NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— Janette Jurado is an attorney and organizer for the New Orleans Center for Racial Justice. They advocate for better working conditions, wages, and rights of workers in the city.
Jurado contends that the City of New Orleans is prioritizing the funding of city services over that of the workers when it comes to spending funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“They made it very clear that this money was supposed to be used to help the workforce and their families recover from this pandemic. That has been reiterated over and over again in all the documentation from the administration and we have not done that,” said Jurado.
The city says now is the time to speak up.
According to Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano, “To the community groups that say they haven’t been at the table to address those issues, now is the time to really speak and hear directly from you so that we can develop a process will, we hope to touch as many different groups and benefits for the residents as we can.”
The problem is, while the administration formed a task force last year to prioritize funding and identify needs, Jurado says there is no process for groups like hers to be heard, “The other thing that the White House and the administration said is transparency, you have to have transparency. We have had no transparency.”
To be clear, the administration has to let the city council know how to appropriate the money. Joe Giarrusso heads the council’s budget committee and he agrees with community input.
“Giarrusso stated, “I think there need to be people at the table, talking about what they want and what their needs are, but I’ll tell you this, at the very top of the list is public safety, infrastructure, economic development are pretty much the top of the list.”
And while community groups want more direct funds for families, the city contends this does affect families.
“To me, that would be a direct benefit to a resident, although an indirect cost to those individuals,” said Montano.
In order to determine worker needs, the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice is holding its own ARPA Funds meetings on the first Thursday of each month. Their address is 3500 Canal St.