Cut Off: Unemployment During the Pandemic

On July 31st, an estimated 100,000 self-employed Louisiana residents, including musicians, contractors, and “gig workers’ were cutoff from federal assistance programs. New Orleans DSA spent the last month gathering potential plaintiffs and agitating for a lawsuit to stop this cutoff, similar to ones filed other states.  Over a thousand people responded to our call, and the case will be heard tomorrow, August 12th, in front of Judge Kelly. With permission, we would like to share just a few of the heartbreaking stories from some of the resilient and hard-working Louisianans whose livelihoods depend on these benefits. All stories are in their own words and have been lightly edited for clarity.

“I lost my brother to COVID it’s just so sad and upsetting that the government wants us to go back to work when nobody is hiring and if they are hiring they’re only hiring for part time jobs. This is really going to set me back because I have to figure out how to provide and live with my kids along with having fear of getting sick and dying.”

“I’m hoping PUA is extended because I have 3 children and 2 step kids that I’m taking care of. I have bills that have fallen behind and I have 3 autoimmune disorders that really affect my body- one of them being in late stages in my lungs so my doctor has told me with everything spiking again and with the delta coming into play that I need to stay home as much as possible. If the PUA unemployment benefits are going to be cut off then I’m going to be forced to go into public and risk my life to find a job to support myself and my children, and that really scares me because I’m all they have. This unemployment is my life line right now and if it’s not off I don’t know how we will survive, especially paying our bills.”

“I really think unemployment benefits should be saved because A lot of single mothers including myself and a lot of people in general have been really affected by the coronavirus. If the unemployment isn’t reinstated me and my new born child will be homeless and without any food. I applied for so many jobs since the beginning of the pandemic and not one has even contacted me. I really do desperately depend on unemployment. I know everyone has a sad story. Before the pandemic I worked and made my own money. I had to stop working due to catching the virus and I really do hope and pray to get back to work one day soon because I’d really rather work for my own money rather than depend on the government, but I have to due to Covid 19.”

“I’m soon to be 55 years old and I have several health issues myself, high blood pressure being the first and most important. I was an employee at a hospital in Louisiana when I went on leave to take care of my mother out-of-state, who is ill, and my adult son who has schizophrenia. The last day I worked was in March of 2020. That was the day my admin department was shutting down because of Covid. 

Unemployment allowed me to pay my rent and bills while out. Cutting off unemployment early will be devastating to me and worse for others. My rent is going up and with no job I can’t pay it, nor utilities, etc. I support and buy food for my son.

Louisiana takes advantage of the working people, this state capitalizes on indentured servitude. No one can live decently making under $15 an hour- have a car, insurance, have health insurance, decent housing, utilities. I can’t imagine having small children under these conditions. 

People accuse us of being lazy and not wanting to work. Someone should hold the employers accountable for firing people indiscriminately during a pandemic. I know first hand what poverty, poor education, lack of resources look like. We will be ruined if this unemployment stops early. We were smart enough to pay rent ahead and unemployment benefits will be used to pay our bills to allow for more time to find employment.”

While we await results from court, we would love your help in flooding the phone lines of Governor John Bel Edwards to let him know how this cutoff has impacted you, your family, and your neighbors. Governor Edwards needs to know that his decision to cut benefits has had far-reaching consequences on his constituents. With COVID numbers continuing to surge, and seeing the cancellation of more events, there will only be a greater need for sustained assistance for unemployed workers, and he needs to take action TODAY. Let Governor Edwards know you are watching how this lawsuit pans out, and urge him to think of unemployed workers in Louisiana.

Governor John Bel Edwards:

Constituent phone line (225) 342-0991
Or, you can e-mail him at the link here.

On July 31st, 100,000 self-employed Louisianans will be cutoff from federal pandemic assistance. The people of Louisiana deserve legal representation.

Are you impacted by the July 31st Cutoff?
Last month, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards sided with corporatist legislators and business lobbyists and against the people of Louisiana. On July 31st, an estimated 100,000 self-employed Louisiana residents, including musicians, contractors, and “gig workers’ will be cutoff from federal assistance programs. Thousands more will have their weekly benefits slashed in the midst of surging COVID hospitalization rates.

The People of Louisiana Deserve Legal Representation
Worker Power Louisiana and New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) created this form to help identify potential plaintiffs for a lawsuit similar to those filed in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. Our goal in collecting the names of potential plaintiffs is to encourage legal aid organizations, such as the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) to file a lawsuit before July 31st. At this time, we are not aware of any legal aid group, attorney, or legal team prepared to file suit. We hope to change that. Legal aid groups in other states have filed suits on behalf of their people. The people of Louisiana deserve the same representation.

If you or someone you know will be impacted by this cutoff, please help spread the word!

Potential Plaintiff Form: https://bit.ly/July31Cutoff

2019 Runoff Voting Guide Released

Our Voting Guide for this year’s November 16th Runoff Election has arrived! It’s live and online to help educate y’all about candidates and issues. Huge shoutout to Municipal Action Committee for their extremely hard work on this!

Voting for Bernie? Check Your Registration

By Noah T.

Registering as a Democrat

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An Interview with Pepper Bowen Roussel

Photo Credit: vote4pepper.com

By Noah T.

Pepper Bowen Roussel is a food, water and environmental attorney running for State Representative of District 91 in New Orleans, the election of which will be on October 12. Ms. Roussel did not seek or receive the endorsement of the DSA, but agreed to an interview to explain some of her positions. To find out more about her campaign, visit her site vote4pepper.com. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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