La. labor leaders field surge in unemployment calls


BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — After more than 70,000 people applied for unemployment in Louisiana last week, the state’s labor secretary says her department has been doing work of its own.

“We had a full contingency working over the weekend,” said Ava DeJoie, who leads the Louisiana Workforce Commission. “We’ve pulled in more staff.”

The application surge comes as COVID-19 prompts business closures nationwide. In response, the labor department has extended the call hours for its claim center and halted the seven-day wait period and work search requirements.

The workforce commission is also expanding who can get unemployment benefits. Here’s the updated criteria:

  • If your work hours have been cut because your workplace is doing less business, due to COVID-19
  • If your workplace closes temporarily without compensating you
  • If you’ve been told not to go to work, and you’re not being paid at home

Independent contractors, many of whom drive Louisiana’s “gig economy,” do not qualify for unemployment benefits. That’s because only employers — not employees — pay into the unemployment insurance pool.

Contractors may still receive other forms of aid, depending on how Congress crafts its coronavirus relief packages.

You can apply for unemployment online at The Louisiana Workforce Commission also lets workers apply over the phone at 1-866-783-5567, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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