NEW ORLEANS, LA — In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was passed, helping individuals and businesses nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, including $4 billion to the state of Louisiana to aid in pandemic recovery. Today, local organizations The Louisiana Policy Institute for Children(LPIC), Council for a Better Louisiana, the Louisiana Budget Project, the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center and Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families released policy recommendations for how state leaders can best invest money from the ARPA to benefit of young children in Louisiana.
“The American Rescue Plan Act represents a never-before-seen opportunity for investing in Louisiana’s children,” said Dr. Libbie Sonnier, Ph.D., executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. “Parents across our state continue to struggle with access to affordable housing, mental health services, good nutrition, economic stability and quality early care and education. This funding gives us a chance to change that.”
ARPA funding comes at a time when many children and families in Louisiana are suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and the COVID-19 pandemic. Child hunger has become more dire, with one in three Louisiana children facing food insecurity, and an even higher ratio within communities of color. The percentage of individuals experiencing homelessness has also increased dramatically, and 37 percent of children live in households that were behind on rent or mortgage payments in 2020. The ability for caregivers to return to work or advance their education is also impacted, with only 15 percent of in-need children under four receiving access to high-quality early care and education. While some of Louisiana’s ARPA funding has already been allocated by state and local leaders, large sums of money remain on the table.
“If we are smart about how we allocate these one-time dollars, we can begin to make progress in a number of critical areas,” says Barry Erwin, president and CEO of the Council for A Better Louisiana. “The Louisiana Policy Institute for Children has put together a framework of ideas for policy makers to consider when investing ARPA funds in children and families who have been impacted by first COVID, and now Hurricane Ida.”
Among the recommendations put forth by LPIC and partners are the expansion of accessible SNAP application systems, free legal representation for families facing eviction, an emergency paid family and medical leave fund, and wage stipends for child care staff.
In addition to highlighting ways to effectively allocate the APRA funding coming in, LPIC’s report outlines how to optimize existing funding. This includes investing in better systems and policies to improve student health records so services are properly billed to Medicaid, providing a child care subsidy to participants in Louisiana’s new workforce training program — the MJ Foster Promise Program — and streamlining the coordination between governmental and charitable sources of food aid to ensure proper distribution of resources.