The case for raising unemployment benefits

The case for raising unemployment benefits

Gov. John Bel Edwards and legislative leaders have been focused on ways to limit the tax increases on businesses triggered by this week’s bankruptcy of the state unemployment insurance trust fund. But little attention has been paid to the ways unemployment benefits affect displaced workers. Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways to lift an economy that’s in a recession, yet Louisiana’s average weekly benefit of $220 is the lowest in the country when measured as a percentage of wages. State Rep. Royce Duplessis explains in a letter to | The Advocate why it’s vital that we raise unemployment benefits in Louisiana. 

The time is now to increase our unemployment benefits. It’s one of the most important things we can do to help our economy. And by doing it we will inject money into our state with almost no downside. According to Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Dejoie, the federal government will be loaning Louisiana’s unemployment trust fund money at 0% interest through the rest of 2020, and at a negligible 2% interest rate beginning in 2021. Given the GDP growth and increased tax receipts that higher unemployment insurance would create, our state is losing large sums of money every day we keep our unemployment insurance benefits so low.


On again, off again stimulus talks
The last 72 hours of stimulus talks have been hard to follow – even for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. A new round of Covid relief seemed dead on Tuesday when President Trump ordered his staff to pull out of negotiations, but then the talks were back on a few days later when the president said he wanted a “big deal.” The New York Times’ Emily Cochrane sorts through the confusion.

As tens of millions of Americans, schools and businesses watched the flurry of developments that could determine whether they would receive another infusion of desperately needed pandemic relief, confusion reigned in Washington about whether an elusive stimulus compromise was dead, alive, on life support or somewhere in between. What remained clear was that the political stakes, which have long imperiled a bipartisan bargain, have only heightened. And the collateral damage across the country has continued to mount in the absence of federal funding, with more than 800,000 Americans filing new applications for state benefits, before adjusting for seasonal variations.

As Axios’ Felix Salmon, Courtenay Brown and Dion Rabouin explain, a new stimulus relief bill and new rounds of federal unemployment benefits will be absolutely vital to the 2.4 million Americans — and rising — who have been unemployed for more than six months.

While the economic recession looks like it ended in April, rising long-term unemployment acts as a drag on the broader economy. Without new stimulus, the number of jobless could end up being almost as bad as the Great Recession of 2008-9. “The longer people are unemployed, the more they run down assets and savings and that starts to really impact consumption and their ability to spend,” Gabriel Chodorow-Reich, a Harvard economics professor, tells Axios.


Saying goodbye to loved ones
More than 211,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 – many of them spending their final hours alone, without the comfort of family members by their bedside. Nowhere has that separation been felt more acutely than in nursing homes, which became early and persistent hotspots for the virus and where visitation has been banned for months. State Rep. Tony Bacala is hoping to change that with legislation that would allow visits from immediate family and clergy. The Illuminator’s Jarvis DeBerry wrestles with the implications: 

Unlike so many other bills Louisiana’s Republicans have introduced during this hastily called special session, Bacala’s legislation actually attempts to address human suffering. Real suffering. Not the let-down that comes from seeing one’s favorite bar locked tight or the fogging-up of eyeglasses that comes with wearing a properly fitted face mask. But real suffering: the kind of bone-deep sorrow that follows not being there for loved ones at the moment that they might be most afraid.

While Bacala’s bill is well-intentioned, DeBerry writes that visitation policies should be guided by science, not emotion: 

Everybody wants visitation, but everybody should be concerned about a bill that would have the Louisiana Legislature setting visitation policy for society’s most vulnerable residents. If Bacala’s bill hasn’t been fundamentally improved when it’s heard again next week, then the members of the committee need to make sure that their skepticism translates into opposition and that they vote their colleague’s bill down.


Louisiana not doing enough for women
Louisiana is the worst-ranked state when it comes to women’s rights and opportunities, according to a new study by Georgetown University. The U.S. Women, Peace and Security Index shows how disparities differ greatly in different regions of the country. The highest-ranking state, Massachusetts, scored more than four times better than Louisiana. The full report is worth the read

Louisiana performs below average on all 12 indicators and ranks worst overall on the justice dimension. … Louisiana is one of six states that scored zero on key legal protections for women, highlighting extensive formal barriers to equality. For example, the state does not require domestic abusers subject to protective orders to relinquish their firearms. There are stark gender gaps in perceptions and priorities. Our YouGov/PerryUndem survey found that nearly four in five women respondents in Louisiana believe that there is still work to be done to achieve equality, compared with only one in three men.

Number of the Day
$2 trillion – The amount of wealth held by the 50 richest Americansh. This is equal to the worth of the poorest 165 million Americans (Source: Bloomberg).