Announcing new library-friendly “LibGuides” and automated online forms in Spanish

Security Deposit Refunds: This Spanish language information guide includes links to LawHelp Interactive interviews in Spanish to generate letters for different stages in the deposit recovery process. The letters appear in a dual-language English/Spanish format.

Unpaid Wages: This Spanish language information guide includes a link to a LawHelp Interactive interview in Spanish to generate an unpaid wages demand letter in a dual-language English/Spanish format.

Unemployment Compensation: This unemployment compensation (UC) guide is in Spanish to inform people about UC basics. Since the guide is based on our English LibGuide with forms for judicial review, those links and related instructions are there. Forms and related information are in English, along with the text of selected statutes. Automated court forms are in English.

September 2020 Newsletter

 

Some people in the following Louisiana jobs can get $250 from the state:

  • Grocery store, convenience store, and food assistance program workers;
  • Bus drivers; gas station staff members; sanitation workers; residential, commercial and industrial solid waste and hazardous waste removal workers; storage and disposal staff;
  • Many medical workers:
    • Nurses, assistants, aides, medical residents, pharmacy staff, phlebotomists, respiratory therapists, and workers providing direct patient care in inpatient and outpatient dialysis facilities;
    • Housekeeping, laundry services, food services and waste management workers in hospitals and healthcare facilities;
    • Long-term care facility staff members, outpatient care workers, home care workers, personal assistance providers, home health providers, home delivered meal providers, and childcare service providers;
    • Public health epidemiologists
  • Many “first responders”:
    • Emergency medical services (EMS) staff, fire and rescue members, and law enforcement officers;
  • Mortuary service providers; or
  • Veterinary service staff

The full list of eligible jobs can be found here.

This is separate from the federal stimulus check and unemployment benefits. Even if you received those, you may still be eligible for the $250 if you meet the requirements below.

To get the check, you must apply. Funds may run out, so sooner is better. If you are eligible, apply as soon as possible.

If you have questions about the program or the application, you can call the Louisiana Department of Revenue at (855) 307-3893 or visit this website.

Who can get the $250?

Workers who meet all of the following requirements are eligible:

Is a Louisiana resident with $50,000 or less in adjusted gross income on their 2019 Louisiana Income Taxes

  • You do not need to be a Louisiana resident for a certain amount of time to be eligible.
  • If you did not file a tax return for 2019, your 2018 tax return will be used. If you were not required to file a Louisiana income tax return those years, that will not keep you from being eligible. But you will have to turn in other documents.

Worked outside of their home for at least 200 hours between March 22, 2020, to May 14, 2020

  • You must have provided in-person services outside of your home to members of the public (customers, clients, patients, etc.)

Employed in one of the jobs listed on or after March 11, 2020.

Submitted their application for the program to the Louisiana Department of Revenue before October 31, 2020.

*If you are mailing your application in, it must be postmarked by October 31, 2020.

How do I apply for the program?

You can apply online at frontlineworkers.la.gov, or you can apply by printing and mailing the form at http://revenue.louisiana.gov/TaxForms/R-6186%20(7_20)F.pdf to:

Louisiana Department of Revenue
P. O. Box 5128
Baton Rouge, LA 70821

  • You cannot apply by phone.
  • Mailed applications will not get a receipt. The department will follow up if there are questions or if you are denied. If you are approved, your payment will be sent to you.
  • Do not apply more than once (like once online and once by mail). The agency says this will delay any payment. Only the first application will be reviewed. All others will be denied.
  • Each eligible worker will need to submit their own application. For example, you and your spouse would both need to apply separately.
  • Filing copies of your paycheck stubs for March 22, 2020 to May 14, 2020 when you apply can speed up your application.

What is this program called?

The Frontline Workers COVID-19 Hazard Pay Rebate Program or Covid-19 Hazard Pay.

I worked part-time in one of the eligible jobs. Can I get the $250?

Maybe. If you worked at least 200 hours from March 22, 2020 to May 14, 2020 and meet the other program requirements, and the money does not run out, you will be eligible. Both part-time and full-time employees can get it.

I did not work the 200 hours in one job. Can I combine hours from two jobs on the list?

Yes. As long as you also meet the other requirements, you will be eligible. There is no requirement that the 200 hours need to be all for the same employer.

I worked in-person in one of the eligible jobs, for at least 200 hours after March 22, 2020. But I was laid off before May 14, 2020. Can I get the payment?

Yes. As long as you meet all of the requirements of the program, you will be eligible. For example, if you were laid off on April 30, 2020, but already worked 200 hours since March 22, 2020, you will still be eligible.

I received unemployment benefits in March 2020, but I worked in an eligible job beginning in April for over 200 hours by May 14, 2020. Can I get the payment?

Yes. You qualify if you received unemployment, as long as you meet the requirements.

I am self-employed doing in-person services in an eligible job. Can I get the payment?

Yes. Self-employed people are eligible if all of the requirements are met. You may need to submit more documents.

How will I receive my payment?

If you give your bank information on your application, you will be paid by direct deposit. If you do not send your bank information, you will be sent a paper check.

How will I know if there are issues with my application?

If the Louisiana Department of Revenue has questions about your application, it will send a letter. Be sure that your application has your current address. If you moved after filing your application, call the Department at (855) 307-3893.

If the Department sends a follow-up for more information, you must respond within 30 days or your application will be denied.

Some common errors that can delay payment include:

  • Applying more than once
  • Putting more than one worker on an application
  • Not sending all documents the Department of Revenue requested in a follow-up letter

If your application is denied, you will receive a letter.

 

Updated September 18, 2020.

If you have received a letter from the Louisiana Workforce Commission saying that your unemployment benefits will end soon or that your benefits have ended, you MAY be eligible for an extension of benefits.

How do I know if my unemployment benefits are going to end soon?

You may have received a notice through your HIRE account or to your email address stating that you are “approaching the maximum payable amount for your benefit year.” This notice states that you should check your claim balance under your claim summary.

This is because Claimants are only allowed to receive benefits for a specific period of time. The length of time will depend on what unemployment compensation program you are under.

  • If you are receiving benefits under regular unemployment compensation you may only receive unemployment benefits up to 26 weeks. Once you have received your benefits for 26 weeks, you will stop receiving payments from LWC.
  • If you are receiving benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) you may only receive benefits up to 39 weeks. People who are already under this program have not exhausted their unemployment benefits since this program runs to December 26, 2020

What if I did not receive a notice, but my unemployment benefits have stopped?

There may be other problems with your unemployment account. To check if you have used up all your benefits, you should log into to your HIRE account and follow these steps:

  • First: Once you have logged in, you will need to click the “Menu” button at the top right corner of your page. You will then see a list of 5 Click on the one that says “Services for Individuals.”
  • Second: You should now see another list of 14 You will need to click on the option, “Unemployment Services,” and you will be given another list of options.
  • Third: You will now need to scroll down until you see the option named, “Claim Summary,” where you will be taken to a new page.
  • Fourth: Once you are on the new page, you need to scroll down where it says “Claim Details,” There you will find different information about your account. Under “Claim Benefit Balance,” you will know the amount of funds you still have for your unemployment benefits.

Is there any way that I can reapply for unemployment benefits?

You cannot refile for unemployment benefits until your benefit claim year ends. This is different for each claimant.

Is there another way for me to receive unemployment benefits?

Yes. You may qualify for an extension of benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. If you qualify, you may continue to receive benefits for an additional 13 weeks. This benefit is available through December 31, 2020.

How do I know if I am eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation?

Individuals must have used up all 26 weeks of their available benefits with a benefit year ending on or after July 1, 2019. In addition, you must not have rights to any state or federal unemployment compensation and must be available and actively searching for work.

People on “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” already qualify for up to 39 weeks of benefits. So they do not get Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. If you are on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance your notices say this.

Some people are not required to do work searches. For more information about work searches click here.

How do I apply for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation?

As soon as you see that your “Claim Benefit Balance” has a zero balance you will need to refile for your benefits. However, you will not be allowed to refile until the following SUNDAY of the last week you receive a weekly benefit amount. The system will not allow you to refile earlier. You may refile for benefits through your HIRE account by following these steps:

  • First: You must login into your HIRE account.
  • Second: Once you have logged in, you will need to click the “Menu” button at the top right corner of your page. You will then see a list of 5 Click on the one that says “Services for Individuals.”
  • Third: You should now see another list of 14 You will need to click on the option, “Unemployment Services,” and you will be given another list of options.
  • Fourth: You will now need to scroll down until you see the option named, “File a Claim,” where you will be taken to a new page.
  • Fifth: Once you have refiled you should receive a “monetary determination” notice and a notice of eligibility for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

If you refile and do not receive any information about your application for extended benefits SLLS can assist you with this process if eligible for our services. You can apply for our services at our webpage or click here for more information.

How much may I receive for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation?

This amount may vary depending on your situation and wage history. People who may qualify for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation will receive the same weekly benefit amount that would have under their original 26 weeks of unemployment compensation ($10 to $247).

What happens after I have exhausted my Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation?

If you have reached the maximum amount of benefits for your regular unemployment compensation and your Pandemic Emergency Unemployment compensation, you may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance if your unemployment has been affected by COVID-19.

These are some examples of COVID-19 related reasons:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking medical diagnosis;
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has COVID-19;
  • A child or other person in the household for which you are responsible for is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work;
  • You are unable to reach your job because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • You cannot reach your job because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
  • You were scheduled to commence employment and do not have a job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19;
  • You have become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19, and/or
  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Other reasons related to COVID-19 may be recognized by the Agency depending on the facts revolving your situation.

Those who are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are allowed to receive benefits for up to 39 weeks.  Once you have received benefits for 39 weeks, you will stop receiving payments. Though if you have already received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits you may not qualify again.

Again if you are having problems and need legal assistance, you can apply for our services at our webpage or click here for more information.

Updated September 18, 2020

The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) has made some old requirements enforceable again. One of these requirements includes the work search requirement which began on August 9, 2020.

What is a work search?

A work search is when you contact an employer about a job.

How can I contact an employer about a job for my work search requirement?

Different places of employment use different ways for people to apply for a job. You may contact an employer by;

  • Emailing an employer or place of employment;
  • By faxing an employer or place of employment;
  • By using a place of employment’s online website or form;
  • By calling an employer or place of employment, and/or
  • By attending a job fair in person or virtually.

How many work searches must I do in order to continue receiving my unemployment benefits/ pandemic unemployment assistance?

Each week you are required to complete three work searches. This means you will have to contact 3 different employers or apply for 3 different jobs each week.

How do I tell the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) about my work searches?

You will need to report your work searches when you are filing your weekly claim certification. When you are done answering questions for your weekly claim certification, it will direct you to different new pages.

The first page will be titled, “Employer Information.” It is important that you give as much information about the job you applied to as best as you can. The information you will need to provide is the following:

  • The employer’s name or name of the job you applied for;
  • The trade name (which means type of job/occupation); AND
  • The address of the place you applied to. This will include the zip code, city, and state of the employer you contacted.

Other information you can give to complete your work search if you have it:

  • The way you contacted an employer or how you applied for the job;
  • The first and last name of the person you contacted about the job;
  • The phone number you may have used to contact the employer;
  • The email address you emailed to contact the employer (if you emailed the employer);
  • The website you used to contact the employer (if you used a website to apply for a job); and/or
  • The fax number you used to reach an employer, (if you faxed a job application).

The next page will be titled, “Job Title.” You will need to provide the following:

  • The name of the job title you applied for. Example: Cashier, Secretary, Nurse, etc.
  • The kind of job occupation you applied. Example: Healthcare, Hospitality, Transportation, etc.

The next page will be titled, “Application Information.” You will need to provide the following:

  • The date you contacted the employer or place of employment.
  • The status of your application for the job.
  • The day of your first interview (if a date for an interview was set).
  • The day you went to your first interview (if you attended an interview).
  • The day you were told you did not get hired or refused the job (if this applies to you).
  • The last day that you worked at the new place of employment (if this applies to you).

Providing this information is important and it is important that you answer as accurate as you can to prevent any future problems. The Louisiana Workforce commission will keep a record of your weekly required 3 job searches, but it is important that you keep a personal record of these searches for your protection against any future problems with the agency. Keeping a personal record of these searches is even more important if you are filing your weekly claim certifications through the phone.

You can go to www.louisianaworks.net. There your will find different job openings available for your apply and complete your work search requirement.

Other information:

  • If you answered “No” to the weekly claim certification question, “Were you able and available to work?” and it is due to any of the following COVID-19 related issues:
    • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking medical diagnosis;
    • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
    • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has COVID-19;
    • A child or other person in the household for which you are responsible for is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work;
    • You are unable to reach your job because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19;
    • You cannot reach your job because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
    • You were scheduled to commence employment and do not have a job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19;
    • You have become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19, and/or
    • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Then you may enter in each work search, “COVID-1, COVID-2, and COVID-3” as your three employer contacts. The rest of the spaces asking for additional information can be left blank.

Some claimants are exempt from the Work Search requirement. The agency will not ask them to complete the Work Search requirement. The Louisiana Workforce Commission has stated that there is no need to contact the agency if you are not asked to complete a work search.

If you have any concerns or are having problems with your unemployment benefits you can apply for our services at our webpage or click here for more information.

 

Updates as of September 18, 2020

With schools reopening in different ways, unemployment claimants may no longer have to be home to ensure that their children are safe or can continue their education. Under regular unemployment compensation, claimants cannot continue to receive benefits if they are forced to stay home to care for their children. However, the federal Department of Labor has provided guidance to all unemployment agencies on how to work with this new issue for most unemployment claimants to continue receiving their benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Can I still receive my unemployment benefits if my child’s school is open, but is only providing virtual/online teaching?

  • If you are receiving your unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fund you may still qualify for your benefits as long as you are the only person providing care for your child or children and caring for your children keeps you from working. A school or facility that is only offering online teaching or a virtual learning program is considered to be closed for the purposes of the CARES act.
  • If you are receiving unemployment benefits under another unemployment program, such as regular unemployment compensation, you may need to be switched to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in order to continue receiving your unemployment benefits.

Can I still receive my unemployment benefits while my child’s school is only offering virtual/ online teaching, but I am also teleworking at home?

You may not continue receiving unemployment benefits if you are able to telework at home despite your child’s school only offering virtual/online learning.

The only exception to this rule is if your child’s virtual learning is affecting your ability to telework causing reduced hours or keeping you from teleworking all together. Any earnings you have made each week must be reported to the Louisiana Workforce Commission in your weekly claim certifications.

My child’s school is only open on certain days of the week and the rest of the days the school only offers virtual/online learning for my child (commonly known as the Hybrid Model).  Can I still receive my unemployment benefits?

You may qualify for your Pandemic Unemployment Assistance as long as you are the only person providing care for your child or children and such child care is required for you to continue working. A school or facility that is only offering a hybrid model of teaching is considered to be closed for the purposes of the CARES act.

However, you cannot receive any benefits if you are teleworking from home or you are receiving any form of paid leave from your former or current employer.

My child’s school is offering two options for my child’s school’s learning. The options are for them to attend school virtually full time or for them attend school in person full time. I have chosen for my child to attend school virtually full time. Can I still receive my benefits?  

If your child’s school is giving you the option as to what method you want your child to attend and you have chosen for them to do virtual learning you cannot receive your unemployment benefits if that keeps you from being able and available to work.

Schools offering two options to parents are not considered to be closed for the purpose of the CARES Act and those receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. There may be a few exceptions to this rule, but each case is different based on one’s individual circumstances.

Some exceptions to his rule may be:

  • Your child’s school completely recloses all in-person learning options after attempting to physically reopen for the school year.
  • Your child or another member of your household has become sick with COVID-19 and you must care for them.
  • You have become sick with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms and are seeking medical attention.
  • You have been told to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 related concerns.
  • Other reasons may apply, but each case is different as LWC should review each claimant’s application individually based on their own circumstances.

If you have any concerns or are having problems with your unemployment benefits you can apply for our services at our webpage or click here for more information. You may also review the federal guidelines for more information by clicking here.

 

 

Updated September 18, 2020

Recently, a computer error notified up to 7,600 people they had to pay back the unemployment benefits they received. The State has reported that they are working on correcting the issue and that the majority of people who were sent these letters by mistake will not owe anything.

But the time to appeal for a “fair hearing” about an unemployment notice is 15 days from the date on the notice. So people who got this notice should appeal within the 15 days unless they receive a correction from the state before then.

HOW DO I APPEAL?

Appeal right away to protect your rights! You only have 15 days to submit your appeal. Your letter will include the date you must submit your appeal by. If you miss the deadline, you may lose your right to appeal.

The letter will provide instructions on how to appeal the overpayment. You can appeal:

  • Online through your HiRE account at louisianaworks.net (This will be the fastest option.)
  • Email— Complete the "I appeal" section on your letter, scan the page, and email it to ClerkAppeal@lwc.la.gov.
  • Fax—Complete the "I appeal" section on your letter, and fax it to 1-225-346-6077.
  • Postal mail— Complete the "I appeal" section on your letter, make a copy, and mail it to:

Louisiana Workforce Commission
Attn: Appeals Tribunal
P.O. Box 94094
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9094

*Make sure your appeal is postmarked by the appeal deadline provided on your letter.

If you decide to file an appeal, you should still file your weekly certifications.

You can also call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services to see if we can give you free legal help. Call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to apply for free legal assistance. But go ahead and appeal before you hear back from Legal Services. Because of the large number of notices, they may not be able to return your call in time.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I APPEAL?

If your appeal is submitted before the deadline on your letter, a telephone hearing will be scheduled with an Administrative Law Judge, unless the agency fixes the problem ahead of time.  Be sure you are available for your hearing. If you cannot make the scheduled time, please contact the agency as soon as possible so that you don’t automatically lose your appeal.

You will be sent a letter with the hearing date, time, and the reason for the hearing. Be sure to read this letter carefully.

The judge must also explain in writing your rights at the hearing. These rights include the right to:

  • speak for yourself
  • have witnesses with important information speak
  • bring papers to show the judge
  • question any witness your former employer brings
  • object to improper evidence or testimony

If you are not given the opportunity to appeal or if you are not given information on your hearing, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

At the hearing you will have the opportunity to explain why the overpayment is incorrect or why the amount the State claims that you need to repay is incorrect.

Except for amounts paid by the federal government, you should  also be sent papers to fill out about your income and expenses, and have the chance to explain why you cannot pay the overpayment amount and request a waiver. The federal benefits, where hardship does not matter, are:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (paid to some people for weeks since January whose job loss was caused by the pandemic and who could not get normal unemployment benefits because they quit the job (for example to care for a child out of school or because of a Covid test) or because they did not have enough “W-2” wages, or had to repay the state for a past overpayment
  • Lost Wage Assistance (the extra $300 paid for a few weeks in August and September)
  • Disaster Unemployment Compensation (the extra $600 a week that was paid from late March through July)
  • Some other unusual benefits

 

 

Early in the pandemic, Governor Edwards ordered that legal deadlines were “suspended.” In other words, the Governor “stopped the clock” on the deadlines to respond to a lawsuit.

Typically, when you are served court papers, you have 10-15 days to respond. The amount of time you have to respond depends on the type of court the case was filed in and the way that you were served.

  • If the case is in a Justice of the Peace Court, City Court, or Parish Court, you have 10 days to respond, unless you were served by the Secretary of State. If you were served by the Secretary of State, you have at least 15 days to respond.
  • If the case is in a District Court, you have 15 days to respond.
  • The time is even longer, and complicated, if you were served out of state (“long arm service”).

Under the Governor’s Orders, these deadlines were suspended until July 5, 2020. If your deadline to respond fell between March 17, 2020 and July 5, 2020, you were given until July 6, 2020. For example, if your normal deadline was April 1, 2020, you had until July 6, 2020.

If you do not respond to a lawsuit before the deadline, a “default judgment” may be entered against you. This can give the other side everything they asked for in the case.

If a default judgment was granted against you between March 17, 2020 and July 5, 2020, it’s possible that this judgment may have been illegal.

If you believe that a default judgment against you may have been improper, you should speak to an attorney. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may be able to provide free legal assistance. You can apply by calling 1-844-244-7871.

What can I do if a default judgment was entered against me?

A Petition for Nullity might be filed to remove the judgment. This is a written request to the court asking that the judgment be vacated.

A Petition for Nullity has some complicated legal rules. It is best if a lawyer can draft it for you.

If a default judgment was granted against you between March 17, 2020 and July 5, 2020, a Petition for Nullity may be able to get it removed, since the deadline for you to respond was extended to July 6, 2020 under the Governor’s Order.

But the Petition for Nullity does not make it so you win the suit. It just gives you a chance to start over and file a response. Eventually, the suit can go to judgment again, after both sides have a chance to make their legal claims. In some cases an attorney may advise you that filing for nullity will not help, because they see no way for you to win the case. Sometimes like this, filing for nullity would just increase court costs you have to pay.

The court will want a filing and service fee to file the petition. More information on what you can do if you cannot afford to pay the filing fees and other court costs can be found here.

What happens if I don’t do anything?

If you do not dispute the default judgment, the other side will be able to collect on it (like any other judgment). This may include garnishing your wages or bank account, or getting liens against your property. The judgment may also show up on your credit report and hurt your credit score.

Why should you be concerned about Coronavirus if you have a court appearance?

You might have filed a court case or had one filed against you and:

  • Have been ordered by a doctor to quarantine for 14 days.
  • Be waiting for results of a Covid test you took because you had symptoms or have been near someone with Covid.
  • Be in a high risk group the Governor has ordered to stay home, like people over age 60, with heart conditions, diabetes, asthma, immuno-suppressed, kidney disease, etc. Heath officials also recommend these people stay home because the coronavirus can be so much worse for them.
  • Have someone else in your home with one of these conditions, so that you need to avoid getting the virus to keep them safe.
  • Have a fever for any number of reasons –many courts will no longer let you in if you have a high temperature.
  • Have been near someone with the virus. Some courthouses have guards who will not let you in unless you answer safety questions before you can come in.
  • Not have a car and have been avoiding public transportation because you could be exposed on a bus or when riding in someone else’s car or taxi, OR
  • be trying to keep as safe as possible from the virus.

What are courts required to do to minimize the risk from Covid-19?

What the courts need to do is different in different situations. In general, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered that video hearings (such as Zoom) should be used as much as possible for court hearings. Some courts are doing most of their hearings that way.

When the courts require people show up in person, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered the courts must take the steps needed to allow social distancing. Under the Governor’s Orders, courts must also enforce mask-wearing throughout the facility.

What should I do if I am concerned about Covid-19 and get a notice to come to a court hearing?

If you get a notice to go to court, you can call the Judge’s staff (but not the judge) and find out what can be done to keep safe.

How do I get the number to reach the Judge’s staff?

You can find the number:

  • On the notice telling you to appear in court (sometimes);
  • On a website for the court (usually)
  • In the following directory for courts if it is not a Justice of the Peace court: https://www.lasc.org/press_room/annual_reports/reports/2019_Guide_to_Louisiana_Courts.pdf
  • In the following directory if it is a Justice of the Peace court: https://www.ag.state.la.us/JusticeCourt/Directory

What questions should I ask the court staff?

  • What the Covid screening procedures will be at the courthouse (who is not allowed in)
  • What to do if you are not let into court for your hearing
  • What to do if you are in any of the situations discussed above (ordered to stay home, supposed to stay home, protecting someone in your home is at high risk, etc.)
  • (if you need it and would be able to do it) Whether you can do your court hearing by Zoom or something like that, and what the court’s instructions are for arranging and doing that.
  • (if you need it) Whether you could get your hearing delayed for a couple of weeks until you are out of a quarantine, or until you would have your test results back,
  • If you have a condition that is at high risk for the coronavirus, whether you can participate by Zoom or something similar as an “accommodation” for your disability, and if not what accommodations the court will make. (Most conditions that put people at high risk also entitle people to “accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
  • What to do if you need to participate by Zoom or something like that, but do not have a smartphone or computer with internet to do that, or do not know how to do that.
  • How you can get evidence to the court, under its current procedures.

What might you look out for in the courthouse?

  • Whether people have their temperature checked and answer Covid screening questions before entering, to know how safe it is being near others in the courthouse
  • People should be socially distanced (usually 6 feet), even in line for Covid screening, metal detectors, and elevators.
  • There should social distancing both inside and outside the courtroom. People should not be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on benches, or be seated in areas where people have to be closer than 6 feet away when they walk past.
  • People in elevators and stairways should be socially distanced, so people are not close together.
  • Everyone should be wearing a mask properly, covering both their mouth and nose, except for court employees whom no one has to get within 6 feet of.
  • In hallways, there should be markings (on the floor or the walls) to show people where to stand so they are 6 feet apart while waiting.
  • Does a sign or other obvious instructions tell people who are not allowed into the courthouse how to alert the court to not take action in their case while they are kept out?
  • Check in and Covid screening should be easy to follow, even if you do not speak or read English.

What might you look out for in the courtroom?

  • Everyone should be wearing masks (unless they separated from everyone else by plexiglass or no one ever gets within 6 feet of them). This includes a client and the lawyer who is representing them and people in cases, attorneys, the public, court staff, and judges.
  • If people are asked to unmask when addressing the court, they are MORE than 6 feet from others
  • Courtroom chairs where people wait or watch are spaced or marked off so people are socially distanced
  • The court employee telling people where to go in the courtroom is making sure that clients sit 6 feet apart
  • Podiums and microphones are sanitized between use by different people

What might you look out for during a videoconference court proceeding?

  • There should be an option to use a video conference (like Skype or Zoom), not just to participate through a phone call.
  • It is best if everyone else on the case participates remotely, not just you. This puts everyone on equal footing and allows everyone the same access to exhibits, hearing the evidence, etc.
  • There should be instructions about how evidence (especially documents) can be submitted. Someone for each side should be able to see all evidence presented.
  • All remote participants should be able to see the judge and whoever is speaking at all times.
  • If you cannot hear or see part of the proceeding speak up about that so it is “on the record.”
  • The judge should not be distracted during a remote hearing (taking phone calls, checking personal devices, etc.

What if I need help scheduling a remote hearing or getting another accommodation?

If you have been told to come to court, but that would mean a higher risk of getting Covid than you have in your day to day life, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may be able to help you. This includes if you would face a risk in getting to court. (For example, if you would have to use public transportation or get a ride from someone you are not normally close to.) Call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.

What should I do if I cannot login in to my videoconference court hearing or if I miss it?

If you requested a hearing by video, you must provide the court with a good phone number and email address that you will be checking daily. The information for your videoconference hearing will likely be sent by email. If your contact information changes, you should let the court know as soon as possible.

You should check your email often (at least daily) leading up to your hearing, since the court may send information about your case and you may need to take action quickly.

Do not ignore the video hearing. If you cannot make the hearing, notify the court in advance (unless it was something like an emergency hospitalization).

If you cannot connect to the hearing using the information sent to you, contact the court immediately. If your connection drops during the hearing or if you are kicked off of the call, immediately try to get back in. If this does not work, contact the court.

If you are able to connect but cannot see or hear the other people on the call, do not just leave the meeting. Try to let the other people on the call know about the issues you are having by either speaking or using the “chat” feature on the program or calling the judge’s staff while the hearing is still happening.

If you do not connect for your hearing and do not answer if the court tries to contact you, a judgment may be entered against you. This may require you to file additional motion(s) and paperwork with the court, or else lose your case.

Other tips for your virtual hearing can be found here.

What should I do if I missed a court hearing because of Covid?

First call the judge’s staff. (Where to find the number is set out above.) Ask if a decision was made by the court on your case, and if so what can be done to undo it.

If you need help and do not have an attorney on the case, call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.

What if I saw something that was not Covid- safe while I was at court?

People do not generally have a choice about whether they are involved in court proceedings. (This is different, for example from going to a store or a restaurant where you might be able to “vote with your feet” and choose another restaurant or store if you feel that things are unsafe.)

To try to get things fixed you can:

  • Report it to the judge
  • Report it to the State Fire Marshal, who enforces the Governor’s rules about social distancing and Covid safety. The State Fire Marshal will do an on-site visit.
  • Report it to the city or the parish:
    • For New Orleans: You can call 311 to report violations.
    • For Jefferson Parish: use its Covid compliance complaint form. The Parish will refer non-compliance to the Fire Marshal. https://www.jeffparish.net/departments/public-information-office/covid-19/see-it--say-it---compliance 
    • For Baton Rouge: call 225-389-8875 or use its Covid compliance form. The Baton Rouge Police Department looks at reports of non-compliance. https://www.brla.gov/2198/Covid-19-Compliance-Form

You can also call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services if you are in a court case and need help keeping safe. Call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.

 

What provisions of the CARES Act Eviction Moratorium Remain in Effect?

What provisions of the CARES Act Eviction Moratorium Remain in Effect?

On September 4, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a moratorium (ban) on certain residential evictions through December 31, 2020. For more information on this new moratorium and a link to the required declaration form tenants must fill out, click here.

In addition to the CDC moratorium, certain provisions of the previous eviction moratorium under the CARES Act remain in effect. This document outlines the eviction protections under the CARES Act that remain in effect as of the date of this post.

What provisions of the CARES Act remain in effect (Updated 8/28/2020)

Frequently Asked Questions on CDC Order Halting Evictions

*A suggested declaration containing the required language is available for download here.

The federal  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order halting certain residential evictions due to the Covid-19 public health crisis until December 31, 2020. The order is here.

If you need legal advice on how this order may apply to you, contact:

  • For Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles, and Plaquemines: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Housing Line at (504) 529-1000 ext. 223.
  • For other parishes throughout Southeast Louisiana (including and east of Baton Rouge): COVID-19 helpline at 1-844-244-7871

When does the order become effective?

The order took effect on Friday, September 4, 2020.

What properties are covered?

The CDC order applies to all residential rental properties. But as set out below only certain people are protected.

This is different from the earlier CARES Act eviction moratorium, which was based on whether the property had a federally backed mortgage or federal subsidy. The CDC order does not apply to commercial rental properties (for example, businesses). The CDC order also does not apply to evictions from hotels and motels.

What tenants are covered?

A person is a “covered person” under the order if they give their landlord a declaration under penalty of perjury that:

  1. The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
  2. The individual either
    • expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint return),
    • was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or
    • received a stimulus check under the CARES Act;
  1. The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a layoff, or extraordinary  out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  2. The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other necessary expenses; and
  3. Eviction would likely render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.”

A suggested declaration containing the required language is available for download here. Every adult member of the household must fill out a declaration.

*Remember that it is a criminal offense to lie on a declaration under penalty of perjury!

Does the declaration have to be notarized?

No. It is sworn, so if you sign it but it does not apply to you, you can be prosecuted for perjury because of the language on the form.

What evictions are covered?

Evictions for non-payment of rent are covered. You can still be evicted for:

  1. Engaging in criminal activity on the property;
  2. Threatening the health or safety of other residents;
  3. Damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property;
  4. Violating any building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety; or
  5. Violating any other lease requirement other than payment of rent.

Can I still be evicted because my lease is expired?

The order does not say whether you can be evicted because your lease is expired and the owner wants possession. But if people could be evicted because they are month-to-month, the purpose of the order would be totally undermined. A judge will have to decide this issue unless the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clarifies it.

You would still have to meet the other requirements on the declaration.

If you are evicted for lease non-renewal it might be important to have an attorney familiar with the CDC order represent you in court. (Call the number above to see if SLLS can provide you with free legal help).

When should I give my declaration to my landlord?

You should provide the form to your landlord as soon as possible. The order does not provide a deadline, as long as it is before you are physically evicted.

How should I give my declaration to my landlord?

You should keep some form of proof for any court that you gave the declaration to your landlord. For example you can:

  • Text a picture of the signed declaration to your landlord, then screenshot the text message.
  • Email a picture of the signed declaration to your landlord, and print the email before going to court
  • Send the signed declaration to your landlord by certified mail and keep a copy of the mail tracking.
  • Make a copy of the declaration and have your landlord sign it to indicate receipt when you turn in the original.

Can I give something to my landlord to explain the importance of the form?

Here are some helpful documents explaining the CDC eviction moratorium that you can use:

What evidence do I need to back up the declaration?

The order only requires that you provide the declaration to your landlord. However, you should expect that judges may ask you questions about the declaration, so you should be prepared bring the following to court if the landlord files or has filed for an eviction:

  • Talk about, and even better, show your monthly budget with expenses you cannot avoid like utility bills, medical expenses, childcare, and food.
  • Explain, and even better, show how you used your stimulus payment if you did not use it to pay rent.
  • Talk about, and even better, show evidence of trying to make partial payments if your budget allows. For example you can bring screenshots of text messages, other evidence that you tried to work out a payment plan or make payments, or money orders for partial rent.
  • Talk about, and even better, show evidence that you have attempted to obtain rental assistance, for example a list of places you called and when you called them, or paperwork from an agency where you applied for assistance.
  • Show that your income is below $99,000, for example a document showing that you receive SSI, food stamps, the letter showing you got a Stimulus payment, a pay stub, or a printout showing the amount of your unemployment benefits.
  • Explain why you have nowhere to go if you get evicted, besides doubling up with family or friends, or going to a shelter.

What if my landlord already got an eviction judgment but I am still in my apartment because the constable has not come out yet?

If the eviction was for nonpayment of rent you are protected, ONLY IF you quickly take the step to become a “covered person” by giving the declaration to your landlord. So be sure to provide it right away. Then you must call the court and the constable to provide proof that you gave the declaration in order for them to stop the eviction. If this is your situation you should consider contacting an attorney right away. You may qualify for free legal aid from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at (504) 529-1000 x.223.

Here is the CDC suggested declaration form.

If you provide the declaration, you would be protected because the order says that ‘Eviction’’ means “any action by a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or a possessory action, to remove or cause the removal of a covered person from a residential property.” After your landlord gets an eviction judgment, if you do not vacate the landlord has to go back to the court to file a “warrant for possession” or “writ of ejection” for the constable to come out and remove you. The order would bar the landlord from getting the warrant and putting you out, as long as you are a “covered person.”

Can my landlord give me a notice to vacate?
Landlords are prohibited from taking "any action" to remove a covered person from their home, unless it is for a reason allowed by the order (for example criminal activity or violation of the lease other than nonpayment). Therefore landlords are prohibited from giving notices to vacate for reasons that are not permitted under the order, including nonpayment of rent.

Is my rent still due?

Yes, your rent is still due, and your landlord can charge you late fees if you do not pay. Your landlord can sue you to collect a rent debt, or can report it to collections which could affect your credit or ability to get future housing.

Remember, to be a “covered person” you must be able to declare under penalty of perjury that you will attempt to make payments as close to the full amount of your rent as possible given your financial circumstances. Consider repeatedly getting money orders for the amount of rent that you can afford. For example, when you get your unemployment, paycheck, or social security check, think about how much you can put toward rent, even if it is a very small amount. Offer the money orders to your landlord and be sure to get a receipt if they are accepted. If you have the ability to text or email a picture of the money orders to your landlord, do so. If your landlord will not accept partial payment, keep the money orders somewhere safe so you can show a judge that you tried to make payments and that you still have that money available to give your landlord.

What Happens when the Order Expires on December 31, 2020?

If you still have unpaid rent on January 1, 2021, your landlord will be able to evict you for nonpayment of rent. Your landlord can also sue you to collect a rent debt, or can report it to collections which could affect your credit or ability to get future housing.

What if I give my landlord the declaration, but my landlord still files for eviction?

You can apply for free legal services from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services at the numbers below. See “What evidence do I need to back up the declaration?” above to start compiling documentation that you might need in court to show that your landlord cannot evict you.

  • For Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Charles, and Plaquemines: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Housing Line at (504) 529-1000 ext. 223.
  • For other parishes throughout Southeast Louisiana (including and east of Baton Rouge):

        COVID-19 helpline at 1-844-244-7871

Additional resources

 

Current as of August 17, 2020

Schools across Louisiana have begun to re-open or are scheduled to start in a few weeks. Each parish has its own reopening plan, which may include in-person or virtual classes, or a mix of both. It is important to check the reopening plan for your parish. Information on the reopening plans for the parishes our office serves can be found here. Within the parish plan, many schools will be making their own decisions about many things that can affect students’ health. What the students are exposed to is likely to affect others they live with.

The issues below can also apply to daycare or after-school programs.

This is information only, NOT legal advice. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is not currently providing legal assistance on these issues. If you need legal advice, you should talk to an attorney. You may be able to get assistance from one of the organizations listed in this article.

What are some examples of unsafe conditions at schools during the coronavirus pandemic?

Because of COVID-19, many common school activities are now unsafe. They may now spread the virus. Here are some things that can help spread the virus:

GENERAL

  • There are no pre-screening measures to get on the school bus or when entering the school, such as temperature checks or questions about COVID-19 symptoms.
  • There are no instructions to stay home for those who are sick or recently exposed to a person with COVID-19. Instructions should cover both staff and students.
  • COVID-19 informational signs are not displayed at school in highly visible locations (like school entrances and restrooms). Signs should describe how to stop the spread of germs.

MASKS AND OTHER MEASURES TO HELP STOP THE SPREAD

  • Teachers, staff, and students over age 8 are not wearing masks or other face coverings. These ages are usually in 3rd grade and above.
  • Students and teachers do not have scheduled hand washing times, particularly before and after activities like eating, using shared supplies, toys, or equipment, entering school, and before leaving school.
  • Students do not sanitize or wash hands on entering a classroom, or there is a line with people closer than 6 feet to do this.
  • Students are made to switch classrooms multiple times a day/ for every class period.
  • If teachers are changing classrooms, they are not washing or sanitizing their hands on entering the class.
  • Frequently touched surfaces such as playground equipment, door handles, or sink handles are not cleaned and disinfected after every use.
  • Drinking fountains are still being shared and not cleaned after every use.
  • There is no limit on sharing objects such as school supplies, equipment, or toys.
  • Lockers:
    • are still used,
    • are not regularly disinfected OR
    • that are close together are used by students at the same time.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

  • There are not 6 feet between students or students and teachers:
    • When at their desks
    • When moving in classrooms
    • When waiting to enter or leave the school, schoolyard, or cafeteria
    • To get into and inside bathrooms
    • In cafeterias
    • In lunch lines
    • If they line up to leave the class room, including for breaks, transfers, dismissal, to go to buses, etc.
    • On the school buses; students are made to share a seat with others or seats aren’t being skipped to add space between students; OR a full size the bus has more than 33 people on it at a time.
    • During PE or recess, if schools are still scheduling these activities (PE is not being required by the Louisiana Department of Education this year.)
    • During extracurricular activities such as sports and club meetings.

What can I do if I think my child’s school is unsafe?

You can file a complaint directly with the Louisiana Department of Education by emailing ldoecovid19support@la.gov.

You can also call the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office to file a complaint for any unsafe conditions at 800-256- 5452. Other ways of reaching the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office can be found here.

Your local school board, local, parish or state health departments, or your city, parish or state government may also be able to help. If you don’t know where to report, you can contact your city or parish councilperson, or state representative, to explain your concern and find out where to report.

My child has a disability or a condition that places them at high-risk from COVID-19. Who can I contact?

People of any age with certain conditions are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The list of these conditions can be found here.

If your child suffers from any of these conditions or has another documented disability, the following may be able to help:

  • The “504 Coordinator” for your parish’s school board.
  • Disability Rights of Louisiana may be able to provide legal assistance, and can be reached at 504-522-2337 or toll free at 1-800-960-7705. You can also apply for services here.

What if my child is in assigned to learn from home, but is not being given a good education?

Virtual learning will be safer for students. But it, too, has issues, including:

TECH ISSUES

  • Your child's school or your parish school board may say that you missed the registration deadline for virtual learning registration, or that you did not meet the requirements to get parish-provided tech to use for virtual learning.
  • Some students may not have access to Internet service or the devices needed for virtual learning (computers, laptops, etc.)
  • If you registered your child for virtual learning, your parish school board should have asked if you had the required equipment at home, so that it could be provided from the school board if necessary.
  • If your child is attending in-person school, but their class or school has to quarantine, your child should be offered virtual learning for the time they cannot attend school in-person
  • Information on Internet/broadband and telephone assistance can be found Assistance is not guaranteed and there are eligibility requirements.
  • The connection may be slow, may disconnect, or there may be a “lag” from what the teacher is showing and what your child sees.
  • The software used for virtual learning may be difficult to figure out and practice using the programs may be needed.

INSTRUCTION

  • Virtual learning may not provide individual assistance for your student, or some issues they are having with the material may not be noticed as easily.
  • Submitting assignments online instead of completing them in class in front of a teacher may make it harder to spot difficulties your child is having with certain skills or materials.
  • If your child’s school is using a “hybrid” schedule, where they are learning in-person on some days and virtually on others, this can cause a lot of disruption in learning.

If your student is experiencing these or other issues with virtual learning, it is important that you communicate with their teacher and school, so that your child does not face any disciplinary action or other consequences.

If your child has special needs and is not receiving proper accommodations, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) may be able to provide legal assistance. SPLC can be reached at 504-486-8982.

 

Additional Resources

RESOURCES ON DISCUSSING COVID-19 WITH CHILDREN

Guides for talking to your children about the virus can be found here.

Free activity book for discussing Covid with young children can be found here.

LEARNING TOOLS AND RESOURCES

The Louisiana Department of Education’s parent guide for virtual learning can be found here.

Free learning and activity resources can be found here.

The Louisiana Parent Training & Information Center (LPTIC) provides parents with information and training about supporting children with disabilities. LPTIC can also connect you with resources related to assisting children with disabilities during virtual learning. You can contact the Center by calling 800-766-7736 or 504-888-9111 or find a list of resources and activities here. Additional resources for supporting children with special needs can be found here.