LWC says new possible federal unemployment program would be 'nightmare situation'
BATON ROUGE - Congress has just three days to act before federal coronavirus unemployment benefits expire.
Republicans and Democrats both want another $1,200 stimulus check for most Americans, but have two different plans for the millions of Americans still out of work.
Democrats want to extend the additional $600 weekly unemployment check until the end of the year. Republicans are calling to cut that aid to $200 a week for the next two months. After that, a person would receive 70 percent of their weekly wage based on previous income.
Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Dejoie says she is worried about that last part of the Republican plan. Tracking down individual income for thousands of people from 2019 would be a “nightmare situation,” she said.
"If Congress were to decide to tie awards of additional benefits based on income in a previous year, we do not have the capacity to do that. That would call for the creation of a brand new system or something else. And it would take, probably, several months for us to be able to do that. So we are certainly hoping that that is not the direction in which they go," Dejoie said.
Since March 22, the state has paid out over $5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits, most of that coming in the form of $600 weekly payments from the first COVID stimulus bill. That's on top of the state's benefits, for which the maximum payment is $247.
With the extra $600 benefits ending this week, Republicans are proposing reduced unemployment payments that will eventually align with a person's previous income.
Dejoie says tracking down that information and setting up how to pay people would be almost impossible based on the information and current systems the workforce commission currently has in place. She said that would likely be the case with most other states around the country.
"No state department of labor workforce agency is equipped to administer any employment benefit that would be tied to some sliding scale based on wages in a previous year, so based on income tax earnings,” Dejoie said.
On top of that, Dejoie says the state's unemployment trust fund is running low. The governor sent a letter to Louisiana’s congressional delegation asking for more funds in this relief bill to shore up that balance. Without it, the state could have to borrow money from the federal government to pay state unemployment benefits by September.
LWC’s unemployment aid is still available and officials are encouraging people to apply weekly. There is no set timetable for when Congress will vote on this second COVID bill.
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