Louisiana’s early care and education system is being supported by $200 million in temporary federal funding that needs to be replaced next year with state funding. While Louisiana’s short-term financial projections are bright – with an extra $1.5 billion on hand over the next 18 months –  this money is not guaranteed to be available to lawmakers in the years ahead. Charmaine Caccioppi of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, writing in The Advocate, urges lawmakers to invest the temporary cash in the Louisiana Early Care and Education Fund, which offers local communities a dollar-for-dollar match on their early childhood education investments.

The fund is doing well, but with other communities from across the state, like Shreveport, joining New Orleans in raising local dollars, it is set to be exhausted within two or three years. Just 10% of the current estimated excess revenue would be over $90 million, securing the sufficiency of the fund for at least three more years. Ensuring that all in-need children have access to quality early childhood education will take action on the local, state and federal levels government as well as business community buy-in. This Louisiana Early Ed Month, contact your local leaders and tell them to use one-time funds responsibly and ensure that local communities can continue to double their impact on young children with local dollars and state matches.

A rebound for Black-owned businesses
Black-owned businesses closed at twice the rate of other businesses during the economic downturn brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. But then those businesses rebounded dramatically, as 2021 saw the fastest increase of Black business ownership in at least 26 years. The Washington Post’s Tracy Jan explains this turnaround and new challenges facing Black owners.

After pivoting successfully at the start of the pandemic, some Black-owned businesses now confront the economic challenges of labor shortages, supply chain delays and inflation. … [Tyrone Foster] He offered a $1,000 signing bonus, which he increased to $1,500 after receiving no applicants. He offered employees a $1,500 referral bonus for every new hire they brought. With no takers, he pooled the bonuses and advertised a raffle for those who worked three months of the summer to win $10,000 in September. “Goose eggs! Nothing! It still didn’t move people,” Foster said. “At that point I gave up. There’s nothing else I could do.”

Incompetence is the new corruption (cont …)
Louisiana public safety officials have known for more than a decade that the state routinely keeps inmates locked up well beyond their scheduled release dates. Instead of focusing on efforts to correct this injustice, state correction officials showed a “deliberately indifference” in violating inmates’ constitutional rights. But as The Advocate’s Jacqueline DeRobertis reports, the U.S. Department of Justice is threatening legal action if the state corrections agency doesn’t fix the problem.

To start, the feds included in their report a list of the bare minimum remedial measures the department must to take to avoid legal action. A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections did not return a request for comment. “This isn’t rocket science. Every other state — at least most of them — has a system that works,” said Maybell Romero, the Felder-Fayard Associate Professor of Law at Tulane University. “You are looking at a small sliver of reform here. We’re not looking at a consent decree that says, ‘Fix your whole criminal legal system.'” 

Among the nuggets DeRobertis digs up: The state spent $3.6 million to upgrade the antiquated computer system it uses to track sentences, only to see it crash a mere six weeks after its June 2015 debut. 

Mixed news on climate change efforts in Louisiana
Last week Louisiana leaders found the state’s climate action plan was progressing, albeit slowly, in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But a few days later it was announced that a wind energy development project off the state’s coast would be delayed in an effort to expedite efforts to open more federal waters to oil and gas drilling. Floodlight News’ Terry L. Jones reports on how state residents are suffering from toxic emissions being spewed from liquefied natural gas terminals.

The emissions of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds, among others, can irritate skin, eyes, nose and lungs and cause headaches, coughing, dizziness and other respiratory illnesses. Long-term exposure can lead to heart disease, certain types of cancer and damage to the reproductive system and internal organs. … Advocates warn this aggressive push for LNG will transform the coast into an industrial wasteland, destroy the commercial fishing industry and decimate the surrounding communities’ vitality.  “It’s like an alien invasion,” said Dardar. “My advice to the communities where these things are coming: try to stop them. Because once they get rolling, the flaring doesn’t stop. And they get to make up the rules as they go.” 

Number of the Day
– Number of employees that the leisure and hospitality industry are short of compared to 2020 levels. Many of these workers have moved on to jobs with better pay and benefits in what economists call a ‘deep, profound’ shift in the labor market. (Source: Washington Post)