responsible or fined.”
The need for paid family leave
The United States is alone among wealthier nations in not having a national paid family leave program. In the absence of a national solution, people are too often left to the whims of employers who more often than not use this valuable benefit to attract and retain higher-paid employees. This leaves those with the least ability to save to fend for themselves when they need time to care for themselves or a loved one. The House’s plan to address this and other major gaps in the nation’s caregiving infrastructure is being considered this week. Kathleen Romig of the Center on Budget on Policy Priorities provides analysis:
The benefits of paid leave are well established. Providing new parents with paid time off to care for newborn or recently adopted children contributes to healthy development, improves maternal health, supports fathers’ involvement in care, and enhances families’ economic security. Paid medical and caregiving leave lets workers care for themselves and their loved ones when ill or injured, and it reduces financial insecurity and stress during those times. Paid leave benefits businesses by improving retention and productivity, and can increase economic growth by boosting labor force participation.
Louisiana House Resolution 118 established a task force this year to study the need for paid family and medical leave in the Bayou State, a policy that enjoys the support of the vast majority of residents according to the latest LSU Louisiana Survey.
Number of the Day
18.7 million – The number of workers impacted by the Covid-19 economic downturn as of August 2021, including: 8.4 million officially unemployed, 3.2 million unemployed but misclassified as employed or not in the labor force, 4.2 million dropped out of the labor force, 3 million employed but experiencing a cut in pay or hours. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)