Unemployment relief on the way

Unemployment relief on the way

More than 277,000 Louisiana residents filed jobless claims between March 1 and April 4, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday. That compares to 103,000 for the entire 2019 calendar year, giving a stark picture of how quickly the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the state economy. The federal CARES Act provides $600 per week in additional unemployment benefits through December, and that money is scheduled to start flowing on Monday. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports

And in a change from normal practice, gig workers, contractors and self-employed people will be able to tap into the $600 benefit. The huge number of people filing for unemployment has overwhelmed Louisiana’s state offices, and Edwards suggested people file online between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. to try to get through.

The Louisiana Budget Project wants to hear from Louisiana workers about their experiences with the unemployment insurance process. This information will help inform our advocacy and recommendations to state officials. Click here to complete a survey. No personally identifying information will be kept or disseminated.  


Cancer Alley has a new foe
St. John the Baptist Parish – located in the Mississippi River corridor known as “Cancer Alley” because of a high rate of cancer that some attribute to the proliferation of petrochemical plants – is facing a new crisis. The community of 43,000 has the nation’s highest rate of deaths from COVID-19 among counties with populations above 5,000. Oliver Laughland and Lauren Zanolli of The Guardian ask if there’s a connection between air pollution and the coronavirus:

Dr Michael Jerrett, an environmental health sciences professor at the UCLA Fielding school of public health, studies the links between air pollution and disease. He says that since the coronavirus is new, it is too early to draw firm conclusions. But his past research has demonstrated that air pollution increases the risk of pneumonia, a disease similar to Covid-19. “Being in areas of higher exposure to common air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, does increase the risk of acquiring pneumonia. So to the extent that Covid behaves in a similar way to bacterial pneumonia, which is more common, or other viral pneumonias, we have evidence that long-term exposure well increases your susceptibility to acquiring the disease.”


Just help those in need
The quickest way to help Americans who are suffering the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is to send them money. And millions of American families will soon be getting checks in the mail thanks to the CARES Act. But University of Georgia Law Professor Mehrsa Baradaran, writing in The Atlantic explains that some people are being left out, including people who don’t generally file tax returns, and attributes it to America’s long history of treating poverty as a personal failure.  

The civil-rights movement won some early successes in promoting a measure of economic justice for the victims of racism and segregation. Then came the backlash. With encouragement from Richard Nixon and conservative think tanks, economists, and media commentators, many Americans believed that what ailed the poor—a category often treated as synonymous with African Americans—was only their bad choices, “broken families,” and lack of work ethic. 


Consumers protections at risk in health insurer lawsuit
The trade association representing Louisiana health insurers plans to sue the state Department of Insurance over emergency regulations that require companies to pay for COVID-19 testing and temporarily bars them from canceling policies when customers can’t afford the premiums. Kristen Mosbrucker of The Advocate reports: 

There are at least a dozen states that have issued similar emergency orders, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said. “These additional costs will simply be recouped next year with adjusted rates. … I have no authority to stop rate increases whatsoever, I simply review them.” 


Emergency loans denied based of off criminal record
The CAREs Act conuinted funding for loan programs for businesses to stay open and to assist in paying their employees. While people are losing their livelihood, the Trump Administration is implementing a new rule that will deny loans to company owners who have a criminal history. Eli Hager of The Marshall Project has more on the Small Business Administration rule: 

It’s a little noticed frustration compared to the logistical problems of the Trump administration’s rollout of the CARES Act. A set of new regulations for implementing the law, issued by the Small Business Administration, prohibits small-business owners with criminal records from accessing the desperately needed loans. “We have never seen such a sweeping mandatory disqualification based on a criminal record, in any area of the law,” wrote the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan website that tracks how federal, state and local laws affect people with past charges or convictions.


Number of the Day
10 million – The number of low-income, childless adults in the United States who are eligible for federal relief payments but likely to miss out  because they are not required to fill out an income-tax return. (Source: CNN)