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Rheta Barnes of the Tangipahoa Democrats and Progressives protests in front of U.S. Sen. John Kennedy's Mandeville office in the St. Tammany Parish Administrative Complex, July 30, to urge him to support an extension of the $600 federal unemployment insurance.

Louisiana has received its first $375 million tranche of funds for an unconventional unemployment system that will give more than 400,000 laid-off workers in Louisiana an additional $300 check each week.

Now, it's up to the state to reprogram its computers to be able to pay out the money.

$300 unemployment checks could start flowing next week, but these 87,000 people may not qualify

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he anticipates the checks will start rolling out next week. And while he didn't commit, he said he hopes it will be early next week.

"I can commit to next week," Edwards said. "What I want to believe is they’ll start early next week.”

The $375 million will pay for benefits dating back to August 1, and the state anticipates the federal government to continue providing funding until the pot of federal disaster funds paying for the program runs dry. Edwards has said that will likely be about six weeks. 

Louisiana unemployment: See who qualifies for extra $300 benefit; next steps for disbursement, more

The Louisiana Workforce Commission is in charge of distributing the funds. The agency was plagued with problems this spring when an historic number of people flooded the unemployment system and the federal government gave states an extra $600 a week per worker. Workers at the time described waiting weeks or longer for their benefits, and being unable to reach workers at the department.

Those $600-a-week benefits expired at the end of July. Jobless workers here now must rely on the state's unemployment benefit, which is among the most meager in the U.S. at a maximum of $247 a week.

Tens of thousands earn less than even $100 a week, and those people won't even qualify for the new $300-a-week benefit, which is the result of an executive order by President Donald Trump. About 67,000 jobless workers won't qualify for the new benefits and another 20,000 may not qualify but will be given a chance to re-apply.

The governor has urged Congress to come to the negotiating table to reach a new deal on unemployment to provide another round of unemployment relief that doesn't exclude tens of thousands of workers in Louisiana. 

The Workforce Commission's spokesman A.J. Sabine also confirmed this week that as long as people have a weekly state benefit amount of at least $100, they are eligible for the additional $300 -- even if they receive less than $100 in a given week because they report some earnings from a job. 

All recipients of unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides benefits for gig workers and self-employed who aren't normally eligible for benefits, are eligible for the additional $300 weekly check, Sabine added. 


Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com