Edwards anticipates La. unemployment recipients will get $300 benefit from feds soon


BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — Those receiving unemployment benefits in Louisiana could soon see a $300 weekly boost from the federal government, though it’s unclear when it will begin.

The federal government was offering $600 weekly through the CARES Act, but that money expired on July 31 without renewal from Congress. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would make a $300 per week “enhancement” available from FEMA, but it is not expected to last long. The Trump administration is making $44 billion available nationally through FEMA for the unemployment enhancement, but Gov. John Bel Edwards expects that money to only last five to six weeks at maximum.

Edwards explained that Louisiana had two options to receive the enhancement funding. The first option would be for the feds to give $300 to workers with the state matching that $300 for a total of $600. However, because the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund — which funds all unemployment benefits — is starting to run dry, Edwards said that option is not viable at this time.

The second option, and the one that looks most promising, is that the feds will give a $300 enhancement to weekly unemployment benefits if the average of all people receiving unemployment is more than $100 per week. Edwards said he expects Louisiana to meet that threshold.

What remains unknown is when those funds will become available. Edwards quoted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as saying “a couple weeks,” but he wasn’t sure if that was a specific date or not. On top of that, the state’s computer systems will have to be upgraded to allow the $300 enhancement to be paid out. It is unknown how long that will take, either, though Edwards said the state’s vendors have been contacted and are working on a fix.

Also, those eligible for the $300 enhancement may have to jump through some additional hoops to get that money, but again, it is currently unknown what those hoops would be.

When granted, however, the enhancement will be retroactive to Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment trust fund has fallen from around $1 billion in March to $230 million today. Edwards said without intervention of Congress in helping to replenish that fund, Louisiana’s unemployment benefits will not only decrease for everyone, but employers could have to pay a surcharge to help replenish the fund, too.

You can watch the full Aug. 13, 2020, press conference below:

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