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The extra $300 in federal unemployment benefits may be ending sooner than anticipated

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 5:28 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that the state might opt out of the enhanced benefits at the end of July instead of the U.S. Congress’s deadline of Sept. 6.

Edwards hasn’t made a decision just yet, but if he does the state will get something in return. In exchange for cutting the extra benefits off early, lawmakers will permanently increase the state’s unemployment benefits by $28 a week.

“When people will be making closer to $7 an hour on unemployment rather than $14 an hour on unemployment, that will encourage them to go back to the workforce,” said Andrew Fitzgerald from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

BRAC sent a letter to the governor’s office last week asking him to get rid of that extra help to motivate people to get back to work. They say that money is dissuading workers from returning to the workforce, despite jobs being available.

Their stance got a lot of pushback after people shared concerns over the things like childcare, COVID risk and low wages. In fact, their office says a lot of what they’ve heard just isn’t valid.

“People are concerned about low wages. The average posted job in Baton Rouge right now is $22 an hour,” said Fitzgerald.

The Chamber says there are 33,000 open jobs in the Capitol region with over 50% of those paying more than that $22 an hour.

Critics questioned those numbers by saying a lot of those job seekers lack the qualifications for those higher-paying jobs.

“Well, I don’t think that number is correct. I think we know that the average job is not paying people what they’re worth,” said Davante Lewis from the Louisiana Budget Project.

Lewis believes this will backfire and force more people to stay at home.

“This is going to cause a lot of chaos. From what we’ve seen from other states that have already cut unemployment benefits is that they’re not seeing an increasing amount of people entering the labor market. It’s actually declining,” said Lewis.

Lewis suggested expanding the conversation to include more people before any decision is made.

“We’ve done a lot for business, but the last question I want us to think about is what are we doing for the workers? What are we doing for the people? Because they are the ones that are making our economy work. They are the ones that are working these businesses and they’re often the ones not in the conversations of these negotiations or in the conversations of what policy should actually be,” said Lewis.

As of Friday, 25 states have already opted out. Edwards said that he plans to make a decision soon.

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