On Friday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) announced that he would reject roughly $100 million in unemployment assistance from the federal recovery package, claiming the aid would lead to a tax hike on businesses. Jindal’s decision ensured that at least 25,000 unemployed Lousiana residents would not be eligible for unemployment insurance.
As the congressman representing parts of Lousiana devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Jindal actively sought assistance from the federal government. Yesterday on MSNBC’s Countdown, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) called the Republican Party a “heartless and insensitive organization” and criticized Jindal for rejecting the unemployment funds. Jindal, she noted, was singing a different tune about unemployment aid when Katrina hit his district:
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: This is a guy, who while I served with him in Congress, voted for that [unemployment] assistance twice, and is certainly willing to take funding from the federal when people are out of a job and out of their home as a result of a hurricane, but not willing to take that assistance when his constituents are out of a job and out of a home as a result of this economic crisis. I’m not sure what the difference is. A crisis is a crisis.
ThinkProgress spoke to Wasserman-Schultz’s office, which said the congresswoman was referring to the Flexibility for Displaced Workers Act (109-72) and the Hurricane Katrina Unemployment Relief Act (109-91).
Furthermore, in December 2005, then-Rep. Jindal cosponsored H.R. 4438, which extended federal unemployment benefits to workers who lost jobs due to Katrina. “The President shall make such assistance available for 52 weeks after the date of the disaster declaration,” the bill read. Today, Jindal is opposing a provision that would extend 20 weeks of federal benefits to individuals unable to find work “who had already collected all regular state benefits.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) released a statement on the matter today: “Jindal cosponsored and supported legislation to expand unemployment benefits and inject federal dollars into Louisiana’s unemployment trust fund. Yet today in the face of a financial disaster and record unemployment, he opposes similar action under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. What changed?”