New Orleans prepares for infusion of millions in COVID relief dollars

Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 8:41 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Mayor Latoya Cantrell says the city is waiting to hear when it will begin receiving some of the millions set aside for New Orleans through the latest COVID-19 relief package called the American Rescue Plan. But the mayor’s administration says some of the money will be used to address the financial bind caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Cantrell told members of the media during a press conference that the city expects to receive $377 million from President Joe Biden’s COVID relief package approved by Congress earlier this year.

“This package is truly something for everyone,” said Cantrell. “These funds will be for small businesses, restaurants, housing assistance, workforce, even utilities, childcare.”

But Cantrell said the money will not arrive in the city’s bank account all at once. “It will not be in a lump sum, it is expected multi-year,” said Cantrell.

Cantrell replied, “We don’t know, we’re waiting for rules to be promulgated to have a better understanding of what we will receive in the first traunch and what is the expectation of the second traunch.”

Norman White is the city government’s chief financial officer.

“It does provide a different sort of circumstance in which we can manage but it doesn’t cure it. So, ultimately what we have to go back and deal with is the repaying of that money we took from other programs, we received roughly $480 million from Harrah’s in which was programmed from something different. We are going to pay back the $50 million loan which is associated with our cost, and we have to return some of those costs that we deferred from those years until now and then we begin to cure the hundred million problems we have now,” said White.

“That speaks to not only the loan, that speaks to, you know, we’ve already started using some of the resources before we’ve received and that speaks to the furloughs that I was able to lift for all city employees, it speaks to the overtime that I was able to approve but that was tied to and with the expectation of resources that will come in that first traunch,” said Cantrell.

And Cantrell’s administration says it wants to make sure that local businesses that have suffered during the pandemic also take advantage of the federal funds.”

Jeff Schwartz is Director of the Economic Development Office.

“The Shuttered Venue Operator’s Grant Program, it’s a mouthful, SVOGP, that program opens today and businesses are clamoring for it and we’re concerned that there’s going to be a similar situation to what happened with PPP last summer where in the first round of it it was oversubscribed and so we cannot emphasize enough to our over 150 to 250 live music venues in the city this grant is for you,” said Schwartz.

The Paycheck Protection Program provides forgivable loans to businesses who meet employment status criteria.

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