Louisiana News Briefs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Federal government approves disaster declaration for Louisiana

President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in areas of Louisiana affected by severe winter weather in February, the White House announced Tuesday.

The declaration opens the door to federal aid to support local recovery efforts. The parishes included in the declaration are Avoyelles, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Calcasieu, Catahoula, Claiborne, Concordia, DeSoto, East Baton Rouge, Franklin, Grant, LaSalle, Madison, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, Webster, West Carroll and Winn.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Federal cost-sharing also is available to state and eligible local governments and some private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Report: Economic impact of pandemic exacerbated racial, gender inequality

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on women and Black workers, according to a new report by Step Up Louisiana.

Black workers in Louisiana are 2.7 times more likely to be unemployed during the pandemic than white workers, the report stated, citing February data. Employment rates for low-wage workers fell 19.1%, while the drop for high-wage workers was only 0.1%. Women with school-age children have been four times more likely than fathers to leave the workforce.  

One in 5 people in Louisiana are hungry compared with 1 in 10 nationally, the worst rate in the country, the report said. The group blames the disparity on the state’s “failed unemployment system,” which has had an average weekly benefit payout of $180-$210 since March 20 of last year, the lowest in the country, the report stated citing federal statistics.

Insurance commissioner: Farmers Insurance returning to Louisiana market

Farmers Insurance, the nation’s ninth-largest property and casualty insurer, is returning to the Louisiana market in March with auto, homeowners, condo and renters insurance, Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon announced.

The California-based company is expanding in the east and south. Louisiana will be the 40th state where the company sells insurance under the Farmers’ brand.

Farmers began selling homeowners policies in Louisiana in 1999 but began shedding policies after Hurricane Katrina and exited in 2014, leaving only a subsidiary, Foremost Insurance Co., doing residential property business in Louisiana, according to Donelon’s office.

Kennedy: Denham Springs, Iberia Parish getting $3.8M for anti-flooding projects

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is dedicating more than $3.8 million for acquisition and elevation projects in Denham Springs and Iberia Parish, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy announced Tuesday.

Kennedy is a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA will fund 86% of the cost of elevating 10 buildings to a foot above base flood elevation in Denham Springs and 83% of the cost of elevating 15 structures in Iberia Parish, Kennedy’s office said.

“This is great news for the city of Denham Springs and Iberia Parish, which have been struck by floods far too often,” Kennedy said. “I look forward to seeing these elevation projects completed and these communities one step closer to flood recovery and damage prevention.”

Think tank plans virtual ‘mini summits’

The Pelican Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank, is planning three ticketed online “mini summits” later this month focused on taxes, technology and education.

U.S. Sen Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, will participate in a tax-centric forum March 22. Former Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai headlines the March 23 technology discussion, and American Enterprise Institute’s Director of Education Policy Frederick Hess will be featured in the March 24 education event.

Organizers said the events, scheduled from 10 a.m.-noon each day, will be interactive and include opportunities to ask questions and network.