Louisiana’s gig workers can still get a fraction of the unemployment help they’d been getting

Self-employed residents can get up to $247 per week

By: - July 30, 2020 2:02 pm

A pedestrian walks by a sign in front of the Uber headquarters on May 18, 2020 in San Francisco, California. Uber announced plans to cut 3,000 jobs and shutter or consolidate 40 offices around the world due to severely declining business as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues. The cuts came two weeks after Uber cut 3,700 employees. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program has expired, which means that the federal government has stopped adding $600 to the unemployment benefits provided by the states.  But contrary to what was previously reported in the Illuminator, that does not mean that gig workers in Louisiana, who are ineligible for state benefits, will see their checks plummet to zero.  Those self-employed workers — be they musicians, Uber drivers, caterers, etc. — qualify for another federal program, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which makes them eligible for $107 to $247 per week. 

The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March, gives the states permission to provide benefits to self-employed people who’ve been unable to work because of the coronavirus pandemic.  The $107 to $247 per week that self-employed Louisianians are now eligible for is 18 to 41 percent of the $600 they’d been getting.

That $247 is the maximum weekly amount any Louisiana worker can claim in unemployment benefits. Louisiana’s maximum amount is the third lowest in the country.

The unemployment compensation program, which added $600 to state unemployment benefits, ended Saturday, July 25. The unemployment assistance program for self-employed workers provides a maximum of 39 weeks of assistance and ends December 31.

Claimants currently receiving unemployment benefits,” the Louisiana Workforce Commission says on its website, “will continue to receive their weekly benefit pending their ongoing eligibility.”

According to numbers provided by Greg Albrecht, the state’s chief economist, during the week ending July 18, there were 302,870 Louisianians who were getting unemployment assistance from the state and the $600 supplement.  At that same time, there were 151,998 people in the system who, because they were self-employed or gig workers, didn’t qualify for regular state unemployment benefits but were getting $600 from the federal government.  That group represents a third of the total number of people who were getting checks issued by  the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

In May, the U.S. House, which is controlled by Democrats,  passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion measure that, in part, would extend until January the $600 federal supplement to state unemployment checks.  The U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Republicans,  did not introduce a proposal to extend the benefits before it adjourned July 24, which means that even if the House and Senate reach a compromise that President Donald Trump signs, there will be an interruption in those supplementary federal payments.

On Monday, Republicans in the Senate introduced the HEALS Act, a $1 trillion measure that would cap unemployment benefits at 70 percent of what an applicant was making before the pandemic.  While the states are setting up a system that would allow for those payments, Republicans propose capping the benefits at $200 per week.


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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later NOLA.com) as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.