The bipartisan debt-limit deal struck over the weekend faces its first major test on Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Speaker Kevin McCarthy will try to find at least 218 votes for a plan that aims to slow down spending on federal antipoverty programs. As a condition of agreeing not to torpedo the world economy, GOP negotiators demanded that older Americans be burdened with new work reporting requirements as a condition of receiving food assistance. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Sharon Parrott reminds us that work requirements don’t actually work:
The agreement puts hundreds of thousands of older adults aged 50-54 at risk of losing food assistance, including a large number of women. Doubling down on the existing, failed SNAP work-reporting requirement for adults aged 18-49 without children, this provision ignores the strong evidence that it takes food assistance away from large numbers of people without increasing employment or earnings.
The New York Times’ Catie Edmondson reports that the deal increases overall spending on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
(T)he Congressional Budget Office reported that the changes in work requirements for food stamp eligibility — tightening them for some adults but loosening them for others, including veterans — would actually increase federal spending on the program by $2 billion. Overall, the budget office estimated the deal would make an additional 78,000 people eligible for nutrition assistance.
The Washington Post’s Tyler Pager profiles Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, the Baton Rouge native who led negotiations for the president.
To many participants she seemed to become an indispensable figure, a rare individual who was known and trusted by members of both parties and could serve as a conduit at a moment when partisan recriminations have reached a fever pitch. Current and former colleagues note that Young has been involved in budget fights for more than a decade starting with her tenure on the House Appropriations Committee, working mostly behind the scenes and specializing in the details while developing strong relationships with Democrats and Republicans.
Minimum wage dies on the floor
Louisiana’s minimum wage workers will have to go another year without a pay raise. The GOP majority Senate voted 25-13 against Senate Bill 149 by Sen. Gary Carter on Tuesday, which would have established a $10 an hour minimum wage in 2024, rising to $14 an hour by 2028. Carter’s bill gained unexpected momentum on Monday when it cleared the Senate Finance Committee “without action,” forcing the full upper chamber to vote on the matter. As The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports, the Legislature’s refusal to raise wages comes with hidden costs:
Higher wages would have decreased state expenditures on social services by allowing people to get off of food stamps, housing assistance and other welfare programs, he said. Carter referred to the hidden cost of low pay in arguing for the increase. When companies don’t pay their workers livable wages, they’re essentially taking money from taxpayers by forcing their workers to rely on government subsidies, he said.
The Shreveport Times’ Greg Hilburn reports that single women who head households are particularly impacted by keeping wages low in Louisiana, contributing to the state’s high poverty rates.
Tom Costanza, executive director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, said 30% of single women who head households work for the minimum wage in Louisiana … Louisiana’s poverty rate is 18.56, second highest to Mississippi at 19.2%.
Earmarks vs early childhood education
The House Appropriation Committee slashed $52 million in early childhood education funding from the budget earlier this month, then added a similar amount of money for pet projects – much of it going to the districts of influential lawmakers. An Advocate editorial says it’s the latest display of legislators’ misplaced priorities.
No one is opposed to grants for kids’ playgrounds, which are a favorite way for lawmakers to curry favor back home, but shouldn’t the local taxpayers pay for local projects? Not according to those in the State Capitol, because the political capital then does not accrue to the legislators involved. And quite often, as in the grants given to parishes where key legislators live, it’s real money, like the $1 million for a sports complex in Youngsville and another $1 million for one in Houma. Those add up quickly.
Reality check: Legislative earmarks are a part of the political process, and it’s hard to blame lawmakers for wanting to show their constituents a tangible benefit of their work in Baton Rouge. But it should not come at the expense of services for young children, especially in a year like this, when there is enough money available to accomplish both goals.
A massive backlog for asylum seekers
In rural Jena and Oakdale, far away from media scrutiny and often forgotten, tens of thousands of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States await hearings from federal immigration judges. The vast majority of those whose cases are heard will be denied asylum, many without legal representation. Louisiana trails only Texas in the number of immigrant detainees in ICE facilities. Recently the backlog of cases has grown more severe, as several judges have left the Louisiana bench and have yet to be replaced. Davide Mamone reports for The Advocate:
(T)heir absence has left thousands of asylum seekers in limbo, said Homero Lopez, director of Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy in Louisiana. “We never know what to expect,” he said. “Sometimes my clients ask me how to prepare ahead of a final hearing and I honestly do not know what to tell them because the judge who decides the case is not the one who handled the previous steps.” … Last year, the Biden administration requested funding for 100 more judges, but Congress rejected it. The administration doubled down this year, asking for 200 additional judge positions, but Congress only appropriated funds for half of them.
Number of the Day12,800 – Number of net new jobs added to Louisiana’s economy from March to April, bringing the state unemployment rate down to a record-low 3.2% (Source: Louisiana Workforce Commission via The Advocate)