The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program keeps food on the table for hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents, including out-of-work adults. But a new proposal by Rep. Beryl Amedée, House Bill 396, would impose harsh three-month time limits on food assistance for many Louisiana adults without children, even at times when jobs are hard to come by. The research is clear that such arbitrary time limits don’t help people find work, but do cut them off from critical food aid when they need it most. Wesley Muller at the Louisiana Illuminator reports on the bill’s potential harms:
[Danny] Mintz [Director of Safety Net Policy at the Louisiana Budget Project] said Louisiana does not have the resources to provide 80 hours of job training to everyone who would otherwise lose their SNAP benefits because of this rule. About 73,000 people lost benefits in January simply due to paperwork problems in certifying their eligibility or because their verification documents were not received on time, according to Mintz. Amedee’s bill could increase the administrative costs for Louisiana if the state has to offer training to thousands of new SNAP recipients and begin keeping track of whose benefits expire after three months, he added.
Sick without a safety net
No one should have to choose between economic security and their own health or the health of those they love, but more than 33 million workers in the United States live that reality because they don’t have paid sick leave at their job. Though 15 states and many localities have implemented laws guaranteeing paid sick time, the lack of a federal paid leave policy leaves millions of workers without support when they or someone they care for becomes ill or injured. A new report from A Better Balance details America’s immense need for a federal guarantee of paid sick leave:
(Fifty-five percent) of retail and fast-food workers, many of our front-line and essential workers, do not have access to paid sick leave. This not only harms workers, who are unable to take the time to properly isolate or recover, but also their communities and the economy at large. One study estimated that temporary access to paid sick leave in 2020—during the height of the pandemic—resulted in 400 fewer cases of COVID-19 per day in states that previously did not guarantee this right. The data underscores the need for more enduring paid sick leave protections.
Job creation isn’t one size fits all
With significant federal aid boosting state and local government budgets, state policymakers have a new opportunity to invest in distressed communities. Tim Bartik and Kathleen Bolter of the Upjohn Institute make the case in Governing that state governments should follow three principles to cost-effectively promote job creation in distressed areas by focusing on areas of need and dropping costly business tax incentives in favor of robust funding for public services:
State governments, even if they don’t remain flush with cash from the COVID-19 recovery funding and new infrastructure money, have the power with their own resources to adequately target distressed communities. States already devote around $50 billion per year to costly business tax incentives that mainly go to booming communities. That budget is sufficiently large that if cost-effectively targeted at distressed communities, states could cut in half the employment-rate gap between distressed communities and the U.S. average. Policymakers at the state and federal level already have the tools to prioritize reducing the number of people left behind by an ever-changing economy. Their challenge now is to use them.
Transportation is a right
Though 1 in 4 Americans live with a disability, transportation remains largely inaccessible for many people with mobility challenges. And while the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, current regulations haven’t kept up with changes in how we get around, such as ride-sharing companies. As a result, many people who rely on wheelchairs face new struggles with transportation. Disability rights activist Mark Raymond Jr. explains in The Advocate:
You can’t get to health care facilities, work, school or spend time with friends. Why? There’s no truly regional public transportation system in the New Orleans metro area. On the private side, you can’t order a wheelchair-accessible vehicle from Uber, Lyft or a taxicab company in the metro area because they don’t offer the vehicles. The same goes for rental car companies. And keep this in mind: 1 in 4 Americans live with a disability. … The bottom line is we all deserve the right to travel and see what our world has to offer. To prevent people with mobility challenges from this freedom is discrimination.
Number of the Day
$1.70 – The amount of new economic activity that every $1 in SNAP benefits generates in a weak economy. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities via Louisiana Illuminator)