BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana lawmaker Wednesday shelved his effort to cut state unemployment aid during the coronavirus outbreak after learning the proposal would keep the state from receiving the boosted benefits offered by the federal government.
Republican Rep. Gerald “Beau” Beaullieu, from New Iberia, was trying to keep unemployment aid for Louisiana residents who are out of work from exceeding the money they earned in their previous jobs.
Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Dejoie told the House labor committee the proposal would run afoul of federal virus aid requirements. She said it would make Louisiana’s 450,000 unemployed workers ineligible to receive the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit available through July.
“We’d be the only state in the nation” refusing the federal aid for those out of work, Dejoie said.
With that information, Beaullieu — who said he hadn’t spoken with the labor department ahead of the hearing — pulled his bill from consideration. He said he hadn’t intended to jeopardize the federal payments.
Congress provided the boosted unemployment aid on top of the benefits states offer amid the widespread layoffs stemming from the virus pandemic. In Louisiana, that means unemployed workers get $600 a week on top of a state payment that maxes out at $247 weekly.
Beaullieu said hefty unemployment payments could discourage someone from wanting to return to work, and he said the high rate of unemployment was draining Louisiana’s unemployment fund.
“We want to protect that trust fund. We also want to make sure that employees are not disincentivized from going back to work,” Beaullieu said. He said his bill would help “those small businesses get their employees to work.”
A political nonprofit organization formed to support Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ agenda, called A Stronger Louisiana, released a statement describing the legislation as “mean-spirited.”
“We hope that (the) Legislature will spend the final days of this session doing more to help the people of Louisiana and less to penalize them,” the group’s leader Richard Carbo, former Edwards campaign manager, said in a statement.