Governor John Bel Edwards gave an update on the states response to COVID-19, highlighting rural communities that continue to work on treating the most vulnerable. He also announced the possibility for additional unemployment benefits.
Edwards said that Louisiana will pursue an option under President Donald Trump’s executive order that it believes will allow around 454,000 eligible unemployed Louisianans to get $300 a week in additional assistance through the federal government.
“Last night, we received helpful guidance from the federal government that we believe allows us to use the total amount of money the state is paying in unemployment funds as cost share to draw down the additional $300 per qualified applicant. While all of the details are not yet available, we are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to provide an additional $1,200 a month to qualified people on unemployment,” Gov. Edwards said. “This is a temporary solution, as funds are limited, and I am still calling on Congress to act. However, as soon as these funds are available to us, we will move quickly to pay them out.”
On August 8, 2020, the President signed an executive order, allocating $44 billion from Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA’s Other Needs Program for interim Unemployment Insurance payments while Congressional negotiation continues on a sustainable remedy.
FEMA will cover 75 percent of the cost of this stopgap measure, while individual states are responsible for the remaining 25 percent. This FEMA funding and state cost-share for UI benefits is an entirely different structure from the CARES legislation. Although the Louisiana Workforce Commission received preliminary guidance on August 12, 2020, many details are still pending.
At this time, no state has received funding. Full implementation guidelines are outstanding. However, once finalized, benefits will be paid retroactive from August 1, 2020.
What this means for Louisiana UI claimants is that once funding becomes available and the program administration established, they will receive an additional $300 in weekly UI benefit payments from FEMA.
LWC has paid a total of $5.4 billion in unemployment benefits to the citizens of Louisiana from March 22-August 13, 2020, compared to $153 million in all of 2019. These payments provide necessities to citizens and allow commerce to continue benefitting the entire state.
“Amidst the pandemic, Louisiana was one of the first to pay out Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits providing relief to self-employed and gig workers,” said LWC Secretary Ava Dejoie. “Our staff has worked tirelessly and diligently to assist all Louisianans in need. Our office will continue to assist all citizens as we continue to move towards recovery.”
Edwards says that Thursday's numbers show a decrease in positivity rates of cases along with a decrease in hospitalizations.
Deaths have not improved.
To combat the issue, Edwards says that more mitigation measures in Phase II could be possible. There is still no move to regress from the current phase.
Edwards highlighted the race disparity in Louisiana. In the beginning of the pandemic, African Americans in the state counted for 70 percent of deaths. Currently around 48 percent of deaths are African American. 49 percent of deaths reported are white individuals.
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