A new federal program that provides extra food assistance to children during summer received bipartisan support from members of Congress. While every Democratic governor is participating in the program, nearly half of Republican governors, including Louisiana’s Jeff Landry,  have rejected the assistance. The New York Times’ Jason DeParle explains the confounding red-blue state divide on feeding hungry kids and how it reflects broader issues with the U.S. safety net. 

Summer EBT is much cheaper for states than Medicaid, it passed Congress with Republican support and it grew from a pilot program widely deemed successful. Plus, it targets children. “It should be less controversial than it’s been,” said Elaine Waxman, a hunger expert at the Urban Institute, a Washington research group. The outcome illuminates the arbitrary nature of the American safety net, which prioritizes local control. North Dakota and North Carolina are in; South Dakota and South Carolina are out. Children can get aid in Tulsa but not in Oklahoma City, as state and tribal governments clash. In the impoverished Mississippi Delta, eligibility depends on which side of the Mississippi River a child lives.

A new EPA rule announced Tuesday aims to cut emissions of six likely cancer-causing air pollutants in more than 200 chemical plants nationwide. The rule will be especially beneficial for residents living along an 85-mile corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known as Cancer Alley. More than a quarter of the targeted facilities are located in Louisiana. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Schleifstein reports

It specifically targets the controversial Denka Performance Elastomers facility in LaPlace, the biggest source of chloroprene emissions in the U.S. But it also targets 10 plants emitting ethylene oxide and other chemicals in Geismar, five in Baton Rouge and five in the town of Plaquemine. “When I visited St. John’s Parish, and ‘Cancer Alley‘ during the first leg of my journey to justice tour in 2021, I saw firsthand how the multi-generational and widespread effects of pollution were affecting the health of the local community,” [EPA Administrator Michael] Regan said. “Nearly every person I spoke to knew someone who suffered from an illness connected to pollution from the air they breathe.”

The House Education Committee advanced legislation on Tuesday that would make changes to the state’s popular TOPS college scholarship program. Rep. Vincent St. Blanc’s House Bill 452 would eliminate TOPS Tech, which has seen waning participation, in four years. St. Blanc said he wants to put more resources behind the M.J. Foster Promise Program, which provides participants with financial support while they train for jobs in high-demand occupations. Lawmakers also advanced Rep. Brian Glorioso’s House Bill 68, which would weaken requirements for home-school students to receive TOPS awards. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Greg LaRose reports

They [home-school students]must currently score at least two points higher on the ACT than their public and private school counterparts to qualify for the TOPS Tech and Opportunity awards. For the TOPS Performance and Honors awards, their score must be one point more. … The higher ACT standards have been in place for several years, dating back to before BESE started giving its blessing to home-school curricula. The thinking at the time was that home-schooled students should face a higher bar to qualify for TOPS — much like out-of-state students do when applying to Louisiana schools — because they don’t have to take the same core classes to earn a diploma.

The Affordable Care Act has made health insurance more accessible and affordable than ever before, and more than 21 million people have enrolled in coverage through the ACA Marketplace. But many people, especially those with low incomes and chronic health conditions, still face barriers to getting the care they need because of high co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance costs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has a new report that looks at ways the federal government can build on the ACA’s success to make coverage more affordable and accessible: 

These affordability challenges have a pronounced impact on access to care and economic security. In a 2023 Commonwealth Fund survey, 37 percent of respondents enrolled in the marketplace or individual market reported that they or a family member delayed or skipped needed health care in the past 12 months because of cost.[3] Seventy percent of respondents reported that they spent at least 10 percent — and 23 percent said they spent at least a quarter — of their monthly household budget on health care.

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

22% – Percentage share of Louisiana students who were chronically absent in the 2022-23 school year. School absences have significantly increased nationwide since the Covid-19 pandemic. (Source: Return 2 Learn Tracker)