The Louisiana Workforce Commission distributed almost $54.8 million in federal pandemic benefits to almost 180,000 state residents during the first two weeks of the program, the LWC says.

Federal pandemic unemployment compensation provides an additional $300 per week on top of regular state unemployment benefits. Congress and President Donald Trump approved the program during the closing days of last year, and the Workforce Commission began distributing FPUC funds Jan. 4.

Across all programs, the Workforce Commission has distributed more than $166 million in unemployment benefits since the beginning of this year.

Louisiana has doled out a total of around $7 billion in unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic began, mostly federal dollars. While federal relief has helped to prop up the nation’s economy, the programs have proven to be tempting targets for fraud.Louisiana experienced a “massive fraud attempt” in November and has denied more than 100,000 questionable claims, officials say.

Louisiana processed 20,302 new claims for state benefits last week, about 5,000 less than the week before, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

For the week ending Jan. 2, Louisiana had 17,119 new unemployment claims, the most of any state in the nation, the federal government says.

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