Though it wouldn’t last long or even cover all of the state’s unemployed workers, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced today that the state is looking into the logistics of implementing enhance unemployment benefits through Pres. Donald Trump’s executive order.

Trump’s order would provide an additional $300 in benefits that would be matched by states with an additional $100, for a total of $400. The federal portion of the enhanced UI benefit would come from disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

States have the option of not adding the $100 match, essentially using the state’s regular unemployment compensation as the match.

“My bigger concern right now isn’t over the $100 difference,” Edwards says. “It’s the universe of workers that we are able to cover.

Under Trump’s order, the enhanced payments would only be available to unemployed workers receiving at least $100 in benefits through state programs. Of the roughly 404,000 Louisianans getting unemployment, about 200,000 are receiving less than the $100 needed to be eligible for enhanced benefits through Trump’s order, Gov. Edwards says.

“This is a different kind of program,” Gov. Edwards said during his Tuesday press briefing. “There is still a lot of questions about this. We trying to get more guidance. We are trying to figure out exactly what we can do to afford our workers a chance to participate in the enhanced benefits.”

In fact, Edwards said state Workforce Commission Sec. Ava DeJoie was discussing getting guidance from White House officials by telephone at the time of his briefing.

The state is weighing two options available through the program–one is to provide the $100 match so that eligible unemployed workers would get the full $400 enhanced benefit. Another option allows the states to forego the $100 match, making only a $300 enhanced benefit for the FEMA funds available to workers.

Either way, Edwards says he doesn’t envision the program lasting too long. Given the limitations of disaster relief funding, he suspects that the state would only be able to cover enhanced benefits under Trump’s orders for five or six weeks, he said.

“This underscores the need for Congress to come up with a compromise, to side down in room and negotiate a Phase 4 (relief package).”

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