Gov. Edwards pushes back in fight with Congressman Graves over disaster funds

Gov. Edwards pushes back in fight with Congressman Graves over disaster funds

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A feud between Governor John Bel Edwards and a congressman representing Baton Rouge over federal disaster funds shows no signs of ending.

Both Edwards and Congressman Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, are sticking to their positions.

FOX 8 News asked Edwards Friday whether the money in question is in the state.

"Well, first of all, we know it's not," he said. "It wasn't until Tuesday of this week that the federal government, acting through HUD, obligated the money for the state of Louisiana, so we now have every assurance that it really is coming but there still is a process to go through."

The amount of money is $1.6 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds.

"We're working with HUD, we established a line of credit, and then the funding comes through that line of credit," Edwards said. That has not happened, and unfortunately, Sen. [John] Kennedy and Congressman Graves for weeks have been misleading the people in Louisiana, and I don't know if they didn't know better, but if they continue to say things like that, then obviously they're doing it knowing that what they're saying isn't true. We don't have the funding in Louisiana, and by the way, we still need an additional billion dollars."

During a congressional hearing this week, Graves and others criticized the Edwards administration. On Friday, Graves did not back down.

"I apologize to the governor that we didn't do a better job explaining to them this process because the funds are available and they've been available," said Graves.

He reiterated that the entire $1.6 billion is approved and ready for the state.

"Just to be clear…I have not only checked this once, twice, three times and I've actually quadrupled checked it with HUD and the funds are in fact are available," Graves said emphatically.

He said he has been expressing his concerns to the governor and his team for a long time.

"And I've just obviously privately and said hey you really need to get this done because otherwise you're really going to have the funds available without a contractor in place, they dragged their feet on this and so now as a result of this the funds aren't getting to flood victims…

Either the governor is being incredibly misinformed or he is being incredibly dishonest and I certainly hope it's not the latter," said Graves.

He denies it is a political pile-on, on a democratic governor in a red state by republicans who control the Congress.

"If this was about red versus blue politics then number one I would have not advised the governor to not come to this hearing, but instead I advised the governor that they should send their GOHSEP director instead of him, that committee is very, very well known to be a partisan committee, and  I advised him last time not to come and I advised him this week not to come and they didn't take our advice either time," said Graves.

Edwards hopes the friction will not hurt his push for additional federal disaster funds.

"There's a continuing resolution that congress will advance this month because currently the government runs out of money on April 27, so there will be another continuing resolution.  We're hoping to have all or at least a substantial sum of the additional need that we have in terms of federal assistance in that continuing resolution.  We will know before the end of the month how successful we are," he said.

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