Louisiana unemployment trust fund almost out of cash

Governor hopes to borrow from U.S. Treasury

By: - September 14, 2020 7:08 pm

Demonstrators demanding congressional legislation on unemployment protest outside U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy’s office Sept. 1. (Photo provided by Step Up Louisiana)

With Congress unable to come together on a bipartisan coronavirus relief package, Louisiana has almost no money left to pay unemployment claims to residents. The federal Lost Wage Assistance benefit, which provided residents an extra $300 per week, has also been depleted. 

Near the end of his press conference Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state has just $143 million left in its unemployment insurance trust fund and will have to borrow money to continue paying claims.

“I think you’re going to hear something relatively soon about us borrowing some money from the U.S. Treasury in order to replenish the unemployment insurance trust fund so that we can continue to pay those benefits according to the state statute,” the governor said.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission also reported that nearly 25,000 additional claims were filed last week for a total of 280,750 Louisianans out of work. The state can pay out maybe two more weeks of claims before its coffers are empty. 

Not helping matters is the continuous gridlock and partisanship on Capitol Hill where lawmakers in both the House and Senate have failed to reach a compromise on legislation to provide relief to Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. Louisiana is among other states in similar situations. 

“We were hoping it wouldn’t be necessary,” Edwards said of borrowing money. “We had hoped that Congress would pass another stimulus package for COVID.”

The state’s fund for the Lost Wage Assistance benefit, which provided Louisiana residents an additional $300 per week, has also run its course. The LWC reported that federal funding for that benefit ended on Sept. 5. 

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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