Relief Assistance Is Needed To Help New Orleans’ Musicians and Tourism Industries Communities That Are Currently Facing Economic Challenges Due to COVID-19
December 15, 2020 — New Orleans’ cultural and tourism economies have been shutdown since March 15, 2020. The tens of thousands of individuals who make their living in these industries have been out of work for nine months, as of today. A few small grants trickled in to provide assistance for some. The pandemic unemployment provided much needed financial assistance for those who qualified. Unfortunately, the pandemic unemployment ended on July 31st, traditional unemployment (which ranges from $25 to $157 weekly) ends next week and grant assistance has dried up. For months, individuals and families have been forced to negotiate paying rents, utilities and internet or use those funds to buy groceries, pay childcare and tuition, buy medication and have money available for accidentals. The savings that might have existed has long been utilized. For many, no other financial resources are available. The time has come for the City of New Orleans — Mayor and City Council — to provide immediate Relief Assistance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced New Orleans’ music venues to close and events to be indefinitely postponed. Live music, music venues, and iconic cultural performance spaces are a big part of our city’s cultural life and a vital component of New Orleans’ tourism. For the last nine months these industries have been shuttered. City’s like Houston Texas have provided rental assistance for musicians and is currently funding grants for musicians up to $5,000, being funded with $3 million of the City’s allocated CARES Act 2020 funds. For New Orleans, there has been no mention nor implementation of any form of city funded support (Fair Share) for musicians—it has been nine months.
With that said, the easiest and most approachable way the Mayor of New Orleans and City Council can provide Financial Relief is by providing an immediate forgiveness for Sewerage and Water Board, Entergy and COX/ATT monthly bills, including making this forgiveness retroactive to April 2020 and remaining in place until the cultural and tourism industries are fully recovered and individuals can safely return to fully wage-earning work. Until this can become a reality, musicians and members of the tourism ecosystems deserve their fair share of financial support and relief.
As the President of the Sewerage and Water Board, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has full autonomy to make this a reality. In the same way, the City Council oversees the utilities regulations of Entergy, COX Cable and ATT, so they too have the autonomy to make this a reality, similar to how Councilwoman Helena Moreno was able to negotiate Entergy providing a $100 pandemic credit for four months for those who qualified. Therefore, this request is doable. Both the state and city have been allocated CARES Act 2020 funds and will be allocated additional funds, with these funds being available to reimburse local utility agencies. Again, this request is doable and can be implemented immediately. The time has come for the City of New Orleans — Mayor and City Council — to provide immediate Relief Assistance for musicians and tourism industry communities that are currently facing extreme economic challenges due to COVID-19.
In closing, the said forgiveness will be for a duration beginning April 2020 and existing until the cultural and tourism industries have fully recovered and individuals can safely return to work 100%. For individuals whom have been struggling to pay their utilities, in whole or part, will be provided a credit applicable for either future utility payments once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and/or those credits can be paid in the form of a check, which would allow further economic relief for individuals.
With a streamlined process to qualify, applicants:
- Must be a musician, cultural performers, service industry or hospitality (i.e., Cultural Economy) whose principal residence is located within Orleans Parish.
- Must provide evidence of how business revenue has significantly decreased because of government restrictions or other challenges due to COVID-19.
- Must provide evidence of unemployment and financial hardship caused due to business/industry shutdown because of government restrictions or other challenges due to COVID-19.
- Utility service must be in either the individuals name and/or their spouse.
In the Groove Together,
Dr. Brice A. Miller, Cultural Entrepreneur, Anthropologist, Jazz Trumpeter/Vocalist