Blamed for lack of workers taking jobs, state to study ending $300 enhanced unemployment program
BATON ROUGE – Amid complaints from business owners and hiring managers, Louisiana will study whether the state should opt-out of enhanced unemployment benefits.
An extra $300 is made available each week to people on unemployment aid. The extra money has been linked to a significant slowdown in the number of people who accept available jobs in the workforce.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has said the state will continue to participate in the program, previously saying he was reluctant to “prematurely lift those enhanced federal unemployment benefits especially if we don't have the benefit of a study that is particular to Louisiana to inform that decision.”
In a weekly address Thursday, the governor said it will move forward with studying if Louisiana should back out of the program.
Economist Jim Richardson was hired to study whether Louisiana should opt-out, the governor said.
"We need to get the federal government out of the way, put people on a ladder of success, not a ladder of setting aside a portion of their life," Senator Bill Cassidy told WBRZ in an interview the day before, on Wednesday. Cassidy toured a marine services company in Port Allen where the owner has complained about a lack of people available to work.
"We should be coming out of the pandemic but you speak to employers and they're having a hard time getting employees," Cassidy said.
Though, the governor is concerned the thousands of workers in Louisiana who were once employed in the hospitality industry are still unemployed because the industry hasn't fully bounced back. He said, it's those workers who may be impacted the most if the extra money is cut off.
"We know that for a large number of these individuals, there are not jobs yet for them, and I do not want to prematurely cut off these enhanced benefits for people who don't have jobs," the governor said.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber said Thursday, it was asking state leaders to end participation in the enhancement program before it’s scheduled to end in September.
“The federal unemployment enhancement made sense when government mandated business shutdowns that left hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents without the opportunity to work. Since virtually all COVID restrictions have now been lifted, and there is incredible demand for labor, there’s diminishing justification for continuing a program that disincentivizes residents from seeking employment,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, BRAC’s senior director of business intelligence. “The weekly payment, combined with state unemployment assistance, is currently the equivalent of almost $14 per hour, which is nearly median individual income in the state. In other words, one can be in the middle of the pack in terms of earnings by not working.”