More hunger, less food assistance

More hunger, less food assistance

Children from low-income Louisiana families are more likely to go hungry next summer after Gov. Jeff Landry joined 15 other Republican governors in rejecting federal funding to provide extra food assistance during the summer months. Advocates have long cautioned about rising rates of food insecurity during summer as students lose access to school meal programs. The Washington Post’s Annie Gowen reports on the callous decision: 

“It’s sad,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, noting that the program has support from other states run by Republicans and Democrats. “There isn’t really a political reason for not doing this. This is unfortunate. I think governors may not have taken the time or made the effort to understand what this program is and what it isn’t.”

Landry’s move comes at a time when hunger in Louisiana is surging, as Jakori Madison of the Lafayette Advertiser reports: 

U.S. Department of Agriculture food insecurity data — a way of measuring food hardship — analyzed by Hunger Free America showed that, across Louisiana, 16.1% of residents, or 727,000 people, lived in food insecure households from 2020 to 2022. This included 211,259 children in the state, 246,137 employed adults, and 149,676 older residents.


(Another) shutdown fight threatens poor families
Rents have risen sharply across the country in recent years, and the federal rental assistance that helps millions of low-income people has not kept pace. Things could soon get worse, as Congress struggles to craft a bipartisan spending deal to avert a government shutdown as hard-right House Republicans threaten revolt. As the Washington Post’s Tony Romm explains, a shutdown threatens rental assistance for low-income Americans, which could lead to a spike in evictions. 

Some estimates suggest an early deal between House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), announced Sunday, could eliminate about 80,000 vouchers, as federal aid fails to keep pace with inflation. In a more devastating scenario, more than half a million families could lose housing benefits under current law, which forces automatic spending cuts across most of the government unless Congress intervenes before May 1. That would put many poor families at risk of homelessness if they cannot afford to pay rent on their own, according to HUD, which offered the new estimate this week.


Exposing juvenile records is still a bad idea 
During last year’s legislative session, GOP lawmakers unsuccessfully pushed legislation that aimed to fight violent crime by publicly releasing sealed juvenile court records. This misguided effort is gaining new momentum after the state’s Violent Crime Task Force’s report recommended reviving the idea. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Will Sutton doubts that it would do anything to reduce juvenile crime. 

I’m all for reducing juvenile crime. I’m for putting youth through a process that includes a 360-degree view of what’s been going on in their lives to determine the best paths forward.  But do all of us really need access to that information? … The report doesn’t say the entire state should be included with either a pilot or a permanent juvenile public records access system. It doesn’t identify specific parishes either. It also doesn’t say how exposing these kids can make us safer. I hope our leaders will think more about this recommendation and avoid making children who have messed up even more vulnerable.


Slowing down to speed up 
Louisiana has kicked 197,000 people out of its Medicaid program as part of a massive disenrollment process sparked by the end of pandemic-era coverage protections. About a quarter of those who lost health coverage were children. And the vast majority of Louisianans were dropped for procedural reasons, not because they were ineligible. Blake Shaw, president of the Change & Innovation Agency, writing in Route Fifty, uses a traffic jam on a four-lane highway to explain how states can speed up the backlog of eligibility redeterminations 

There are several ways to reduce road congestion. Adding a lane could provide long-term improvements, but at a significant cost. Creating a detour could divert traffic, but at least keep vehicles moving. Each has its drawbacks, but the ultimate goal of reducing traffic on the highway is achieved. The same concepts can be applied to the workload an eligibility worker faces each day. Agencies can add “lanes”—although that means adding staff, which can get costly and time-intensive. Agencies can also create a detour, routing customers to places such as a website, call center or mobile app.


Number of the Day
30% – Percentage share of a typical household income needed to rent an average-price apartment in the United States. (Source: Moody’s Analytics via Axios)