Louisiana is one of only five states without a state minimum wage law, meaning some workers in our state are still earning the $7.25 federal minimum wage that took effect in 2009 and many more workers earn just above that minimum threshold. The value of the minimum wage has been eroded by more than 30% over the last 15 years as the cost of living has continued to rise. A new issue brief from Invest in Louisiana’s Christina LeBlanc explains how minimum wage proposals filed for the legislative session would greatly benefit families living in poverty, Black workers, and women workers in our state:

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 1-in-6 Louisiana workers – 308,300 – would get a pay raise by 2029 if the minimum wage was set at $14 per hour, as HB 431/SB 173 would require. These workers would get an average annual raise of $3,000. … Almost two-thirds of families in poverty in Louisiana would benefit from increasing the minimum wage, while 28.3% of Black workers and 30% of Louisiana’s retail, arts and entertainment, and accommodations workers would all also see wage gains if these bills became law. Many women in Louisiana would also gain from an increase in the minimum wage, with 22.9% of women workers across the state benefiting from the proposed law. 

The House Committee on Labor and Industrial relations is scheduled to hear two proposals to raise the minimum wage – House Bills 290 and 431 – on Thursday morning. 

An incentive program offering up to $10,000 per year has led to an increased number of certified teachers in the rural, poorer areas of the state’s highest-rated large school district. The number of certified teachers in Ascension Parish’s more affluent areas on the east bank of the Mississippi hover at or above 90%. But schools on the more impoverished west bank have struggled to attract and retain quality educators. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s David J. Mitchell explains how increasing teacher pay benefits educators, students and schools. 

New data from the school system show the share of certified teachers in Donaldsonville schools has risen from 18% in the 2021-2022 year before the program took effect to 68% this school year. In what the system’s top human resources officials called a “tremendous jump,” the rise nearly quadrupled the share of certified staff in Donaldsonville schools in two years. … “The greatest impact on student academic achievement in a school system is having a high-quality, certified teacher in the classroom,” Superintendent Edith Walker said in a statement Wednesday.

Ascension’s incentive program was a local effort. Louisiana teachers’ salaries as a whole lag behind their regional and national peers. Gov. Jeff Landry failed to include a teacher pay raise in his budget recommendations to the Legislature, opting to renew a one-time stipend that was included in this year’s budget. 

Single mothers experience higher levels of psychological distress compared to married mothers, which can lead to worse academic and psychological outcomes for their children. Brookings’ Tara Watson and Simran Kalkat break down new research examining how the safety net can improve the mental health of single mothers:

To put the effects in context, the annual difference in total cash and food benefit generosity between the 10th percentile state, Georgia, and the 90th percentile state, New York, was $1,902 at the end of the study period in 2016. This difference in benefit generosity is enough to close a little over a tenth of the gap in severe psychological distress between married and single mothers, according to the results of the study.

An estimated 100 million American adults are saddled with medical debt, and more than half of all bankruptcies in the country are tied to medical issues. This debt deters people from seeking medical care, lowers credit scores and keeps families from buying a home or putting money away for their childrens’ college education. The Third Way’s David Kendall explains what states can do to help relieve this burden. 

Finally, states are erasing billions of dollars of patients’ debts. As one consumer advocate put it, “you can’t get blood from a stone.” That is why medical debt collections are usually unsuccessful. They get only a fraction of the original amount of the debt. Some former debt collectors saw that as an opportunity to start a charitable organization called RIP Medical Debt, which buys medical debt from collection agencies and hospitals for a penny on the dollar.

New Orleans announced a plan in 2022 to partner with New York-based nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to erase medical debt for city residents. While the city recently announced its first deal with a health care provider, two major regional hospitals remain key hurdles to debt relief. 

Gov. Jeff Landry wants to use the Legislature – along with 27 of his hand-picked appointees – in a rushed effort to overhaul the state constitution. Join the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice for a webinar on Thursday, April 11 at 4 p.m. to learn more about a constitutional convention and its impacts. Register here

308,300 – Number of Louisiana workers that would get a pay raise by 2029 if the minimum wage was set at $14 per hour. This would result in 1 in 6 workers receiving an average annual raise of $3,000. Two bills, House Bill 431 and Senate Bill 173 would establish a minimum wage of $10 an hour in 2025, rising gradually to $14 in 2029.