The head of Louisiana’s child welfare agency laid out steps on Thursday that her department is taking to address massive staffing shortages. Secretary Marketa Walters and other agency officials told state lawmakers that the Department of Children and Family Services is in the process of adding 22 nurses to its staff and plans to add a total of 50. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Andrea Gallo reports on the other ways that DCFS officials are trying to attract more caseworkers to address repeated reports of neglect, abuse and death among the children under its supervision.
They’ve also created higher entry-level salaries for child welfare trainees, who can earn nearly $40,000 — nearly a $10,000 increase — and have added pay incentives up to an extra $5 per hour in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Instead of requiring college degrees as it had long done, DCFS now allows hires to have six years of full-time work in any field, Walters said. Some legislators asked Thursday whether doing so had lowered the quality of applicants; DCFS officials said it’s too early to tell. “We won’t know until we try,” said State Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge.
Despite reports about DCFS’ budget being half as large as it was a decade ago, lawmakers remained indignant that they shared any responsibility for the failures of a department they are responsible for funding.
“We all wanted the results you’re sharing with us right now. I just have to say that with all the agony we’ve shared, and frankly the tension, the news stories that it’s our fault, good things are coming from this conversation that I don’t think would have happened otherwise,” said State Senate Pro Tem Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton.
Entire federal agency ruled unconstitutional
Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in the aftermath of the Great Recession to protect consumers from predatory activity by financial institutions. But earlier this week, judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declared the entire department unconstitutional. Vox’s Ian Millhiser reports on the the dubious legal theory behind the ruling and the consequences for consumers if it holds up:
Should the three Trump judges’ decision stand, it would effectively neutralize much of the federal government’s ability to fight financial fraud — although that outcome probably is not likely given that the Fifth Circuit’s decision is such an outlier. As Wilson explains, the CFPB assumed enforcement authority “over 18 federal statutes” when it was formed nearly a dozen years ago, and these statutes “cover everything from credit cards and car payments to mortgages and student loans.”Meanwhile, the agency also enforces a “sweeping new proscription on ‘any unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice’ by certain participants in the consumer-finance industry.” All of these consumer protections could evaporate if the Fifth Circuit’s decision earns the favor of the Supreme Court.
Feds plug abandoned wells on wildlife refuges
Louisiana legislators this year passed a law that positions Louisiana to receive $200 million from the new federal infrastructure law to clean up the approximately 4,600 abandoned “orphan” oil and gas wells on state lands. This week work is set to start on cleaning up abandoned wells on national wildlife refuges in the state. While the number of wells on the refuges is small – approximately 150 – it shows the benefits of the $1.2 trillion federal legislation that are starting to flow to Louisiana. Nola.com’s Tristan Baurick reports:
“That does not solve all of our orphaned well issues, but it gives us some real momentum in our efforts to get that orphaned well population reduced,” he said. Plugging all of Louisiana’s orphan wells could employ just over 1,000 oil workers full-time for one year and cut methane emissions by 558 metric tons per year, according to a 2020 report by Columbia University and Resources for the Future, an environmental policy think tank. The methane reduction would be the equivalent of cutting annual greenhouse gas emissions from about 3,000 cars.
How far does $30 billion go to fight systemic racism?
Approximately two years ago JP Morgan Chase pledged to help close the racial wealth gap. The pledge came in the aftermath of a summer of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice, and with a big price tag of $30 billion. The New York Times’ Emily Fitter takes stock of how the company is doing with its pledge and what it looks like when a private company, with a fiduciary obligation to shareholders, tries to tackle systemic racism.
At the top of its list, according to the web page announcing the pledge, was a vow to underwrite 40,000 mortgages for Black and Latinx borrowers over five years. The bank’s estimate for how much money it would lend out was $8 billion. Another $4 billion in mortgage refinancings would help lower interest rates for 20,000 Black and Latinx borrowers. There was no information about JPMorgan’s previous lending to the groups specified in its pledge, to show what kind of an increase the 40,000 loans over five years would be. “It is all incremental — dollars and units,” a JPMorgan spokeswoman, Patricia Wexler, said in a conversation in the spring of 2021, when she went over the pledge with me in detail for the book.
Join us on Tuesday for the next installment of Racism: Dismantling the System speaker series, hosted by LBP and the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. Experts will investigate the popularity of Black horror films and discuss the danger of plots and scripts that perpetuate harmful stereotypes of BIPOC people as disadvantaged or oppressed.
Number of the Day
42% – Percentage increase in the price of Skittles from the same time last year. (Source: Axios)