Speaking their language: How NOLA advocates connected Spanish speakers to healthcare during the pandemic

It’s no surprise most of Louisiana’s Spanish speaking community fell through the cracks, but coronavirus showed just how big those cracks are and what it’s going to take to mend them.

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Hanging on: Covid gave Louisiana’s addiction patients life-saving drug treatment by phone

During the pandemic, treatment with buprenorphine became available by phone. And that could be a difference maker in the opioid epidemic.

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Calling home: Sheltering in hotels to escape coronavirus, Acadiana’s homeless got back on their feet

While coronavirus raged, hundreds found their way to hotels where case managers could connect them with food, doctors and income, often for the first time.

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LIFELINE: 211 Calls Reveal Covid-19’s Impact on Louisiana

Acadiana’s 211 call data from March to September show the crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic on South Louisiana and the diversity of its disaster response.

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After hurricanes, it’s harder than ever for Lake Charles’ Black residents to cast a ballot

A series of natural disasters — the pandemic and two hurricanes — could suppress Black voters in Southwest Louisiana.

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Right Call: How phones became Louisiana’s healthcare lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic

We set out to document how coronavirus and the state’s lockdowns affected access to healthcare. What we found were people working the phones to keep Louisiana connected, safe and healthy in ways that offer lessons beyond the pandemic. Our series, Lifeline: Covid tells their story.

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Calls To Action: How 211 Became An Instant Link To Health And Social Services During The Pandemic

211 live call specialists connected thousands of residents to health and social services via the system’s vast network of providers. And fed key info to those raising levees against the flood of unmet needs.

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‘You really don’t want to get this’: A doctor’s journey through COVID-19 and recovery

A doctor recounts the play-by-play of his bout with COVID-19. ‘You’ll be thinking about your mortality. You will pray your symptoms resolve soon.’

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Louisiana production crews, left gigless by the pandemic, are rebuilding hurricane-ravaged Lake Charles

Stage hands have been among the obscured economic casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several local crews are now finding a home in helping with the logistics of rebuilding disaster-stricken Lake Charles.

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Feds grant another $1.4 million to Lafayette for emergency housing assistance

The gist: Identified as a place at “higher risk” for evictions, Lafayette will receive a second and larger round of federal stimulus dollars intended for housing aid during the pandemic. At just under $1.4 million, the block grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development nearly doubles the last allocation Lafayette received, one the Guillory administration used to stand up a small business grant program.

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Housing advocates say the money adds flexibility but likely falls short of the overall need. Hundreds of Acadiana households remain in hotels with FEMA footing the bill, although that program is no longer taking on new clients. Sustained unemployment threatens to add more need to a largely under-resourced network of nonprofits, which is coordinating responses not only to the pandemic but also recovery efforts after Hurricane Laura. Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness and Housing now has case managers helping those in the hotel program moving into stable housing. ARCH Executive Director Leigh Rachal says the latest round of funding could help that process move more quickly or go toward a longer-term solution. Acadiana’s shelter system is tapped out and stretched to its limits by the pandemic. 

“It’s sort of like a community operating without an emergency room,” Rachal says of the lack of shelter space. “If you have a medical crisis, you need an emergency room. These funds, because they’re so very flexible, provide some opportunity for the community to really think through what we need to do more holistically.” 

Hollis Conway, director of Lafayette’s Community Development Department, says his office is working on a community needs assessment to sort out the best use of the money.

HUD’s messaging on the allocation focuses on housing. In a press release announcing the nearly $2 billion allocation, HUD said it is exhausting what remains of the $5 billion set aside for community development block grants through the CARES to help “places with households facing higher risk of eviction.”

“These funds can help households struggling to meet their rental or mortgage obligations to stay afloat as our nation continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic,” U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson said in the HUD release.

Communities used funds from earlier rounds to tackle a variety of emerging needs, including housing, business support or to buy equipment like personal protective gear and testing supplies. Lafayette used all of its first grant — $852,000 — on a small business program that has struggled to move cash quickly and widely as promised. LCG has since shuffled around $560,000 in regular federal housing dollars and will chip $100,000 out of the small business recovery program to meet housing assistance needs. 

Louisiana will receive $27 million in this round of block grants. HUD’s release says states received priority for funding based on their level of unemployment and the current severity of their coronavirus outbreaks. Louisiana experienced one of the worst coronavirus rebounds, which has abated in recent weeks. 

Hundreds of thousands in Louisiana remain out of work or underemployed. Around 232,000 Louisiana workers filed continued jobless claims for the week ending Sept. 9. Just over 10,000 people in Lafayette Parish filed continued claims that same week. In May, the state peaked at 321,000 claims. Acadiana’s shelters remain tapped out. This week, the $300 boost to unemployment checks tacked on by the federal government will end, reducing the maximum weekly benefit to $247, among the lowest in the nation. Economists project Louisiana will not have recovered all jobs lost by 2021.

Parents and teachers fret safety and lack of communication as students return to school

Big questions remain about the logistics of the return to school and how the school system will keep their kids safe on campus while coronavirus is still active.

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COLUMN: Parish government isn’t ‘living within its means’

Parish government has been on life support for years now. With the city’s finances now strained, it’s time for the parish to get serious about living within its means.

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