BJ 08-91

Emergency Suspension of Certain Unemployment Insurance Laws

WHEREAS, pursuant to the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, R.S. 29:721, et seq., a state of emergency was declared through Proclamation No. 51 BJ 2008;

WHEREAS, subsequently, Hurricane Gustav struck the state of Louisiana causing 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, Hurricane Gustav, and its aftermath, has displaced thousands of workers and employers from their homes and places of business;

WHEREAS, in addition to the displaced individuals, Hurricane Gustav 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 pose serious challenges to the effective and timely administration of the unemployment compensation system;

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Workforce Commission has consulted with the United States Department of Labor to assure the actions being taken in this order conform to federal unemployment compensation laws and regulations;

WHEREAS, R.S. 29:724 authorizes the governor, during a state of emergency, to suspend the provisions of any state regulatory statute prescribing procedures for conducting state business, or the orders, rules or regulations of any state agency, if strict compliance with the provision of any statute, order, rule or regulation would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency; and

WHEREAS, the executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission has requested that Governor Jindal, due to the extreme volume of claims to be processed, suspend R.S. 23:1533, 1552, 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, BOBBY JINDAL, 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 Hurricane Gustav 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 Hurricane Gustav 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. R.S. 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. R.S. 23:1552, which provides for the charging of claimants' benefits to certain employers, shall be suspended for disaster-related claims made during the effective period of this Order.

C. R.S. 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 Hurricane Gustav the 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 Hurricane Gustav.

D. R.S. 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 upon signature for those parishes already covered by the Major Disaster Presidential Declaration dated September 1, 2008, and to those parishes covered by any subsequent expansion of the September 1, 2008 Declaration. This shall apply retroactively from the date of the first evacuation, i.e., Friday, August 29, 2008, and shall continue through Sunday, September 21, 2008, 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 5th day of September, 2008.

Bobby Jindal

Jay Dardenne
Secretary of State