200,000 jobless people may not get additional federal aid

Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 at 8:46 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Governor John Bel Edwards says the state is trying to get federal benefits to all unemployed workers. But as of now, the executive order President Donald trump signed over the weekend says states would have to pay 25 percent of the $400 assistance, $100.

“Any worker in Louisiana who isn’t getting a hundred dollars in state benefits won’t be able to get the $300,” said Edwards during Tuesday’s news conference.

That means people like 25-year-old Miranda Yonta, as of now, will not get the additional benefit.

“I was getting unemployment and I was getting the $600,” said Yonta. “But now I get $44 a week.”

The certified nursing assistant says she lost her job early in the pandemic because she works with immunocompromised people. The oldest of seven, Yonta says her income helps support her household.

"I'm happy that I get to spend more time with my family but it's still not enough knowing that we don't know if we will put food in the house or pay a bill," she said.

The governor says around 200,000 unemployed workers might not even be eligible for the federal enhanced benefits. As it stands now, they are currently getting less than $100 dollars a week in state unemployment benefits. Edwards says for workers to get the full $400 a week, the state would have to match 25 percent.

"We're trying to figure out how we can participate because we know we have a lot of workers who are unemployed, continue to be unemployed to no fault to them," Edwards said.

He adds the state is quickly burning through the $253 million dollars left in the unemployment trust fund.

“At the current burn rate, we fully anticipate that in the not too distant future we won’t have any choice but to borrow money from the federal government to restore the solvency of the fund,” Edwards said. “But when you do that you also have to pass a surcharge to employers to make sure you can pay that loan back. We would not want to do that.”

Both Edwards and Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy say the best fix for Louisiana and the country is for Congress to reach a bi-partisan compromise on a new stimulus package.

Meantime, Miranda Yonta says she believes leaders are playing politics with her livelihood.

"It's like a 50/50 chance our family goes days without eating. Our lights might get cut off. We might lose our house. It is real. It's scary at the same time," Yonta said.

The governor says his administration is in talks with the Department of Labor and Treasury to get additional guidance on how Louisiana can get the federal enhancement to the state’s unemployed.

It’s not clear when benefits will arrive but Senator Cassidy says it would be a quick process.

“The Department of Labor has already emailed out the process that needs to be followed. They say it’s basically what would happened if there were a flood where states know very quickly how to access the dollars and the money starts moving within a week,” said Senator Cassidy.

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