On Monday, March 16, the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) announced a dedicated relief fund to meet the needs of gig economy workers who have been directly impacted by a loss of income due to closures and cancellations associated with COVID-19.
NOLABA committed the first $100,000 to initiate the fund, with the goal of increasing its assets to a minimum of $500,000. That same day, Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson personally donated $1 million to create the Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund in response to the Coronavirus situation, with $100,000 allocated to the Gig Economy Workers’ relief fund.
“We have been meeting and planning a response since the NBA’s announcement to suspend games. Our meaningful discussions have led to what we believe is the most impactful way to best serve the needs of our community as a whole,” said Mrs. Gayle Benson. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have, an enormous impact on our community and businesses of all sizes. We want to do our part to assist those that have been impacted in our community.”
As of today, March 24, the relief fund has surpassed $335,000 with additional generous donations from Baptist Community Ministries (BCM), Gulf Coast Bank, and 211 engaged New Orleanians.
“BCM is proud to partner with New Orleans Business Alliance to provide critical aid to gig economy employees who are experiencing a severe loss of income due to the widespread economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said President & CEO of BCM Charles E. Beasley.
Over the weekend, the first grant approvals were issued to a group that included musicians, rideshare drivers, French Quarter performers, and event production staff.
As of 2017, gig economy workers represent more than 8% of the workforce in Orleans Parish, including rideshare drivers, musicians, arena workers, and festival production staff. As contract employees of often large corporations, gig economy workers tend to lack access to minimum wage, paid sick leave, overtime pay, and standard employee benefits, making them particularly susceptible to changes within the economy.
In New Orleans, many of these workers depend on the cultural calendar for reliable income. With the cancellations and postponements of many large local events on the horizon due to coronavirus, this community stands to lose out on millions of dollars of potential income, directly impacting their livelihoods and well-being. The establishment of this relief fund will help ensure that these critical members of the community may continue to be active participants in the economy, and rest assured that their families will be taken care of during this difficult time.
“We’re incredibly grateful and proud of our community for stepping up and recognizing the hardworking men and women of the gig economy who have helped make our city what it is today,” said NOLABA President & CEO Quentin Messer, Jr. “While the response to the fund has been enormous, the need will continue to grow. We are urging all local business leaders to join us in contributing to the fund. Our neighbors need to know that we see them, we support them, and we’re here for them. This fund and others like it provide hope for those who depend on the festival season for significant portions of their income. We will get through this; trust and believe, the only way forward is together.”
The fund has also generated strong support from the cultural community, including French Quarter Festivals, Inc.
“During this challenging time for our city and our culture bearers who are deeply impacted by the loss of revenue amid the COVID-19 crisis, we sincerely thank NOLABA for stepping up and providing much-needed relief to the residents of New Orleans,” said Emily Madero, President and CEO of French Quarter Festivals, Inc. “The decision to postpone French Quarter Festival was a heavy one, particularly because of the impact we knew it would have on the artists, musicians, and hospitality workers that count on our cultural calendar for income. Through this grant, these critical members of our community will receive resources to help sustain them during this crisis. We implore other companies and organizations to contribute to this relief fund and support our gig economy workers who are on the front lines in providing both locals and visitors alike an authentic New Orleans experience.”
“The impact COVID-19 will have on all our people is going to be real, especially those who work in hospitality and in the gig economy,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “I want to thank the New Orleans Business Alliance for recognizing the dependence our gig-workers have on a cultural calendar that has shifted and for stepping up in a real way. I urge all organizations and businesses who can contribute to the relief fund to do so. Now more than ever, we need to stand with and continue to lift up our people any way we can.”
“Getting the virus under control is only the beginning – the lingering economic damage is only beginning to come into view. Prioritizing relief for our working people is essential. This is just one step in that fight to sustain and uplift our people through this crisis,” said Council President Helena Moreno.
“This pandemic is affecting communities across the globe, but especially here in New Orleans, where our economy relies so heavily on large-scale events and tourism activities. What will set us apart, however, is how we choose to deal with and overcome the challenges we face as a result of COVID-19,” said Council Vice President Jason Williams. “As I’ve said before, our response to this crisis will dictate not only our physical health but our fiscal health, and I am immensely grateful to our partners at NOLABA for taking this first important stride toward recovery. Unlike anywhere else in the world, New Orleans has proven time and time again her unrelenting resiliency in the face of crisis, and we expect no different from this incident. In the meantime, this relief fund will provide critical assistance for workers and families to get back on their feet.
For additional information regarding the gig economy workers’ relief fund, or to apply, please visit www.nolaba.org/relief-fund.