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Edwards asks lawmakers to redirect remaining Main Street grant money

Staff Report

BATON ROUGE – Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday requested that the Louisiana Legislature reallocate $175 million in unspent money from the Main Street Recovery Program.

He made the request in a letter to Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, and Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, during the first day of the Special Session at the State Capitol.

As part of the proposal, the state would funnel $75 million into the state’s unemployment trust fund, $75 million to local governments most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and $25 million in grants for businesses closed during the Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the state’s COVID response, such as bars.

“One of the most important things the Legislature can do in this upcoming session is to fix the Main Street program and to re-allocate the CARES Act funding to where it is needed,” Edwards wrote. “While this reallocation will not meet all of the needs that we have for local governments and the Unemployment Trust Fund, it will go a long way towards providing for stability in the local governments most affected by COVID-19 and helping to prevent crippling tax increases on businesses because of the likely insolvency of the trust fund.”

In addition, under his executive authority, the Governor has amended his Public Health Emergency to suspend the solvency tax levied on employers under law when the Unemployment Trust Fund reaches a certain level, directing Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Dejoie to not impose the solvency tax at this time. Currently, Louisiana’s trust fund balance is $49.4 million. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Louisiana had the 17th healthiest trust fund in the country, with a balance of over $1 billion.

“While we will have to work together and with our Congressional delegation to address the long-term need to replenish our trust fund balance, I am confident that we can all agree that we need additional time to recover from this emergency before there should be any consideration of the solvency tax.” Gov. Edwards said.