Additional unemployment benefits to come next week, Gov. Edwards said

Next week could bring two very serious storms to Louisiana as well

By: - August 20, 2020 5:40 pm
Gov. John Bel Edwards

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (Photo by Wes Muller/LA Illuminator).

Gov. John Bel Edwards held his second of two weekly press conferences at the Louisiana State Capitol. What follows is a brief summary of a few of the many topics the governor discussed.

Two named storms may make landfall by next week

Louisianans who remain worried about the new threat posed by the novel coronavirus now have to worry about an old one.

As if to prove that dangerous weather doesn’t take a pandemic off and that Louisiana will always have to be vigilant, tropical depressions thirteen and fourteen are headed into the Gulf of Mexico. One is projected to hit the central and west coastal areas of Louisiana as a tropical storm.

The other is expected to become a hurricane before making and it, too, could strike Louisiana.

“What we do know is it is possible that next week, two — not one, two — very serious storms could make landfall in Louisiana,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards at his Thursday afternoona press conference. “That means if you haven’t done so, now is an excellent time to get prepared.”

Edwards encouraged Louisiana residents to check on their emergency supplies by this weekend.

The storms are approaching as Louisiana prepares to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the failure of the levee system and a corresponding flood that killed about a thousand Louisianians and caused at least $125 billion in property damage.

The tropical depressions moving toward the Gulf were projected to become tropical storms by Thursday night, and if they reach tropical storm status will be named Laura and Marco. In 1995, Tropical Storm Luis was named on Aug. 29, making it the earliest named L storm on record.

By comparison, in the incredibly active hurricane season of 2005, Katrina was given its name on August 24. 

Additional unemployment benefits will begin next week

An additional $300/week of unemployment benefits will begin being disbursed next week, the governor said.

The additional benefits were announced when President Donald Trump signed an executive order to circumvent congress to provide more coronavirus relief.

FEMA has already transferred $375 million to the state to cover these initial costs, and the state is updating its system, Edwards said,  “to make sure that it properly identifies everybody who is eligible for the enhanced $300 per week payments.”

“I can commit to next week,” Edwards said. “What I want to believe is that it’ll start early next week.”

Trump’s executive action suggests the state contribute another $100 a week to its maximum unemployment benefits, but Louisiana’s unemployment trust fund is already projected to run out soon, and Edwards has said the state can’t afford to add another $100.

Louisiana increases its testing capacity

Gov. Edwards said he expects the state to complete 500,000-600,000 tests by the end of August, which would be three times the monthly goal the state had for testing numbers, he said.

Alexander Billioux, assistant secretary of health for Louisiana Department of Health, said that anyone who wants a test at a community testing site can get one.

“All our community testing sites are accepting individuals who want to be tested. We don’t have a policy in place that would turn somebody away, to my knowledge,” Billioux said. 

He added that a person will get turned away if that testing site has run out of testing kits, but that’s unlikely to happen, he said,  because the state has a “fair bit of those specimen collections.”

Gov. Edwards added that the positivity rate in Louisiana is down to 8.77 percent, “which is better than it has been for quite some time.” On July 9, the positivity rate for the state was 15.07 percent. Edwards said the 8.77 percent rate  puts Louisiana in the “yellow status” for positivity.

“Having more testing allows us to know more about what COVID is like in Louisiana and what it’s doing,” Edwards said.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is a former Louisiana Illuminator reporter. Prior to working with the Illuminator, Canicosa worked for Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon. Canicosa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.