NEW ORLEANS — These days the only place Louise Francis gets to cook is at her home for her family in New Orleans East.
She was a banquet cook at the downtown Sheraton Hotel for the past 20 years. Then COVID hit and she lost her job.
“You look at me, I’m a hard working woman,” Francis said. “My work, my job was taken away from me. One month you go to work. The next month you can’t go to work.”
Francis is one of thousands of jobless workers in the New Orleans area depending on unemployment benefits to make ends meet.
But $600 a week in expanded federal payments just ran out.
Congress has not been unable to agree on an extension.
“With the $600 that was helping me real good, but right now, they’re trying to take everything from us,” Francis said.
Saturday, President Trump signed an executive order to continue the additional payments at the reduced amount of $400 a week.
There is no indication yet when these extra funds will show up in Francis’s unemployment check.
Whether the president has the constitutional authority to extend federal unemployment benefits, remains unclear.
States would also have to kick in $100 of the $400 dollars the president is offering.
GNO Inc., President Michael Hecht said the executive order could pressure Congress to take action.
“I think the general feeling right now is the president’s executive orders are well intentioned and points things in the right direction, but in order for real meaningful, legally irrefutable action to happen, Congress has to act,” Hecht said.
Hecht hopes Congress can pass a 5th Coronavius relief package in the next couple of weeks.
“I am confident that there is going to be additional support for American individuals, American businesses, sooner rather than later, because it’s necessary,” Hecht said. “It’s required and ultimately we know that Congress is going to do the right thing and we’re going to get help from Washington.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards is still reviewing the president’s order to determine exactly what impact it will have on Louisiana.
In the meantime, Louise Francis and other jobless workers remain in an uncomfortable position.
“We don’t like being in limbo,” Francis said.
There are more than 300,000 Louisiana workers now drawing unemployment.
Just last month, the governor warned the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund, is on track to run out of money by mid-September.