The encouraging news about a significant reduction in child poverty – reported last week by Child Trends and The New York Times – obscures the fact that there continues to be wide racial disparities in family wealth and income that makes it harder for Black and Hispanic children to thrive. An Advocate editorial notes that while federal income supports, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, have helped millions of families escape financial destitution, poverty rates are still three times as high for Black and Latino children as they are for whites.
Charmaine Caccioppi, the United Way’s executive vice president and COO, and Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, are encouraged by the significant progress noted in the analysis, but say there’s much work left to do. … Moller said Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion was an important development for children in poverty, but that the expiration of the pandemic-era child tax credit reduced gains. “That was a fundamental change in how we support low-income families and middle-income families with children,” he said. Moller called it a “game changer.”
Focus on tax “reform”
Louisiana doesn’t have enough money in its state budget to adequately staff its child welfare agency, pay its public school teachers or support its colleges and universities. The problem will only get worse in 2025 if the Legislature allows a temporary sales tax to expire without replacing the revenue with other dollars. Brproud.com’s Shannon Heckt spoke with PAR’s Steven Procopio, who thinks lawmakers will allow the tax to expire even if it means cutting services.
“I think there’s a tension between people that want to renew the sales tax. But most of those people aren’t in the legislature. I don’t think there’s anywhere near a majority for that. I think it’s going to roll off. The key is, how are we just going to get to the date and just drop off, or do we have some sort of glide path? It seemed like we had a ton of money,” Procopio said. In the last few years, the state has had billions of dollars flowing from the federal government for pandemic and hurricane aid. That money has now dried up, so making the budget will be a tighter process, especially with tax reform.
A misguided approach to juvenile justice
A federal judge is expected to decide on Friday whether the state can move ahead with its plans to warehouse some children at the maximum security state prison at Angola. In the meantime, advocates for incarcerated youths said Monday that just the threat of being moved to an adult prison has had a damaging effect on children being held at the troubled Bridge City Center for Youth. The Advocate’s Jacqueline DeRobertis reports:
Youths began to call both the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights and their parents to assure their families they hadn’t been moved yet. Some asked their loved ones to find a way to halt their transfer to the notorious adult prison in West Feliciana Parish, according to the center’s executive director. … “We can already see how this plan is meant to work,” (Aaron) Clark-Rizzio said. “Not only will some children live at Angola, but all of the children will live under the threat of being moved to Angola prison. And this seems to be part of the design.”
Billions to protect coastal communities from climate change
Earlier this month, a report showed that 8.7% of Louisiana’s total land mass could be swamped by high-tide waters by 2050 because of rising sea levels due to climate change. But a little-noticed section of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Democrats’ sweeping climate, tax and health care package, included $2.6 billion for projects in coastal communities to respond to climate change and ever-increasing natural disasters. The New York Times’ Stephanie Lai reports on how communities will tap into these funds and the debate about how to use them:
“Our coastal areas are shrinking before our very eyes, and people are being displaced,” said Representative Troy Carter, Democrat of Louisiana, whose home state has lost more than 2,000 square miles of coast — roughly the size of Delaware — since the 1930s. The coastal restoration funding “is a grand-slam home run,” he said. Escalating climate threats have prompted a continuing debate among policymakers and experts about how best to guard against devastating damage, between those who prioritize building man-made infrastructure like sea walls — sometimes called “gray infrastructure” — and those who favor nature-based solutions, or so-called green infrastructure.
An ‘unprecedented’ project to fight land loss from rising sea levels took a major step forward on Monday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental assessment. Mark Schleifstein reports:
State officials view the project as the most important among the state’s ongoing coastal Master Plan in reducing the effects of subsidence and sea level rise on land loss, while also recognizing its potential effects on fisheries and residents, which will be offset by $380 million in projects to mitigate damages. “This is a monumental moment for the state and the state’s coastal program,” said Chip Kline, chairman of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “It has been told to us by members of the Biden administration that this is the largest coastal restoration project in the country, and the largest of its type anywhere in the world.”
Number of the Day
$954 million – Financial assistance requested by 335 municipal water systems across Louisiana. The state has set aside $450 million in federal pandemic funding for upgrading water systems, meaning less than half the requests will be fulfilled (Source: Louisiana Illuminator)