Coronavirus Puts Thousands Out of Work
Organizations mobilizing to support tourism and hospitality workers and businesses
When the world is in crisis, it’s easy to give in to the feelings of anxiety and fear. Sometimes you need to, maybe for 30 minutes, before you pull yourself back out of that place and refocus on moving forward.
It’s important to remember no one is alone in this. Just as what we fear is a virus spread from person to person, our solutions depend on human collaboration. We all stay at home. We all work at the grocery stores. We all work in the ICU. We all write legislation to serve our people. We all sing “Happy Birthday” to our loved ones over the phone. And here in New Orleans, we all miss second lines, festivals, restaurants, museums and even the smell of Bourbon Street.
And we’re going to have to keep missing those things. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, situation is going to get worse before it gets better. The numbers reported yesterday show 1,388 cases and 46 deaths statewide, and 675 cases and 26 deaths in New Orleans alone. State leaders are predicting hospitals may run out of beds by next week.
Last night, President Trump approved Gov. John Bel Edwards’s request for a major disaster declaration. As a result, federal funds will be given to Louisiana to reimburse the state for money spent to battle the coronavirus, which amounts to $71 million so far. The money will be managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and will be distributed to the state and parishes for disaster unemployment assistance, disaster case management and crisis counseling, as well as funds for medical, dental, childcare and funeral expenses, and statewide hazard mitigation to respond to the spread of the new coronavirus.
The federal money will go a long way to mitigate the lack of sales tax revenue the city and state are able to generate during the Stay at Home Mandate and the worldwide drop in tourism. Before that money gets to Louisiana, citizens need to be able to eat and pay their rent.
According to a 2018 labor market study by JFF, the hospitality and tourism sector employs more than 72,000 people in greater New Orleans, comprising 12 percent of all workers. The reality of the Stay at Home Mandate means the majority of those people have been furloughed or laid off from their jobs.
Locally, many organizations are working to support those people today. The Louisiana Hospitality Foundation partnered with United Way of Southeast Louisiana and Entergy to create the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund to give grants of $500 to unemployed workers in the tourism and hospitality industry.
“We know there is an urgent need to respond to the financial struggles of hospitality workers across Southeast Louisiana based on the overwhelming requests for help we’ve already received,” said Jennifer Kelley, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation executive director. “And while we recognize we won’t be able to provide assistance to everyone, we hope these grants will provide some relief to industry professionals while we work to develop additional funds and strategies.”
Hospitality workers can apply online at UnitedWaySELA.org/HospitalityCares or call 211 to complete the application over the phone. Applications will be reviewed within 10 business days of submission.
The New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) began a fund to help local gig economy workers, who make up 8 percent of the workforce in Orleans Parish according to NOLABA. It has committed $100,000 and is asking those who can to contribute to grow the fund to $500,000. Workers eligible for these funds include ride share drivers, musicians, arena workers and festival production staff. Click here to learn more and apply online.
Greater New Orleans Foundation, in partnership with the Louisiana Restaurant Association, also began a new fund called the Service and Hospitality Family Assistance Program. These funds are for service and hospitality workers who worked more than 32 hours per week in the industry and have children or qualified dependents. Grants of up to $1,000 will be distributed per family. Learn more about the online application here.
For small business owners impacted by coronavirus, the U.S. Small Business Administration has a disaster assistance program that gives low-interest loans to provide small businesses with working capital. More information can be found online, by calling the customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Do you know of any additional resources? Please share them in the comments.