Louisiana business representative says innocent third parties need relief

Louisiana employers impacted by the British Petroleum oil spill last April are set to be relieved from the costs associated with unemployment benefits. The legislative idea (SB 121) is to alleviate the financial burden for innocent third parties that either lost business or went out of business entirely.

Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) is moving the unemployment compensation bill (SB 121) in the midst of a growing debate at the state and national level over the extension of such benefits.

“Present law provides for three exceptions to the requirement that unemployment benefits
paid are included in the experience rating records of employers,” the bill’s digest says, and it would provide a fourth exception. When the payment of benefits is caused by an act or omission of a third party, such benefits shall not be included in the experience rating of such employer.”

President Obama signed off on an extension of across the board unemployment benefits in 2010 and criticized Republicans for resisting this change.

“After a partisan minority used procedural tactics to block the authorization of this assistance three separate times over the past weeks, Americans who are fighting to find a good job and support their families will finally get the support they need,” President Obama said at the time.

In 2010, unemployment benefits reached a record high of $157 billion. The increase, up from $32 billion in 2007 and $42 billion in 2008, is the result of 99 weeks of benefits, rather than the previous 27 weeks.

Renee Baker, the Louisiana director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), supports Riser’s legislation but is uncertain of its prospects.

“It would be ideal if we could charge BP,” she said. “The concept here is a good one, and I have a fair number of small businesses that were impacted by the spill… You don’t want to go back and charge every employer in the state for what happened with BP. But right now I don’t see the legislation getting a lot of support.”

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at kmooney@pelicanpolicy.org and he can be followed on Twitter.