Sick days makes for a healthier Louisiana

Sick days makes for a healthier Louisiana

Nearly half of Louisiana workers lack access to paid sick days. And, low wage workers are two and three times less likely to have access to paid sick days than higher wage workers. This means those who struggle the most to make ends meet routinely face an excruciating choice between keeping their jobs or caring for themselves and their families when they get sick. But as LBP deputy executive director Stacey Roussel explains in a new blog, Louisiana legislators have a chance to fix this problem with a bill that’s being heard in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on Thursday. 

A bill has been introduced this session that would help guarantee that workers don’t have to choose between their health and their paycheck. It would put Louisiana in line with 14 other states and the District of Columbia by establishing a basic statewide sick day policy for workers. Senate Bill 289 by Sen. Regina Barrow is a statewide solution. It covers full-time workers with up to 52 hours of sick time per year starting January 1, 2023. Workers would accrue 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Workers in businesses with 5 or more employees would receive paid sick time, while people who work in companies with fewer than 5 employees would receive unpaid, job-protected sick time.  

Public dollars, private schools
Legislation that would divert dollars away from public schools for some students to attend private schools advanced out of the House Education Committee on Wednesday. The measure is part of a growing, national effort to use public dollars for private schools in the form of “education savings accounts,” and mirrors the ill-conceived school voucher program that Louisiana approved a decade ago. While these savings accounts would take state dollars, the schools that accept them wouldn’t have the same levels of accountability and oversight that public schools face. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports

“It is important that the use of public funds be accompanied by public accountability,” said Mike Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, which opposed the measure. … Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, a member of the committee, repeatedly said DeVillier’s bill lacks needed accountability provisions, and vendors who provide those services would only face state scrutiny every three years. “That makes me nervous,” Freeman said. Faulk said DeVillier’s bill would be unfair to students in low-income families because the $5,500 would not be enough to provide alternatives to traditional classes.

Less regulation means higher costs for consumers
Recent reforms prove that states can enact strong consumer protections on payday lending, ensure widespread access to credit and reduce the financial burden on struggling families. Colorado, Hawaii, Ohio and Virginia have all passed laws that offer smaller loans that are repaid in affordable installments, instead of the single-payment payday loans that come with inordinate annual percentage rates. Pew’s Nick Bourke and Alex Horowitz make recommendations on reforms that still provide widespread access to credit.

To prevent problems caused by unaffordable payday loan products, Pew recommends that the 18 states without payday lending continue to prohibit high-cost loans and that other states either choose to follow those states’ lead or enact comprehensive reforms like those in Colorado, Hawaii, Ohio, and Virginia. The experiences of those four states provide a clear blueprint for policymakers seeking to protect consumers and enable access to small-dollar credit. And their approaches share four key ingredients: fair prices that are viable for lenders and borrowers, affordable payments, reasonable time to repay, and widespread access to safer credit. 

Climate change is real
Power outages from extreme weather events caused by climate change have doubled over the past decade, battering an already aging U.S. power grid. The costs of maintenance and repairs have skyrocketed, including at least a 50% increase in outage duration in Louisiana. The Associated Press describes how the increased frequency of extreme weather is causing more weather-related electricity outages across the country, and an increase in human suffering.  

The combination of at-risk infrastructure and climate change can be deadly: After Hurricane Ida knocked out power to much of coastal Louisiana last year, heat killed or contributed to the deaths of at least 21 people, local coroners reported. In New Orleans alone, heat caused nine deaths and contributed to 10 others, according to coroner’s office records. Most who died were elderly and African American. Spokesman Jason Melancon could not say which victims did not have power, but 75% of the city was still without power when most died. 

Number of the Day
$234 billionEstimated cost to the U.S. economy in lost productivity from people working while sick. (Source: National Partnership for Women and Families)