Louisiana was the fourth state in the U.S. to be declared a major disaster – and the fourth state to tally 1,000 coronavirus deaths. A large portion of infections and deaths are located in tourist destination New Orleans and its surrounding area. This year, more than one million visitors from around the country and world came to celebrate Mardi Gras just as the serious nature of the coronavirus began to emerge.
Since March 23, the entire state has been under stay-at-home orders. This has helped to slow the spread of infections – and has shut down businesses, large and small. As is the case in most of America, Louisianians are struggling to cope with both health concerns and the financial hit of the lockdown.
To help them – individuals, families and businesses – get through these challenging times, SmartAsset has compiled this list of state and federal relief programs that have been created or enhanced in response to the coronavirus crisis. But for hands-on help with your finances and investments, it may be a good time to hire a financial advisor.
Louisiana Coronavirus Relief for Individuals
The state has actually not issued many orders related to financial relief for individuals. Here are the three sources of help that we found:
Eviction Moratorium for Louisiana Coronavirus Relief
If you can’t pay your rent, your landlord must get a court order to evict you. But eviction courts in Louisiana have been suspended until at least April 30, 2020. In effect, this means that evictions are suspended until then, too. Without a court order, it is against the law for your landlord to lock you out, throw out your belongings or turn off the utilities.
To find out more, contact the Louisiana Housing Corporation at (225) 763-8700.
Unemployment Insurance for Louisiana Coronavirus Relief
Louisiana has not altered its eligibility requirements or benefits for unemployment insurance, but the federal government has. Most significantly, it will provide $600 per week, on top of regular benefits. You can read more in the federal section, below.
To file for unemployment insurance in Louisiana, go here.
Medicaid for Louisiana Coronavirus Relief
Again, the state has not changed its eligibility requirements. But if you recently lost your job, you and your family may be eligible for Medicaid, though the federal unemployment insurance boost (in effect until July 31, 2020) will likely put you over the monthly income limit if you don’t have children.
To find out more, go here.
Louisiana Coronavirus Relief for Small Businesses
Louisiana Economic Development (LED) has started a help desk for Louisiana businesses affected by COVID-19. The hotline, (833) 457-0531, is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also email the help desk at LEDbiz@la.gov. Additionally, its website lists available resources by region. That said, here is the one program we found that is offering financial assistance to small businesses.
Louisiana Loan Portfolio Guaranty Program
The Louisiana Loan Portfolio Guaranty Program offers loans of up to $100,000 to Louisiana small businesses. To be eligible, the business must have fewer than 100 employees and have been impacted by pandemic. The loans, which are partially guaranteed by the state, carry interest rates capped at 3.5% and payments are deferred for 180 days.
To find out more, go here.
Federal Coronavirus Relief for Individuals
By far, the most well-known federal relief program for individuals provides cash (also called stimulus checks or Economic Impact Payments) to most Americans. Generally, individuals whose adjusted gross income (AGI) is $75,000 or less get $1,200 and married couples with an AGI of $150,000 or less get $2,400 – plus parents receive $500 per dependent child (under age 17). Those who earn more, up to a cap, will receive a reduced amount. To find out how much you’ll get, use our calculator. You can learn more, including when you’ll get your payment if you haven’t already (the IRS has begun making direct deposits) and how to get it faster (if the IRS doesn’t have your bank information), here.
To little fanfare, the federal government has also mandated the country’s first national paid sick leave policy. If you work for a company with 500 or fewer employees and can’t work (or telework) because of COVID-19, you are eligible for up to two weeks of sick leave paid at your regular rate (capped at $511 per day). You may also be eligible for two weeks of sick leave paid at two-thirds your pay rate (capped at $200 per day) if you can’t work (or telework) because you have to care for a family member who has COVID-19 or for a child whose school is closed. Additionally, parents are entitled to 10 additional weeks at two-thirds their regular pay if their child’s school remains closed or childcare is unavailable. This provision of the CARES Act expires at the end of the year. Learn more about paid sick leave and the changes to family and medical leave.
What’s more, the government has extended unemployment insurance to workers who don’t usually qualify: self-employed people, independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers and part-time workers. It also provides a boost of $600 per week.
Federal Coronavirus Relief for Small Businesses
If you own a small business, you’ve probably heard about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). You likely applied for a loan or are waiting for the program to reopen with additional funding. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has already approved loans for the $349 billion allocated to the program – and will hopefully receive more funding. Until that happens, you can find out more about the PPP and check out our list of lenders (if your bank isn’t an SBA lender).
Another major federal program for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic provides Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). This SBA program, which actually existed before the pandemic, has also stopped accepting applications because of underfunding. Under the program, small business owners in areas that have been declared economic disaster zones can get loans for up to $2 million (though given the funding shortfall, initial disbursements are being capped at $15,000 for two months). One noteworthy change due to the coronavirus crisis, though, is that businesses can get $10,000 advances that are forgivable if certain requirements are met. Also, the interest rate has been set at 3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for non-profits. The loan term can be for up to 30 years. To apply for an EIDL (once the program reopens), go to SBA’s site.
For business owners with existing SBA loans, there is an automatic debt relief program. For six months, the SBA will cover principal, interest and fees. Check with your bank to make sure your loan is covered.
If you are waiting for an EIDL to be approved, the SBA has express bridge loans for up to $25,000 to keep your business afloat until the larger loan arrives. The EIDL money will then be used to pay back this express loan. You can apply for this loan with a local lender.
Finally, existing programs like the 7(a) loan program, the express loan program, 504 loans, Community Advantage Loans and microloans are all still available.
Tips for Managing Your Finances During the COVID-19 Crisis
- Don’t go it alone during these challenging times. Use SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool to find the right professional for you. After you answer a handful of questions, we’ll connect you with up to three advisors who fit your needs and preferences.
- If you don’t need your stimulus payment, don’t spend the free money the way you might at a different time. Instead, add it to a emergency fund. With so much uncertainty ahead, the smart money is boosting their emergency savings from three months of expenses to six.
Photo credits: ©iStock/Joel Carillet, ©iStock/Kovop58, ©iStock/Alfred Smatlanek Sikula