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Trump Executive Orders On Unemployment See States Footing Part Of The Bill

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump promised extra money to unemployed people last weekend. He said he would partially extend extra unemployment benefits. But Congress has not approved extra funding, and some states say they can't pay either. Here's Paul Braun of member station WRKF in Baton Rouge.

PAUL BRAUN, BYLINE: The memorandum President Trump issued on Saturday promised a weekly payment of $400. But to qualify, states have to pay $100 of that. Very few have enough money on hand to meet that requirement. Take, for example, Louisiana, where Governor John Bel Edwards says the state's unemployment trust fund is running low and CARES Act money is already spoken for. The state benefits unemployed workers are already receiving can count toward that $100, but Edwards says that would mean nearly half of the state's unemployed workers aren't getting enough to meet the requirement.

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JOHN BEL EDWARDS: One of the challenges that we have is that I believe that there are about over 200,000 workers who are getting a benefit but less than $100 a week.

BRAUN: Many of those are gig workers or self-employed.

CORNELL WILLIAMS: OK, the name is Cornell Williams. I am a musician. And the unemployment that was awarded to me was $16 a week.

BRAUN: Williams has been a professional electric bass player in New Orleans for 30 years. He qualified for the $600 pandemic employment benefits that expired July 31. But his low state unemployment benefit means it's unlikely that he will receive any additional assistance unless Congress passes another relief bill. Jan Moller is executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project, an organization that advocates for low- and moderate-income families. He says Williams is not alone.

JAN MOLLER: The people who were working in restaurants, existing on tips, maybe working in the gig economy, who really have had no way to make a living since the tourist industry that drove so much of south Louisiana's economy collapsed are not going to get anything from this.

BRAUN: Williams says he, as someone who's contributed to Louisiana's culture and economy for decades, just wants a fair shake.

For NPR News, I'm Paul Braun in Baton Rouge.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.