Louisiana News Briefs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana launches $161M rental assistance program

Louisiana launched a $161 million rental assistance program Friday paid for out of the state’s share of $25 billion in federal pandemic relief.

The Louisiana Housing Corporation, in partnership with the Louisiana Office of Community Development, will administer the state program in 57 parishes. The seven parishes not included – Caddo, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafayette, Orleans and St. Tammany – applied for direct allocations available to jurisdictions with more than 200,000 residents and will administer their own programs.

The state-administered program will focus on paying past-due rent and up to three months of future rent for eligible applicants. Priority will be given to households where at least one member has been unemployed for more than 90 days because of COVID-19, and to households earning less than 50% of the Area Median Income, as required by the law, officials said.

To learn more or to apply for the state program, tenants and landlords can visit www.LAStateRent.com or call 877-459-6555.

“We know many Louisiana renters are in jeopardy of eviction due to financial circumstances as a result of the current pandemic, and we want to prevent that,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “At the same time, we know many rental property owners are also being impacted. This program is designed to help provide much needed relief to both landlords and renters during this challenging time.”

Impact statement available for $2B coastal restoration project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the draft environmental impact statement for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, said to be the largest ecosystem restoration project in U.S. history.

Penalties BP paid as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 are supposed to cover the nearly $2 billion price tag. The project, part of the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, will reconnect the Mississippi River to adjacent wetlands to build and maintain tens of thousands of acres of land in the Barataria Basin, which is experiencing one of the highest rates of land loss on the planet, advocates said.

“This project will protect against future disasters,” said Kimberly Davis Reyher, executive director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. “It will also create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in economic impact when our state needs these investments desperately. Louisiana has no time to lose when it comes to our coastal crisis, and we must get this project built as soon as possible.” 

Louisiana ranks last nationally for protecting children during pandemic, according to nonprofit

Families in Louisiana are hurting more than in any other state during the pandemic, according to a report by the global nonprofit Save the Children.

The state ranked last in hunger and tools for remote learning and in the bottom five in difficulty paying bills, the report said. Twenty-five percent of families do not have enough to eat, 25% usually do not have access to the internet or a digital device for educational purposes and 50% are struggling to pay for household expenses.

The poorest in the state are even worse off, the report continued; 72% of the poorest households are struggling to keep up with usual expenses, while over half said it’s very difficult to pay for things such as food and rent. Meanwhile, the wealthiest families in Louisiana are all getting enough to eat and generally can meet their regular household expenses.