Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund awards $2.4M in grants; opens phase II of support to industry professionals



  • $2.4 million in crisis grants distributed to 4,800+ hospitality workers
  • UWSELA and partners to offer free civil legal aid and counseling in phase II of support

United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA), together with the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation and Entergy Corporation, Thursday announced the completion of $2.4 million in Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund crisis grants distributed to over 4,800 recipients.

The fund now begins phase II of assistance with the rollout of legal support and counseling services for hospitality industry professionals in partnership with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) and the Loyola Center for Counseling and Education (LCCE).

UWSELA and partners expect to provide over 3,000 hours of mental health treatment, 800 hours of civil legal service and training to 150 support staff and volunteers to aid in the long-term recovery of hospitality workers.

“COVID-19’s devastating and lasting impacts on the region’s hospitality industry have created significant legal and mental health issues for the tens of thousands of workers still struggling to recover and make ends meet,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA President and CEO. “We’re proud to join with our partners to support an industry that has given so much to the people here at home and around the world.”

LCCE’s virtual counseling will be available in individual, couple and family settings to industry professionals on a sliding scale. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

The partners also aim to create three targeted service industry therapeutic support groups to serve additional clients. 

“Prior to the pandemic, Louisiana already ranked high in the overall prevalence of mental health issues and low in access to mental health care. The pandemic has added real threats to hospitality workers’ mental health,” said Sarah Zoghbi, LCCE Co-Founding Director. “The LCCE’s unique structure and support from Loyola University New Orleans allows us to remove barriers to access, without sacrificing quality of care, for a segment of our community in dire need of help,” added Dr. John Dewell, LCCE Clinical Director.

Alongside mental health support, civil legal aid is an essential but often overlooked critical solution to the stabilization of vulnerable hospitality workers adversely impacted by COVID-19. Workers are facing eviction, consumer debt challenges, employment issues, domestic violence, foreclosure and other civil legal problems as a result of job loss or reduced household income.

SLLS will provide one-on-one direct civil legal aid in specific cases and offer monthly online events and informational sessions to workers on hot legal topics.

“Since mid-March 2020, we have seen a 670% increase in requests for legal assistance for unemployment compensation claims and a 300% increase in vulnerable people adversely impacted by COVID-19 seeking legal help for evictions. At least 50% of people seeking help in the wake of the pandemic are hospitality workers,” said Laura Tuggle, SLLS Executive Director. “With this critical support, SLLS will draw on its significant disaster experience to respond to the range of civil legal problems that struggling families need to stabilize their lives.”

Free counseling and civil legal aid are open to anyone in the hospitality industry whose job or wages have been impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, recipients of the legal assistance must earn at or below 200% of U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines.

To access counseling, call 504.854.7858 or email, or apply for legal services by telephone at 504.529.1000 or online at

Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund Phase I Recipient Statistics

The fund’s first phase provided one-time $500 crisis grants to over 4,800 households throughout UWSELA’s seven-parish service area of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.



18-20 1.6%
21-29 25%
30-39 37%
40-49 20.2%
50-59 11%
60+ 5.2%



Single 79%
Married 12%
Separated 3%
Divorced 5%
Widowed 1%



Restaurant 47%
Hotel 37%
Bae 7%
Casino 4%
Caterer 3%
Event Staff 3%


Average household income below $24,252
Over 1,000 hospitality workplaces supported
$2.4 million in total grants distributed

Learn more about UWSELA’s COVID-19 response at



About United Way of Southeast Louisiana

For 95 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes, and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.