Louisiana cuts unemployment benefits early

COVID benefits cut, state benefits raise to $28 a week in exchange

Unemployment benefits were cut off for nearly 200,000 Louisiana residents last month, five weeks earlier than they were supposed to end. They were cut off for those claiming unemployment because of the pandemic.

While the benefits were supposed to end Sept. 6, Gov. John Bel Edwards cut them off early in an exchange with Republican lawmakers for a permanent boost of $28 per week for regular state benefits.

Jailyn Ivy, a junior political science major, said that exchange wasn’t worth the bad results that could follow.

“While there are ‘plenty’ of jobs available, people still aren’t making enough money to buy groceries, pay rent or get medication,” Ivy said.

Louisiana’s minimum wage has been a problem in the past, but the pandemic has brought even more attention to the issue.

In fact, in April right after the country shut down for COVID, a large group of Louisiana businesses wrote a letter to Gov. Edwards asking him to raise state benefits to $370 per week. 

Some of the businesses included United Way and March of Dimes. They suggested he use the federal money that had recently been made available because of COVID.

“The impending recession due to COVID-19 is unavoidable,” the letter stated. “But what is not inevitable is the financial suffering of thousands of Louisiana families.”

With the $28 weekly boost, monthly benefits will now go up to $275 per week for the nearly 40,000 residents who still qualify after the recent cutoff, according to the Advocate.

Daniel Hummel, an assistant professor of political science, thinks for many reasons that the COVID unemployment benefits should not have been cut off.

He said it’s wrong to put people in a position where they have to either go back to work or have no money with COVID being as bad as it is in Louisiana right now. 

“I don’t like the idea of asking people to make difficult decisions in the middle of a pandemic,” Hummel said.

Last week there were nearly 6,000 new COVID cases in Louisiana and 67 COVID-related deaths, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. The state had under 300 COVID-related hospitalizations at the beginning of June and over 600 by the end of July.

Hummel said while he understands that some people will inevitably abuse the unemployment benefits, it’s not a good reason to end it for everyone.

“You’ve got to think about the vulnerable people in the state,” Hummel said. “If the state’s not doing what it can to protect the vulnerable people then what is it doing?”