Four months after the flood, the governor warned the new Louisiana congressional delegation that the wait for more federal assistance could be a long one.
Governor John Bel Edwards met with the congressional delegation Tuesday, December 20 at the capitol to talk about flood recovery effort. He asked them to put pressure on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to quickly publish guidelines for the second round of grants, allowing them to speed up the process of getting recovery money into the hands of flood victims.
While the first $438 million in federal flood recovery grants will likely arrive sometime in April, the governor told the congressional team he estimates the $1.2 billion installment may not get into people’s hands until May or even June. That money was approved by Congress earlier this month. The money comes in the form of Community Development Block grants, which can be used for anything from repairing homes to fixing businesses.
New members of the congressional delegation say they are tired of the red tape. “We’re coming at the week of Christmas. It’s cold outside. We have people truly suffering,” said Congressman-elect Clay Higgins, R-Louisiana.
“It's never soon enough when people are hurt. You want to get them help immediately,” said Senator-Elect John Kennedy, R-Louisiana.
During the meeting, they also spoke about how to allocate the money. The governor’s plan for the first $438 million gives first dibs on the grants to low and moderate income earners, senior citizens, the disabled, and those without flood insurance not living in a flood zone.
Kennedy believes this is not fair. “The storm didn't discriminate in terms of race, color, income, or political party,” Kennedy said.
Higgins said that while other people also may need help, he agrees with the governor’s approach. “We're a compassionate nation, and we certainly look to our most needy and most injuriously affected,” Higgins said.
Higgins said he wants to see the next round of grants – the $1.2 billion – used to help a wider group of families and businesses. He also wants money to be spent on flood prevention projects, such as the Comite River Diversion.
“This is the most efficient and righteous expenditure of the people's treasure, is to make proper long-term investment in infrastructure to control water when God drops it on us in large amounts,” Higgins said.
After the meeting, the governor released a statement that read in part:
This meeting was critically important to align our flood recovery efforts. The entire congressional delegation and I have worked together over the last four months to secure federal assistance with unprecedented speed for the people impacted by the floods; however, our work will continue when Congress returns.
…are unified in our efforts to minimize the costs and deliver as much assistance to the people of Louisiana as possible. Our work is ongoing, but if we've learned anything from the last four months, it's that our state is best served by having a unified voice. I am confident we will continue that effort as we seek additional assistance in the future.
Edwards also encouraged the congressmen to push for more federal dollars. So far, Louisiana has received less than half of the $4 billion in federal grants the governor says the state needs to recover from the flood.