‘Hospitality Cares’ Offers Legal Support, Counseling to Workers

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NEW ORLEANS – United Way of Southeast Louisiana, the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation and Entergy Corporation announced the completion of $2.4 million in Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund crisis grants distributed to more than 4,800 recipients.

The fund now begins phase two of assistance with the rollout of legal support and counseling services for hospitality industry professionals in partnership with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and the Loyola Center for Counseling and Education.

UWSELA and partners expect to provide more than 3,000 hours of mental health treatment, 800 hours of civil legal service and training to 150 support staff and volunteers to aid in the long-term recovery of hospitality workers.

“COVID-19’s devastating and lasting impacts on the region’s hospitality industry have created significant legal and mental health issues for the tens of thousands of workers still struggling to recover and make ends meet,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA President and CEO. “We’re proud to join with our partners to support an industry that has given so much to the people here at home and around the world.”

LCCE’s virtual counseling will be available in individual, couple and family settings to industry professionals on a sliding scale. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

The partners also aim to create three targeted service industry therapeutic support groups to serve additional clients. 

“Prior to the pandemic, Louisiana already ranked high in the overall prevalence of mental health issues and low in access to mental health care. The pandemic has added real threats to hospitality workers’ mental health,” said Sarah Zoghbi, LCCE Co-founding director. “The LCCE’s unique structure and support from Loyola University New Orleans allows us to remove barriers to access, without sacrificing quality of care, for a segment of our community in dire need of help,” added Dr. John Dewell, LCCE clinical director.

Alongside mental health support, civil legal aid is an essential but often overlooked critical solution to the stabilization of vulnerable hospitality workers adversely impacted by COVID-19. Workers are facing eviction, consumer debt challenges, employment issues, domestic violence, foreclosure and other civil legal problems as a result of job loss or reduced household income.

SLLS will provide one-on-one direct civil legal aid in specific cases and offer monthly online events and informational sessions to workers on hot legal topics.

“Since mid-March 2020, we have seen a 670% increase in requests for legal assistance for unemployment compensation claims and a 300% increase in vulnerable people adversely impacted by COVID-19 seeking legal help for evictions. At least 50% of people seeking help in the wake of the pandemic are hospitality workers,” said Laura Tuggle, SLLS executive director. “With this critical support, SLLS will draw on its significant disaster experience to respond to the range of civil legal problems that struggling families need to stabilize their lives.”

Free counseling and civil legal aid are open to anyone in the hospitality industry whose job or wages have been impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, recipients of the legal assistance must earn at or below 200% of U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines.

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