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COVID-19: How to get help in Louisiana

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Posted at 12:49 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-29 18:59:14-04

As the number of cases go up in Louisiana, residents in the state may have questions about what they can expect.

Below, KATC will compile a list of helpful articles and links with information that will help those looking to help or get help.

This article will not provide locations or information on medical assistance.

Louisiana 211 Network

The Louisiana 211 Network will be working with the Louisiana Department of Health to answer questions about the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The learn more about who to contact and how, click here.

LCG has established a COVID-19 Hotline for Lafayette Parish residents to call in by dialing 3-1-1.

On March 24, LCG announced a partnership with SCP Health to enhance 311 with a Patient Information Line for residents in Lafayette Parish. The service is accessed through the city’s established 311 hotline, available 24/7, and staffed by care coordinators and licensed nurses who can assist with questions pertaining to the virus, screen callers for COVID-19 testing at local testing sites and triage patients as needed.

Resources for Businesses and Employees

The Lafayette Economic Development Authority has compiled a list of helpful information and other resources for local businesses and employees who have been impacted by COVID-19 that can be found at www.Lafayette.org/COVID.

Some of the resources listed are information on the Federal relief bills that have been approved, information on small business loans, job listings, details on how to apply for unemployment benefits, resources for local restaurants, grant info, webinars and more.

Blood Donations - Red Cross

The American Red Cross said it is in need of blood donations from healthy people amid the spread of COVID-19.

Together Louisiana

Together Louisiana has formed a Rapid Response Team of citizens working (mostly from their homes) to ...

  • FIGHT ISOLATION by strengthening connections between people who want to make a difference
  • TRAIN PEOPLE in the online communication tools that are the gateways to community and public life during this crisis
  • ORGANIZE CONVERSATIONS by the thousands to hear directly about pressures people are experiencing and invite them to help address them and
  • TAKE ACTION on issues we can impact now

If you want to take part in that work, you can sign up here. [togetherla.org]

Utilities

Area power companies are assisting their customers during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus by temporarily suspending service disconnects on customer accounts. Cleco, SLEMCO, Entergy, LUS, and Atmos are all implementing the suspension as the state continues to see a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

LUS released this statement on their activities:

As Lafayette Utilities System (LUS) is actively work around the city during this pandemic, we would like to remind the public to practice social distancing with our crews. We are taking great measures at LUS to ensure our team’s health at work and request that the public maintains a safe distance of six or more feet for your safety and ours.

If you need to speak with someone about your utilities, please contact our Customer Service Center at (337) 291-8280. For information about Coronavirus, Lafayette Consolidated Government has set up an information line, call 2-1-1.

Patient Resources

Cardiovascular Institute of the South is taking all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and health of its patients. At this time, all CIS clinics are remaining open with regular business hours. The CIS Virtual Care Center is also available 24/7 to address your needs and concerns during this pandemic. Stay tuned to their website for the latest updates: https://www.cardio.com/updates.

Common Questions Answered

Tuesday morning March 10, 2020 on GMA Dr. Tina Stefanski regional medical director for the Office of Public Health answered our viewers questions on the novel coronavirus.

Help for artists and musicians in Acadiana

Local artists and musicians who are feeling the pinch as gigs are canceled can get help from the Acadiana Center for the Arts (AcA). The AcA is working with its partners to develop a response to provide support to artists affected by mass cancellations. They recommend participating in Monday's livestreaming panel "Artists In a Time of Global Pandemic" (ASL & Captioned).

Gus Rezende of Social Entertainment has created a fundraiser for local musicians in partnership with the Acadiana Center for the Arts, The Current, and Downtown Lafayette Unlimited. Find more information here. Anyone who values the amazing musicians that we have in Acadiana can donate to the fundraiser. If you are a full-time artist who has lost out on income because of coronavirus, you can apply for support through the fundraiser. To find more information, click here.

Assistance available for small businesses in Louisiana

Louisiana’s more than 440,000 small business are eligible to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans, which will be made available to eligible firms suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus.

Impacted small businesses may apply for up to $2 million in working capital to pay for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the COVID-19 disaster. Loan terms (3.75 percent interest rate for small businesses; 2.75 percent for nonprofits) may be extended up to 30 years to keep payments affordable.

To get started immediately, visit SBA.gov/Disaster [gov.louisiana.gov]. SBA offers a three-step process for disaster loans explained here [gov.louisiana.gov].

Louisiana Economic Development also is offering COVID-19: Business Resources [gov.louisiana.gov], an online guide to assistance available for impacted businesses. Look for updates to the guide at OpportunityLouisiana.com [gov.louisiana.gov].

Louisiana Small Business Development Center at UL Lafayette is offering resources to businesses on how to gather the neccessary information to apply for SBA loans including assistance with loss projections and documentation for the application. Small and local businesses can contact the LSBDC at UL Lafayette at 337-482-6312 or www.LSBDC.org.

Information for Workers in Louisiana

The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) has released this information for workers impacted by the virus:

Do any of these situations apply to you?
1. Your work hours have been reduced because of lack of work due to Coronavirus.
2. Your workplace closes temporarily, and you are not being compensated.
3. You have been instructed not to go to work, and you are not being paid while at home.

If so, you MAY be eligible for unemployment insurance. You can file a claim at www.louisianaworks.net/hire or by calling the Claim Center at 866-783-5567.

Be sure to answer “yes” to the question, “Are you filing for Unemployment Insurance benefits for reasons related to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?” This will provide needed information to the LWC to help process your claim.

If your work hours have been reduced, partial benefits could be available to you up to a maximum of $247 a week. You must report any earnings for the week that you work, even if you’ve not yet been paid. Include all income, commissions, tips and gratuities. Report the gross amount before deductions. These earnings would be factored into the amount of unemployment benefits paid to you for that week.

A number of factors determine eligibility for benefits. The LWC reviews each case separately.

At the present time, all normal processes used to determine unemployment eligibility are in place. It normally takes up to 21 days to receive needed documentation from both the claimant and employer and to make a determination of eligibility.

The maximum number of weeks that unemployment benefits can be paid per claim is 26 weeks in a 12-month period.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may have sick leave and/or annual leave available to you through your employer. You should check with your employer and exhaust any paid leave options first before filing for unemployment benefits.

Information for Employers in Louisiana

If you are temporarily closing or reducing your hours of operations due to COVID-19, please contact the LWC to discuss how they can provide assistance and answer your questions about unemployment insurance and other programs and resources available.

Contact us at EmployerServices@lwc.la.gov with your unemployment insurance questions. Be sure to provide your company’s name, a point of contact, telephone number and email address, as well as specifics on the assistance you are requesting. The Employer Call Center, 225-326-6999, is also available.

For other programs and assistance, contact the Business Services unit at the American Job Center in your area.

To find the closest American Job Center, go to http://www.laworks.net/Downloads/WFD/AJC_Contacts.pdf

SNAP benefits

The federal government has not authorized any emergency or disaster SNAP benefits at this time, DCFS officials say.

However, they are encouraging anyone who doesn't get benefits now to apply - because with changes in working hours and closures, you may be eligible now.

Also, due to community spread of the novel coronavirus in New Orleans, and in response to the need for social distancing across the state, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is instituting 100% remote work in its Orleans Region offices, and transitioning to reduced workforce on-site in other offices statewide, starting today.

People can still connect with DCFS in several ways.

To report child abuse, call Louisiana's child abuse hotline at 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437), or for mandatory reporters, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/mandatedreporters [dcfs.louisiana.gov].

To access SNAP, FITAP, KCSP or Child Support, apply only via the CAFÉ Self-Service Portal (www.dcfs.la.gov/cafe [dcfs.louisiana.gov]) or get information about the services online at www.dcfs.la.gov/page/family-support [dcfs.louisiana.gov] or by calling the LAHelpU Customer Service Center at 1-888-LA-HELP-U (1-888-524-3578).

Those specifically looking for a SNAP application can text GETSNAP (no spaces) to 898211, email LAHelpU.DCFS@la.gov [dcfs.louisiana.gov] or call 1-888-LA-HELP-U (1-888-524-3578).

“We will be working every way we can, including remotely whenever possible, and will continue to serve the children and families of this state throughout this event,” DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters said.

At this time, the federal government has not authorized emergency/disaster SNAP benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. However, anyone who is not already a SNAP recipient and has a food need is encouraged to apply for regular SNAP benefits.

For more information, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/getSNAP [dcfs.louisiana.gov]. DCFS will continue to provide updates through its website, Facebook page and news releases, as appropriate.

Customer Service Center hours for the LAHelpU call line are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Child Support Payments

DCFS Child Support Enforcement staff continues to work even as office lobbies are closed to visitors and encourages non-custodial parents and employers to make payments electronically during the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) staff continues to provide services via telephone and online and are available to ensure that payments are posted and distributed.

In order to distribute payments timely, CSE encourages non-custodial parents and employers not currently set up for electronic fund transfers to make their payments electronically. Payments can be made online or by phone as follows:

  • Expert Pay - for both employers and non-custodial parents - No convenience fee.

Online at expertpay.com, using a bank account

By phone at 1-866-645-6347, using a bank account

  • MoneyGram - for non-custodial parents - Convenience fee.

Online at moneygram.com, using a bank account or credit card

By phone at 1-800-926-9400, using a credit card

Cash payments also may be made at local participating retailers like Walmart, CVS and Albertsons

  • E-ChildsPay - for non-custodial parents - Convenience fee.

Online at e-childspay.com, using a credit card

By phone at 1-866-645-6348, using a credit card

While a statewide stay-at-home order has gone into and will last through April 12, if residents are out shopping for essentials at retailers like Walmart, CVS and Albertsons, many of those stores also have MoneyGram locations where non-custodial parents can make child support payments using cash.

For more information about Child Support Enforcement services, or how to make a payment, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/CSE , email LAHelpU.DCFS@la.gov or call 1-888-LA-HELP-U (1-888-524-3578).