Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on the levee system:
They are so much a part of our daily lives in Louisiana that we take levees for granted, or did, until breaches in the structures resulted in a flooded greater New Orleans 15 years ago.
Levees are important. That is why the rebuilding of the levee system around the city has been so critical, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project that is nearing completion.
The local levee-reconstruction effort cost about $14.6 billion, and its last steps — installing fabric-mat “armor” on the protected side of earthen levees to reduce erosion in the event of overtopping — is expected to be completed by 2022.
But even that is not enough: The Corps estimates that more will need to be spent over the coming decades to raise levee heights. Insurers also worry about the damage that future hurricanes might bring, even as the new system is improved.
In Louisiana, we suffer from a double-whammy of climate change and soil subsidence. That’s why the national commitment to the greater New Orleans levee systems was an irreplaceable investment in the region’s future and in our state’s contribution to America.
But the seas continue to rise and our Mississippi Delta soil subsides. That means that Louisiana’s issues with safety are hardly alone. The Corps has levees across the nation, according to data unearthed by Sandy Rosenthal, of Levees.org.
Across the nation, today’s climate crisis requires continuing investments against extreme weather and rising sea levels. That’s as true in New York City or the Sacramento River valley in California as it is in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.
For us in Louisiana, it means that we have to continue — if not increase — vigilance on the maintenance of levees, from the Red River Valley down to the coast.
Further, coastal protection and restoration is an absolutely vital first line of defense against rising seas and increasingly damaging storms.
The failure of Corps-built levees in 2005 under the impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita made the agency less than popular, almost as bad as Michael Brown’s hapless Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But the fact remains that America’s national investment in management of water and storms is critical not only to our state but to many others.
For us in Louisiana, that means there is more competition for scarce federal resources. If there is a silver lining in the climate crisis, it is that nationally and internationally it is recognized that investment in water resource management is going to be needed, in greater amounts, over the coming decades.
The American Press on the unemployment rate:
Next to New Orleans, Lake Charles has had the second most job losses in the state by percentage of its overall workforce. Economist Loren Scott said the New Orleans numbers aren’t surprising since tourism and hospitality are so important to the city and both have been severely curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Scott said Lake Charles is second because of its heavy petrochemical presence and because it is the state’s largest gaming market. Louisiana casinos were shut down during the early stages of the pandemic and are now operating at half-capacity.
Next to the leisure and hospitality sector, Scott said construction in Louisiana experienced the second-most job losses. Plants and refineries have laid off contractors, he said, and planned investments in the petrochemical industry have been delayed.
The state’s unemployment fund currently stands at about $245 million. Nexstar Broadcasting and brproud.com published The Livingston Parish News story about the Workforce Commission beginning the process of borrowing money from the federal government in order to continue paying unemployment claims.
State officials are still hoping Congress will come through with more financial aid that they can use to replenish their jobless funds. Otherwise, the state would have to impose a solvency tax on businesses of up to 30 percent of their quarterly unemployment tax rate because more of their wage base becomes taxable.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, said Saturday President Trump and FEMA have approved Louisiana for one of the first grants under a new program signed into law by the president. The grant will help fund enhanced benefits of $400 per week, per applicant, a drop from the $600 per week the unemployed received until July 31. The grants would be retroactive to Aug. 1.
Economist Stephen Barnes said Louisiana still has about 450,000 people getting unemployment benefits. Continued claims for benefits fell to nearly 300,000 last week compared to the prior week’s total of over $327,000. The continued claims were above the comparable figure of over 17,000 for the week ending Aug. 10, 2019.
Jobs losses for the year are estimated to be about 105,000, or about 5.3 percent of the workforce. Scott said that would represent the state’s worst recession since the 1980s when the losses happened over six years. This time, it only took two quarters.
Scott did have some good news. He is predicting a recovery during the second half of this year. We hope he is right and that Congress comes through with more financial aid. Businesses have suffered enough during the pandemic.