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As unemployment benefits fall, the cost of living remains high

A study released by Loyola University found that 1-in-3 families in Louisiana didn’t make enough money to be financially secure

NEW ORLEANS — While there’s uncertainty about the amount of supplemental unemployment assistance coming to Louisiana, there’s little doubt about the pandemic’s impact on the local cost of living. 

Many families in Louisiana and specifically in metro New Orleans struggled to make ends meet before the crisis. 

On Monday afternoon, we met Ella Williams Carr at a food distribution at Abundant Life Tabernacle Church on Franklin Avenue.  She is retired.  Her husband’s cancer recently returned, but she’s got faith.

“I just want him to know that we are going to do OK and get better because he worries about me with the money, but there was nothing he did to cause us to be in this situation,” Williams Carr said. 

The couple relied on the federal government’s emergency unemployment benefits to help pay the bills, but that is gone now.  They’re unsure what kind of federal help may come. 

“When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s just hard,” she said.    

Back in 2015, a study released by Loyola University found that 1-in-3 families in Louisiana didn’t make enough money to be financially secure.  For single-mother families, the study found 4-in-5 families did not earn enough. 

The study found in such a household, a single mom with one child needed an average income of roughly $45,000 per year to meet just the basic needs.  Keep in mind those estimates from the Loyola study were from five years ago, well before the pandemic forced people to wait in the hot sun for food as they did at the church on Franklin Avenue. 

Let’s assume a single mom qualifies for $400 dollars in federal unemployment and $247 from the state every week, that would add up to $2,588/ month or just over $31,000/year.  That’s still below the $45,000 threshold mentioned earlier.  Pastor Tyrone Jefferson at Abundant Life Tabernacle says his church is trying to help where it can. 

“People are struggling to even pay rent, and being who we are, we are working with them as best as we can. But it is hard, people are suffering,” Pastor Jefferson said. 

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At time when virtual learning is critical, an estimated 30 percent of homes in New Orleans don’t have internet access.  To help bridge that so-called digital divide, NOLA Public Schools is providing students with laptops. 

 “We know that our families often have challenges, right?  So as a school system, as educators, we always try to make sure that we are able to support them with the resources that they need,” said Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr., Superintendent of NOLA Public Schools. 

New Orleans is sometimes called the “Big Easy”, but the pandemic is proving that for many people, living here is getting even harder.

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