Safety-net policies, such as food assistance and earned income tax credits, are effective anti-poverty tools. But these crucial programs can vary widely between states. For example, a typical single-parent family in Minnesota was eligible for more than $8,500 in combined cash and food assistance in 2022, a comparable household in Louisiana was eligible for less than $6,000. A new report from Brookings’ Gabriela Goodman and Tara Watson examines the generosity of each state’s safety-net programs.

We describe the index as representing eligibility and benefits available to a “typical” or average single-parent family, but it is important to note the index does not reflect actual benefits received by any particular family. Our analysis focuses on five key safety net programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) at the federal and state levels, the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

The report’s interactive map shows the differences across each state in detail.  

Louisiana leads the fight against hepatitis C 
For decades, Louisiana has routinely ranked at the bottom of the “good” lists and the top of “bad” lists on measures of poverty, crime, health and other indicators of well-being. But the Pelican State has become a national leader in its effort to eliminate hepatitis C. A Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial explains how the federal government is emulating Louisiana in its effort to tackle the dreaded disease. 

“The (U.S.) plan includes an innovative approach to provide broad access to curative medications, modeled on a successful effort in Louisiana. Under this approach, sometimes known as the ‘Netflix model,’ a drug company or companies agree to provide full access to medications for a population in need in exchange for a set lump sum payment,” [director of the National Institutes of Health Francis] Collins said. … Louisiana leads the way. We think that has a great ring to it.

Expanding education access in prison 
A state task force exploring whether Louisiana should expand education and job-training opportunities for incarcerated people met for the first time on Tuesday. While Louisiana prisons and jails currently offer some of these resources, advocates insist the state can be doing more. As the Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson reports, one goal of the group is expanding educational services for prisoners serving life sentences. 

One task force member, Kiana Calloway, spoke of her first-hand experience with that disparity. At 16, Calloway began serving two life sentences after a non-unanimous jury convicted him on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of armed robbery and a count of feticide in 1997. He received a new trial once it came to light the original judge didn’t allow Calloway to call certain witnesses or require the prosecution to turn over two witness statements. The charges were reduced to manslaughter, and he was given a new sentence of 34 years in prison. Calloway, who maintains his innocence, said that it wasn’t until his sentence was lessened that he could access educational programs in prison.  

Improving disaster recovery 
Congressional lawmakers visited Louisiana on Tuesday to better understand how the federal government can help the state recover after natural disasters. While the Pelican State is on the front lines for the devastating effects of climate change, recovery funding is often anemic and insufficient. BRProud’s Shannon Heckt reports

[Rep. Troy] Carter talked about how in the scramble after a storm there can be discrepancies in the communities who receive resources. He said that some of the most vulnerable are left waiting for help. “It is becoming increasingly clear that our emergency management systems need to prioritize equity; vulnerable populations are often hit the hardest by disasters and often receive a disproportionate amount of resources,” Carter said.

Number of the Day
34th – Louisiana’s national ranking for the amount of combined cash and food assistance that a typical single-parent family in the state was eligible for in 2022. (Source: Safety Net Adequacy Project Database via Brookings)