Lawsuit challenges Louisiana’s end to federal jobless aid

Louisiana News

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks about the state’s latest surge in coronavirus cases, on Friday, July 23, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. Edwards recommends that his state’s residents return to wearing masks indoors, whether they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or not, if they are unable to distance from people. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A group of unemployed Louisiana residents filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to stop accepting the federal pandemic benefits that gave jobless workers an extra $300-a-week boost and made some self-employed and gig workers eligible for the unemployment assistance.

The Democratic governor ended the federal pandemic jobless aid Saturday, five weeks earlier than the expiration date. The move stripped benefits from more than 150,000 people and cut by more than half the unemployment benefits available to tens of thousands more.

The Advocate reports the lawsuit — filed late Friday in Baton Rouge state district court — argues the move violates federal constitutional protections and state unemployment law that compels state officials to secure available federal unemployment compensation for their jobless citizens. It asks the court to reinstate the payments immediately.

The lawsuit names as defendants the governor, the Louisiana Workforce Commission and Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Cates, an Edwards appointee.

Edwards agreed to shut off the federal unemployment benefits early in a deal with Republican lawmakers that will permanently raise state unemployment benefits by $28 a week, starting in January. That will increase Louisiana’s maximum unemployment benefit to $275 a week.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six women who faced hardships from the pandemic and were relying on the next five weeks of federal payments to keep them and their children from experiencing poverty, homelessness and hunger, according to affidavits submitted to the court. Among the attorneys filing the litigation was Democratic state Rep. Mandie Landry, of New Orleans.

Business organizations and Republican lawmakers argued the enhanced unemployment benefits were making it harder for companies to find workers.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in several other states where the jobless benefits were cut off early, including Arkansas, Ohio, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma, according to the newspaper.

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