- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Fixing flood-damaged homes owned by thousands of elderly or disabled residents would be Louisiana’s first priority under a plan for spending the state’s initial allocation of more than $400 million in federal recovery funds.

Only a fraction of the state’s flood victims can benefit from the spending plan endorsed Friday by a task force formed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Edwards’ administration estimates more than 112,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by floods in March and August. Pat Forbes, executive director of the state Office of Community Development, presented task force members with the outline of a spending plan that could only pay for repairing roughly 4,000 homes owned by elderly or disabled residents.

Louisiana was initially allocated $437.8 million in federal grant money. Edwards is seeking a total of $4 billion.

“The reason we know we need more money is because this subset of people is ridiculously inadequate for helping our state recover,” Forbes said. “It is less than an eighth of the amount of money we need to help the people who we estimate need help.”

Forbes said the governor’s office is designing the grant program to help a far broader spectrum of flood victims should Congress approve additional funding.

“When that amount of money grows, the whole thing grows with it,” he said. “If we get all of the money we need, we don’t have to make those prioritization decisions anymore.”

Edwards is scheduled to travel to Washington on Nov. 30 to advocate for more funds, said Erin Monroe Wesley, the governor’s special counsel.

“We are working hard to encourage Congress that we need this initial money as quickly as possible,” she added.

During Friday’s meeting at the state Capitol, 13 members of the Restore Louisiana Task Force unanimously voted for a resolution that recommends giving priority to grant applicants who are at least 62 years old or disabled, experienced “major” or “severe” damage, meet federal requirements for low- to moderate-income households, didn’t have flood insurance and lived outside of a flood plain.

Edwards’ administration, which crafted the resolution, will submit a detailed plan for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to review in the coming weeks.

It could take several months for the first round of grant money to begin flowing to homeowners. The average award for each homeowner would be roughly $70,000, according to Forbes.

Lafayette Parish Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, a task force member, said only the “neediest of the needy” would get shares of the initial batch of funding under the administration’s plan. He said officials need to offer hope to others that they also will get government help.

“It’s difficult because we’re excluding so many, but that’s the amount of money we have,” Robideaux said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide