Governor Edwards Makes the Right Move on Federal Unemployment Boosts

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At least 16 states, all of them led by Republican governors, are now opting out of the federal government’s supplemental unemployment program which adds an additional $300 a week to state benefits for unemployed workers as a part of continued efforts to help mitigate the economic hurt caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We are glad that Louisiana isn’t one of them.

But so that we are all on the same page, let’s run it down. While he was president, Republican Donald Trump (also know as the king of denial) absolutely bungles the United States of America’s response to the pandemic, which only worsened its detrimental impact on American lives and livelihoods. And now Republican governors, pushing a false narrative about the federal boosts keeping workers out of the job market, are ending the additional payments in their respective states, including Missouri, Iowa, Mississippi, Alabama, Idaho, North Dakato, and Wyoming, Ohio, Georgia, Utah, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Arizona. 

It doesn’t get any more ironic than that. And with that said, The New Orleans Tribune wants to thank Louisiana’s Gov. John Bel Edward for standing his ground on this issue. The governor’s press secretary recently said that he hasn’t heard any talk or plans to end the benefit in Louisiana any sooner that the Sept. 4 end outlined by the American Rescue Act. Of course, the big business lobby wants him to do just that. And, we know how much big business cares for the people of Louisiana, considering how much time and effort they have put into successfully lobbying the state legislature to not only keep the state minimum wage at a paltry $7.25 an hour, but to also keep municipalities across Louisiana from setting their own minimum wages so that people who work for living can actually earn enough money to live.

Now what’s really funny is that some of these states that will ditch the enhanced benefits in June are planning to offer one-time bonuses for people who return to work. How about not cutting people off of benefits prematurely? How about raising minimum wages so no one has to wonder if an extra $300 a week is keeping people out of the job market?

Of the 16 states that will end the benefits next month, nine have a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Two, Georgia and Wyoming, actually have lower state minimum wages of $5.15 an hour, with the federally- mandated $7.25 only applying to businesses that are subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The other five have minimum wages at $8.75 or higher, with Montana coming in at $8.75 an hour and Arizona setting the highest of the lot at $12.15. Whatever the case, these governors should be ashamed of themselves for turning would should be a transformative discussion surrounding living wages and valuing workers into some imagined narrative about the American people choosing to stay home instead of working for poverty wages.

Again, we are glad that Gov. Edwards isn’t at all being swayed by big business and their lobbies to force people off unemployment or to prematurely end the enhanced benefits. To be sure, if a jobless person can now collect more money or at least as much while unemployment than they do working 30 or 40 hours a week, the problem is not with workers, but with wages.