BRAC says Baton Rouge economy could take a hit as extra unemployment benefits end

BRAC says end of extra unemployment benefits could result in big hit to BR's economy

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Despite all the shutdowns and people being urged not to go out as much during the pandemic, the Baton Rouge economy has not taken a huge hit.

Despite an 11% unemployment rate, consumer spending has not dropped drastically, according to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC).

“In East Baton Rouge Parish, it’s only [dropped] about 10%. It’s actually about equal to Ascension and Livingston and it’s thanks to people having this additional $600 a week in addition to the $247 normal unemployment dollars they normally get,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, senior director of business intelligence at BRAC.

The additional unemployment funding is set to expire Friday, July 31. Congress is debating on another stimulus bill that would include a replacement for that unemployment assistance, but there’s no timeline on when the bill will be passed. That means the money propping up the Baton Rouge economy is in danger.

“If consumer spending just drops and PPP is out and then all of a sudden there’s just no money coming through the door whatsoever,” Fitzgerald said.

Pair that with the possibility of LSU football looking drastically different this season, and the outlook could be bleak.

“It’s going to be, for us it’s an 8 to 12 week period of what New Orleans is experiencing 52 weeks,” Fitzgerald said. “They are a big tourist destination, big into hospitality, we especially are on game day weekends.”

The solution, Fitzgerald says, is for everyone to do their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Things are going to be bad in the economy until we have lower than a 5% positive test rate day after day after day,” he said.

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