Gov. Edwards requests additional FEMA funding, with an eye on two possible named storms

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he has asked the federal government to pick up a greater share of the cost of state efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Louisiana has exceeded the threshold that allows the state to move from a 75/25 ratio to a 90/10 match under Stafford Act guidelines, Edwards said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for enhanced unemployment benefits put the state over the threshold, he said. The president would have to approve the request.

Edwards said Louisiana has received the $375 million from the federal government that will allow the state to pay out an extra $300 weekly in unemployment benefits to more than 400,000 residents on top of their state benefit of $247 or less. He expects the enhanced payments to begin going out next week.

During his regular COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Edwards touched briefly on the fact that two named storms could be in the Gulf of Mexico by next week. Tropical Depression 13 is expected to enter the eastern gulf early next week and is forecasted to become a hurricane before landfall.

Tropical Depression 14 is expected to move into the northwestern Gulf of Mexico early next week. It is expected to develop into a tropical storm, and parts of the western half of Louisiana’s coast are within the possible path, Edwards said.

“It is possible that next week, two, not one but two very serious storms could make landfall in Louisiana,” he said. “If you haven’t done so, now is an excellent time to get prepared.”

Edwards said he has spoken with LSU athletics officials about plans for football in the fall. He said he expects a plan, which would include how many fans are allowed in Tiger Stadium, in the next 10-12 days, but he added that whatever plans are announced could change by the time of the scheduled season kickoff on Sept. 26.

Edwards cited a recent study in which 2,100 adults from the Baton Rouge area were tested for COVID-19. Perhaps the key takeaway was that 60 percent of the people who tested positive did not have symptoms, which means they likely wouldn’t have been tested if they hadn’t participated in the study and may have unknowingly spread the virus.

“That’s what makes this pandemic so very difficult to manage,” he said.

Louisiana continues to see reductions in the number of COVID-19 patients who are in hospitals. As of noon Thursday, 1,087 COVID-19-positive patients were hospitalized and 178 of them were on ventilators, state health officials reported.

At least 4,496 people with COVID-19 have died, officials reported. Almost 141,000 total cases have been reported, and officials believe more than 118,000 of them have recovered.