(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Workforce Commission paid out $346 million in unemployment benefits to almost 197,000 people in January, the LWC reports.
The Workforce Commission says it has cleared most of a 30,000-claim backlog from early this month, though almost 3,500 of those claims await additional review.
“The vast majority of the claims remaining in our queue are from claimants whose home address does not match that on their ID,” LWC Secretary Ava Dejoie said. “Many have a Louisiana address but an out of state driver’s license. These cases take longer to process as we continue to combat and prevent fraud.”
The LWC has been scrambling to keep up with the demand for benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Unemployed workers have complained about long waits and lack of response to claims.
The LWC says it has trained more than 120 staff members from across the agency to support the Unemployment Insurance department and assist with identity review and other complex claims resolution issues. More than 300 staff members are working extended hours and weekends at call centers, handling more than 7,000 calls daily, the LWC says.
New claims for state unemployment benefits fell during the week that ended Jan. 23. According to the Workforce Commission, initial claims dropped to 12,004 from the previous week’s total of 16,340. For a pre-pandemic comparison, during the week that ended on Jan. 25, 2020, 1,878 initial claims were filed, the LWC says.
Continued claims for last week increased to 64,916 compared to 63,888 the week before. The continued claims were above the comparable figure of 15,500 for the week ending Jan. 25, 2020.
New claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which supports workers not otherwise eligible for state benefits such as contractors and gig workers, also fell last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Louisiana workers filed 5,177 PUA claims during the week than ended Jan. 23, compared to 8,639 the week before, the department reports.
There were 118,888 continued PUA claims during the week that ended Jan. 9, the most recent total the federal government reported this week. That same week there were 55,020 people receiving federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which is for workers who have exhausted their state benefits.