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House and Governmental Affairs Committee vice-chairman Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans speaks during a sometimes acrimonius exchange with House GOP leader Blake Miguez, R-Erath, on Miguez's House Concurrent Resolution 58, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in at the State Capitol. The resolution with its amendments focuses on stripping the enforcement power of the Gov. John Bel Edwards executive orders like the stay-at-home order affecting businesses, to stanch the community spread of the often-deadly novel coronavirus and reopen businesses before the Governor advises.The measure appeared aimed to force Edwards' hand to begin reopening businesses in mid-May, when the governor has indicated the first phase of reopening could begin. 

One of the best tools we have to prevent economic devastation in a recession — or global pandemic — is unemployment insurance. Unfortunately, Louisiana has some of the nation’s meagerest unemployment insurance, and it’s needlessly hurting our people and our economy. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to fix it.

Some people believe that unemployment benefits drain the economy and disincentivize work. Those beliefs are not based on facts.

Research confirms that unemployment insurance spending has a critical positive impact on the economy, giving Louisianans money to spend on rent, bills, food, and other essentials. That money goes straight into the local economy, keeping small businesses open and fueling the tax base statewide.

A 2015 study by Columbia Business School found that “where unemployment benefits are more generous, the local economy tends to react significantly less sharply to negative shocks.” The same study showed that for every dollar given in unemployment benefits, nearly two dollars are generated in local economic activity. A recent Yale study of the federal $600 expanded unemployment benefits found "workers who experienced larger increases in unemployment insurance generosity did not experience larger declines in employment when the benefits expansion went into effect."

The time is now to increase our unemployment benefits. It’s one of the most important things we can do to help our economy. And by doing it we will inject money into our state with almost no downside.

According to Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Dejoie, the federal government will be loaning Louisiana’s unemployment trust fund money at 0% interest through the rest of 2020, and at a negligible 2% interest rate beginning in 2021. Given the GDP growth and increased tax receipts that higher unemployment insurance would create, our state is losing large sums of money every day we keep our unemployment insurance benefits so low.

Additionally, after far too much Washington bickering, another federal stimulus bill is on the congressional agenda soon after the election and is expected to provide between $250 and $436 billion in aid for state and local governments. That would provide Louisiana with more than enough funding to replenish our unemployment trust fund.

It’s right in front of us. If we act now to expand our unemployment insurance, we can help our struggling people, increase our revenues, and grow our economy — keeping more people from ever needing unemployment insurance in the first place. I hope you’ll join me and support this effort.

ROYCE DUPLESSIS

state representative

New Orleans

Our Views: For those unable to work, urgent aid needed from Congress