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Coronavirus In Louisiana: What You Need To Know Today

Mar 31, 2020
Originally published on April 2, 2020 9:39 am

The latest on the spread of coronavirus in New Orleans and across Louisiana today, March 31.

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7 p.m.

The Louisiana Legislature met briefly on the last day bills could be introduced for the 2020 Regular Session.

Lawmakers did not set a date for their return, opting instead to “adjourn upon the call of the presiding officer.” House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez will decide when the session will resume.

Previously, legislative leaders had targeted April 12 and April 30 as return dates. Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday that he is likely to extend his statewide stay-at-home order until April 30 to coincide with guidelines recently announced by the federal government.

In the meantime, official legislative proceedings will be halted. Cortez said the legislature is prohibited by “statutory, constitutional and rule requirements, from meeting remotely.”

“No one ever contemplated this pandemic or our ability to do that,” he added.

Read more

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2:30 p.m.

Gov. John Bel Edwards in his daily press conference addressed the "sobering" numbers of dead and sick reported by the Louisiana Department of Health today, saying the state has not begun to flatten the curve.

Right now, it's expected that Region 1 — the New Orleans area — will exceed its capacity for ventilators as soon as April 4 and the capacity for beds by April 7, he said.

He said he has approved another 1,000 beds in Morial Convention Center, and the state has about 14,000 ventilators on order. He also said the state has received 292 ventilators from private vendors.

Here are five more takeaways from the press conference:

- Compliance with the stay-at-home order needs to improve.

- The state received 100 ventilators from private vendors yesterday and will receive 150 from the strategic national stockpile in the next couple of days.

- Predictions on when the New Orleans area will exceed its ventilator and bed capacity continue to change.

- On the state ordering 14,000+ ventilators: "I know we won't need 14,000, but if I knew we would get everything we needed from one vendor, I wouldn't order that many." Louisiana is competing with other states and even the federal government for supplies. "That's the rather disjointed procurement effort that's playing out all across the country."  It's difficult to navigate and raises prices.

- The pastor in central was arrested today, DA preliminarily says he will be booked on six counts of disobeying the stay at home order. Edwards said law enforcement in the parish had been extremely patient with the pastor, spoken with him several times before they made the decision to arrest him

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2:30 p.m.

Your rent or mortgage payment is probably due tomorrow. That might be a pretty big problem right now. But there is some relief: the city, state and federal government have suspended evictions and foreclosures.

Let's go over some specifics.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has suspended evictions and sales of foreclosed properties across the state until at least April 13.

Evictions and Section 8 and public housing terminations have been suspended in New Orleans until April 24. 

On the national level, the CARES Act prohibits evictions for not paying rent and late fees by any landlord who has a federally-backed mortgage or who receives government housing subsidies. 

All of that simply means your landlord can't evict you right now, nor can they turn off your utilities or remove your things. A guide recently released by the city says it "strongly discourages landlords from posting eviction notices, harassing, or threatening tenants with evictions."

From that guide, here are some resources for renters:

Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center (LaFHAC): LaFHAC is not currently conducting in-person intakes; however, if you believe you have experienced discrimination, their staff is available to assist. Please contact them at (877) 445-2100, (504) 596-2100, or info@lafairhousing.org. 

 

Southeast Legal Services: If you are currently being evicted illegally or locked out; a motel/hotel where you are living threatens to put you out; and/or if you have lost income and live in Section 8, public, or other subsidized housing where your rent is based on your income, please call for FREE assistance via the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 844-244-7871. 

Office of Community Development: Orleans Parish residents who are at immediate risk of losing their home may qualify for emergency homelessness prevention, foreclosure mitigation, or rental assistance. To see if you qualify, call: (504) 658-4200

As of March 18, federally-backed mortgages cannot initiate foreclosure unless the property is vacant or abandoned. 

"Mortgage holders with federally-backed mortgages can request up to 6 months of forbearance without any penalty simply by declaring that they are experiencing a hardship and they may extend that period another 6 months," a guide provided by the city says.

Also from that guide, here are some resources for homeowners:

If you are a homeowner in Louisiana and are worried about losing your home, please contact the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center (LaFHAC)’s Homeownership Protection Director, Brad Hellman, via email at bhellman@lafairhousing.org. 

 Mortgage or foreclosure questions? Please call for FREE assistance via the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 844-244-7871.

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Noon

Another 54 people have died of COVID-19 in Louisiana, the state health department reports.

That's the highest number of deaths reported in 24 hours since the pandemic reached the state.

The total number of known cases of COVID-19 is now 5,237 — up 1,212 from noon yesterday.

There are 1,355 people in Louisiana hospitals with COVID-19. Of those, 438 are on ventilators. 

The state lab has completed 3,469 tests and commercial labs have completed 38, 498 tests.

People have tested positive for the coronavirus in 60 of the state's 64 parishes. In Orleans Parish, there are 1,834 cases of COVID-19 and 101 people have died. In Jefferson Parish, those numbers are 1,193 and 54. In East Baton Rouge Parish: 228 and nine.

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11:20 a.m.

State Rep. Ted James of Baton Rouge has tested positive for the coronavirus and is hospitalized as he fights pneumonia and COVID-19.

The 37-year-old Democrat is the chairman of the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee and one of the most influential members of the Legislative Black Caucus and the capital area’s legislative delegation.

James announced his diagnosis in a written statement Monday night, hours before the legislature is scheduled to reconvene after a precautionary two-week adjournment.

Read more

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9:30 a.m.

You've heard the federal government is going to send give you some money. You're probably wondering when, how, maybe why, or how this affects your taxes.

The IRS heard you wondering (and would like you to stop calling), so it released an economic stimulus check FAQ. Here it is, exactly as it appears on their website:

Who is eligible for the economic impact payment?

Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible.

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child.

How will the IRS know where to send my payment?

The vast majority of people do not need to take any action. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the economic impact payment to those eligible. For people who have already filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS will use this information to calculate the payment amount.

For those who have not yet filed their return for 2019, the IRS will use information from their 2018 tax filing to calculate the payment. The economic impact payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the return filed.

The IRS does not have my direct deposit information. What can I do? 

In the coming weeks, Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail.

I am not typically required to file a tax return. Can I still receive my payment?

Yes. People who typically do not file a tax return will need to file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment. Low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans and individuals with disabilities who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax.

How can I file the tax return needed to receive my economic impact payment?

IRS.gov/coronavirus will soon provide information instructing people in these groups on how to file a 2019 tax return with simple, but necessary, information including their filing status, number of dependents and direct deposit bank account information.

I have not filed my tax return for 2018 or 2019. Can I still receive an economic impact payment?

Yes. The IRS urges anyone with a tax filing obligation who has not yet filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 to file as soon as they can to receive an economic impact payment. Taxpayers should include direct deposit banking information on the return.

I need to file a tax return. How long are the economic impact payments available?

For those concerned about visiting a tax professional or local community organization in person to get help with a tax return, these economic impact payments will be available throughout the rest of 2020.

Where can I get more information?

The IRS will post all key information on IRS.gov/coronavirus as soon as it becomes available. T

he IRS has a reduced staff in many of its offices but remains committed to helping eligible individuals receive their payments expeditiously. Check for updated information on IRS.gov/coronavirus rather than calling IRS assistors who are helping process 2019 returns.

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