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Lawmakers hear from business owners impacted by pandemic as unemployment runs low

1 month 1 week 3 hours ago Friday, August 14 2020 Aug 14, 2020 August 14, 2020 8:34 PM August 14, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Lawmakers heard the harsh realities of the pandemic's impact on the state's economy Friday afternoon at the state capitol.

The unemployment fund is running low and lost jobs may never come back.

One local restaurant and bar owner, Brad Watts, testified at the state capitol on Friday, Aug. 14, before the Louisiana Economic Recovery Task Force.

Watts owns three businesses that have been closed since March. He says things need to get back to normal as soon as possible as the 50% capacity limit in Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan cuts income in half.

"We need to possibly ease some restriction and allow them [businesses] to do what they do," Watts said.

Watts's employees have been surviving on the enhanced unemployment benefits that are now in question. However, Congressman Garrett Graves says President Trump's extra $300 a week should kick in soon for Louisiana residents out of work because of the pandemic.

"The president signed an executive order that will allow for the continuation of unemployment benefits. It's a little bit of a different mechanism. It's going to take the state a few days, or maybe even longer, to adjust to the new program," Graves said.

Economic leaders say there is no quick fix for the state's hard-hit hospitality industry as it will take time to recover once the economy fully reopens.

Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Dr. Don Pierson agrees.

"There is no silver bullet. There's no way to immediately bring back the tourism industry," Pierson said.

All eyes are now on Governor John Bel Edwards to see when the state will move into the next phase of reopening.

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