- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana is scrapping its first attempt to hire a firm to manage the state’s $1.6 billion flood recovery program and will restart the search process.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/2mY1nBS ) that Gov. John Bel Edwards’ deputy chief of staff Julie Baxter Payer said the state is reopening the bid process to select the company that will win the lucrative contract. Payer said Friday that bids in the first round were too costly and the state wanted to address complaints about the selection process.

The Baton Rouge Business Report says (https://bit.ly/2nwnnVZ ) the state’s contractor licensing board issued a decision that could have invalidated the winning bidder and another company from getting the contract. Meanwhile, other teams that competed for the work were expected to file protests.

The contractor will oversee programs aimed at helping people with damage from the March and August 2016 floods.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, called the news “disappointing.”

“This will further delay the allocation of badly-needed flood relief funds that we appropriated in September,” Graves said in a statement. “It is impossible to explain to flood victims why $1.6 billion in recovery dollars are stuck in the bureaucracy while homes remain gutted, moldy and un-insulated.”

The money, however, hasn’t been released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - so the state can’t spend it yet.

Edwards pushed back against Graves’ criticism, saying the second round of soliciting bids will be fast-tracked and no delays are expected in starting the homeowner aid program in April.

“To date, Louisiana has not received the funding we secured from Congress. Under the terms of this expedited procurement process, the new selection should be completed at nearly the same time the funds arrive to the state, and I am confident taxpayers will come out of this process better than before,” he said in a statement.

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