For flood victims, rebuilding programs only go so far

2 programs help flood victims get back in their homes

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - There are now two major assistance programs to help victims get back into their homes, and while they'll cover things like gutting, cleaning and basic electrical, there's some question as to whether they will go far enough to make homes livable.

A group of young volunteers who gutted hundreds of homes after Katrina have already begun helping in the flood zones around Baton Rouge and the North Shore.

"Last weekend, we went out with 20 people. We could have used 70 easily," said Prince Holmes with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.

They won't be able to get to everyone, though, and that's where FEMA and the state will come in.

"Wait, be patient. This is a marathon. Hire a licensed person," said Phil Hoffman with a state contractors emergency flood task force.

The governor announced a shelter-in-place program that would provide as much as $15,000 in assistance to help make homes livable.  The money can cover mucking out a house, basic electrical restoration and even $500 for a small refrigerator. But it doesn't cover sheet rock, which means some may choose to live in homes with exposed wiring, which could be dangerous, especially for children

"That's going to be up to the local building official, and I would think they are monitoring what's going on with state government," said Hoffman.

Help under the state program will be coordinated with FEMA, which has 2,000 representatives in the flooded areas who have already conducted 100,000 inspections.

"We encourage the homeowner to stay in touch with FEMA. We have given them a tracking number, and there are 13 disaster recovery centers," said Carl Henderson with FEMA.

FEMA has already paid out more than $130 million for housing and repair assistance.

"The FEMA money goes to household repair. The grant money for a place for a family to stay can be used for 60-day period," said Henderson.

For those who may choose to use the money elsewhere, groups like YRNO are gearing up this weekend with dozens of volunteers.

"We have a group from Rummel, Jesuit and Chapelle," said Holmes.

They will meet Saturday at 8 a.m. at Rummel, then head to flood areas.

State home builders formed an emergency task force urging victims not be victimized again by hiring unscrupulous and unlicensed contractors in the rush to get back in their homes.

"Always have a contract. Take a picture of him by his vehicle by his license plate," said Hoffman.

Going through a flood is bad enough once. No one wants to be victimized twice at the hands of fraudulent contractors, which was a common problem after Katrina.

FEMA says the first step for anyone is to register for assistance. If you want help gutting, of if you want to volunteer to gut homes, check out Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.

As for state assistance, under the shelter-in-place program, flood victims may begin applying Monday.

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