With unemployment claims rising to unprecedented heights in the face of COVID-19, its more important than ever for residents to know what assistance is available to them and the avenues to get them.
Thus, the local offices of the Louisiana Workforce Commission have not only been busy assisting so many residents going through hard times, but also getting the word out to others that they’re extending a helping hand.
“We’re definitely all in this together,” said Tommy Scott, Executive Director of the River Parishes branch of the commission. “The Workforce Commission is gonna be here and continue to be a resource to help our residents.”
Many are going through the process of filing for unemployment for the first time thanks to the pandemic. On top of that, some traditional, in person methods of applying aren’t available due to distancing measures. Simple guidance through that process is necessary for many.
Scott noted that last month, unemployment claims in St. Charles Parish saw 2,131 Louisiana residents file in total. Through the first 18 days or April, an additional 3,310 filed for unemployment.
“You’re talking about 5,441 claims in a seven week span. That’s the highest unemployment numbers that have ever existed in St. Charles Parish’s history in such a window of time,” Scott said.
He said it’s important that residents understand that there are some special provisions in place that cover residents beyond traditional unemployment measures.
“There’s also pandemic unemployment and the CARES Act that can help those who qualify,” said Workforce Commission Executive Director Tommy Scott. “Normally, unemployment amount is determined based on what you earned and reasoning for a layoff or furlough, but under a special stipulation now, anyone not eligible conventionally might by eligible under the pandemic employment provision. And then with the CARES Act, there’s an additional $600 per week potentially available for those qualifying for one of the first two options.”
For example, self-employed workers or independent contractors would usually not be eligible for benefits, but there are potential provisions for them these unforeseen circumstances.
For those who have been through this process before, or who have received guidance from the Workforce Commission previously, anyone who has ever had an account with the organization is still registered in the system.
“The biggest thing there, sometimes, is helping them reset their passwords to access their account,” Scott said. “We’re also explaining how the UI (unemployment insurance)benefits work and their options during COVID 19.”
Employers can also receive guidance. Scott said in anticipation of Phase I of the state’s reopening plan beginning soon, the commission is offering employers use of their services to highlight vacancies that need to be filled. Some of that will be done through employers creating hiring accounts on laworks.net and job postings on the commission’s website. The Louisiana state database for job postings will also be available on the website.
“We understand businesses are eager to get back on track and open back up, and we want to make sure they have a sufficient and competent workforce,” Scott said.
For the growing number of job-seekers, Scott encourages the time is now to prepare.
“Take the time to update those resumes and have those certifications intact, so that you’ll be the best version of yourself possible to take advantage of some of the opportunities we have available,” Scott said.
Like many worksites, the Workforce Commission’s local branch in Luling is not open to the public at the moment. But Scott stresses the staff is eager to help and that the public can reach them by calling (985) 783-5030 or by emailing email@example.com.
In order to streamline the process of claims, the Louisiana Workforce Commission recently began staggering weekly certifications based on the last digits of a person’s social security number. Those with social security numbers ending in 0-3 file on Sunday; 4-6 file on Monday; 7-9 file on Tuesday, and all numbers are accepted Wednesday through Saturday.