Unemployment benefits are an essential part of the public safety net and provide critical financial support to Louisiana workers when they lose their job due to no fault of their own. But a bill working its way through the Legislature would increase hardship for people when they need help the most. House Bill 340 by Rep. Troy Romero would cut the maximum number of weeks that unemployed workers could receive benefits. LBP policy analyst Christina LeBlanc explains why efforts to reduce unemployment benefits for Louisiana workers are punitive and unnecessary. 

These changes would hurt Louisiana workers, making Louisiana families more vulnerable to sudden economic changes and leaving the state less prepared for an economic recession or employment disruptions such as hurricanes, floods, or pandemics. … By keeping unemployment benefits low enough that they cover less than one-third of a worker’s salary, the state already gives people an incentive to seek work as rapidly as possible and certainly does not prevent people from re-entering the workforce. … Only 24% of [Louisiana] workers exhaust their benefits–meaning they use all 26 weeks of unemployment–compared to a national rate of 31.2%.

Westside sheriffs want a new children’s jail 
Law enforcement officials on Baton Rouge’s west bank complain that they sometimes have to travel across state lines to find beds for children accused of crimes. So the sheriffs in Iberville, Pointe Coupee and West Baton Rouge want the state to build them a new juvenile jail. The Advocate’s Rebecca Holland reports: 

(18th Judicial District Attorney Tony) Clayton estimates it would cost $15 million to $20 million to build a facility, plus ongoing operational costs. “The fact that the feds have brought these excruciating restrictions on us means we have to put forth more money so we can house these juveniles, particularly the violent ones, so we can educate them and allow them to assimilate back into society,” he said.

Criminal justice reform advocates say the focus on jailing children is misguided: 

[Kristen Rome, co-executive director at the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights] said focusing on alternatives like community-based programs that address children’s needs, or using ankle monitors and evening reporting centers would be a better use of resources. She’s not the only one. “Research shows that locking up kids doesn’t work,” the Office of Juvenile Justice said in a news release in 2022. “This money is better spent on community-based alternatives, which are safer and more effective and offer youth the tools they need to grow into responsible citizens.”

How Vermont became national leader on child care
A notable omission from last year’s Inflation Reduction Act was the lack of provisions to deal with America’s child care crisis. This has left it up to states to determine how to provide families access to early care and education programming. Earlier this year, voters in New Mexico approved a ballot measure to make access a constitutional right. More than 2,000 miles east, Vermont lawmakers are on the verge of passing legislation that would inject millions of dollars into their state’s child care system. Vox’s Rachel M. Cohen explains. 

The newly approved child care bill would expand state subsidies for families earning up to 575 percent of the federal poverty level (or $172,000 for a family of four) and families earning up to 175 percent of the poverty line (or $52,000 for a family of four) would now pay nothing out of pocket. The new payments will mean an infusion of funds for child care, allowing providers to be reimbursed at a 35 percent higher rate than they currently are. The legislation also tasks lawmakers with studying how to create an affordable full-day pre-K system. The investments would be paid for in part by a new payroll tax, of which employers would cover at least 75 percent. 

Louisiana legislators are taking the opposite approach. The budget bill advanced by the state House cuts $52 million proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards for early care and education. As many as 4,000 young children will lose access to affordable programs if the funding isn’t restored.

Slavery ban could go to voters again
A proposal to ban slavery and involuntary servitude in Louisiana advanced unanimously out of the House on Monday. Rep. Edmond Jordan’s House Bill 221 seeks to clarify confusing ballot language that derailed last year’s efforts to ban slavery. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Greg LaRose reports: 

His proposal specifies “the prohibition of involuntary servitude shall not prohibit an inmate from being required to work when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.” There was an attempt to make a similar change last year when the bill was debated on the House floor. The word “except” was added to its ballot language regarding the “otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.” Proponents had a problem with “except” being put in the same sentence as “slavery is prohibited.”

Number of the Day
17% – Percentage of U.S. renters who were behind on rent at some point in 2022. (Source: Federal Reserve)