Governor moves Louisiana into Phase Two of Reopening
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the order moving Louisiana to Phase Two of the White House plan for reopening. Major changes in Phase Two include allowing businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity with social distancing, masks for public-facing employees and increased sanitization. In addition, the state strongly recommends that businesses consider offering temperature checks before a person can enter and posting the symptoms of COVID-19 outside with a request that symptomatic individuals not enter.

Phase Two in Louisiana will last at least 21 days. Because more businesses will be open to more patrons and because the CDC has clarified that the illness is most likely to spread through the air and not on surfaces, the Governor and the Louisiana Department of Health strongly encourage individuals to wear masks whenever they are in public and recommend that people who enter businesses that are not taking proper precautions consider the risk to their health and their family in doing so.

Businesses that will be able to open today at 50 percent occupancy include:

  • Restaurants, cafes and coffee shops
  • Shopping malls (including food courts, following restaurant guidance)
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Barber and beauty shops and nail salons
  • Movie theaters
  • Racetracks (with an approved plan from the Louisiana Racing Commission)
  • Museums (including children’s museums), zoos, aquariums (no tactile exhibits)
  • Bars and breweries with LDH food permits
  • Massage establishments, spas, and tattoo establishments (under strict guidance from LDH), esthetician services (under strict guidance from the Cosmetology Board)
  • Pool halls, bowling alleys and skating rinks (children must be accompanied by an adult)
  • Event Centers and wedding venues
  • Outdoor playgrounds and play centers (children must be accompanied by an adult)

Casinos and video poker establishments may open at 50 percent occupancy, but limited to 75 percent of their gaming positions, with spacing to allow for social distancing and with enhanced sanitization. Plans must be submitted to the Gaming Control Board which will issue guidance to these facilities.

Bars and breweries that do not have LDH food permits will be able to open with social distancing requirements and patrons seated at 25 percent occupancy.

Additional guidance will be released relaxing some regulations for summer camps in Phase Two. Sleep-away camps are not allowed in Phase Two.

The following businesses remain closed: carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, fairs, contact sports, children’s indoor play centers, arcades, trampoline parks, theme parks, concert and music halls, and other similar businesses. Live entertainment is not permitted inside any building or indoor function.

However, any business that is directed to be closed in the Phase Two order may petition to reopen under a plan approved by the State Fire Marshal in consultation with LDH. The State Fire Marshal may approve this plan or offer guidance on how the business may reopen in Phase Three.

The Governor encourages businesses that can allow employees to work remotely to consider doing so, especially if an employee is at high risk for becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 or shares a household with a high risk person.

Business leaders can visit  OpenSafely.la.gov  to receive guidance and updates from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Louisiana Department of Health. For a guide listing businesses that can be open at any given time, visit  gov.louisiana.gov/page/can-this-business-open.

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UPCOMING IMPORTANT DATES
State welcome centers reopen  
Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser is opening the lobbies of each welcome center along interstates and highways to visitors following guidelines released under Phase Two. Louisiana’s welcome centers have been closed since March 16, only keeping open restroom facilities for travelers.
  
During this week, each of the welcome centers will receive another deep disinfecting of all surfaces and areas accessible by the public and staff. Welcome Centers will be continually cleaned and disinfected throughout the day and overnights. Once re-opened, each welcome center will be distributing “Feed Your Soul” branded face masks for free to all visitors, and limiting the number of visitors inside the lobby area to no more than 10 at time. Welcome center staff will continue to wear masks and will complete the guest register book for visitors. Social distancing will be maintained, and travel brochures will be secured behind the desk and distributed to visitors as requested.
 
The welcome centers re-opening include:

  • From Texas
  • Greenwood Welcome Center; I-20 East from Dallas
  • Vinton Welcome Center; I-10 East from Beaumont
  • From Mississippi
  • Mound Welcome Center; I-20 West from Vicksburg
  • St. Francisville Welcome Center; U.S. 61 from Moundville
  • Kentwood Welcome Center; I-55 South from McComb
  • Pearl River Welcome Center; I-59 South from Picayune
  • Slidell Welcome Center; I-10 West from Gulfport
  • Within Louisiana
  • Atchafalaya Welcome Center; I-10 St. Martin Parish

The State Capitol Welcome Center will reopen following approval by the Speaker of the House. The New Orleans Welcome Center on St. Ann Street in the French Quarter will remain closed.
 
Eighteen state parks have been open since Memorial Day weekend and are now accepting overnight reservations from both Louisiana residents and out-of-state visitors. Using the discount code WELCOMEBACK , visitors can book 4-nights for the price of 3 on stays through September 7, 2020. Reservations can be made online at louisianastateparks.reserveamerica.com .
Regular Session wraps-up as Special Session begins
At 6 p.m. on Monday, one Legislative Session ended and another began.

The Regular Session started on March 9, but was cut short on March 16 when the Legislature recessed to comply with the Governor’s stay at home order. Legislators returned to the Capitol on May 4 and spent a month working at a quick pace and passing a surprising number of instruments.

Major tourism-related bills that passed and await the Governor’s signature include HB 292 , a bill championed by LTA and authored by Rep. Dwight that will require short-term rental companies to collect and remit occupancy taxes; and HCR 31 , which authorizes the Office of Tourism to spend more money on in-state advertising in the wake of COVID-19 to entice regional travel. Both bills await the Governor’s signature.

In the final minutes of the Regular Session, the Legislature created a new fund for small businesses that have been left out of prior coronavirus aid by diverting $300 million away from local governments . The money is part of the $1.8 billion CARES Act package Congress sent to Louisiana. Lawmakers are using nearly half to plug the state’s budget holes, and the rest would go to small businesses and local governments.

If approved by the Governor, businesses that have not already received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, an SBA disaster loan or drawn on a business interruption insurance policy could apply for the ‘Main Street Recovery’ grant through the treasurer’s office. Grants are capped at $15,000 each.

However, the Governor contends that the move is premature because some congressional lawmakers want to give state and local governments more flexibility on how their CARES Act allotments are spent. Municipalities are strapped for cash, facing tax revenue losses and new expenses associated with the COVID-19 fight.

Edwards could veto the idea during the special legislative session. The Governor’s veto period will last through the next couple of weeks.

Immediately after the Regular Session ended, a Special Session began. Although the session call included 41 points, the number of bills filed has so far been light. The main focus is expected to be HB 1 and HB 2 – the state budget and capital outlay. The Special Session runs through June 30.  
Paycheck Protection Program adjustment passes through both chambers 
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. The bill includes important enhancements, most notably modifying the portion of funds that can be used for non-payroll expenses and extending the time period during which funds must be spent in order to qualify for loan forgiveness from eight weeks to 24 weeks.
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