Mississippi has a long legacy of poverty – exacerbated by leaders who condemn the safety-net programs that support people with low incomes. A recent investigation showed how state officials diverted federal welfare money to rich and powerful allies, including former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, instead of the needy residents it was intended for. The AP’s Emily Wagster Pettus explains Mississippi’s misuse of federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families money and how it helps perpetuate poverty in the Magnolia State: 

Some of the money that was intended to help low-income families was spent on luxury travel for Davis and on people close to him, drug rehab for a former pro wrestler and boot camp-style gym classes for public officials. In contrast, some welfare recipients say they found little relief but plenty of bureaucratic headaches from collecting modest monthly TANF payments. “What may seem like an easy handout program is not,” said Brandy Nichols, a single mother of four children age 8 and younger.

Biden announces billions for mega infrastructure projects
President Joe Biden will be in Cincinnati on Wednesday to announce billions of dollars in federal funding to tackle long-stalled mega projects across the country. Louisiana is set to receive nearly $6 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law, including $1.5 billion to rebuild the Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles. The Washington Post’s Ian Duncan, Michael Laris and Luz Lazo report on how huge infrastructure projects will use the much-needed influx of federal dollars. 

Rusted, steep and narrow, the Calcasieu River Bridge opened in 1952 and was expected to be in use for 50 years. Seventy years later, 88,000 vehicles a day cross the span, which carries Interstate 10. …  The new bridge could be completed by the end of the decade. “This is going to be felt by locals as well as those folks traveling in and around the region, and to a certain degree, by someone in Iowa or Chicago buying goods that have to be shipped,” [Louisiana Transportation Secretary Shawn] Wilson said.

Why saving kids is bad business in America 
A confluence of Covid-19, the flu and RSV has created a pediatric pandemic in America and exposed the nation’s flawed health care model. While hospitals fill up with sick children, doctors and nurses are struggling to find the resources and space to treat them. Since 2008, 20% of pediatric departments in American hospitals have closed. As the New York Times’ Alexander Stockton and Lucy King explain in a must-watch video, children require less complex care than adults, and are therefore less profitable to treat. This has led to disastrous consequences in America’s profit-driven hospitals as they try to treat a wave of respiratory viruses in children. 

Profit-driven management has eroded pediatric health care in America. Health care providers make more money treating adults than they do children. As a result, the number of hospitals offering pediatric care has decreased dramatically over the past two decades. So when the number of R.S.V. cases skyrocketed in late 2022, the American health care system wasn’t prepared. Hospitals were overwhelmed, and families struggled to find appropriate care. And once again, the nation’s health care workers have shouldered much of the burden, going to extraordinary lengths to care for society’s most vulnerable.

Laying groundwork for expanding early childhood education 
Last spring New Orleans voters approved a 5-mill, 20-year property tax for early childhood education. Research has consistently shown that investments in early childhood development – when the brain’s architecture is being built – can have lifelong positive effects on children. Verite’s Michelle Liu reports on how the CitySeats program is laying the groundwork for expansion and the benefits that will come from it. 

“Being able to give parents the space to take the job without having to worry about child care, or get further education — it gives parents the space to make those sorts of long-term decisions about their career trajectories and education,” said Teresa Falgoust, of Agenda for Children. “That also puts the child on a path to further economic success beyond these three or four short years.” … Getting there will mean rolling out an expanded enrollment process, bringing providers into the program, hiring additional teachers and increasing space at some child care centers. 

Number of the Day
36,857 – Number of residents that left Louisiana between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022. The Pelican State ranked fifth in the nation for the largest population decline during that timespan. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau via the Center Square)