JBE 17-21

Emergency Suspension of Certain Unemployment Insurance Laws

WHEREAS,   pursuant to the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, La. R.S. 29:721, et seq., a state of emergency was declared through Proclamation Number 104 JBE 2017;

WHEREAS,   the State of Louisiana has suffered severe flooding and damage to the state which threatens the safety, health, and security of the citizens of the State of Louisiana, along with private property and public facilities;

WHEREAS,   the flooding resulting from this event has displaced thousands of workers and employers from their homes and places of business;

WHEREAS,   in addition to the displaced individuals, the flooding has caused numerous communication challenges due to the interruption of mail service, phone service and electricity;

WHEREAS,   the evacuations, displacements, communication issues, the inability of employers to access personnel files, and the extraordinary volume of resulting unemployment claims all pose serious challenges to the effective and timely administration of the unemployment compensation system;

WHEREAS,   Louisiana Revised Statute 29:724 authorizes the governor to use emergency powers to deal with emergencies and disasters and to ensure that preparations of this state will be adequate to deal with such emergencies or disasters, and to preserve the lives and property of the citizens of the State of Louisiana, including the authority to suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business, or the orders, rules, or regulations of any state agency, if strict compliance with the provisions of any statute, order, rule, or regulation would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency; and

WHEREAS,   the executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission has requested the Governor, due to the extreme volume of claims to be processed, suspend La. R.S. 23:1533, 1600(2) and (3), and 1601(1), (2) and (7)(a), (b) and (d) for disaster-related claims, so as to allow the timely and fair administration of the unemployment insurance program.

NOW THEREFORE, I, JOHN BEL EDWARDS, Governor of the State of Louisiana, by virtue of the authority vested by the Constitution and the laws of the state of Louisiana, do hereby order and direct as follows:

SECTION 1: For the purpose of this executive order, "disaster-related claims" shall mean claims for unemployment compensation filed by persons whose unemployment is directly due to the effects of flooding or due to their inability to get to their job or worksite because they cannot travel through a disaster parish, as determined by the administrator of the state's unemployment compensation program, i.e., the executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Disaster-related claims will not necessarily include all claims in all parishes included in the flooding disaster proclamations, declarations or orders.

SECTION 2:  The following statutes relative to unemployment insurance are hereby suspended to the extent and in the manner described below:

A.        Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:1533, which provides for claimants' benefits to be charged against base period employers for purposes of employers' tax experience rating and the protesting of such charges by employers, shall be suspended for disaster-related claims made during the effective period of this Order.

B.        Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:1600(2) and (3) shall be suspended while this Order is in effect for disaster-related claims to the extent that they require claimants to register and search for work, but the requirements in R.S. 23:1600(2) that claimants continue to report at an employment office in the manner prescribed by the administrator, and in R.S. 23:1600(3) that claimants be able to work and be available for work, are not waived. The requirement to continue to report at an employment office, which is accomplished through either an automated telephone system or the Internet, is not impractical and avoids overpayments, which claimants would be liable to repay. In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, waived requirements are not practical for claimants without fixed temporary or permanent housing and verification of such activities is not practical in many areas affected by the flooding.

C.        Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:1601(1), (2) and (7)(a), (b) and (d), which provide certain disqualifications for otherwise eligible claimants, shall be suspended for disaster-related claims beginning while this Order is in effect. Persons having disaster-related claims were not discharged from their employment nor did they quit or leave their employment as contemplated by R.S. 23:1601(1) and (2), and the case-by-case adjudication of these issues would be an unproductive and unnecessary use of agency resources that should be devoted to processing the extraordinary high volume of disaster-related claims that will be filed. Calculation of the waived §1601(7) offsets from unemployment benefits would unduly delay payment, given the volume of claims and the volume of employers and claimants without access to the pertinent records. Regardless of the waiver of R.S. 23:1601(7), the requirement in R.S. 23:1600, that a claimant be "unemployed" as defined in R.S. 23:1472(19), is not waived. Persons who are paid by their employers, but who performed no services for the week(s) paid, are not unemployed and therefore are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits for any such week. Also, this waiver shall not affect the offset of wages from a claimant's weekly benefit amount pursuant to R.S. 23:1593.

SECTION 3:  This Order is effective Thursday, August 31, 2017 and effective for the following parishes:  Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis, Vermillion, Acadia, Allen, Iberia, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine and Vernon, and shall continue through Saturday, September 30, 2017, unless amended, modified, terminated, or rescinded by the governor, or otherwise prior thereto.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have set my hand officially and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of Louisiana, at the Capitol, in the City of Baton Rouge, on this 31st day of August, 2017.

John Bel Edwards

Tom Schedler
Secretary of State