Judge doesn’t restart federal unemployment aid for Louisiana

Louisiana

FILE – In this Sept. 2, 2020 file photo, a customer wears a face mask as they carry their order past a now hiring sign at an eatery in Richardson, Texas. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 751,000, the lowest since March, but it’s still historically high and indicates the viral pandemic is still forcing many employers to cut jobs. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana won’t be forced to resume federal pandemic unemployment aid for the state’s residents, a Baton Rouge district judge ruled Thursday.

The Advocate reports that Judge Tim Kelley said Louisiana’s decision to cut off jobless benefits early for more than 150,000 residents will undoubtedly cause “irreparable harm.”

But the judge denied a preliminary injunction request requiring the benefits to restart, because he said he wasn’t convinced the lawsuit would be successful upon a full hearing.

“I’m not happy with my decision, but I think my decision is the legally correct one,” Kelley said.

The extra benefits were made available by Congress until Sept. 6, giving jobless workers an extra $300-a-week payment boost and making some self-employed and gig workers eligible for the unemployment assistance.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, agreed to cut the federal assistance off five weeks early in a deal with Republican lawmakers to permanently raise Louisiana’s unemployment benefits — which max out at $247 a week — by $28, beginning next year.

The lawsuit was filed by a group of unemployed Louisiana residents who argued neither Edwards nor the Louisiana Workforce Commission had the authority to reject the federal benefits.

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