Top 10 Business Stories in the Year of COVID-19

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Illustrations by John Holcroft

When we look back on this past year, it can be hard not to see a seemingly never-ending array of challenges, beginning with the one word that changed everything: pandemic. Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Louisiana on March 9, New Orleans was hit hard and fast, quickly recognized as a “hot spot” for the disease. At one point in March, Louisiana was experiencing the fastest growth in new cases in the world and Orleans Parish had the highest number of deaths per capita of any county in the nation, while Gov. John Bel Edwards was warning that hospitals could be overwhelmed in a matter of days.

Now, nine months later, the pandemic is still with us, still touching every part of our lives and economy. But if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also battled through a record-setting hurricane season. As a region that depends so heavily on tourism, trade, oil and gas, and small business, we continue to struggle. However, as you will also see in the following pages, we are also a region of resilience, a region of fighters accustomed to facing disaster head-on. This giant small town is all too familiar with what it takes to unite against a common enemy and then celebrate together on the other side.

As we look back at what we’ve been through, and the challenges that still remain, we do so with the knowledge that there will be another side to this, and hopefully those days lie ahead in a brand-new year.


 

01
Pandemic Pauses New Orleans Tourism

Normally, the only time Bourbon Street looks this empty is a few hours after the police have cleared the streets at midnight on Mardi Gras. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, however, quiet on the famed party strip has become just another “new normal” in a year with so many of them.

The first case of COVID-19 in New Orleans was confirmed on March 9. On March 22, as cases grew to 837 statewide, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Similar moves were happening nationwide. White-collar workers began doing their jobs from home and many businesses — such as restaurants, bars, salons and gyms — closed their doors or changed their business models dramatically.

Around the country, organizers canceled events that required large groups of people to gather in person. This included sporting events, conventions, meetings, concerts, festivals, cruises, weddings, funerals — and even church.

In New Orleans, which more or less hosts large groups of people for a living, it was like COVID hit a “pause” button on an industry that, in 2019, attracted 19.75 million visitors and prompted spending of $10 billion, according to research firm D.K. Shifflet & Associates.

Experts estimate that, pre-pandemic, spending by visitors made up approximately 43% of the city’s sales tax collections. This makes sense if you consider New Orleans normally hosts more than 18 million visitors each year but has less than 400,000 permanent residents. It’s estimated that because of the pandemic the city has been losing around $200 million of visitor spending each week.

As the dangers of the pandemic became clear (to most if not all), the New Orleans convention and meeting business closed up shop. Leisure travelers stayed home. Flights in and out of the city’s shiny new billion-dollar airport terminal, which had just debuted in November, dropped precipitously. Port NOLA, which welcomed more than a million cruise passengers in 2019, suspended cruise operations through the end of October and possibly longer. Things got really real on April 16 when Jazz Fest officially pulled the plug for 2020.

New Orleans doesn’t have the country’s biggest tourism sector. Las Vegas, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Orlando, Florida, are all bigger. But just like COVID-19 is more dangerous to people with pre-existing conditions, the pandemic was more damaging to a city like New Orleans, which is less wealthy than its competitors. That means there’s less private and public money in the state to support business owners and workers. It also means the state has the country’s lowest weekly unemployment benefits, which max out at less than $250.

An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 workers in New Orleans ordinarily make their living doing things that only need doing when the city is full of out-of-towners eating, drinking, schmoozing, sightseeing and sleeping it all off. The pandemic put a stop to all of it with shocking speed.

Although numbers for the fourth quarter of 2020 aren’t yet known, occupancy of the city’s roughly 25,000 downtown hotel rooms will be down more than 50% from 2019. In much of the spring and summer, occupancy in downtown hotels was actually in the single digits. If it weren’t for hurricane evacuees living temporarily in local hotels, the numbers would be worse.

Many of the city’s 1,400 restaurants —especially those reliant on bustling hotels — have been scraping by with revenue from takeout or other special programs. (See more about restaurants below.)

Even eight months after the pandemic began, many music clubs and bars are still closed up tight. Museums and attractions are operating with lower attendance and strict health protocols. The Saints were excited to finally have fans in the Superdome for an October game against the Panthers, but the total number allowed was only 3,000.

Meanwhile, the businesses that support the industry — everything from linen suppliers to beer distributors, farmers markets to the farmers themselves — are feeling the pain. The whole tourism ecosystem has been affected by the pandemic in ways that no one could have predicted and that will change it forever.

Stephen Perry, CEO at destination marketing organization New Orleans & Company, said recently that the industry doesn’t expect to reach 2019 levels of activity until 2024. That leaves small business owners and unemployed workers alike waiting anxiously to hear about another round of federal or state aid.

“COVID-19 has hurt the New Orleans economy worse than any city I can think of,” said Tulane business professor Peter Ricchiuti. “The things we do so well: restaurants, festivals, hospitality, sports and even energy, have taken big hits. How much longer can these entities hold on? The lack of a stimulus program could be the death-knell for a number of local businesses.”

The good news is that even though the pandemic has already lasted longer than anyone would like, it won’t last forever. Many expect that after a slow recovery, the city will get back to the business of throwing the best parties in the world.

“When the time comes, Port NOLA, along with our local tourism and hospitality partners, will be ready,” said Jessica Ragusa, communications manager of the Port of New Orleans. “We know that when the impacts of COVID-19 subside, New Orleans and Louisiana will still be a place people from all over want to visit.”

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Top Non-Covid-19 News in 2020

Medical Marijuana Expansion – Effective Aug. 1, any doctor in Louisiana became able to recommend the use of medical marijuana for any debilitating condition. In June, Wellcana Group, Louisiana’s only grower currently selling cannabis, reported that it intended to discount prices for the second time this year.

Hard Rock Hotel Collapse – On Oct. 12, 2020, the one-year anniversary of the partial collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel, the project’s owner and developer, 1031 Canal Group, filed suit against multiple contractors and insurers. In August, the third, and final, body was recovered from the wreckage.

Dredging Finally Approved – On July 31, officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Louisiana and the Port of New Orleans signed an agreement to deepen the Lower Mississippi River to 50 feet, from the current depth of 45 feet. The $250 million project will stretch from the Port of Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico. 


 

02
Louisiana Lenders Managed PPP Loans, a Lifeline for Small Businesses

On April 3, New Orleans lenders began accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program, a $669 billion business relief fund established by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The program, which stopped accepting new applications on Aug. 8, offered small businesses a potentially forgivable loan to cover the equivalent of two and a half months’ payroll expenses. A portion of the funds could also be used for rent, utilities and some other essential expenses and still qualify for forgiveness.

Though the program is overseen by the Small Business Administration, it fell to the nation’s roughly 5,000 FDIC-insured banks to devise their own systems to process large numbers of applications quickly and make loans using their own capital — even if the approved loans are ultimately backed by the SBA.

Robert Taylor, the CEO of the Louisiana Bankers Association, said that banks and other lenders in the state made 78,866 PPP loans for about $7.5 billion.

“Compare that to a similarly sized state like Kentucky, where 50,655 PPP loans were made for $5.3 billion,” said Taylor. “Louisiana bankers did an extraordinary job in extraordinary times. They rose to the needs of businesses and helped to keep the economy going.”

Bankers had to overcome many challenges to do their part to get the program off the ground, said Taylor.

“It was extremely difficult, and in some situations, faith and trust in the U.S. government had to be substituted for hard facts on some of the decisions bankers had to make to assure customers could quickly be helped,” he said. “The forgiveness process was very long in development but once released has worked reasonably well.”

In the early days of the program’s rollout, it became clear that smaller community banks were faster than the big national banks at setting up systems to process loans. There were reports of bank employees working until the wee hours to get ready for launch.

“I think that we’re fortunate that we’re not really a huge organization. We’re big but we’re not so big that it’s hard to get things done,” said John Zollinger, Home Bank’s market president, at the time. “Our executive management has thrown a lot of resources at this and taken people from other departments and moved them into areas where they can assist in assessing these requests.”

Banks earn a fee of 5% to handle a PPP loan up to $350,000. For a loan between $350,000 and $2 million, the number drops to 3%. And it’s 1% for loans higher than that. Plus, banks will earn a 1% interest rate on loans not eligible for forgiveness under PPP rules.

There are conflicting opinions about whether banks made too much or too little from PPP loans. Some bigger banks, however, have announced they are donating any profits beyond their costs.

Another PPP controversy erupted over the perception that big national restaurant chains like Shake Shack and T.G.I. Friday’s and even the Catholic Church had unfairly benefited from PPP loans designed to be a lifeline for small businesses. There were also worries that the program was reimbursing businesses to be open during a moment in the pandemic when there were no customers to serve, but adjustments to the rules seemed to have addressed most concerns.

Now, at the end of year, the forgiveness process is well underway.

“The proof is gonna be in the pudding when it comes to documenting the forgiveness part and sending us our money,” said Zollinger back in April. “But, in the meantime, we’ve been fairly well compensated to hold the money for a period of time.”

Now, banks wait to see if they will be processing any more rounds of loans related to future federal aid while they ponder all the changes that came their way in 2020. No doubt, 2021 will provide more interesting twists and turns.

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03
Oil and Gas Industry Sees Record Drop and Volatility

As the pandemic quickly brought the national economy to a standstill, the price of oil plunged to a record low. The cost to have a barrel of U.S. crude delivered at the start of 2020 was roughly $60. By May, that cost had dropped to negative $37.63. Analysts say most American producers need prices of at least $45 to $50 a barrel to break even. For much of the year, prices have struggled to get near half that number.

An oversupplied market met with historic low demand due to stay-at-home orders, a reality that hit Louisiana hard as the state is home to the largest concentration of crude oil refineries in the U.S. A report released in October by the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association noted the state’s oil and natural gas industry was responsible for 249,800 jobs and $73 billion toward the state’s GDP in 2019.

Since the pandemic, the industry’s extreme volatility has led to layoffs. At least four Louisiana companies laid off approximately 600 workers in April and by early June, Louisiana oilfield workers had filed more than 9,800 first-time unemployment claims, representing approximately 28% of the average employment for the industry across Louisiana in 2019.

In early November, Shell announced it was shutting down its refinery in Convent, Louisiana — located midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — after failing to find a buyer. Shell noted efforts to redistribute as many of the 700 full-time jobs as possible.

There was some good news, however, as some companies announced expansions, including Renewable Energy Group, which announced a minimum $825 million capital investment in October to expand its renewable diesel refinery in Geismar, Louisiana. With the investment, REG will retain 66 existing jobs and create 60 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $45,000 plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in another 321 new indirect jobs, for a total of 381 new jobs in the capital region and surrounding areas.

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04
Affordable Housing Crisis Reaches Critical Levels

The New Orleans metropolitan area has been struggling for a while with an affordable housing crisis, but the current pandemic has now made the situation even more critical. As the region joined the rest of the world in orders to shelter in place, job losses became concentrated on those that could afford it least.

In an article published in the October issue of Biz New Orleans written by Andreanecia Morris, the executive director of HousingNOLA, noted that more than 50,000 households were struggling to pay rent in New Orleans. That same month, HousingLOUISIANA released a report that warned the state was only months away from a housing foreclosure crisis, noting “when the CARES Act foreclosure protections expire as early as January 2021, Louisiana will need $140 million per month to stabilize homeowners” and “28% of Louisiana homeowners (nearly 110,000 households) were unable to pay their mortgage in September. Of that number, 36,000 of the households unable to pay their mortgage in September were located in New Orleans (representing nearly 10% of all owner-occupied households). Of those struggling the hardest, more than 50% make under $50,000 a year and are disproportionately non-white.

The current pandemic also adds a dangerous health component as individuals without homes can have a harder time social distancing and maintaining habits like regular hand washing.

In one effort to help, Mayor LaToya Cantrell put out a press release in October that the city of New Orleans was looking to recruit landlords to list vacant units and allow residents with housing vouchers to use them.

“Right now, more than 1,600 tenants have housing vouchers, but they still don’t have a place to live, despite having over 19,000 vacant properties in the city,” said Morris. “We need landlords to see the opportunity here to not only get their units rented at a fair price, but also to do the right thing and help out our community. It’s time to match up the housing insecure with the vacant properties across our city, and the landlords are the glue that will bring it all together.”

 

05
Pandemic Threatens Restaurants but the Community Fights to Save Them

New Orleans was home to about 1,400 restaurants before the pandemic began. Indications are it will have less than 1,000 once the damage from COVID-19 is complete.

2020 presented a perfect storm for an industry that had been growing steadily in the 15 years since another disaster, Hurricane Katrina, remade the landscape. In March, the city’s $10-billion-a-year tourism business slowed to a trickle. The COVID-19 shutdown emptied out the hotel rooms, convention center and French Quarter. Many workers began doing their jobs from home, which meant quiet streets in the CBD. Plus, health restrictions activated in late March by the governor and mayor meant locals weren’t able to eat inside their favorite restaurants.

So, an enterprise that was already high risk and low margins suddenly became unsustainable. The sudden drop in revenue meant it was difficult or impossible for restaurateurs to pay their rent or mortgages and other expenses, not to mention payroll.

“Right now we’re having $17 days just trying to do takeout when we were having thousand-dollar days before,” said Jessica Knox, owner of Backatown Coffee Parlour, in April.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which began accepting applications on April 3, was an essential lifeline for many restaurant owners, but those funds only covered payroll and other expenses for an eight-week period. Boosted unemployment benefits were helpful to out-of-work restaurant employees, but those funds have run dry.

May 16 brought the Phase 1 rules that allowed restaurants to seat customers inside at 25% capacity. More phases with looser restrictions have followed, but tourists are still conspicuously absent.

The permanent closing of K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in July, meanwhile, sent shockwaves through the community when people realized that being iconic isn’t enough to save a restaurant under these tough circumstances.

So, many locals who are in a position to do so have made it a mission to support their favorite spots by ordering takeout — when that was the only option — or masking up and dining in. Several new delivery services, such as d’Livery NOLA, have made supporting restaurants central to their mission. And diners have been scheduling private meals served in restaurants or residences. The cooler fall weather, meanwhile, has made it easier for patrons to take advantage of the many new outdoor seating options.

The city’s new parklet program offers grants to help businesses build more outdoor seating in front of their restaurants, often in repurposed parking spaces.

The business community has also rallied to show support.

The New Orleans Business Alliance has raised $1.35M so far in direct relief for 1099 workers.

“The outlook for our industry workers is very grim,” said Jennifer Kelley of the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation. “Predictions about when conventions and meetings will return have hotels letting go of staff that were previously furloughed. Everyone is waiting on edge for announcements about if Mardi Gras will happen or not. Phased reopenings are bringing back some of the workers, but we have a very, very long way to go still.”

Quentin Messer Jr. of NOLABA said that he believes in the durability of the local restaurant industry but there are factors that will accelerate the recovery.

“One, there must be federal aid specifically for the restaurant, bars and venues since COVID-19 attacked socialization, which is at the core of those industries,” he said. “Two, we need to reestablish consumer confidence in safe air travel, attending conferences and other large meetings safely. Three, we must demonstrate and message to the world that New Orleans is one of the safest places to visit. And, four, restaurants [must] explore other revenue opportunities.”

 

06
Record-breaking Storm Season Slams Louisiana

The phrase “cone of uncertainty” became a familiar one this year as Louisiana found itself within hurricane striking distance a record seven times in 2020.

First, Tropical Storm Cristobal hit on June 7 as the second earliest tropical cyclone to make landfall in Louisiana. The storm landed just east of Grand Isle, causing flooding and power outages. Next was Hurricane Marco, which fortunately weakened to a tropical storm before landing near the mouth of the Mississippi River on August 24.

Just three days later, Hurricane Laura hit the southwestern part of state as a devastating Category 4 that knocked out power to more than 600,000 and left more than 200,000 without running water. As a result, tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate, with roughly 10,500 finding shelter in New Orleans hotels.

Continuing the record season of Atlantic hurricanes, Hurricane Delta hit as a Category 2 storm on Oct. 9, near Creole, Louisiana leaving nearly 700,000 Louisiana customers without electricity.

While New Orleans was left largely unscathed by the season, the city’s luck ran out on Oct. 28 with the arrival of the third hurricane and fifth named storm to make landfall in Louisiana, Hurricane Zeta. Arriving as a Category 2, but nearly a Category 3, the fast-moving storm brought powerful winds that left 470,000 people lost power, a majority of whom were in metro New Orleans. One death was reported when a New Orleans man was killed by a downed power line. Only five days after the storm estimated insurance losses were expected to reach over $4 billion.

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07
Business, Government Battle Over Pandemic Restrictions

Since the pandemic began, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Gov. John Bel Edwards have made public safety — primarily, slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus — their No. 1 priority. Hence the stay-at-home orders that began in March and the gradual reopening of the economy that began in May and has continued throughout the year.

Business owners and business advocates, meanwhile, have had to prioritize the bottom line while keeping public safety in mind. Many New Orleans small businesses — restaurants, retailers, salons, spas and so on — have suffered terrible financial losses because of the government restrictions. Unemployment levels have broken records. Federal aid hasn’t kept up with needs.

As such, it’s not surprising that there’s been a lot of tension between government and business during this stressful year.

In early days, things looked promising: Edwards and state Attorney General Jeff Landry, two longtime political foes, appeared together in March to tell Louisianians they needed to take the virus seriously and follow health restrictions.

“We are united in this goal. The governor and I are standing here shoulder to shoulder, and that’s how serious a problem we face here,” said Landry at the time.

But, by April, some New Orleans-area business leaders were publicly venting their frustration with Mayor Cantrell’s decisions.

On April 17, Jefferson Parish Chamber of Commerce President Todd Murphy publicly criticized the mayor for failing to collaborate with the business community before she cast doubt on the viability of large gatherings in the city.

“Your surprising decision to offer an opinion on the fate of future festivals and events have far-reaching and damaging consequences,” wrote Murphy in an open letter. “This surprise announcement … likely set back our recovery in several critical sectors by weeks if not months.”

In an email reply, Cantrell said making these decisions “is not a shared role and therefore, we do not share the accountability that comes with it. I suggest you learn more from the experts about where the region is from a data-driven perspective before you chastise me about my decision-making process.”

In the ensuing months, a few business owners tried suing Edwards over the restrictions. Others have taken out full-page ads in the paper. And plenty have filled social media feeds with vitriol over the rules.

And as for that moment of camaraderie between the governor and the attorney general? Well, fast forward to October, when Landry consulted with House Republicans in Baton Rouge as they passed a bill, ultimately vetoed, to strip away coronavirus restrictions, and signed a controversial petition aimed at doing the same.

The fight has moved to the courts and will likely continue into 2021.

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08
Residential Real Estate Soars While Commercial Fate Remains Uncertain

The same COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the New Orleans hospitality industry, caused widespread unemployment and forced many workers to do their jobs from home has also lit a fire underneath the residential real estate market.

Realtor.com said New Orleans has the fifth-highest increase in real estate sales in the United States. Louisiana real estate brokerage Latter & Blum said sales price are up 21% compared to last year and the days on market for homes sold in August was 49 days, down 6% in comparison to last year and reflective of a seller’s market.

“We’ve had quite a few factors that have contributed to this frenzy of activity,” said Lacey Merrick Conway, Latter & Blum president and CEO. “This COVID effect has really put a spotlight on the home. Add to that low interest rates and low inventory and we’ve been on a fast track with lots of activity in all of our markets.”

Since COVID caused many to work at home for the last eight months, people have been wanting more out of their space.

“When you’re working out at home, teaching your kids at home, you want more outside space,” said Conway. “Factors that would have been a deal killer before are a deal maker now. You’re willing to drive another 15 minutes. You want to have multigenerational activities for everybody in the privacy of your home.”

Conway said the burst of sales activity has been “exciting and thrilling” but she doesn’t it expect to last forever.

“It’s nice that we have a bright spot in this whole disaster,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s going to continue at this pace for too much longer.”

Looking ahead to 2021, real estate experts are concerned about how the pandemic will affect commercial real estate — particularly office and retail.

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Top Non-Covid-19 News in 2020

Dixie Beer Opens, Then Changes Name – On Jan. 25, Dixie Beer Brewery officially opened in New Orleans East. First opened in 1907, its revival became a goal of the late Tom Benson, and then of his widow, Gayle Benson. During the racial justice movement this year, Gayle Benson decided to “retire” the name, and in November the brewery’s new name was announced: Faubourg Brewing Co.

LCMC Purchases East Jeff – In August, East Bank voters approved the sale of East Jefferson General Hospital to LCMC Health for $90 million with the promise to invest another $100 million in the hospital over the next five years.


 

09
Healthcare Industry Embraces Telemedicine

The healthcare industry has been through a lot this year as hospital systems, not just locally, but globally, struggled through a wide variety of pandemic-related issues, including securing PPE, treatment supplies like ventilators, and testing equipment, as well as setting up and operating widespread testing locations.

As the pandemic continued to spread, healthcare facilities quickly found they had another problem: with calls for social distancing, people were understandably unsure about receiving in-person care for non-life-threatening issues. The answer came through a rapid increase in telemedicine. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance issued several emergency orders, which included loosening restrictions on telemedicine services.

On May 21, BizNewOrleans.com reported that neurologist David J. Houghton, medical director of Ochsner Health’s digital medicine program, said Ochsner had gone from conducting fewer than 4,000 home-based virtual visits in 2019 to handling almost that many every day.

Houghton said he expected many patients to continue using the service despite stay-at-home rules loosening up, and he is not alone.

SOC Telemed, the largest national provider of telemedicine technology and solutions to healthcare providers, reported in October that New Orleans East Hospital was among its new clients and added that bookings had increased 88% to 105% compared to 2019.

While telemedicine has its limits, it has worked well in some areas, including behavioral health, and just as some companies have discovered the benefits of allowing remote work, healthcare practitioners and patients are recognizing the benefits of telemedicine.

In June, ModernHealthcare.com anticipated that telehealth spending will reach $250 billion by the end of 2020. Where it goes from there remains to be seen.

 

10
Unemployment Fund Struggles

In March, Louisiana’ unemployment trust fund topped $1 billion. By October, thanks to hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs during the pandemic, the fund was down to $100,000. The fund’s rapid depletion caused panic among legislators and businesses this year as current law calls for the fund to be replenished by businesses paying higher taxes — including a surtax of up to 30% on taxable payroll — and for jobless workers to help fill in the gap by taking a hit on benefits. Already paying the third-lowest jobless benefits in the nation at $247 per week, Louisiana’s benefits would have been dropped to the lowest possible, $221.

In an effort to avoid further hardship on businesses and individuals already struggling, on Oct. 20 the House passed a package of measures that ensures unemployment benefits and tax rates on businesses that pay into the fund will remain stable through 2021.

The effort is a short-term fix designed to buy time while legislators remain hopeful that Congress will eventually pass aid to states. In the meantime, Louisiana will pay its unemployment by taking out federal loans that the state will be required to start paying back with interest starting September 2021.

 


No Shortage of Givers
New Orleanians showed up to support their own

With an economy that heavily relies on hospitality, live music and small business and gig workers, New Orleans has been hit extremely hard during the pandemic. As Mr. Rogers once advised, however, in tough times, look for the helpers. Fortunately, there has been no shortage of those. For example, Give NOLA Day this year broke records by collecting over $7.1 million for local nonprofits– over $1.2 million over 2019. The following are just a few of the new efforts we have seen this year.

Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund – Created by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, this fund has generated more than $2.4 million to provide emergency support to hospitality workers.

New Orleans Business Alliance Gig Economy Relief Fund – as of June, this fund had raised $890,000 to provide grants to over 1,000 gig workers.

Lagniappe Krewe Emergency Relief Fund by Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group–provides one-time, $500 grants to hospitality employees and their families.

The Emergency Capital Access Program (ECAP) — The Ford Motor Company and its philanthropic arm, Ford Motor Company Fund, collaborated with the Urban League of Louisiana to provide micro-grants to Black business owners negatively affected by COVID-19. by providing small grants, combined with technical assistance and advisory services, to Black business owners across the Greater New Orleans area.

The Emeril Lagasse Foundation Hospitality Industry Relief Fund —replacing this year’s annual Boudin, Bourbon & Beer event, the fund was established with a contribution of $125,000 by the foundation.

 


 

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