Demonstrators demanding congressional legislation on unemployment protest outside U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy’s office Sept. 1. (Photo provided by Step Up Louisiana)
A lawsuit that challenged Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to end additional unemployment benefits early was dismissed Wednesday from a state court in Baton Rouge.
A group of unemployed Louisiana residents filed the suit in July after Edwards and the Louisiana Legislature agreed to end the federal government’s $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefits five weeks earlier than the scheduled expiration date. The early end date was in exchange for a legislative compromise to increase the state’s regular unemployment benefits about $28 per week.
The federal unemployment supplement, provided through the American Rescue Plan, was set to expire Sept. 6. Some governors and state legislators around the country had pushed to end the benefits early, blaming the supplement for labor shortages in certain sectors such as the service industry.
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In August, 19th Judicial District Judge Tim Kelly rejected a request to order the state to resume the additional unemployment benefits. He dismissed the lawsuit entirely Wednesday, according to Andrea Agee, who represented some of the plaintiffs in the case.
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The suit alleged the state was responsible for protecting workers who lost in the pandemic from further economic insecurity, citing the Louisiana Employment Security Law.
However, Kelly found there was no legal requirement for Louisiana to participate in the federal unemployment benefits programs, Agee said, so “the law did not afford our clients the right to pursue a claim against them.”
“It is a disappointing result for Louisiana workers and speaks to the ongoing need to reform our state unemployment system,” said Agee, senior staff attorney for the Workplace Justice Project.
Agee said she hopes the lawsuit “raises public awareness of the need for worker advocacy and further raises awareness of the need to reform our unemployment benefits system.”
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