BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards held a media briefing on Louisiana's response to COVID-19 on Thursday where he responded to recent attorney general opinion on his mask mandate and announced a new rental assistance program for those affected by the pandemic.
The governor announced a new rental assistance program called the Louisiana Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which is for renters who may be falling behind or cannot pay their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and response.
The program will provide a total of $7 million in assistance to renters facing hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic to kick off the program.
The governor said he expects additional funding to come soon for a total of $24 million for the program coming from congress made available through CDBG funds available from the CARES Act.
The governor said he hopes for additional funds when congress passes a Phase 4 relief package.
The program is first come, first served and will provide three months of rent payment going forward and three months of back pay rent.
Payments amounts are determined by household size and fair market prices. Payments will be made directly to landlords.
Those in public housing are not eligible for the program.
The program is open Thursday for individuals to apply at www.lhc.la.gov/larenthelp.
During the briefing, the governor also responded to Attorney General Jeff Landry's recent opinion on the latest emergency proclamation that mandates mask use, closes all bars and limits crowd sizes statewide.
Edwards said that he wanted to be clear that the order went into effect on Monday and that the measures in the order are necessary to protect public safety and that it is based in the Louisiana Constitution and state law.
The governor also directed some of his comments to businesses in the state regarding the civil liability protection from COVID-19 passed by the legislature that he signed into law.
Edwards said that businesses were immune with respect to employees and customers who claim that they contracted disease while on their premises. However, he said that the immunity is contingent on businesses following CDC guidelines.
"If you don’t honor those guidelines, then you run a real risk that law affords you with respect to liability protection," Edwards said.
The governor also added that he thinks the attorney general's opinion was wrong on many fronts and may cause confusion to business owners on laws that were just passed.
As of Wednesday, July 15, the Louisiana Department of Health reported there were 84,131 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Louisiana, with 3,351 deaths.
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