Governor responds as thousands continue waiting for unemployment benefits
BATON ROUGE - As another week comes to a close, the Louisiana Workforce Commission still has a backlog of claimants waiting for their benefits.
Friday, Governor John Bel Edwards said that the Workforce Commission is doing the best it can to catch up. WBRZ asked him what he'd like to say to the thousands of people who aren't receiving benefits.
"First of all, you can tell them we're working as hard as we can," Edwards said.
On Jan. 8, 2021, LWC Sec. Ava Dejoie said that there was a backlog of 30,000 claimants. To help clear those cases, an additional 80 employees have been pulled in to help with the remaining backlog and verify ID. As of Friday, Jan. 22, about 16,000 of those 30,000 claims were cleared.
"We're just going to continue to work as fast as we can. And look, if you're there and you need that payment in order to buy food, to pay rent, to live, there's nothing I can say today that is going to satisfy them. They need that check," Gov. Edwards said. "I get it, and that's what I've instructed Ava to do with her team."
Gov. Edwards said Friday that LWC has an obligation to stop fraudulent claims. Since new identification practices have been implemented, LWC has stopped 60,000 claims that had fraudulent appearances. The governor says they're trying to get it right.
"We have an awful lot of people who are waiting longer than they should to get these payments, and so we're going to continue to improve," he said.
Dexter Ozenne of Lafayette is one of the thousands left waiting to hear back about his claim. He was working offshore when he was laid off last year and applied for unemployment benefits. He received his last payment in December.
"I've got kids, rent, bills, I got everything and I have no income," Ozenne said.
This week, 2 On Your Side heard from more than 300 people who have been waiting to hear back from LWC. Each call and email was sent to LWC for further review.
Friday, 2 On Your Side requested an interview with Sec. Dejoie and was told that she didn't have an opening due to prior commitments and obligations.
In the third week of 2021, LWC says it has paid $84.9 million in unemployment benefits. So far this year, it's paid about $251 million across all unemployment insurance programs.