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Additional assistance for workers affected by COVID-19 arriving soon from feds

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BATON ROUGE - The month of March saw 155,000 unemployment claims filed in Louisiana. Many of those came as a result of business closures due to COVID-19. Moving into April, that number is only growing.

"I will tell you, and it should surprise no one, the numbers have gone up over that time period," Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

Unemployment insurance isn't the only benefit people are applying for because of coronavirus. SNAP benefit applications have also spiked. Last week, the Department of Children and Family Services announced any SNAP recipient not receiving maximum benefits, about 63% of SNAP households in Louisiana, would be given a boost to the maximum for March and April. 

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Edwards also suspended several unemployment requirements to get those out of work money faster.

"You're not going to have to wait a week, which is what you'd typically would've had to do before you can get any benefits," Edwards said. 

"You're not going have to show that you're out searching for work during 
this public health emergency in order to continue to be eligible to receive those benefits."

In Louisiana, the maximum unemployment benefits a person can receive weekly is $247. With the passage of the CARES Act by congress last month, more help is on the way. Federal dollars will allow states to temporarily provide an additional $600 weekly to those out of work because of this pandemic. That money will be distributed by the Louisiana Workforce Commission once the funds are received. The state could have that money in a matter of days.

For those workers not eligible for unemployment benefits, assistance will soon be available. Edwards says the state has already received guidance for this money.

"For those people who are not employees, let's say they're independent contractors, 1099 workers or self-employed, there is help available for them," Edwards said. The money hasn't been sent to Louisiana yet, but the guidance has. And so as soon as that money comes in we're going to be making that assistance available to individuals."

As more people across the state are looking for assistance, state agencies are extending hours and adding staff to help.

"People at the Workforce Commission and at DCFS are working extremely hard," Edwards said. "Staying late and working until 7 p.m., for example, to process all the claims they are getting."


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