Chaisson, Rep. Graves discuss Unemployment, Small Business Loans, Oil and Gas

Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson was joined by U.S. Congressman Garret Graves for his daily COVID-19 (coronavirus) update this afternoon. 


After an introduction by Chaisson, Graves discussed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the House and signed into law by President Donald Trump last Friday. 


“The bill took way too many days to finally negotiate out, but there’s some real important lifelines in there for Lafourche Parish,” Graves said. “Number one, there’s a, there’s a payment of $1,200 per taxpayer that is available. So all you have to do if you file your taxes for 2019, then you are eligible for a $1,200 check. Anyone who has an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less gets the full $1,200. Once you cross over that number, it starts dropping down.”


“Head of household, it’s $112,500 — the number before your $1,200 check starts decreasing slowly, and for a married couple filing jointly, it’s $150,000…It’s $1,200 per individual, $500 per dependent child,” he continued. 


Graves also touched on what CARES does for small businesses.“Number two, for small businesses, which look — we know it’s the lifeblood of our economy here and lifeblood of our economy nationally, and it’s the major job creator in the country,” he said. 


“So under a program that we created in this bill, there is a forgivable loan,” he continued. “There’s a disaster loan; there are other types of loans that are out there. There is one loan [repeated] that is forgivable, and it was created under this bill that the President signed into law on Friday.” 


Graves said the loan will be available possibly within a week or two through “our local banks.” The loan isn’t something only the Small Business Administration (SBA) has available, Graves said. 


“It’s called a modified 7-a loan program,” he continued. “If you’re an employer, you can go ahead and get that loan. But then all of your payments to employees for payroll — which includes healthcare and retirement — your payments for rent, your payments for mortgage interest and utility costs, that part of your loan can be forgiven or effectively turned into a grant, helping incentivize and helping to provide some assistance to employers to keep those employees on the payroll, keep them in the business.”


The Congressman also explained the changes to unemployment. “And then the last major component of this is a change in unemployment insurance for those that have been laid off or lost their jobs,” he said. “Three changes in the unemployment program: One, the funds start faster. Number two, there’s a $600 a week supplement. And number three, there’s about a 13 to 14-week extension or a longer availability of unemployment.”


“And of course we want everybody working, but it does provide a lifeline to those that have lost their jobs, who’ve been laid off as well,” added. 


Chaisson also asked Graves what the oil and gas industry can expect over the next few weeks. 

“So we saw prices actually drop below $20 a barrel today. It did not come back up last time I looked,” Graves said. “These prices are unsustainable for us as you know, and we’re going to see some significant impact in the energy industry.” 


“One of the unique things that’s happening right now is this isn’t just coronavirus related — the decrease in demand because people are staying home like they should,” he continued. “This is Russia stepping in and waging economic warfare against the United States. They are dumping a glut of oil on the market intentionally trying to bring prices down, intentionally trying to kill the American energy industry because they see us as a threat.”


South Louisiana is exporting natural gas to 35 different countries around the world, Graves noted. “They view that as a threat: this whole energy independence, energy dominance strategy that the President has been carrying out. So they’re trying to kill our industry,” he said. 


Graves laid out the measures taking place to combat the interference. 


“So [U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette] has delayed sales of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We’re now trying to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We’re looking at some relief for royalty rates. We’re looking at other ways to store product to where we can withstand this glut that’s on the market, absorb that and get through this,” he said. “And of course, one of the most important components is diplomacy. And we’ve been working with the White House and others to engage Saudi Arabia and some of the leaders in OPEC to stop this glut on the market that they’re causing right now.”