Louisiana to double benefits for state’s poorest families

Louisiana to double benefits for state’s poorest families

For the first time in more than two decades, Louisiana is increasing direct cash assistance for families with extremely low incomes who get benefits through a federally-financed block grant. As Aubri Juhasz reports for WWNO, this increase will more than double assistance for people who receive Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP) and Kinship Care Subsidy Program (KCSP) benefits. 

Louisiana has some of the highest poverty rates in the country, but due to historically low benefits and increased restrictions, the programs have served fewer people over time. Less than 3,000 families received benefits in November, DCFS said. “This is especially important at a time when families are facing price increases due to inflation and unprecedented need caused by the pandemic,” said Shavana Howard with DCFS’s division of family support.

LBP Director of Safety Net Policy Danny Mintz told Juhaz that the increase, while welcome and overdue, still leaves too many families with unmet needs:

“Doubling the cash assistance benefit when it hasn’t been raised since the Clinton Administration is a big deal,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s still really far from sufficient to address the level of need that we have in Louisiana.” … Louisiana has one of the highest proportions of kids living in extreme poverty in the country. Before the pandemic, 13% of children were living beneath 50% of the poverty line.

Mintz also noted that this increase comes at an important moment, as Congress allowed the Advance Child Tax Credit program, created as part of the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021, to expire in December.

The “Great Resignation” is building worker power
Millions of Americans quit their jobs in 2021, with 4.5 million people in November alone choosing to leave their jobs. Ben Casselman of the New York Times notes that much of the narrative around the Great Resignation has focused on white-collar workers seeking better work-life balance, but the data show that workers in low-wage jobs are driving this economic phenomenon – and raising their wages in the process: 

“This Great Resignation story is really more about lower-wage workers finding new opportunities in a reopening labor market and seizing them,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab. For some workers, the rush to reopen the economy has created a rare opportunity to demand better pay and working conditions. But for those who can’t change jobs as easily, or who are in sectors where demand isn’t as strong, pay gains have been more modest, and have been overwhelmed by faster inflation. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta shows that job-switchers are getting significantly faster pay increases than people who stay in their jobs.

Another stimulus? Maybe for small business 
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan is on hold while the Omicron variant of Covid is rapidly raising Covid cases and hospitalizations across the country. But while relief for struggling people is stalled, a bipartisan group of senators is starting talks on another round of stimulus for small businesses such as restaurants, gyms and venues for live performances. As the Washington Post’s Tony Romm notes, this conversation, still in its early stages, may face resistance:

In recent weeks, the talks have been led by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), according to four people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe their work, which is ongoing. The duo in mid-December cobbled together the outlines of a roughly $68 billion proposal, two of the people said, which could include a mix of new spending and a repurposing of some unused cash authorized under previous packages… They may face an uphill battle in the narrowly divided chamber, where past attempts to enact aid for restaurants and other industries have faltered amid GOP concerns about adding to the federal deficit.

A posthumous pardon for Homer Plessy
Homer Plessy was a 30-year-old shoemaker when he boarded a New Orleans train car as part of an organized effort to challenge the city’s segregation law. His arrest and conviction was challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896 cemented legal discrimination as American law for more than a half-century. On Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards will issue a posthumous pardon for Plessy, surrounded by his descendants and relatives of the judge who sentenced him. Janet McConnaughey reports for the AP

It spotlights New Orleans as the cradle of the civil rights movement, said Keith Plessy, whose great-great-grandfather was Plessy’s cousin — Homer Plessy had no children. “Hopefully, this will give some relief to generations who have suffered under discriminatory laws,” said Phoebe Ferguson, the judge’s great-great-granddaughter. … Eight months after the ruling in his case, Plessy pleaded guilty on Jan. 11, 1897. He was fined $25 at a time when 25 cents would buy a pound of round steak and 10 pounds of potatoes. He died in 1925 with the conviction on his record.

Number of the Day
12.3% – Increase in hourly earnings for leisure and hospitality workers in November 2021 (Source: New York Times)