- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

LIVINGSTON, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s flood recovery task force agreed Friday to Gov. John Bel Edwards‘ proposal to spend $1.2 billion in federal aid allocated by Congress, with most of the money targeted for homeowners.

Under the plan approved Friday, $938 million would pay for rebuilding and repairs for thousands of homeowners with damage from the March and August floods - people who have major damage and didn’t have flood insurance coverage. Others won’t be eligible for the aid.

Additional dollars would be earmarked for business, agriculture and rental housing assistance. A $105 million portion of the federal block grant would reimburse state and local governments for disaster response costs.

The Restore Louisiana Task Force, appointed by Edwards, signed off on the proposals without objection.

The proposal needs to go through a federally-required regulatory process of public comment and review and requires approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before dollars can be spent. The Edwards administration is asking HUD for a waiver of requirements that 70 percent of the money must go to low- to moderate-income households, seeking to lower that mandate to 50 percent.

Also awaiting HUD approval is Louisiana’s plan to spend an earlier $438 million allocated by Congress.

With both sets of funds, $1.3 billion would be set aside for homeowner aid, expected to help more than 36,000 households, those who had more than a foot of water or more than $8,000 in damage and no flood insurance. That’s only a fraction of the 112,000 homes estimated to have been damaged by last year’s floods.

Edwards plans to return to Washington next month to lobby for additional assistance. He’s said the state is about $2 billion short of what it needs.

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