By William Patrick | The Center Square
Louisiana U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is attempting to secure $1.1 billion in federal disaster relief from a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill he voted against last week.
Kennedy has made repeated requests for funding to help Louisiana residents and businesses recover from last year’s hurricane season. All of his attempts have been ignored, he said, upon offering an amendment to the recently brokered Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“In the last year, Louisiana – especially southwest Louisiana – has suffered through historic hurricanes, followed by flooding. Louisianans have always helped their neighbors, and I again ask the Senate to help Louisiana recover by adopting this amendment to get them relief,” Kennedy said Monday. “Our people have waited too long for the funds they need to rebuild their lives and communities.”
Kennedy was one of 32 senators to vote against an infrastructure agreement that was partly negotiated by fellow Louisiana Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy. The dissenting votes centered on overspending, inflation and the absence of bill text.
Kennedy now is tying his disaster relief efforts to the bill’s success.
Congressional lawmakers routinely appropriate relief funds after a natural disaster, but the process begins with a request for supplemental aid from the president. That has not occurred, despite multiple hurricanes and repeated requests from members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation.
Kennedy cited seven attempts to bring home the disaster aid on his website, including letters to bipartisan Senate leaders and President Joe Biden.
He also pressed U.S. Housing and Urban Development officials in May and joined Cassidy and the state’s six U.S. House members last month in urging the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to intervene and prioritize the funding.
“Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a formal request in January 2021 outlining specific recovery and mitigation needs,” the joint letter to OMB acting Director Shalanda Young read.
“Today marks 328 days since the disaster, and as we approach the one-year anniversary of these devastating storms, we are hopeful that OMB will acknowledge the extreme need for supplemental disaster relief and issue a formal request,” the letter read.
Edwards, a Democrat, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon endorsing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which he said “provides funding and policy certainty” and “protect(s) our communities against the flooding events that occur throughout our state with a higher frequency.”
If passed, Louisiana could gain $6 billion for roads, highways and bridges. Kennedy’s amendment would added another $1.1 billion.