Louisiana news briefs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

At least 37,969 COVID-19 vaccines administered in Louisiana, officials say

At least 37,969 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Louisiana as of Tuesday, state officials say.

Hospital workers were first in line to get vaccinated. Nursing home residents and staff start getting vaccines this week, state officials say.

At least 7,034 Louisiana residents with COVID-19 have died, while officials believe an additional 363 deaths were most likely caused by the coronavirus that causes the illness. Almost 4,000 confirmed or probable new cases have been reported to the state since Monday, bringing Louisiana’s total to 304,485 as of noon Tuesday.https://b555ca5f6f9d787a4fbe974e5b9f112c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html#xpc=sf-gdn-exp-3&p=https%3A//www.thecentersquare.com

State unemployment claims dip

New state unemployment insurance claims for the week ending Dec. 19 dropped to 7,926 from the prior week’s total of 9,289, the Louisiana Workforce Commission says. For a pre-pandemic comparison, during the week ending Dec. 21, 2019, 2,218 initial claims were filed.

The unemployment insurance continued claims for the week ending Dec. 19 decreased to 64,448 from the previous week’s total of 66,810. The continued claims were above the comparable figure of 15,358 for the week ending Dec. 21, 2019.

Thousands of Louisiana residents have exhausted their state benefits and have been collecting federal benefits through programs that expired Thursday, though the newly passed federal relief bill extends those programs through March.

State officials: Louisiana distributes $674 million in pandemic and hurricane-relief food aid

Louisiana distributed more than $674 million in emergency food assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta, the Department of Children and Family Services reports.

That assistance included the Pandemic EBT program for school children, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program emergency allotments, Disaster SNAP benefits, and Replacement SNAP benefits.

DCFS received five times the normal volume of SNAP applications within the first 30 days of the pandemic and ends the year serving an all-time high of more than 456,000 SNAP households, the department says. That represents a 26 percent increase over 9 months – adding 95,228 households and 177,069 people from February to November – after a four-year steady decline in the number of families receiving assistance.

“The extraordinary circumstances of this year called for extraordinary measures on behalf of the families we serve,” DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters said. “Every step we could take to minimize the crises’ impact and maximize support for our families, we took it.”

Legislative Auditor raises issues with financial controls at LCTCS

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System did not have adequate controls to ensure the annual financial report was accurately prepared, causing $88.7 million to be misclassified as unrestricted rather than restricted, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor says.

Delgado Community College’s direct lending receipts and disbursements of $52.9 million were omitted on cash flow statements, the LLA also reports, adding that the system failed to notify the auditor’s office and the parish district attorney of suspected misappropriations of assets as required by law.

LCTCS agreed with the two misclassification assessments but said they were minor oversights that did not affect the total net position or cash flow reported. A system official said the potential misappropriation was not immediately reported because of insufficient information but added that in the future, suspected misuse of assets will be referred without any further review.