What to do if you lose work due to COVID-19 in Louisiana

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BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Those who were laid off as of Monday due to coronavirus restrictions imposed by Louisiana’s governor have until 5 p.m. Saturday to file an unemployment insurance claim, according to the Secretary of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

“If you were laid off due to COVID-19 beginning on Monday of this week, you have until Saturday at 5 p.m to file a claim,” said Ava Dejoie. “So it is important to know that you have a week to file a claim for this week.”

At a news conference at LWC headquarters in Baton Rouge Tuesday, Dejoie said demand for information about unemployment insurance in the wake of restrictions imposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards Monday has crashed the website at least once and the hotline has already taken hundreds of calls.

RELATED: Gov. Edwards announces “more aggressive steps” aimed at limiting spread of COVID-19 as cases rise to 132

Edwards ordered all casinos in the state closed, along with bars, gyms and movie theaters. The order also limited restaurants to delivery and takeout and gatherings to 50 people.

RELATED: State unemployment insurance rules change for COVID-19 outbreak

“Yesterday, we had total 1,800 calls. This morning by 10 o’clock, we had 1,800 calls and by noon we had 3,600 calls.”

As a result, the LWC Claim Center hotline hours have been extended and are now 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We assigned people with new duties to help with handling with overflow pains and as of 1 p.m. we have 25 new additional staff to handle phone calls,” Dejoie said of the LWC’s efforts to move existing staff to assist their unemployment insurance staff with the increased call volume.

Among those out of work are bartenders, like Leanna Grant.

“You just don’t think it’s gonna happen,” said Grant, “you just don’t. Not in 2020.”

No work means no pays for the employees.

“It’s cool when you have savings,” said Grant, “but it’s not cool when you only see money leaving and nothing coming in.”

No income is a stressful situation for Grant, who said that while she’s blessed to be able to spend more time at home with her four-year-old daughter, she still has more than $1,000 in bills to pay monthly.

“We have to make money to survive, too,” she said.

The United States Bartenders Guild has emergency assistance grants available, for those who qualify.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission released its newest policies Monday after the governor announced the restrictions. More people may be eligible for unemployment insurance under the updated policies, including those whose hours have been reduced because of lack of work due to coronavirus, those whose workplaces have closed temporarily and are not being compensated, and those who have been instructed not to go to work and are not being paid while at home.

Files can be claimed at www.louisianaworks.net/hire or by calling the LWC Claim Center at 866-783-5567.

If your work hours have been reduced, the LWC says partial benefits could be available to you up to a maximum of $247 a week. You must report any earnings for the week that you work, even if you’ve not yet been paid. Include all income, commissions, tips and gratuities. Report the gross amount before deductions. These earnings would be factored into the amount of unemployment benefits paid to you for that week.

A number of factors determine eligibility for benefits. The LWC reviews each case separately.

The maximum number of weeks that unemployment benefits can be paid per claim is 26 weeks in a 12-month period.

Wages and vacation pay (received or will receive) MUST be reported when you file your unemployment claim. Sick leave and PTO do not need to be reported.

For full information, download and read the entire LWC response to the COVID-19 disease.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission streamed Tuesday’s briefing answering common questions live on their Facebook page

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