Special Statement from LFT President Larry Carter (March 19, 2020)
Here is a list of different resources compiled by AFT Ed Issues and other activist groups.
Free Meals for Kids
Many schools are still offering breakfast and/or lunch to all children under 18 years old regardless of location or finances. Click here to see the full list, which is being updated by the Louisiana Department of Education as more information becomes available.
Policy Info from LDOE
Here is a FAQ from the Louisiana Department of Education regarding policies and waivers during the extended school closure. There is a lot of information flying around, some of it is true and some isn't. Please look to official correspondences from your Distict and the LDOE for the most accurate information. The FAQ is being updated regularly and it includes the following information:
- General Information
- Seat Time and Distance Learning
- Special Education
- LA 4
- Federal Child Nutrition Feeding Programs
- Assessment and Accountability
- Data Systems
- Teacher Leader Summit
On April 2nd, LDOE released guidelines around graduation requirements for high school seniors as well as virtual graduation guidance.
Resources for Custodians and Others: Cleaning vs. disinfecting in COVID-19.
Legal Guidance: Your Rights During a Public Health Emergency
FAQ for Essential Personnel: Guidence for employees who must report to work during COVID-19.
Guidance for Union Leaders: Information requests and how to bargain during COVID-19.
A Plan to Safely Reopen America's Schools and Communities: AFT has put together guidance for imagining a new normal for public education, public health and our economy in the age of COVID-19.
Mental Health Support
As of April 1st, all LFT members are now eligible for a new members benefit: trauma counseling. This no-cost benefit:
- Offers immediate therapy, available 24/7, when you need it, wherever you may be.
- Connects you with a licensed, certified, master’s level (or higher) therapist with special training in
- post-traumatic care.
- Uses the latest communication technologies—phone, video, text and even AI (artificial intelligence) — to provide help that works with your schedule.
- Is confidential and free as a benefit to AFT members.
The State has created a hotline for those who need a little extra support during these troubling times. If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress, fear and anxiety, call the 24/7 Keeping Calm through COVID Hotline. Trained, compassionate counselors are available 24/7 to offer support and direct you to mental health and substance abuse counseling services. Call 1-866-310-7977 at anytime for support.
A number of internet providers have begun to offer limited-time discounted or free internet services to low-income families with students living in the household.
- Cox Connect2Compete program: No cost for first 30 days. Learn more.
- Comcast Xfinity Internet Essentials Program: No cost for first 60 days Learn more.
- Charter Spectrum: No cost for first 60 days. Click here to learn more or call 1-844-488-8395.
- Altice Suddenlink or Optimum: No cost for first 60 days. Click here to learn more of call 1-888-633-0030.
Please note that not all service providers are available in all areas. Click here to read more about the different services. Over 550 companies and associations have signed the Keep Americans Connected pledge at the request of FCC chairman Ajit Pai to not terminate services, waive late fees and open hot spots.
Louisiana State University of Alexandria is providing wireless internet access free of charge to those in need. Students and members of the public are able to utilize this service without registration, supervision, or cost while remaining inside their vehicles. The network can be accessed in the parking lot (Lot 6) between the Catholic Student Organization (CSO) and the Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) on campus. Click here to read more.
As part of the Keep Americans Connected pledge, some internet providers have opened up their members-onlyWi-Fi Hotspots to the general public for free.
Louisiana’s statewide 211 network is now answering calls about COVID-19 from Louisiana residents who have questions.
For questions or the most current information:
- Dial 211
- Text LACOVID to 898-211
- Visit http://www.LA211Help.org
Many school districts will be offering online education opportunities for students. The online learning offered by your school district is the best option to make sure your child stays on track. Please give districts a few days to get everything in order and if you have any immediate questions you should reach out to your local school district for information about whether or not online learning opportunities will be available during the school closure. If you have confirmed that your local school district is not offering any online learning options, please do your research before choosing a provider and chose a high qualify option.
AFT and Share My Lesson are offering free online resources for educators, students and parents throughout this crisis. This new resource list features free online tools for both educators and parents. From free online communication tools, like Zoom, or free online classes from Scholastic, we broke down our recommendations by age group and topic to make it easy to find something for everyone. As you explore each resource, you will receive instructions on how to directly access the free resources now, or find thousands of free lessons already added to Share My Lesson by our partners. Click here to see the free resources from Share My Lesson.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting has expanded access to their educational programing throughout this crisis. You can see their catalog of educational programing here: https://www.lpb.org/education/home.
Professional Development Online
AFT and Share My Lesson are regularly rolling out new professional development opportunities for educators and parents to help adjust to our new normal. Trainings include strategies to prevent summer learning loss, helping children regulate their emotions, digital tools for online learning and more. Many of these programs include the opportunity to earn professional development credits. To lean more about individual webinars, click here.
General Information about COVID-19
The CDC is updating their website with the most up to date information about how to protect yourself, stop the spread of the virus and protect those around you. Please do your best to heed the advice of the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov
For local updates, WRKF is keeping a running list of regular updates about the spread of the disease and actions taken by our State and local governments. You can keep up with their regular updates here: https://www.wrkf.org/post/coronavirus-louisiana-latest-spread-and-response
The Louisiana Public Service Commission issued an order directing Entergy, Cleco and SWEPCO -- and a host of other electric, natural gas, telephone, water and sewer companies regulated by the LPSC -- to immediately stop disconnecting customers for non-payment of their bill for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.
Unemployment Insurance Expansion
Do any of these situations apply to you?
- Your work hours have been reduced because of lack of work due to Coronavirus.
- Your workplace closes temporarily, and you are not being compensated.
- You have been instructed not to go to work, and you are not being paid while at home.
If you answered 'YES' to any of these questions, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. Click here to learn more.
Free & Discounted Books
First Book has been reaching out to our community of partners and donors seeking support to help our members subsidize home libraries and make remote learning possible as we all navigate the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.
If you are serving kids and families through a community program or emergency service program (such as a grab & go meal site, a food bank, or a faith-based organization), or if you want to send books home with students in advance of school closings please request funding support here.
Financial Assistance for Small Businesses
On March 19th, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that small businesses in all 64 Louisiana parishes will have access to federal Small Business Administration disaster aid in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Impacted small businesses may apply for up to $2 million in working capital to pay for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the COVID-19 disaster. Loan terms (3.75 percent interest rate for small businesses; 2.75 percent for nonprofits) may be extended up to 30 years to keep payments affordable.
On April 1st Louisiana launched the Louisiana Loan Portfolio Guaranty Program, which will offer loans of up to $100,000 to Louisiana small businesses of fewer than 100 employees that are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Click here for more information.
TRSL During COVID-19
To comply with the statewide Stay at Home order, the TRSL office is closed to the public until further notice. However, they are still working to provide service to the membership through phone, email, and online Member Access. Remember, with Member Access, you can view information about your personal TRSL account, including your retirement status and benefit payments.
Rest assured, benefit payments will not be impacted. You will continue to receive your monthly benefits and DROP withdrawal payments without interruption.
TRSL members' defined benefits are secure, even as financial markets react to the uncertainties of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. If you receive a TRSL benefit, you will continue to receive it—as usual.
We are monitoring the changing economic environment. It's important to know that the TRSL investment portfolio is intentionally designed to withstand the most dramatic of market fluctuations, even those we have witnessed over the past few days. Our investment strategies are long-term, and our portfolio is highly diversified across multiple asset classes, hundreds of firms and thousands of securities. To learn more, visit trsl.org.
The LDOE has opened up the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to essential critical infrastructure personnel. Essential critical infrastructure workers belong to the following industries:
- HealthCare/Public Health
- Law Enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders
- Food and Agriculture
- Energy (electrical industry, petroleum, natural and propane gas workers)
- Waste and Wastewater
- Transportation and Logistics
- Public Works
- Communications and Information Technology
- Other Community-Based Government
- Critical Manufacturing
- Hazardous Materials
If you are an essential worker, you can APPLY HERE for the CCAP and your application will be expedited.
Statewide Stay-at-Home Order
On Sunday March 22nd, Governor Edwards issued a statewide Stay-at-Home order that goes into effect at 5 p.m. Monday, March 23, to further fight the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana. Click here to read more about the Governor's order.
Effective May 1st, the Governor extended the stay-at-home order but with slight alterations. This new order is set to remain in place until May 15th.
How Can You Help
Write to your Congressmen and women: Louisiana's economy has been hit harder than any other state in the country and it's vital that state and local governments receive Federal funding in order to continue to fund public services like education. Tell your representatives that a failure to support state and local government and public schools would be a failure to support our communities and those who have provided valuable services during this pandemic.
Give Blood: Local blood banks need donations to continue to provide livesaving resources to local hospitals. If you are healthy, you haven't been exposed to anyone with the virus, and you are not regularly in contact with anyone with high-risk factors, consider donating blood. You can find your local blood bank here. Please be sure to make an appointment as most providers can not accommodate walk-in donations at this time.
- Local food banks are in dire need of assistance to feed the growing number of families relying on their services. If you are able to donate without causing a hardship on yourself, please consider making a monetary donation to your local food bank through Feeding Louisiana.
- United Way of Southeast Louisiana and Entergy Corporation are committing $250,000 and $200,000, respectively, to stand up the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Fund and are actively recruiting donations, along with Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, from business and industry, foundations, and the public. Fidelity Bank responded to the call, pledging the first gift of $25,000, and will join the effort in challenging its fellow banks to contribute. Click here to learn more.
Volunteer: The Governor has put out a call for healthy individuals who have not been in contact with a symptomatic person and who haven't traveled recently to consider volunteering with disaster services. For more information about how to volunteer in your area, or vircually, click here.