Storm not expected to delay $300 jobless checks in Louisiana

Louisiana

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks to reporters at a briefing on the state’s efforts against the coronavirus pandemic in Baton Rouge, La., Monday, May 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The tropical weather threatening Louisiana won’t stop $300 checks from going out this week to about 400,000 people left unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday.

“We do not anticipate that the storm will delay that. I’m expecting those payments to be in the mail by the end of the week,” the Democratic governor said.

Jobless workers will get the weekly payments retroactive to Aug. 1, Edwards said.

He didn’t provide a specific day that people will start receiving the checks, but said the labor department is working on changes to its computer systems to process them. Officials have pledged to get the work done even as Tropical Storm Laura threatens to become a hurricane when it approaches Louisiana later this week.

Louisiana has received $375 million in federal funds so far to cover the enhanced federal unemployment benefits offered through an executive order issued by President Donald Trump. About 400,000 people in Louisiana are expected to receive the federal unemployment assistance. But as many as 87,000 others may not meet the needed criteria, according to the governor’s office.

The dollars come from a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund. Critics question the validity of Trump’s order. And it’s unclear how long that unemployment assistance will last before the $44 billion in federal disaster relief dollars steered to unemployment aid runs out.

The $300 federal unemployment dollars come on top of state benefits that max out at $247 weekly. The federal assistance is only half the $600 weekly federal payment the unemployed had been receiving earlier in the coronavirus pandemic. That aid, enacted by Congress, expired at the end of July.

Congress hasn’t yet agreed to any further unemployment assistance, with Republicans and Democrats in a stalemate over the next virus aid package.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.

More than 143,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed by Louisiana’s health department, though the true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. The state’s death toll from the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus grew Monday to 4,623.

The health department says more than 118,000 people in Louisiana have recovered.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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