Louisiana’s administration of a federal workforce development program has left participants worse off than when they started, according to a new report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides funding that states use to help job seekers access the training and skills needed to obtain high-quality jobs, and to match employers with skilled workers. While the Louisiana participants gained credentials and skills at higher rates than their counterparts in other states, they often made less money and obtained jobs at lower rates. The Baton Rouge Business Report’s David Jacobs reports

Louisiana spent $274.6 million in federal dollars over five years on workforce development programs that often left participants making less money than they had been earning two-to-three quarters before getting the training, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office reports. Louisiana met its performance indicator targets in fiscal years 2019 through 2022 for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs, and participants gained credentials and skills at a higher rate than those in other states. But they obtained jobs at a lower rate, the jobs often were unrelated to their WIOA training, and most did not earn enough to be self-sufficient, according to the LLA’s review. 

Historically underfunded HBCUs
The Louisiana Legislature underfunded Southern University to the tune of $1.1 billion over the past three decades, the White House alleged Monday. That’s how much state support the historically Black university should have received in order to keep pace with LSU – money that could have been used to support academic programs, infrastructure, student scholarships and other ongoing needs. The Advocate’s James Finn reports on efforts by the federal departments of Education and Agriculture to rectify disparities in the way states fund historically Black colleges compared to predominantly White institutions.  

Federal officials urged Gov. John Bel Edwards to address the shortfall through the state’s budget process, and suggested that Louisiana could rectify the inequity over several budget years, without cutting funding to LSU. 

Edwards’ Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne pushed back, saying the administration has prioritized new funding for higher education after years of debilitating budget cuts under the previous governor. National Public Radio reports that Louisiana is one of 16 states identified by the White House as having underfunded Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by a collective $13 billion. 

Mental health unit for pregnant, postpartum patients
Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge will open the state’s first inpatient mental health unit for pregnant and postpartum women. While mental health disorders contribute to Louisiana’s highest-in-the-nation maternal mortality rates, there are currently no inpatient treatment programs in the state. Nola.com’s Andrea Galllo reports:

A lack of access to specialized mental health treatment for pregnant women has been a major challenge for much of the state. A quarter of parishes in Louisiana have no obstetricians at all, let alone providers who can focus on the mental health of women during pregnancy or after birth. While postpartum depression is relatively well-known, other disorders like postpartum or perinatal anxiety can be harder to recognize, said Katherine Hebert, a Lafayette-based perinatal mental health specialist and licensed clinical social worker. 

Challenging tipped wage in Chicago
Employers in more than three-quarters of states, including Louisiana, can legally pay employees who receive tips well below the minimum wage. Economists estimate this affects at least 5.5 million workers nationwide. But the tipped minimum wage will be phased out for workers in Chicago after the city council and Illinois Restaurant Association reached an agreement on Wednesday. As CBS News Chicago’s Todd Feurer reports, the developments in the Windy City could be reflective of a broader movement to challenge this system. 

If approved as expected, the minimum wage for tipped workers would match the full minimum wage by July 1, 2028. Currently, the minimum wage in Chicago for most workers is $15.80 per hour, while the minimum wage for tipped workers is $9.48 an hour. If an employee’s wages and tips don’t total the full minimum wage, employers are supposed to make up the difference.

In Louisiana and other states that do not have their own state minimum wage and follow the federal rate, this ‘subminimum wage’ comes out to $2.13 per hour. 

Number of the Day
$1.12 billion – Amount that the state of Louisiana has underfunded Southern University over the past 30 years. (Source: United States Department of Education and United States Department of Agriculture via States Newsroom