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Louisiana Gov. Edwards Requesting Federal Aid in Wake of Severe Weather

September 23, 2021 by Reece Nations
Gary Johnston, left, Grant Boughamer, center, and Jose Garcia, right, place a tarp on a roof damaged by Hurricane Ida, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Golden Meadow, La. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to request federal assistance in recovery efforts for portions of the state that have been devastated by natural disasters over the past year.

Edwards met with Louisiana’s congressional delegation and other members of Congress to underscore the state’s dire need for support following the landfalls of Hurricane Ida and Tropical Storm Nicolas this year. Thousands are still without power after the powerful storms drenched the coastal regions of the state and spurred flash floods.

FEMA swiftly approved Edwards’ request for the agency’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, providing temporary housing for the thousands of residents displaced by the torrential rain and punishing winds. Louisiana parishes were still reeling from three hurricanes that struck the state in 2020 when Ida made landfall.

“I am extremely grateful to President Biden and FEMA for activating the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, which is going to bring much needed temporary housing for the survivors of Hurricane Ida,” Edwards said in a written statement. “Because of the storm’s extensive damage, thousands of our citizens are displaced and this program will provide them with critical short-term housing as they recover and rebuild their lives. Housing was at a critical shortage before the storm and that problem has been exacerbated as a result of the widespread damage. I want to encourage everyone who needs assistance to apply immediately.”

Edwards circulated a letter during his visit to Washington, stressing the need for federal assistance, to lawmakers. Families with children living in parishes within the declared disaster zone are significantly more likely to be living in poverty than the national average.

Over 90% of major tax revenues including income, sales and property taxes are linked to parishes impacted by the storms, Edwards said in his letter to lawmakers. Additionally, southwestern Louisiana represents a major industrial hub for the country’s energy sector and is home to a number of “nationally significant infrastructure assets,” such as the Port of New Orleans and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port.

“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,” Edwards said in the letter.

“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.”

Louisiana residents in the coastal parishes of Lafourche and Terrebonne are still grappling with prolonged power outages and a housing crisis weeks after Ida’s landfall, according to PBS. Around 8,000 homes statewide were either destroyed or suffered major damages from the storms.

Now, roughly 60% of homes in the Bayou region of Louisiana have been deemed unsafe by parish officials and some estimates suggest as many as 90% of homes including apartment complexes and nursing facilities in the state’s hardest-hit regions are uninhabitable.

Edwards has requested federal funding and legislative action including an expansion of FEMA’s individual assistance “Direct Repair Authority,” a resetting of FEMA’s authority to grant funding to states implementing housing programs, and extensions of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act’s duplication of benefit flexibility and relief from excessive reductions based on flood insurance for campuses, among other measures.

“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,” Edwards continued in the letter. “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 [the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief program].” 

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