Last week the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the overall poverty rate climbed to 12.4% in 2022 from 7.8% the previous year, the largest one-year jump on record. Poverty among children more than doubled, to 12.4% from a record low of 5.2% in 2021. The biggest reason for the uptick in poverty was the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit, which cut the nation’s child poverty rate nearly in half in 2021. As The Advocate’s Mark Ballard explains, the effectiveness of the Child Tax Credit shows that poverty is a policy choice. 

Columbia University said in a report released Tuesday: “The historic low in the child poverty rate in 2021 was largely the result of a major one-year expansion to the federal Child Tax Credit in the American Rescue Plan. The increase in child poverty in 2022, in turn, is largely the result of the expanded Child Tax Credit’s expiration.” The Urban Institute, a left-leaning, Washington-based think tank, reported on Wednesday that the tax credit “also held promise for future societal benefits: because people who experience poverty as children have lower earnings and tax contributions and are more likely to need public supports as adults, reducing the number of children living in poverty can save the country hundreds of billions of dollars annually when those children reach adulthood.”

Louisianans losing Medicaid coverage
The state Department of Health has booted 125,000 low-income Louisianans, including 40,000 children,  from its Medicaid rolls as part of a massive disenrollment process sparked by the end of pandemic-era coverage protections. The vast majority lost coverage for procedural reasons – failure to provide the right documentation in a timely manner – not because they were ineligible. The coverage losses come despite an aggressive outreach effort by the health department, backed by a nearly $200 million budget to manage the disenrollment. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports

Over three-quarters of those who were cut in Louisiana, 82,000 people, were taken out of Medicaid for “procedural” reasons, including not responding to prompts to reenroll. About 25,000 were removed because they no longer met income eligibility requirements, according to the information released. Those who have been cut could still be eligible for the program and may sign up for the health insurance again once they discover they were dropped, health officials said.

ICYMI: A new report by the Louisiana Budget Project explains how we got here—and what we can do to help minimize the looming coverage cliff. It also contains resources in English, Spanish and Vietnamese that people can use to ensure they do not lose health coverage even though they are still eligible. 

Incompetence is (still) the new corruption 
Last week, a third report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor found that the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections routinely keeps people locked up well beyond their scheduled release dates. The incompetence is now so glaring that federal judges are refusing to grant qualified immunity, which shields government officials from lawsuits, to DPSC leaders. An Advocate editorial weighs in: 

“As our Court remains plagued by claims arising from inexplicable and illegal overdetention in Louisiana prisons, explanations scarcely arise, let alone satisfy scrutiny upon our review,” a panel from the appeals court wrote in a recent opinion. “The problem is endemic in Louisiana.” That’s simply not acceptable.  Once one does one’s time, one ought to be free to go. Surely all can agree that’s the way the system is supposed to work.

Careening toward another shutdown
Congress has 12 days to agree on a bipartisan spending plan to avert a federal government shutdown. The short-term deal that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy brokered on Sunday won’t cut it. It includes deep cuts to most non-defense programs and controversial border policies that are nonstarters in the Democratic-led Senate and White House. Brookings’ David Wessel explains the stakes. 

Shutdowns can be disruptive, leading to delays in processing applications for passports, small business loans, or government benefits; shuttered visitor centers and bathrooms at national parks; fewer food-safety inspections; and various inconveniences. … The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the five-week partial shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019—partial because five of the 12 appropriation bills had been passed—reduced the level of GDP growth by 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2018 ($3 billion in 2019 dollars) and by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2019 ($8 billion), mainly from the loss of furloughed federal workers’ pay and the delay in federal spending on goods and services.

Number of the Day
67% – Percentage of Americans that support unions. While approval is slightly down from last year’s mark of 71%, it’s the fifth straight year that approval has exceeded its long-term average of 62%. (Source: Gallup)