Louisiana to start paying enhanced unemployment benefits Monday

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

The federal government’s $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 aid and stimulus bill provides money for states to add $600 a week to their unemployment benefits, which in Louisiana normally top out at $247 a week. Gig workers, contractors and self-employed workers who normally don’t qualify for unemployment benefits are eligible.

Unemployed workers already receiving benefits don’t need to do anything new to get the additional money, though they must continue to re-certify their unemployed status through the Louisiana Workforce Commission every week as usual. Previously ineligible workers can apply now.

Edwards said about 277,000 Louisiana residents applied for unemployment benefits between March 1 and April 4. About 103,000 people applied all of last year, he said.

The federal money became available to the state Tuesday night, Edwards said. Under current law, the enhanced benefits will be paid through the end of July.

As of noon Wednesday, at least 652 Louisiana residents had died from COVID-19, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. The midday update included 70 new deaths, matching the previous day’s biggest increase since the pandemic began. Deaths added in a new daily report did not necessarily occur in the previous 24 hours.

LDH said 1,983 confirmed COVID-19 patients were in hospitals Wednesday and 490 of them were on ventilators, compared to 1,996 and 519 respectively on Tuesday. Louisiana no longer is on pace to run out of hospital beds or ventilators in any region of the state over the next 10 days, Edwards said. Officials last week were worried about running out of bed and ventilator capacity in the New Orleans region.   

While there is some indication that Louisiana’s infection curve is starting to flatten, it’s still too soon to say that for sure, Edwards said. But the state will have another spike of new cases if residents don’t obey the governor’s “stay at home” order, he said.

There are no Easter exemptions to the order or to the 10-person limit on social gatherings, Edwards stressed.

“Because the virus is not going to honor that,” he said. “The virus is very much in control.”