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United Way of Southwest Louisiana has created a coronavirus economic relief fund for ALICE community members — individuals and families who are "Asset Limited, Income Restrained, and Employed."

Those individuals and families are classified as the "working poor" who earn too much to apply for the usual human service benefits, but make too little money to survive in the case of natural disasters or large-scale public emergency situations.

"If, traditionally, you're a 40-hour employee who's now reduced to only working 20, your take-home pay has just been reduced. It may mean that we can assist paying the utility bill, providing food, just a wide variety. Every situation is going to be different," said Denise Durel, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Louisiana.

For those looking to apply for assistance during this time, United Way of Southwest Louisiana asks they call the office to do an initial intake to gather information to access their situation. From there, a United Way caseworker would get with them to do a "deep-dive." Those needing assistance would need to provide such things as proof of employment and proof that hours were cut for verification. Depending on the situation, other paperwork such as utility bills may be needed to better help the family. United Way of Southwest Louisiana can be reached at 433-1088.

"We know — as we heard today — we already have a couple businesses that are going to be closed down the next two weeks ... we're just really concerned about them so we made the decision that we wanted to step up and help assist them if we can," Durel said. "So, we're hoping that the community will step up and contribute to the fund so therefore we can in turn assist people who are really in need in Southwest Louisiana. We ask the community to continue to have trust in us and our work, and continue to contribute to the fund."

One hundred percent of all of the money received will help those in the community struggling due to the coronavirus. The funds will be locally distributed to people in Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jefferson Davis Parishes for the purpose of assisting those that have cut wages due to coronavirus layoffs or business closures.

United Way SWLA 211 graphic

"Traditionally, we're servicing about one-third of our community. We do income taxes for folks that have earned income, we are helping to feed people, helping to teach people how to read, our programs are going all across the spectrum," Durel said. "We want to be able to be a helping hand."

The coronavirus fund is planned to keep going for "as long as needed", and community members are urged to contribute towards this as long as the fund stays open.

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