$1,000 grants planned for some laid-off hospitality workers

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NEW ORLEANS — Starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, some service-industry workers who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown will be able to apply for $1,000 grants from the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

The foundation’s Louisiana Service and Hospitality Family Assistance Fund is designed to help workers who were already making less than 80 percent of the area median income while trying to raise children or care for an elderly family member, GNOF President and CEO Andy Kopplin said.

“We have literally tens of thousands of workers in southeast Louisiana who are losing their jobs and everybody is hurting because of this pandemic,” Kopplin said in an interview with WWL-TV. “And particularly those service and hospitality workers who are the backbone of our tourism economy, who serve us every day. This is an opportunity where we need to be of service to them.”

A similar grant program, the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund, is already underway, funded by $250,000 from the United Way of Southeast Louisiana and $200,000 from Entergy Corp. Kopplin said GNOF would coordinate with United Way to make sure they don’t duplicate grants and reach as many laid-off hospitality workers as possible.

GNOF plans to award at least 650 of the grants over the next 14 days. Qualified families can apply by going to www.gnof.org/grants and filling out an application in English, Spanish or Vietnamese in the next 10 days.

GNOF started the assistance fund using initial contributions of $650,000. New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson provided $500,000 through the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund; McIlhenny Co., the maker of Tabasco Pepper Sauce, donated another $100,000; and Kopplin said GNOF received a pledge for another $50,000 Tuesday morning.

Applicants will be asked to file electronic copies of their driver’s license or government-issued ID, recent paystubs and tax records, to prove that they are supporting dependents and were earning less than 80 percent of the median income before the pandemic.

The 80-percent income threshold varies by parish and the number of dependents in a family. In New Orleans, 80 percent of the area median income for a family of two is $43,150 a year and $53,900 for a family of four. GNOF has a chart on its website showing the 80-percent levels for families of one to eight dependents in all 13 southeast Louisiana parishes covered by the grant.

Kopplin was the original executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the agency set up to help the region recover from Hurricane Katrina, so he is no stranger to assistance programs. He called on state leaders to advocate aggressively in Washington, to make sure national leaders understand that coronavirus is having a more devastating impact in southeast Louisiana than in most other parts of the country.

An analysis by The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate found that Orleans and Jefferson parishes are both in the top 15 counties in the U.S. for coronavirus cases per capita, with Orleans facing the highest infection rate outside of the New York City area.

“Everybody in America needs help right now; every community,” Kopplin said. “But we need it more. And if we can explain the unique circumstances we face and design programs that are really designed to help small businesses, restaurants, hotels, the tourism industry.”

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