This story appeared in the May issue of the PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door nine times a year? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!
I’m a Preservationist
Victoria Adams Phipps – Chief Strategy Officer, New Orleans Business Alliance
The New Orleans Business Alliance recently established a dedicated relief fund for gig economy workers affected by the COVID 19 shutdown. Tell us about the fund?
On March 16, we launched the Gig Economy Relief Fund to meet the needs of gig workers directly impacted by COVID-19. Gig economy workers represent more than 8 percent of the workforce in Orleans Parish, including rideshare drivers, musicians, arena workers and festival production staff, among others. As contract employees of often large corporations, gig workers tend to lack access to minimum wage, paid sick leave, overtime pay, and standard employee benefits, making them particularly susceptible to changes within the economy. With the cancellations and postponements of many of our large local events, this community is actively losing out on millions of dollars of potential income, directly impacting their livelihoods and family well-being. We set up the relief fund to ensure the economic security of these critical members of our community. We invested an initial $100,000 to launch the fund and have since grown its assets through philanthropic support to over $650,000, which will all be issued in relief grants to gig workers.
For those who can afford to give right now, in addition to donating to the fund, what are other ways individuals can support gig workers, freelancers and other self-employed small business owners? Many of these folks are essential to our city’s cultural economy.
COVID-19 has devastated many portions of our community, including the cultural economy. Where possible, we must continue to do business with our gig workers, culture bearers and creatives. While we may not be able to attend live shows, we are able to tip our local musicians during their livestreams. While we may not be able to frequent our city’s art markets, our local artists are still selling their works online. Technology has enabled many of us to connect directly with our fellow New Orleanians, giving each of us the power to positively impact the economic effects of this pandemic. If you have the capacity to donate to the relief fund or to do business directly with a gig worker or small business, please do so. For many of our neighbors, their livelihoods are indeed on the line.
What are you hearing from the city’s small business owners? What are their biggest worries, in addition to the health concerns from COVID 19?
Like most residents, our city’s small business owners are faced with immense uncertainty in the midst of this pandemic. There’s widespread anxiety about the best way to weather this storm, particularly as the state and federal relief programs become clearer. Many of the business owners I’ve connected with are concerned about their ability to outlast the economic impacts of this time. Concerns have been raised around the long-lasting effects this period will have on their businesses, their industries and their employees, as many have had to lay off or furlough staff. What’s encouraging is that many local small businesses have taken the opportunity in this moment to pivot to meet the needs of this crisis. We’re seeing businesses like NOLA Brewing Co. shifting to make hand sanitizer, and brick-and-mortar retailers like Lionheart Prints swiftly becoming the best local source for at-home distractions like puzzles. What is shared by all is the belief that New Orleans can and will bounce back from this crisis.
On a more personal note, how has your own life changed since the shutdown? Are there any positive things you’ve discovered during this stressful time?
We launched the Gig Economy Relief Fund at the top of the shutdown. As the leader of that effort, the past few weeks have been far more hectic than I could have imagined. Despite the rush between fundraising calls and team meetings, it has been nice to reimagine what work-life balance looks like. I’ve appreciated the flexibility and freedom of working from home and have enjoyed seamlessly moving from Zoom meetings to mid-day yoga in the living room, or simply working from my front porch. This experience has expanded my understanding of what’s possible to be accomplished in a single day, as work and personal life take on a more amorphous shape.
New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods. Tell us what you love most about your neighborhood.
I’m a proud resident of Mid-City, and it feels as though all of the magic of New Orleans is just a short walk away. City Park, Bayou St. John, second lines on Broad Street, the streetcar, delicious eats from places like Piece of Meat and Neyow’s, watering holes like Twelve Mile Limit, and small local coffee shops like Monkey Monkey — these all make up the Mid-City that I love. Most of all, I love how the sunlight shines through the oak trees on my street around 4 p.m., a magic hour in a magical place.