BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards says it is time for those who are able to find jobs and go back to work, especially now that federal pandemic unemployment compensation has expired and Congress has yet to come up with a compromise to continue the funding.
For months, the unemployed had been receiving the $600 a week in federal jobless aid on top of their state benefit. But the federal payment expired last week. Congress is engaged in prolonged negotiations over renewing the federal benefit, which would likely be extended at a reduced level.
That’s why Edwards says Louisiana is reinstituting work search requirements for unemployment benefits.
“We know that the state benefit is $247 a week and people simply are not gonna be able to survive on that,” Edwards said during his coronavirus briefing on Thursday. “It is time to get those who can back into a job and to find work, and there are several thousand jobs available in Louisiana.”
Work search requirements for unemployment benefits have been suspended under the governor’s emergency coronavirus orders, but they will resume on August 9. Under the reinstated requirements, recipients must show at least three potential employers that they have applied to each week to continue receiving benefits. There are still some exceptions, specifically for people who have COVID-19 or who are in a business closed by COVID-19 reopening guidelines.
Edwards said the reinstated work search requirement will also help take the strain off the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, which has dwindled from $1.1 billion in March to just $270 million. The taxes brought in during the last quarter, he said, were only $12 million — not enough to help replenish the fund.
“We can’t pay benefits if the fund is insolvent,” Edwards said. “The only two ways to keep it solvent absent some funding from Congress in Phase Four of the coronavirus assitance that they’re negotiating right now is to either cross that threshold whereby the law imposes an increase on payroll tax on employers in order to replenish the fund, or you borrow the money from the federal government – in which case you have to put a surcharge on employers in order to ensure the federal government you’re going to be able to pay it back. Either way, that’s a tax increase or a functional tax increase. We don’t want to do that.”
The governor said the state is asking for help from its congressional delegation, as well as working through the National Governor’s Association and directly with the White House in order to get their assistance on the matter.
“We do encourage people, however, as they are able to do so, to re-enter the workforce. That’s going to be critical for them and their families as well as the state’s economy.”