In order to help businesses affected by COVID-19, New Orleans is waiving all fines, fees, interest payments and penalties on sales tax payments for the next 60 days, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Tuesday evening.
Her hope is that businesses will use that money to pay their employees.
“I am fighting for those who are living paycheck to paycheck,” the mayor said.
She understands what they’re going through, she said, because her administration is experiencing severe economic strain, too.
Half of the city’s operating budget comes from tourism and a third from sales tax. As businesses close up shop, the government’s revenue stream has slowed to a trickle. Add to that the immense costs of dealing with a public health crisis, and previous budgetary hits caused by the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, and the December cyberattack.
In response, Cantrell announced, the city is instituting a cost reduction plan that will include the cancelation of city contracts and furloughs and layoffs of city employees.
Severe belt-tightening measures are necessary for local government to function, she said: “If we can not operate, basic city services will come to a screeching halt. And that is something I will not let happen.”
The mayor asked federal delegates for financial assistance for individual workers and for city coffers but, she acknowledged, that may take time to get.