Children in Louisiana continue to suffer from high rates of poverty, struggling families and poor health outcomes, according to the 2023 edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation with its Louisiana partner, Agenda for Children. Louisiana ranked 49th among the 50 states – behind only New Mexico – for the second straight year. While Louisiana did see some improvement in last year’s report, the Pelican State fared worse in three of the four of the report’s main indicators for 2023. The Lafayette Daily Advertiser’s William Taylor Potter reports: 

Close to 35% of children in Louisiana had parents who lacked secure employment in 2021, which was up from 33% in 2019 and higher than the national average of 29%. About 30% of Louisiana children lived in households with a high housing cost in 2021, up from 29% in 2019 and matching the national average of 30%. About 11% of Louisiana teenagers were not in school and not working in 2021, rising from 9% in 2019 and above the national average of 7%. The only economic indicator where Louisiana did not perform worse was for the percentage of children in poverty, which remained stagnant at 27%. The national average was 17%.

The Baton Rouge Business Report’s Holly Duchmann explains how a lack of availability and affordability of child care options in Louisiana is forcing parents to quit their jobs. 

Some 8% of young children in Louisiana are in families in which someone quit, changed or refused a job because child care is hard to find and even harder to afford, according to a new report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book reports Louisiana’s average annual cost of center-based child care for a toddler was $7,306, which accounts for 7% of median income for a married couple and 30% for a single mother in the state. An estimated 45% of Louisiana children are living in single-parent families. 

Cutting the cost of expungement
The state Legislature has received well-deserved grief for its chaotic handling of the state budget and for targeting LGBTQ+ Louisianans with several harmful bills. But, as The Advocate writes in an editorial, it got at least one thing right: cutting the cost of expungement, so people with minor legal infractions can wipe the slate clean and have an easier time renting an apartment or getting a job. Sen. Royce Duplessis’ Senate Bill 11 reforms a costly and burdensome process that has resulted in only 5% of Louisianans who qualify for expungement bothering to seek them:

Criminal justice reform advocates, particularly the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana, have worked for years to change Louisiana’s expungement law. This year, they finally succeeded. … The new law requires the State Police and the Louisiana Supreme Court to upgrade their computer systems so that their respective databases can share information about people seeking expungements and coordinate notice to clerks of court, law enforcement and prosecutors when expungements are granted. The new law also requires a simple, streamlined application process — at no cost to the applicant.

Poverty is a policy choice
The expanded Child Tax Credit helped cut poverty by nearly half in 2021 by giving families with kids a monthly, no-strings-attached cash allowance, which they used on basic necessities such as food, utilities or shelter. Unfortunately, families lost this critical support when Congress failed to extend the credit. The New York Times’ Binyamin Appelbaum explains how the temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit shows us what we already know – that direct cash assistance can make a huge difference in peoples’ lives. 

“I think folks are turning to the idea that poverty and the financial precarity that has been increasing across all income levels is a policy choice,” said Halah Ahmad, vice president for policy at the Jain Family Institute, a nonpartisan research center in New York that works for the expansion of cash payments to families. “There’s decades of research that shows that cash works. And when you narrow the scope to helping kids in need, it’s even more popular.” 

Applebaum also notes the long-term benefits to children that direct cash assistance provides. 

One recent study compared children born in December with children born in January. Because families with children born in December were able to claim a federal tax credit for that year, they were eligible to receive about $1,300 in aid that families with children born in January did not get. The researchers, who looked at children born in three December-January windows between 1981 and 1992, found that the December children were earning 2 percent to 3 percent more by their early 30s.

IRS cut will protect tax cheats and increase deficit 
The debt-ceiling deal approved earlier this month included a $20 billion cut to the IRS sought by House Republicans. The cut means the federal government will have fewer resources to ensure that the ultra-wealthy comply with our tax laws, which in turn will grow the federal budget deficit. The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell, with interactive graphics by Youyou Zho, explain how the $20 billion cut to the IRS will morph into a much bigger loss. 

For every additional dollar spent auditing people in the top decile of the income distribution, the government can expect to get 12 times that amount back. …  Which means rather than soaking the rich through higher tax rates, perhaps we should merely enforce existing law. In any case, the revenue Congress just agreed to leave on the table by rescinding $20 billion from IRS’s long-term budget could be substantial. Based on that 12 to 1 multiplier found in this study for marginal returns from auditing high earners, that could mean Congress just gave up about $240 billion in revenue, for a net cost to the budget of $220 billion ($240 billion – $20 billion cut from IRS budget = $220 billion). So much for trying to reduce deficits.

Editor’s note: The Louisiana Budget Project will be closed on Monday for Juneteenth. The Daily Dime will be back on Tuesday.  

Number of the Day
60% – Percentage of Americans with health insurance who had an issue with their coverage over the last year. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation via the New York Times)