Local workforce experts say new benefit package needed, though legality is questioned

Updated: Aug. 10, 2020 at 9:32 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - People who work to assist the unemployed say the need is unprecedented. President Donald Trump signed an order to restore unemployment benefits, but there are many questions.

With more and more businesses shutting down due to COVID-19, paychecks are getting scarce.

“It’s about 25 percent unemployment across the state. Here in St. Tammany, it’s 16 percent,” said Donald Shea, business services director for Tri Parish Works, a workforce development group that serves St. Tammany, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes.

$600 a week unemployment benefits ran out July 31, but now, President Trump has stepped in with an executive order calling for unemployment benefits of $400 per week.

“It’s extremely needed. There’s a lot of apprehension about people going back to work, with kids going back to school,” said Dakotah Eason with Tri Parish Works.

But many have questions about the legality of Trump's actions.

“Congress’ most significant power is the power of the purse and for the president to bring up, that is truly unprecedented,” said FOX 8 political analyst, Mike Sherman.

The Trump Administration said the new $400 a week benefit would start Aug. 1 and they insist their actions are legal.

“We cleared with the office of legal counsel all these actions before they went to the president,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Some fear states won’t be able to come up with a 25% share of the cost of the new benefits, but the nation’s treasury secretary says there’s money on the table.

"They can either take that out of money that we've given them or the president can waive that," said Mnuchin.

Though the unemployment numbers are through the roof, people who work at the Tri Parish Works office in Slidell say there are opportunities.

Hospitality jobs are drying up, but job placement experts say there are opportunities in nursing, welding, and transportation.

“If you want to change your career or be more competitive in your career, we can help you. We have lots of grant money available,” said Shea.

Even though Trump’s unemployment package provides $200 less per week, there are concerns it could actually keep many from looking for work.

“For those lower wage people, I think that incentive might still be there,” said Shea.

Either way, assistance appears to be on the way for the unemployed unless some sort of legal challenge is mounted.

Sherman says though the legality of the president’s action is in question, there’s no guarantee the Democrats will challenge it due to possible political fallout.

If you would like to talk with Tri Parish Works about possible job opportunities, go to their website.

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