Access to high-quality, affordable child care is essential for Louisiana working families. It allows parents to work and ensures our youngest residents get the care they need to thrive. But rising costs, combined with an exodus of workers from the low-pay, labor-intensive industry, have put this crucial service out of reach for many families. The Advocate’s David J. Mitchell looks at the struggle for child care centers to retain workers:

For several years, child care advocates, academic researchers and representatives of an industry that employs more than 15,000 people have argued that the marketplace doesn’t fully support the actual cost of child care, ranging in some estimates from $12,000 to $16,000 per child per year. This market breakdown has led to median hourly wages for child care workers of $9.13 per hour, many child care workers taking second jobs and high employee turnover, according to a recent state Senate report. In fiscal 2022-23, Louisiana invested $36.2 million in early childhood care, an increase of $25 million over the previous year, and has pumped in more than $200 million in federal stimulus dollars. 

States tackle youth mental health crisis
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the mental health epidemic among American children. Just last April, more than two-thirds of public schools reported an increased number of students seeking mental health services. Stateline’s Christine Vestal explains how states, awash in federal money, are trying to tackle America’s youth mental health crisis. 

(C)ities and school districts are using COVID-19 relief dollars and their own money to launch programs to help students and teachers recognize the symptoms of mental illness and suicide risk and build support services to help students who are struggling. Flush with federal pandemic relief grants, some schools also are creating programs they hope will foster emotional well-being for students and increase their sense of connection to their schools and communities, said Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health.

Tearing down the paper ceiling 
For decades, employers locked millions of people out of higher-paying jobs by requiring a college degree, even for jobs that didn’t need one. Recently, there’s been efforts by the White House – and some states – to do away with these requirements for government jobs. Vox’s Rachel M. Cohen reports on hiring reforms in the broader economy to break the ‘paper ceiling.’

Last year, researchers from Harvard Business School and the Burning Glass Institute found evidence of what they called “an emerging degree reset” in hiring. By analyzing over 51 million job postings dating back to 2014, the researchers found that between 2017 and 2019 roughly 46 percent of “middle-skill” and 37 percent of “high-skill” occupations no longer asked for a bachelor’s degree, and instead had job postings listing technical and social skills instead. The report concluded that based on the trends they were observing, an additional 1.4 million jobs could open to workers without college degrees in the next five years. “Jobs do not require four-year college degrees,” the report’s authors wrote. “Employers do.”

Louisiana’s housing supply is insufficient
Louisiana has only 39 affordable rental homes available for every 100 households with extremely low incomes, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Housing Louisiana. The report shows that the Pelican State’s challenges are part of a national shortage of 7.3 million affordable homes for low-income renters: 

“We are in the midst of a worsening housing crisis,” says Andreanecia Morris, President of HousingLOUISIANA.  “Last year it was sky-high utility rates and this year it’s increasing insurance rates and rent making residents worry about being able to keep their homes. Louisiana lawmakers must act to #PutHousingFirst. They can start by using the unspent American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) dollars provided by the federal government to create housing opportunities and prioritize housing investments.”

Number of the Day
608 – Number of calls to Louisiana’s 211 information line from citizens seeking food during the week of March 8. Calls to the hotline have tripled since Supplemental Nutrition Assistance benefits returned to pre-pandemic levels in March. (Source: Department of Children and Family Services via The Louisiana Illuminator