Mayor Cantrell Announces $750,000 in Financial Relief for Immigrant Communities

On Tuesday, June 23, Mayor Cantrell announced a new initiative called the Immigrant Community Assistance Program for local immigrant workers. 

According to a press release by Forward Together New Orleans – a nonprofit organization formed as Mayor Cantrell’s transition team – as many as 500 immigrant families will receive $1,000 payments. 

Forward Together noted that these immigrant communities – which exploded in number after Hurricane Katrina – have been especially hard hit during the coronavirus shutdown. Many have accrued three months of debt, being unable to work since the lockdown began.

Despite their contributions to the city, 21 percent of these 20,000 residents “lived below the poverty line before COVID-19, and the pandemic reduced the ability of those in construction, hospitality, and domestic labor fields to earn an income.” 

Immigrant workers flocked to New Orleans en masse after Hurricane Katrina and helped rebuild the entire region after the storm. Many of them were never paid for their labor.

“We watched the destruction that happened because of the storm and we wondered ‘how in the world are we ever gonna come back?’ But thanks to so many people who came and helped us and the influx of Latino workers that we had in our city, we were able to come back,” Councilmember Helena Moreno said in 2018.

But while U.S. citizens have received a $1,200 stimulus check and expanded unemployment benefits from the federal government, immigrant workers have been excluded from such programs.

These residents – a majority of whom are Mexican, Honduran, Guatemalan, and Nicaraguan – have also been at constant risk of deportation since Katrina.

Financial support for this program will be facilitated by the Mayor’s office, but no funding actually comes from the City of New Orleans. Instead, the $750,000 in financial relief is a gift of the Open Societies Foundation. The money is part of a $130 million initiative to combat global inequities caused by the pandemic. 

The Mayor’s Fund, Forward Together New Orleans, and the Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families will manage the program. 

“[T]he COVID-19 outbreak has had a particularly dire impact on our most vulnerable communities, with our immigrant community disproportionately affected,” Mayor Cantrell said, announcing the new program. “This is another example of our commitment to support all of the workers who are the backbone of our city’s economy.” 

You can read the full press release from Forward Together New Orleans here.

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