La. Workforce Commission Officials Say the Department is Waiting on Funds from Feds to Beef Up UI Benefits, Expand Program

While it’s still unclear exactly when Louisianians laid off or furloughed as a result of COVID-19 outbreak will receive unemployment benefits including the additional $600 weekly pandemic unemployment compensation from the CARES Act, the state workforce commission insists the benefits are coming.

The state’s Workforce Commission, which administers the unemployment insurance program, has been overwhelmed by residents seeking benefits as the state’s economy grinds to a halt amid a stay-at-home order mandated by the Governor in addition to the growing number of cases of COVID-19. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards earlier this week extended the stay at home order to April 30.

Initial unemployment insurance claims in Louisiana for the week ending March 21, 2020, rose to 72,438 compared to two weeks earlier when Initial unemployment insurance claims for the week ending March 7, 2020 was 1698. 

Meanwhile, many attempting to apply for benefits have encountered busy phone lines , long hold times and trouble setting passwords and user names online in order to apply for benefits on the department’s website. 

But those applying for benefits should be persistent and patient. If your work hours have been reduced or your job eliminated, even temporarily, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, help is on the way. The recently passed  “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES ACT)” expands the scope of individuals who are eligible for unemployment benefits, including those who are furloughed or out of work as a direct result of COVID-19.  Self-employed or gig workers are now also eligible.  

In Louisiana, the maximum weekly unemployment insurance payout is $247. According to media reports, U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has said that federal funds to increase payments by $600 will be distributed to the states this week; but he does not know when the states will make the payments available to individuals. 

Responding to an inquiry from The New Orleans Tribune, officials with the Louisiana Workforce Commission say the “state has completed everything required to be eligible for additional federal assistance and is waiting on the federal government to release these funds, to provide these additional monetary benefits.”

In an message posted to Facebook Wednesday (April 1) afternoon, the Workforce Commission posted the following message to self-employed and 1099 workers:

“The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) must first provide guidance to the LWC on how to implement provisions of the CARES Act, which includes $600 in weekly unemployment benefits to eligible individuals, including self-employed and contract (1099) workers. As soon as we have more information, we will do our best to pay all eligible benefits as quickly as possible. In the meantime, be sure to file for weekly benefits EACH WEEK that you are unemployed/work hours have been reduced. If you earn any wages during that week, you must report them as part of your weekly certification. You will be paid for any past weeks that you have filed as soon as we are able to qualify your eligibility under the USDOL guidelines.”

People do not have to reapply for this benefit if they have already applied for benefits.  Even if they are ineligible but have that determination to a filed claim, the LWC will clear them to receive this benefit without refiling, according to Workforce Commission officials.

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