Not only must Louisiana solve for its now-growing unemployment benefit trust fund deficit, it must do it in the right way to prevent fiscal affront to taxpayers.
This week, Louisiana started borrowing for that from the federal government. A temporary federal law allows that to continue interest-free past Sep. 30 through the end of the year. In effect, that means the no-cost borrowing can continue through Sep. 30, 2021 as long as no borrowing then occurs until the end of 2021; if not, all of 2021 debt gets levied. On Jan. 1, 2021, it must pay interest at the long-term Treasury bond rate for any 2020 balance, an amount due which may be adjusted daily, up to November 2022, when additionally a penalty increasing the federal employer rate kicks in, which can keep increasing the longer more debt remains. Moreover, charged interest payments can’t come from the fund itself, but from an external source only; in Louisiana, a “solvency tax” triggers to pay off interest whenever the fund is forecast to fall below $100 million, applied from six to nine months later for at least three months.
As of now, the state forecasts – unofficially – a deficit of $236 million by year’s end. In other words, taxpayers will take a hit unless the debt is zero by year’s end, which seems unlikely.