Unemployed Louisianans will see an increase in their benefits of up to 11% as a result of a compromise on the state’s unemployment rate, which takes effect this week.
In exchange for the Republican-controlled Legislature’s promise to permanently enhance benefits at the state level, Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed to stop federal unemployment benefits related to COVID-19 relief funding for five weeks last year.
Act 276 was passed as a result, providing an increase in unemployment benefits not seen in more than a decade.
Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) Secretary Ava Cates said, “We have one of the lowest unemployment benefit levels in the country, and it has been more than 10 years since we have upped the amount of money people may collect. “Everything from gas to food has gone up in that time.”
$28 a week has been added to the maximum weekly benefit amount.
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According to Cates, the cost of a claim will rise for those who file on or after January 2nd. Claims filed on January 1 will be retroactively dated back to December 26th if necessary.
It’s a new eligibility quarter, and many recipients will have to reapply because of the timing of this change, Cates said.
“The period of time utilized to assess eligibility for unemployment benefits based on salary changes every calendar quarter,” she explained.
Prior to the Sept. 6 expiration date of the $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit, 26 states had already terminated it. On July 31, Edwards became the sole Democrat to resign from office.
Several business organizations, Republican legislators, and other critics of federal unemployment benefits said that the benefits deterred employees from returning to the labor field.
A statement from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce during the compromise negotiations claimed federal augmentation made sense when businesses were locked down during the pandemic but not after the government-imposed lockdowns were lifted. This comment was made during the compromise negotiations.
“The weekly payment, along with state unemployment compensation, is currently the equivalent of over $14 per hour, which is virtually median individual income in the state.” As a result, the statement claimed, “not working can put you on par with the median income earner.”
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On the topic, the Democrats in the House of Representatives were divided.
“I just can’t believe you’re doing this, turning down federal unemployment for folks who have had the roughest year of their lives,” said Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, during debate on the floor.
House Bill 183 sponsor Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, said he experienced “heartburn” at the tradeoff, but that “a permanent increase going forward is critically required,” despite the tradeoff.
On the final day of the 2021 legislative session, the Senate voted 32-5 in favor of the bill, while the House voted 74-27 in favor. It was signed into law by Edwards on June 15th.