Since the COVID-19 pandemic started making its presence felt on the economy, the number of applicants claiming Unemployment Insurance benefits has grown exponentially in Louisiana. As of the week ending March 28, a record 6.6 million workers had filed for unemployment benefits, reflecting the huge spike in those whose income has been severely affected by the crisis.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
In response to the unprecedented situation, Congress passed The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, a $2 trillion stimulus package that will provide a direct cash transfer to all qualifying individuals, along with increased support for unemployment applicants. Some of its most notable elements include:
- direct payment of up to $1,200 for each qualifying adult, along with an additional $500 for each dependent
- a supplementary payment of $600 per week for anyone claiming unemployment benefit (valid until 31 July)
- an extension of up to 13 weeks on the unemployment benefits eligibility period, up to a total of 39 weeks
- unemployment benefits for the self-employed, freelancers, and gig workers
- the 7-day, unpaid waiting period for claimants impacted by COVID-19 will be waived
As the act has a fundamental impact on how eligibility for unemployment is determined, it’s worth investigating how the new legislation will affect your own status. In Louisiana, the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) has provided an updated FAQ to outline their response to the COVID-19 situation. If you’ve been adversely affected by the current situation, it’s certainly worth reviewing.
Are You Eligible?
In Louisiana, the Louisiana Workforce Commission is responsible for setting the eligibility criteria for Unemployment Insurance benefits. Under normal circumstance, your eligibility is dependent on the following criteria:
- You have worked in Louisiana for a minimum of 18 months
- You have been made unemployed through no fault of your own
- You are ready, willing, and able to work
- You are actively seeking employment
Further to the introduction of the CARES act, applicants that have been impacted by COVID-19 do not necessarily need to demonstrate that they are either able to work or are actively seeking employment. Providing you can meet the requirements of the following criteria, you may still be eligible for unemployment:
- You are not able to work because you are either sick or in quarantine because of COVID-19. A medical certificate validating either your infection or your exposure will be required.
- You are a caregiver to a family member who is sick or who has been exposed to COVID-19.
- You are not able to work because of school closures and are not able to work at home or make alternative child-care arrangements.
- You have been laid off or furloughed without compensation because of COVID-19.
- Your hours have been cut because of COVID-19.
- You are self-employed and have been negatively affected by COVID-19.
What You’ll Need to Apply
Before filing your claim, it’s useful to gather all the documents you’ll need to support your application. For applicants in Louisiana, you’ll be expected to provide:
- Your social security number (SSN)
- Your employment history for the last 24 months, to include the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all employers (the information must be entered exactly as it appears on your check stub)
- Name and local number of union hall (if applicable)
- Alien registration number (if applicable)
- A copy of your DD214 form (if you’ve served in the military during the last 18 months)
- A copy of your SF-8 and SF-50 forms (if you’ve worked for a federal employer during the last 18 months)
- A valid e-mail address
How to Apply For Unemployment in Louisiana
Claims can be filed in two ways: by telephone on 866-783-5567 or online at the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s Online Portal. As KSLA News reports, call volume to the LWC has tripled since March 1: it’s therefore advisable to log your claim online wherever possible. As part of the application process, you will be asked: “Are you filing for Unemployment Insurance benefits for reasons related to COVID-19 (coronavirus)?” Answer yes to this question to enable the LWC to process your claim appropriately.
Once you have filed the claim, the department will review your eligibility and advise you of their decision within 3 weeks. Even while the decision is still pending, you should continue to verify your claim for every week of unemployment to avoid any interruption in payments. If the LWS declines your application, you will receive a disqualifying determination. If you do not agree with the decision, you are entitled to log an appeal within 30 days of the mailing date of the determination. If you made your claim prior to the introduction of the CARES act, you do not need to resubmit it. Providing you continue to certify your claim weekly, the LWS will automatically review your payments and make any adjustments applicable under the new legislation. If your claim has already been approved, the LWS will send out the supplementary $600 you are entitled to under the CARES Act separately to your normal benefits payment, retroactive to the week ending 29th March.
How Much Will You Get?
The total unemployment benefits you receive will depend on your previous income. The maximum amount payable is $247 a week. If your work hours have been reduced as a result of COVID-19, partial benefits could be available to you, again based on your previous income and up to a maximum of $247 a week. If you are still working, even at a reduced rate, you must report all earnings, including commissions, tips, and gratuities, during the week you work.
If you want to get an idea of what you may be eligible for while your claim is still in progress, File Unemployment provides a useful calculator that will calculate your potential benefits based on your previous earnings and number of dependents. Just remember this is an estimate only: your actual entitlement may vary.