Viewpoint: Workers required to take risks during pandemic deserve hazard pay

City Council President Jason Williams said last night that “all our essential workers deserve hazard pay during these unprecedented times. Everyone is singing the praises of our front line and thanking them for their sacrifice. They deserve more than just a pat on the back.”

In dozens of towns and cities across America, essential workers on the forefront of the pandemic are participating in protests, walk-outs and strikes to strengthen their demands for hazard duty pay and safer working conditions. Industries including food service, meat processing, retail, manufacturing, transportation and health care have been targeted by labor unions that view the pandemic as a unique opportunity to address core grievances. For more than three weeks, New Orleans sanitation workers who are contracted to Metro Services Group (also known as Metro Disposal) have been walking the picket line to press for more pay and personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Masks, gloves and good will: Volunteering during a pandemic

To the untrained eye, it looks like organized chaos. The lunchroom in Booker T. Washington High School, once filled with students, is now populated with HandsOn New Orleans volunteers in constant motion — packing meals into plastic bags, that are placed into boxes, which when filled are placed into cars to go to low-income housebound seniors and people who have medical disabilities. I became a part of that scene seven weeks ago when I signed up to volunteer with the organization. Like many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, I had time on my hands and knew this would be a productive way to help the community. It also got me out of the house and into a social setting with people.

Viewpoint: Magazine Street businesses prepare to reopen amid new protocols

Resilient Magazine Street merchants like Juliet Hainkel Holton and Desiree Petitbon are making final preparations for reopening their two shuttered shops on Saturday (May 15). The co-owners of the trendy boutiques Basics Underneath and Basics Swim & Gym, 5513-15 Magazine St., Holton and Petitbon were inspired to tiptoe into retail 21 years ago after a fateful trip to France. They realized a customer base existed Uptown for properly fitted foundation garments that are popular during the Mardi Gras season as well as for weddings and other special events throughout the year. What began as a fun little sideline blossomed into their main job. Through hard work and dedication, the two single moms steadily built a successful business that brought in more than $1 million annually until COVID-19.

Viewpoint: Everyone should get tested to speed up New Orleans’ recovery

I want to be a part of the city’s long-term economic recovery. That’s why I got tested for the COVID-19 yesterday at New Hope Baptist Church in Central City. Administered by Ochsner Medical Center, which has the in-house lab capacity to turn around results within 72 hours, the process was quick, easy and painless. I am a firm believer that everyone should get tested. It’s better to know whether you have the virus — or whether you are a carrier with no symptoms. In addition to determining who should be quarantined, test results serve as a useful guide for public health officials and elected leaders to determine where the virus is more prevalent, how it spreads, where to deploy resources and when to relax stay-at-home restrictions.

Viewpoint: New Orleans schools need visionary leaders for post-COVID future

 

The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated a dramatic shift in public education that could finally force New Orleans leaders to address the myriad inequities that have robbed our most vulnerable children of reaching their full potential. It will take outside-the-box forward thinkers to build a post-COVID educational system that focuses on what will become the new normal — personalized learning beyond the traditional school classroom. Our elected and charter officials as well as parents and civic and business leaders must come together with a clear vision to meet these expanded education goals. School systems without fund reserves could be armed with fewer financial resources as budgets take a hit from projected virus-related reductions in sales and ad valorem taxes, which currently make up a large portion of education funding. During this pandemic one group of New Orleans learners have faced the greatest challenges — the 35,000-plus students from disadvantaged households who make up 83% of charter school students in Orleans Parish.

Viewpoint: Victory from COVID-19 is still months away

Who among us wouldn’t want to be eating with friends at a neighborhood restaurant, shopping at a favorite boutique or getting ready for Jazz Fest? Unfortunately we can only dream about those luxuries right now. Ms. Corona is holding us back as a region, a nation and globally. She won’t be letting go until we have a vaccine. As the owner of several small businesses, I want to open up New Orleans just as much as anyone.  I need customers.

Yo Joe! New Orleans real estate trends, advice for STR owners

I’m Joe Gerrity, local businessman, investor and Real Estate Broker. For my Yo Joe! column, I’ll be answering your real estate questions and providing market information special to New Orleans. New Orleans has seen an explosion in short-term rentals in recent years. In fact, an estimated 8,500 units were in operation until restrictions were passed in 2019.

Viewpoint: Mail-in ballots are essential for the safety of Louisiana voters

Who wants to potentially put themselves or their family members at risk by voting at a poll on upcoming election days? With Louisiana’s presidential primary and other ballot measures now scheduled for July 11, state officials are squabbling over how to hold safe elections during the pandemic and beyond. Newly minted state Rep. Mandie Landry, District 91, pre-filed House Bill 419, to allow all registered voters to utilize voting by mail in every election. Co-authored by Reps. Aimee Freeman, District 98, and Matt Willard, District 97, this legislation would impact the November elections and beyond.

Viewpoint: Stimulus benefits too slow for some idled workers

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

While some New Orleanians will soon begin receiving the much-heralded extra $600 unemployment benefits and other stimulus checks Congress authorized in response to the global pandemic, many self-employed and Form 1099 contract workers — including those in the short-term rental industry — received rejection letters from the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Still other eligible workers who were not able to apply online are encountering long wait times to speak with a staffer. “I haven’t been able to work in three weeks,” said one small business owner. “If I didn’t have a small nest egg, I don’t know how I would feed my family,” she said. Though the CARES Act states that self-employed and contract workers are eligible for unemployment, thousands of Louisiana workers have been caught in the cross-hairs between conflicting state and federal laws and available funding.