Week in Review, April 13-17: SBA Fund Runs Dry; Officials Consider Plans to Reopen Economy

Virus Outbreak Louisiana Easter
Betty Ann Hickey, master of ceremonies for Easter Mass, enters St. Louis Cathedral, where Mass was led without congregants due to the stay at home orders for the coronavirus pandemic, in New Orleans, Sunday, April 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS – A week ago, there were more than 18,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 700 deaths in Louisiana. Now, there are more than 23,000 cases and more than 1,200 deaths.

Despite those numbers, officials at all levels believe that social distancing efforts have been successful enough in lowering the number of new cases to justify making careful plans to reopen sectors of the economy. Lafayette went first. The answer to how many people should get back to work and how quickly depends on who you ask.

“We’re not going to get back to normal until we have a vaccine and some effective therapeutic treatments,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference. “But, we’re not going to wait until then to start reopening the economy.”

Here are some notable developments from the week:

Fidelity Bank, Gulf Coast Bank & Trust, Home Bank and other community banks worked overtime to get Paycheck Protection Program funds to some of their customers … until the federal program ran out of money. Now, politicians in Washington, D.C. are debating details of the next round of help.

Thousands of N.O. small businesses –  like Green Coast Enterprises, Blue Cypress Books and Backatown Coffee Parlor – have been applying for loans, pivoting to provide new services and making plans for the post-COVID-19 new normal.

Small businesses near the site of the Hard Rock Hotel collapse – like Palm & Pine – are worried that the long-delayed demolition of the building will add to their economic woes by taking place after COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease.

The owner of New Orleans Secrets Tours has been getting creative to help her out-of-work guides and wonders why her industry is being left out of some hospitality relief funds.

Gov. Edwards confirmed that Louisiana schools will continue to teach remotely for the remainder of the school year. In addition, both Essence Fest and Jazz Fest announced that they are cancelling plans to produce modified versions of their events this fall after Mayor Cantrell recommended no more festivals in 2020.

Some good news: Experts say the COVID-19 crisis is nothing like the housing crash of 2008, most Louisiana auto insurers are giving rebates to their customers and Apple finally made a cheap iPhone. And, if you’re really feeling cooped up in your house, go ahead and book your spot on the new Viking Mississippi River cruise. You just have to wait until 2022 for the first launch. …

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