Biden initiates long-awaited supplemental relief for last year’s Louisiana hurricanes

By William Patrick | The Center Square

A year after a series of hurricanes slammed into Louisiana, and after many attempts to secure aid, President Joe Biden has initiated supplemental disaster relief funding for still recovering areas of southwest and central Louisiana.

Biden issued the formal disaster aid request to Congress as part of a $24 billion funding proposal that includes Hurricane Ida relief, and an additional $6.4 billion for Afghan refugee resettlement.

Louisiana’s congressional delegation has made numerous appeals for the supplemental aid, most recently in advance of Biden’s tour of Ida-affected areas Friday with Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta caused widespread damage beyond initial recovery efforts last year. Though Congress often appropriates additional natural disaster funding, the process must begin with a request from the president.

That did not occur until the White House budget office announced urgent national funding needs Tuesday.

“The Administration is committed to delivering the funding necessary to help impacted states and tribes recover from recent extreme weather events and natural disasters,” acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote. “This includes disasters from the last eighteen months – such as Hurricanes Laura and Delta – for which there are remaining unmet needs, as well as more recent and immediate needs such as those stemming from ongoing wildfires and Hurricane Ida.” 

The request included $14 billion to address natural disasters nationwide before Hurricane Ida, and another $10 billion for post-Ida recovery.

Louisiana sought $3 billion earlier this year to cover wind, flooding and other damages after Hurricane Laura. It’s unclear how much funding now will go to Louisiana or where it will come from.

The White House’s pre-Ida national funding request included $2.3 billion for the Community Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program, $2.6 billion for Federal Highway Emergency Relief and $9 billion for the Wildlife and Hurricane Indemnity Program.

U.S. Sen. John Cassidy, R-La., said the request was “long overdue for southwest Louisiana,” and added, “We must make sure that everyone is cared for after Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta from 2020 and Ida from last week.”

A letter signed by Cassidy and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on Sept. 3, along with the state’s six U.S. House members, urged Biden to expedite Hurricane Ida relief and cited $10 billion in aid provided just four days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005.

Although the White House funding request came nine after Ida’s landfall, the $24 billion natural disaster package is far from filtering into the state.

According to Young, Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution, or “stop-gap” spending bill, to secure the funding while lawmakers continue to negotiate the House Democrats’ proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation budget.

“With the end of the fiscal year rapidly approaching, it’s clear that Congress will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to provide more time for the FY 2022 process to unfold,” she said.

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