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Today, marks one month since the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Louisiana. Our lives have changed in ways that were unfathomable before now. The impact of the pandemic has been especially severe in southeast Louisiana where so many of tens of thousands of people who lost their jobs worked in low-paying jobs, doing gig work, or in the hospitality industry. Before this crisis, they had little money left at the end of each month. Now they’ve survived weeks with no to little income combined with no job prospects. Even people lucky enough to receive Louisiana unemployment benefits have gotten at most only $249 per month, one of the lowest unemployment benefit rates in the country.
While new federal programs created through the CARES Act and changes made through the Governor’s emergency orders will provide relief for many, it may be months before some in our community receive the help they need. Yet day-to-day needs like food, housing, and medical care will not wait for unemployment checks or stimulus funds to arrive. Low-income and other vulnerable residents often bear a disproportionate share of the impacts of disasters as they struggle to make ends meet for their families and keep a roof over heads.
Thanks to supporters like you, SLLS continues to fight hard for the low-income people impacted by COVID-19. Our advocacy helped suspend evictions in both private and publicly funded housing – ensuring that low-income tenants could be safe in their homes during the crisis. Though all evictions in our state are illegal through April 30, 2020, many tenants have contacted us, fearful that they still will end up on the street with some landlords cutting off their utilities, locking them out of their homes, throwing their belongings on the street, and engaging in other threatening actions. We continue to represent these tenants – advocating for them with their landlords and filing restraining orders in court when needed. Your support has made it possible to keep many of the tenants in their homes.
Click on the links below to read more stories about our work and the experiences of the people we serve:
In addition to providing free legal advice and representation to our clients, SLLS has been working hard to provide reliable legal information to everyone. Federal, state, and local governments are creating new programs, changing program rules, and adjusting procedures quickly to try to curb the effects of the COVID-19. The speed of these changes has resulted in general confusion and rampant public misinformation To address this problem, SLLS has published Know Your Rights resources on several topics available at https://slls.org/news/blog/. We will continue to update and add to these resources throughout the crisis.
SLLS also launched a series of Facebook Live Sessions on COVID-19. You can find the Facebook Live Sessions listed by below by CLICKING HERE. You can also watch the sessions by clicking on the images below.
Are you a homeowner who lost income because of COVID-19? Are you worried about how you'll make mortgage payments? Are you anxious you might lose your home?
This Facebook Live Session featuring Anthony Sartorio, Managing Attorney of SLLS's Foreclosure Prevention Unit, discusses homeowner's rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can't pay your rent- what should you do? SLLS Staff Attorney Hannah Adams talks about the current state of evictions in Louisiana, what to do if your landlord illegally locks you out, and how to talk to your landlord about April rent.
Paul Tuttle, Director of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, discusses Coronavirus/Covid-19 related tax issues and also avoiding common tax scams.
Have you lost your job because COVID-19? Are you trying to get Louisiana unemployment benefits? SLLS Attorney Julia Jack will discuss how to apply for benefits and what to do if your application is denied. She'll also discuss new benefits available under the CARES ACT.
Current topics are available at https://slls.org/news/blog/ include resources to help:
Just as we have during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the BP Oil Spill, the 2016 Louisiana Floods, and other crises, SLLS remains committed to meeting the challenges of COVID-19 by fighting for the rights and protection of low-income people in our communities. Louisiana and its families have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 29, 2020, our state has over 3,500 cases of coronavirus. Over 3 out of every 1,000 residents of Orleans Parish has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Outside of New York, New Orleans has the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 in the country.
With schools closed and businesses shuttering doors, many low-income people, already struggling to make ends meet, have lost their jobs or are unable to work. During the week of March 15, 2020, over 70,000 unemployment benefits claims (compared to an average of 1,500 claims per week during normal times) were filed. Our workers, already stressed by concerns of how to keep their families healthy and safe, now have to also worry about whether they can keep a roof over their heads, whether their family will have enough food to eat, and whether they can access the civil justice system to protect them when they most need it.
As we end the week, unfortunately, the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities only grows. Many now consider New Orleans the coronavirus epicenter of the country. The death rate for coronavirus in Orleans Parish is more than double that of any other county in the United States - including New York. Even after the federal government issued a major disaster declaration for Louisiana, our governor warned that our hospitals are at risk of running out of capacity by the first week of April.
SLLS is dedicated now, it always has been, to fighting for justice for the people we serve. Over the past two weeks, we have been working hard – albeit in different ways – to protect vulnerable people. Thanks to supporters like you, we can continue to provide high-quality legal representation, advocacy, and community education for low-income and vulnerable people in our communities throughout COVID-19 and its long-aftermath. We've included some highlights of this emergency response below.
With the end of this disaster nowhere in sight and with the situation, laws, and policies changing daily, SLLS supporters like you play a vital role in protecting low-income people and ensuring their needs and experiences are heard and considered by policy makers. Your support provides high-quality legal representation to the most vulnerable in our communities - ensuring that they have a safe place to stay, where they can maintain social distancing, and where they know they can access the food, medical care, and other resources they need during this frightening time.
We hope you will considering joining us in this work by making a donation or joining our team of volunteer attorneys, professionals, and law students. You can make a donation online at: https://slls.org/donations/. We've included more information about volunteering below. Thank you for joining us in the fight for fairness. Your role in it is as important now as it ever has been.
In collaboration with community partners, we are fighting for policy changes to mitigate some of the most dire impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on low-income people. We advocated and achieved moratoria on evictions, foreclosures, and Medicaid terminations throughout our state. We continue fighting for the rights of vulnerable people – particularly people who are homeless, people living with disabilities, and the elderly – to ensure they can stay safely in their homes; can access the unemployment benefits, food stamps, and healthcare benefits they need; and can access the courts for emergencies – like protective orders – to keep their families safe. Thanks to advocacy by SLLS and its partners:
Our attorneys are representing clients to address the serious immediate impacts of this disaster. Here are a few examples:
Our SLLS Pro Bono Program is moving to mobilize volunteer efforts to assist in the response. If you’re interested in joining us in our work to fight for fairness for low-income people, please contact: