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Gov. Edwards travels to Washington D.C. to request ‘urgent’ federal assistance for Louisiana

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 3:32 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (WAFB) - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will be in Washington, D.C. until Thursday, Sept. 23 to meet with Louisiana’s Congressional Delegation and other members of Congress.

The governor’s office says he will be meeting with congressional members to “impress upon them the urgent need for federal assistance to ensure a speedy, full, and robust recovery for the people of southwest and southeast Louisiana who have been devastated by major hurricanes and natural disasters over the last year.”

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Gov. Edwards wrote a letter to Congress detailing the vast damage from a damaging freeze, spring flooding, and Hurricane Ida this year, as well as Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta in 2020.

The governor is requesting both funding and legislative actions including:

  • Expansion of Direct Repair Authority under Individual Assistance
  • Resetting FEMA authority to grant funding to states to implement housing programs
  • Flexibility in Match for Public Assistance
  • Extension of Disaster Recovery Reform Act Duplication of Benefit Flexibility
  • Extension of Disaster Recovery Reform Act Relief from Excessive Reductions Based upon Flood Insurance for Campuses
  • Allowance for HUD to waive the current federal site-specific Environment Review Requirement for single family home rehabilitation

The following is an excerpt of the governor’s letter to Congress:

At the beginning of this year, portions of our state suffered from a damaging freeze with spring flooding following shortly thereafter and, most recently, Hurricane Ida devastated the southeastern parishes. Amidst these natural disasters, Louisiana fought a pandemic which has sickened and killed thousands of our citizens and stymied economic growth. As you know, there is an urgent need to provide immediate relief to our Louisiana families, businesses and individuals who have been impacted, and the help of the federal government is absolutely critical.

Hurricane Ida made landfall on August 29, 2021, 16 years following Hurricane Katrina, as a strong Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 mph near landfall. Hurricane Ida caused widespread power outages across the impacted area with over one million outages as well as water outages affecting over one million citizens. Twenty-nine fatalities have been associated with the storm and almost 1,000 people remain in shelters at this time and thousands of others living in very difficult circumstances. Currently, there are more than 9,000 households in the FEMA Temporary Shelter Assistance program sheltering more than 26,000 households.

While no two disasters are the same, it is a fairly safe assumption that unmet housing needs for Ida will be well over $2.5 billion based on historical damages from similar events. The current estimate for Public Assistance for this disaster is $2.2 billion, which will require state and local governments to pay $226 million just to cover the non-federal share of these grants, a cost that has in the past been covered with CDBG-DR.

Using FEMA’s data for Individual Assistance for Laura/Delta/Zeta, and taking insurance and other available funding sources into account, we estimate the unmet housing needs of renters and homeowners to be over $900 million. In addition, the burden on state and local governments to pay the match on FEMA’s Public Assistance grants from these storms will be more that $130 million. There is also an estimated loss to businesses of $2 billion, along with crop and timber losses of over $2 billion.”

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