Federal pandemic jobless benefits set to end July 31

Staff Report

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill last week to increase weekly jobless benefits in exchange for bringing an end to federal COVID-19 aid, a program that pays more money.

Gov. John Bel Edwards

House Bill 183 by state Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, will boost weekly unemployment pay $28 a week, beginning in 2022.

In exchange, the bill required Edwards to withdraw from the extra federal benefits, which will end July 31.

The signing of the bill made Edwards the first Democratic governor in the nation to end a pandemic unemployment program.

Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama have opted out of the program, which tacked an additional $300 to the weekly checks.

The original draft of the bill addressed state income tax withholdings on federal disaster unemployment compensation benefits.

Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine

“It started off not being my bill … a simple one-word bill, and another representative had the bill increase the weekly maximum, and that bill failed,” Brown said.

The final bill predicated a compromise between labor and business interests – particularly the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry – in exchange for replenishing the employee trust fund.

The legislation received pushback from fellow Democrats who wanted the program to continue, and support from conservative lobbyists who thought the federal program gave workers a reason not to return to their jobs.

“Gov. Edwards stated all along that he explored terminating participation sometime in August,” Brown said.

“We thought it was a good compromise, with labor wanting an increase in permanent unemployment benefits and the business sector wanting an end to the federal program.”

Louisiana’s unemployment compensation of $247 ranks as the third lowest in the nation.

The hike put the state in a tie with Tennessee, Alabama and Florida for the third lowest jobless benefits in the nation.