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Motorists take part in a caravan protest in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans asking for the extension of the $600 in unemployment benefits to people out of work because of the coronavirus, July 22. The caravan of about a dozen cars was organized by UNITE HERE Local 23, Step UP Louisiana, The New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America and local residents to request that Sens. John N. Kennedy and Sen. Bill Cassidy work to extend the benefit.

Hundreds of thousands of Louisianans have been laid off or furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent spike in cases means will slow down — and possibly reverse — the reopening of businesses. That means many of our neighbors will continue to need help paying their rent, putting food on the table, and finding money for other basic needs.

Without the federal COVID-19 relief laws enacted so far, things in Louisiana would be much worse. But key measures such as expanded unemployment insurance benefits will soon expire, and many of the lowest-income households haven’t gotten the help they need to avert serious hardships. Black, Latino and immigrant families have been particularly hard hit, with the crisis exacerbating long-standing inequities in health care, education, employment, and housing that stem largely from structural racism.

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities lays out the sobering data: One in 3 Louisiana adults living in rental housing (301,000) are currently behind on their rent. One in 4 Louisiana households living with children reported that their kids did not have enough food to eat.

As Congress negotiates the next pandemic relief package, they must put people first. That means:

  • Providing more aid to our state, cities, and towns so they don’t have to lay off teachers and cut health care and other services that keep our communities going;
  • Temporarily increasing SNAP benefits, housing assistance, tax credits, and other measures to help people pay rent and buy food; and
  • Continuing the expanded federal unemployment benefits.

I’m counting on Louisiana's U.S. senators, Bill Cassidy and John N. Kennedy, to fight for us by supporting these policies.

JAN MOLLER

director, Louisiana Budget Project

Baton Rouge