By William Patrick | The Center Square
Gov. John Bel Edwards has suspended all legal deadlines in Louisiana until at least Sept. 24 and streamlined state unemployment insurance to accommodate displaced workers as Hurricane Ida recovery efforts continue.
The changes were made through an executive order, which also directs hotels, motels and other places of lodging to cancel any reservations that conflict with the lodging needs of essential recovery workers.
“People all over the state of Louisiana are spending this week assessing the damages done to their homes and communities and are putting their lives back together after the ravages of Hurricane Ida,” Edwards said. “We need for them to be focused on recovery and not whether they will be held to a court deadline.
“We simply cannot afford to have any of our first responders, health care employees or utility workers pushed out of their hotel rooms for any reason.”
The executive order applies to legal proceedings in all state courts, administrative agencies and boards for the next three weeks, though it may be extended if deemed necessary.
The Louisiana Supreme Court also has suspended deadlines for certain categories of legal proceedings, as well as time limits pertaining to criminal prosecutions, defenses and appeals in 25 Ida-affected parishes until later this month.
Per the order, unemployed and displaced workers are able to make “disaster-related claims” for unemployment compensation, without incurring normal delays or the requirement of looking for work.
Certain unemployment disqualifications also are suspended, and the Louisiana Workforce Commission will have broad discretion to determine eligibility, the order said.
Hurricane Ida’s 150 mph winds ripped through southeast Louisiana more than a week ago. About 435,000 homes and businesses are without power, and recovery efforts have been hampered by gasoline shortages.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved 159,597 applications for individual assistance. More than $175 million has been approved for housing assistance and other needs, the agency reported.
Visitors planning to travel to Louisiana should check with their hotels to make sure their rooms are not being used to house recovery workers, Edwards said.
“It’s unacceptable that those working around the clock to support our state would be kicked out on the streets,” he tweeted.