Inflation cuts into states’ infrastructure windfall

Inflation cuts into states’ infrastructure windfall

Historically-high inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the bipartisan infrastructure deal. States received around $350 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to finance construction projects, but are encountering 20% to 40% spikes in costs, depending on the region and needed materials. Pew’s Jenni Bergal reports on the tough choices states face: 

“You have to settle for less or use this money for projects on track that you already planned to do, instead of the dream projects you haven’t realized,” (Susan) Howard (of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) said. The cost of asphalt, for example, was up more than 20% in October 2022, compared with October 2021, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, a construction industry trade group. Concrete costs rose 14%, and fabricated structural metal for bridges jumped more than 23% during that period. 

Pollution can lead to learning loss
It’s been well documented that low-income communities, especially
communities of color, are exposed to higher levels of pollution than
wealthier areas. While the negative health effects of breathing in toxic chemicals are obvious, a new study shows the negative effects they have on brain development of young children. According to Science Advances’ report, an infants’ exposure to harmful air toxins can reduce their reading and math abilities. The loss is so great for some children, that it’s equivalent to losing an entire month of school. The Washington Post’s Amudalat Ajasa reports

In the study, researchers show the ways cognitive gaps are formed as early as 6 months and are entrenched by age 2, before children even start school, said lead researcher Geoffrey Wodtke, associate director of the University of Chicago’s Stone Center for Research on Wealth Inequality and Mobility. “The study is showing that children born into high-poverty neighborhoods are more likely to be exposed to many neurotoxic air pollutants, and that those differences in turn are linked with inequalities in early-childhood development, specifically reading and math abilities measured around the time of school entry,” Wodtke told The Washington Post.

Give moms the gift of universal income
Policies that provide a universal basic income, such as the expanded Child Tax Credit, are the most effective at fighting poverty. Since December 2018, the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, based in Jackson, Miss., has operated what is now the longest-running guaranteed income experiment since the 1970s, giving 100 Black mothers $1,000 per month in no-strings-attached cash. Now, the organization is helping low-income families offset the cost of buying water because of the clean-water crisis in the state’s capital city. The New York Times’ Jessica Grose explains the benefits of providing guaranteed income to mothers: 

[Aisha Nyandoro, chief executive of Springboard] She said the initiative was generated by the families Springboard was working with. Many felt that they weren’t “moving the needle on poverty,” so she asked the moms: What would help you most? “Every story we heard was a story that could be resolved with cash,” Nyandoro said, whether that meant $25 to make sure a kid could go on to the next level of the science fair or money to repair a car so a mom didn’t have to rely on friends to get her to and from work every day. So Nyandoro worked to get a cash assistance program up and running. “We launched with the bold idea that you can trust individuals with money, you can trust Black women with money, you can trust financially vulnerable Black women with money,” and they will do well by their families, she said.

Cassidy pushes to fund youth mental health programs
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the mental health epidemic among American children. But a federal law designed to help adolescents struggling with mental health hasn’t been funded since September. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports that Sen. Bill Cassidy has co-sponsored two bills that would help young people access community-based mental health services, which are among a half-dozen bills that are trying to address the problem. 

One unexpected hiccup that needs to be addressed is obtaining a student’s high school treatment record and transferring it to a college. Laws protect a student’s privacy, and unless specific steps are taken — like getting a signature allow a college to even know about the high school files — all the work done to help the high schooler doesn’t get passed to the college. … Another issue is problems educating teachers, staffers and family on how to identify a problem early enough.

Number of the Day
50 – Louisiana’s national ranking for electrical vehicle charging stations per capita. The Pelican State has  just 8.3 chargers per 100,000 residents. (Source: Governing)