From the Executive Director

As Black History Month draws to a close, we are reminded of the disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on black families, hit hard by higher rates of COVID-19 mortality, eviction and poverty. A nationwide study found that black renters accounted for 32% of all evictions, while only being 20% of the renter population. The disproportionality is even more stark in our own caseload – 89% of our eviction cases are for people of color. While we can't always impact everyone who needs civil legal aid, we always fight for fair and equitable access to the legal assistance our clients need.


Thank you for your continued support in the fight for fairness.


Laura Tuggle

Executive Director

SLLS Gives a Voice to Our Smallest Clients

Our Child in Need of Care (CINC) unit provides civil legal representation to children who have entered the foster care system, through no fault of their own, as a result of abuse or neglect by their parent or guardian. Our average CINC client is a first grader aged six and a half. CINC cases are often long and taxing, as our attorney's fight to achieve permanent stability and safety for very small children who have experienced significant trauma in their lives. 

SLLS Delivers for a Struggling Tenant

SLLS Staff Attorney Zach Simmons and his client Ms. Parker

Our recently launched Pro Bono Innovation Fund Security Deposit Theft Project is already delivering successes for our clients. Out of no where, Ms. Parker began receiving inexplicably high water bills.  While she was able to get out of her lease and find a new place to live, her former landlord refused to refund her $1,000 security deposit, even though she hadn't caused any damage to the apartment. Zach Simmons, her SLLS attorney, sent a demand letter to the landlord requesting the full refund of her security deposit and a portion of the outrageous water bill. He was recently able to deliver the refund check for over $1,400 from the landlord to Ms. Parker on her birthday. 

SLLS Partners with the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center to Fight Evictions During the Pandemic

We are excited to announce that we received funding for a second Gillis Long fellowship, focusing on tenants rights, in response to our increase in housing cases due to the pandemic. Chris Kerrigan, a recent Loyola graduate, is our project attorney. 


Davida Finger, Clinic Professor & Associate Dean of Students, said "The Gillis Long Poverty Law Center is pleased to partner with SLLS on critical civil justice work including housing.  The challenges renters have faced during the pandemic are tremendous. The Housing Justice fellowship is one way to increase representation and access to justice and bolster the important legal work that SLLS does." 

New Report Finds that Civil Legal Aid Works!

A new report from the Louisiana Bar Foundation found that Civil Legal Aid Provides a 918% Social Return on Investment to Louisiana. For every $1 invested in Louisiana's civil legal aid services, programs deliver $9.18 in immediate and long-term consequential financial benefits. “We know best how to direct civil legal aid to have the most impact for Louisianans in need of legal help. Access to civil legal aid makes Louisiana’s communities stronger – schools, businesses, government agencies and the state all benefit from resolving civil legal problems,” said LBF Executive Director Donna Cuneo.


You can read more about the report here

Tax Tips for Your Pandemic Payments

Tax season is just around the corner. Visit the SLLS blog here for important information how the COVID-19 Stimulus Payments and Unemployment Benefits may impact your taxes. 

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.

Updated February, 18, 2021

Do I need to pay taxes on the stimulus payments I received from the federal government?

No. The federal government sent two rounds of stimulus payments to eligible individuals and their dependents under 17 years old. The first round was for $1200 for adults and $500 for eligibile dependents, and the second round was for $600. This is different from unemployment benefits you may have received. These payments are NOT taxable income, so you do not have to declare them on your 2020 return or pay taxes on them.

What if I did not receive my stimulus payments?

If you did not receive your stimulus payments:

  • Were you claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return? That person may have received the stimulus payment for you.
  • Did you receive a “Refund Anticipation Loan” (RAL) when you filed your 2018 or 2019 return? The tax preparer may have received the stimulus payment in a bank account set up for you. You should contact the tax preparer.
  • Were you divorced or separated in 2020? Your spouse or former spouse may have been sent the stimulus payment.
  • If you did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return and did not register on the IRS website, the IRS may not have known where to send your stimulus payment.

If you have not received your stimulus payment, or believe someone else wrongly received your stimulus payment, you should electronically file a 2020 tax return now, claiming the credits for the stimulus amount.

  • You can do this even if you did not work in 2020 or did not have enough income to need to file.
  • If your claim for a stimulus payment refund is denied by the IRS, you will have 30 days to submit a written appeal.

Do I need to pay taxes on my Unemployment Benefits?

Yes. Unemployment benefits are like wages, and you must report it as income on your tax return if you earned enough income to need to file taxes.

  • You should have federal and state income tax deducted from your unemployment benefits, if possible.
  • The Louisiana Workforce Commission should issue you a 1099, which will tell you how much you received. You’ll use this amount when you file your taxes. If you were not sent a 1099, use your own records to report.

If I withdrew money from an IRA or Retirement Account, will I need to pay taxes on it?

Yes. It is taxable income that must be reported on your tax return.

  • Normally, if you withdraw money before the age of 59 ½ years, you must pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty as well as the usual income tax.
  • Due to the pandemic, Congress has changed the rule for withdrawals made in 2020, so you do not have to pay the early withdrawal penalty.
  • You can also spread the withdrawal over 3 years, if you cannot pay tax.

Organizations that Provide Free Tax Preparing and Filing

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA Program)

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide provides taxpayers 60 and older with low income with free tax help.

You can also go to to search for other free providers.

Be sure to protect yourself when filing your taxes or having them filed for you!

If you are filing your own taxes:

  • You can prepare your own taxes using software or forms downloaded at this website. You will have to create an online account to do this and will need to provide an e-mail address.
  • Low Income taxpayers can file electronically for free on this website.

If you are having someone else prepare and file your taxes:

  • Watch out for fraudulent tax preparers putting false information on your return or stealing your identity. Putting false information on your tax return is a crime. Only you are responsible for your tax return. If you receive a fraudulent refund, YOU will have to pay it back, not the tax preparer. Fraudulent tax preparers may try to steal your identity and file false returns in your name. The IRS has put together a directory of qualified tax preparers here.
  • It is illegal for a tax preparer to charge you a percentage of your refund. The preparer should quote you a set fee.
  • The tax preparer must ask you for documentation of your income, deductions, etc. If they do not, your tax return will not have accurate information.
  • DO NOT sign blank or incomplete returns. Your preparer must sign the return with you.
  • DO NOT allow the preparer list a bank account under their name for your refund to be sent to.

The SLLS Tax Clinic cannot electronically file your current tax return.

SLLS may be able to offer free help if you:

  • Federal taxes and cannot repay them.
  • Are being audited.
  • Need to file for Injured or Innocent Spouse relief.
  • Have been the victim of ID theft with the IRS.

To apply for services, call Lynnette Tillis toll-free at (877) 521-6242, extension 225, or apply on our website here. 

*Please note, our services are only available for residents of the following parishes: Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge Parish, East Feliciana Parish, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana









New City of New Orleans Emergency Rental Assistance Application

The City of New Orleans has announced that Orleans Parish residents can begin applying for up to 12 months of emergency rental assistance on Monday, February 15, 2021. It will be first come first served, so apply early. If you already applied for assistance through the City of New Orleans/TCA, this is a new program, so you should apply again.
The following are eligible:
  • Households with an income at or below 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) which is approximately $42,000 for a family of four;
  • Households that have experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19; and
  • Households that are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
You can apply starting Monday 2/15  here (scroll down until you see City Of New Orleans COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program), or by calling (504) 658-4200.
Similar programs are launching statewide in the coming weeks and we will do our best to keep you updated here.

The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only.

If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Covid Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.