Louisiana officials were confused by President Donald Trump’s legally questionable decision to bypass Congress and attempt to renew unemployment benefits via executive order. One reason for the confusion: state officials didn’t know how they were going to pay for the state’s share of the benefit. The state’s unemployment trust fund is already on track to run out of money by mid-September, and Louisiana is now being asked to pay for one-fourth of the new, reduced $400 weekly benefit. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges tries to sort it all out:
Adding to the confusion is that the federal Department of Labor on Monday told states they could simply use their existing state unemployment benefits – which in Louisiana max out at $247 per week – to count for the state’s share of the $100. This means that Trump’s order, if legal, would net the unemployed only $300 extra dollars per week, or half of what they have been getting from the feds, an amount the Democrats want to keep in place. On a net basis, that would mean that an unemployed person in Louisiana would get a maximum of $547 a week, compared to the $847 they were receiving through July 31.
Last week, the Louisiana Workforce Commission also moved unilaterally to re-impose the “work search” requirements that Congress has allowed states to suspend since the beginning of the pandemic, forcing unemployed workers to jump through more hoops to claim their benefits when few jobs are available.
Click here to sign a petition urging Gov. John Bel Edwards to cancel the state’s work search requirements while the pandemic rages.
A plea from governors
A bipartisan group of governors is raising concerns about implementing President Donald Trump’s executive actions on coronavirus aid. Their statement called on Congress to pass another bill that would provide immediate relief to unemployed Americans and states. The Washington Post’s Erica Werner, Tony Romm and Jeff Stein explain the thoughts of state leaders: whether or not the executive actions are legal or implementable is irrelevant, because they are completely inadequate.
In Washington, state officials expressed concerns that the way in which the White House devised the program threatened to cut into funds that they had planned to use to pay for personal protective equipment and other costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic. “The program appears woefully insufficient relative to the scale of the crisis, unworkable in its proposed form, and a bad deal for workers, employers, and states,” said Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D).
Keeping states and local governments afloat
New fiscal aid is desperately needed for state and local governments experiencing huge budget crises as they fight Covid-19 and as their tax revenues plummet amid the recession. Without strong additional relief, the economic recovery will grind to a halt and governments will have to make devastating cuts to vital services. Elizabeth Scott, writing in a guest column for the Bayou Brief, explains why we can’t let the coronavirus kill local governments.
State and local governments are crucial for supporting and rebuilding our economy. They administer the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance – all of which reduce poverty and stimulate the economy. Failing to reimburse states for these costs makes the current recession both longer and deeper. Right now, Louisiana is running up a $293 million budget shortfall for the recently completed fiscal year while staring down an alarming $970 million shortfall for our current fiscal year. Louisiana cities are faring no better. New Orleans is facing a $170 million budget shortfall. This is not sustainable.
Eviction ban doesn’t ban evictions
After further review, the amount of the weekly federal unemployment benefits that a worker would actually receive in President Trump’s executive order (EO) could be lower than the proposed amount of $400. It’s also becoming clearer that another EO, this one banning evictions, in fact, does no such thing. The Center on Budget and Priorities’ Peggy Bailey explains:
The EO claims to help renters who have suffered income or job loss due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic recession. The EO, however, merely asks federal agencies to “consider” and “review” if measures to halt evictions are needed; it does not specify what actions agencies can take to halt them. It also directs the Housing and Urban Development and Treasury departments to identify available funds to provide rent relief, singling out landlords, affordable housing developers, public housing authorities, and federal grant recipients for assistance. But without congressionally approved funding, it’s unclear what funds they can redistribute to protect these recipients, let alone renters.
Number of the Day
$547 – New maximum Louisiana weekly unemployment benefit under President Donald Trump’s executive order, if that order is found to be legal (Source: The Advocate).