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Louisiana Eases Requirements for Unemployment Insurance in Emergency Proclamation

April 08, 2020

Under an emergency proclamation signed by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on April 7, additional changes have been made to loosen eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The highlights of the governor’s proclamation are as follows:

  • Deems health care workers and first responders who work for the state as essential for purposes of the federal Family First Coronavirus Response Act. They are excluded from receiving paid sick leave under the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or expanded family and medical leave under The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
  • Suspends La. R.S. 23:1600(2) and (3) for emergency-related claims and waives the requirement that claimants register and search for work.  Requirements that claimants continue to report to the unemployment office that they are available and able to work are not waived
  • Suspends La. R.S. 23:1600(4) to the extent that claimants are normally required to wait one week before receiving benefits
  • Suspends La. R.S. 23:1601(1) and (2), which normally provide certain disqualifications for unemployment coverage, including leaving employment without good cause or misconduct connected with the claimant’s employment
  • Suspends La. R.S. 23:1123, which authorizes the scheduling of medical examinations when there is a dispute as to the capacity to work
  • Suspends La. R.S. 23:1533 and La. R.S. 23:1552, as the statutes relate to the charging of claimant’s benefits to certain employers

On a federal level, individuals who do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation and can’t continue working as a result of COVID-19, such as self-employed workers, independent contractors and gig workers, are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. 

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to qualifying individuals who are otherwise able to work and available for work within the meaning of applicable state law, except that they are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable or unavailable to work due to COVID-19 related reasons, as defined in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act.

Benefit payments under PUA are retroactive, for weeks of unemployment, partial employment or inability to work due to COVID-19 reasons starting on or after Jan. 27. The CARES Act specifies that PUA benefits cannot be paid for weeks of unemployment ending after Dec. 31, 2020.

Please contact Mark Fijman or Phelps’ Labor and Employment team if you have any questions or need compliance advice and guidance. For more information related to COVID-19, please also see Phelps’s COVID-19: Client Resource Portal.