Black Louisianans exposed to more industrial pollution

Black Louisianans exposed to more industrial pollution

Majority-Black communities in Louisiana are exposed to far greater amounts of harmful pollution than their white counterparts, according to a new study from the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic. The study, which focused on the state’s petrochemical corridor along the Mississippi River known as “cancer alley,” also found that the Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency responsible for regulating pollution, was a driving force behind the disparity. The Advocate’s Mark Schleifstein reports:

It looked at each census tract containing industries throughout the state, and determined that the difference in the level of emissions in Black communities was unrelated to either the infrastructure or labor supply needed for the industry. Similar access to river transportation, pipelines and railroads carrying raw materials to industrial sites, and access to industrial workers, were equally available in both census tracts with high levels of Black residents and high levels of White residents, the study found. “LDEQ’s own pollution inventory reveals a racial disparity that can’t be explained by industrial infrastructure,” said study co-author Gianna St. Julien, also an environmental researcher with the law clinic. “The root cause is clear – discriminatory permitting that targets overburdened communities of color for new and expanding industry.”

Sick kids and lack of child care drives workplace absences to all-time high 
The number of people missing work for child-care reasons rose to an all-time high as a nationwide spike in respiratory viruses and other illnesses is colliding with America’s child care crisis. Public schools and child care centers are down 300,000 and 88,000 workers, respectively, from pre-pandemic levels. This shortage led to more than 100,000 people missing work in October. The Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai reports on the financial toll that lost working hours are having on families’ budgets and the larger economy. 

Low-income families — especially those less likely to receive paid sick leave and employer-provided health insurance — have been hit disproportionately hard. While 96 percent of the country’s highest paid workers received paid sick leave last year, only 40 percent of the lowest earners did, according to federal data. In Sevier County, Tenn., neither Drew Moore nor his wife, Raven, receive paid leave. Their children, ages 2 and 4, have been sick for weeks, which means they’ve both had to cut back at work, cutting into their annual household income of about $30,000. Moore said he’s lost out on thousands of dollars’ worth of landscaping projects this fall, while his wife has had to forego lucrative weekend shifts at the steakhouse where she works.

Louisiana leads nation in surge of major disasters
Ninety percent of counties in the United States have suffered a major disaster since 2011, according to a new report from Rebuild by Design. But not all areas are experiencing them at the same rate. The Washington Post’s Christopher Flavelle reports on the sobering report and Louisiana’s prominent role in it. 

At the top of that list are five counties that have each experienced, on average, more than a disaster a year since 2011. Those counties are concentrated in two areas: Southern Louisiana (where counties are called parishes) and eastern Kentucky. Louisiana outpaces the rest of the United States in another regard. Over the past decade, the state has received more federal disaster money per capita — $1,736 for each resident — than anywhere else in the nation, the report found. Only New York State comes close, at $1,348.

Funding housing aid with one-time dollars
New Orleans leaders confirmed on Tuesday that the city will use a mix of federal pandemic relief dollars to continue providing free legal services to people facing eviction. While funding for the “right to counsel program” was allocated by city council members last December, it wasn’t documented in Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s proposed 2023 budget. Housing advocates rejoiced that the crucial program is being funded, but are wary that it’s being propped up by one-time funding that won’t be available in future years when the city’s housing crisis remains. Verite’s Michelle Liu reports

Cashauna Hill, executive director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, a partner in the right to counsel program, said that she was happy the Cantrell administration would pay for the program next year. But she raised concerns about the plan to use one-time federal dollars, rather than recurring city revenues, to fund  it. “The Right to Counsel program has been an essential lifeline to hundreds of families since it began earlier this year and must be part of any comprehensive strategy to address homelessness,” Hill said. “We’re glad to see that the administration is planning to fully fund the program again for 2023, but we would urge it and the City Council to begin thinking about the need to fund essential housing programs like this with recurring general fund dollars, not just one-time federal money.” 

We’re hiring: The Louisiana Budget Project is seeking a Policy Analyst to work on state and federal policy issues that affect low-income Louisianans, with a focus on budget and tax issues. Click here to learn more and apply.

Number of the Day
– Amount of federal disaster money per capita that Louisiana has received over the past decade, more than any other state. (Source: Rebuild by Design via The Washington Post