BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – Nearly four months after August’s historic flooding left billions of dollars in damage, the Louisiana governor is once again in Washington, D.C. fighting for more federal assistance.
“I’m optimistic that at the end of the day, Congress is going to be responsive to our needs because of all the work they’ve done this far,” said Governor John Bel Edwards.
How much Louisiana will see in federal aid remains a big question. In addition to other requests, Edwards says Louisiana needs $4 billion in Community Development Block grants (CDBGs). They can be used for anything from home fixes to flood prevention projects.
Back in September, Congress approved $438 million in CDBGs. With Congress currently working on another temporary budget bill, Edwards believes federal lawmakers could grant the state another $2.2 billion in CDBGs as part of a temporary budget bill this month. If that is the case, that means Congress will have appropriated $2.6 billion to the Bayou State, which is still far short of the $4 billion goal.
“$2.6 billion is not enough to meet all of our needs,” Edwards said. “Now the people of Louisiana are resilient and if at the end of the day we got a total of $2.6 billion is all we get in Community Development Block Grant funding to recover from the March and August floods in Louisiana, we’re going to do our absolute dead-level best to make that money far as possible toward a full recovery.”
The governor said he is hopeful that Congress will give the thumbs up for more money next spring. Congressman Garret Graves, a Republican member of Louisiana’s delegation, said he hopes this is the case. He said more money is needed in order to help fund infrastructure projects, such as the long-awaited Comite River Diversion.
“If we can come in and do these flood prevention projects, you can lower the base flood level elevation for the entire community,” Graves said.
Other forms of grants and funds may be available for Louisiana as well, including funds for social services, though it is unclear if Congress will appropriate any additional money. In the meantime, homeowners looking to receive cash from the first round of CDBG funds are likely going to have to wait several more months. Graves and Edwards indicated that money may not be available directly to homeowners until March as a result of environmental reviews and other hurdles slowing the process.
“Which is just crazy, thinking about how much time its taking to get money into people’s hands,” said Graves, who has been critical of the delays.
On Friday, December 2, Edwards will meet with the head of FEMA, Craig Fugate. The governor once again expressed frustration Thursday with some of the ways FEMA has handled the recovery.
“We will talk specifically about the manufactured housing units, the trailers, if you will. That process is still too slow,” Edwards said, echoing complaints from some homeowners who are still waiting for their MHUs.