Monday, April 15, 2024

HUD allocates $595M for hurricanes Laura, Delta recovery; Edwards says it’s not enough

by BIZ Magazine

By William Patrick | The Center Square

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has committed nearly $595 million for recovery needs related to hurricanes Laura and Delta, two storms that devastated southwest Louisiana last year.

Hurricane Laura, a category 4 storm that tied the state’s strongest hurricane on record, made landfall Aug. 27, 2020. Hurricane Delta was a record tying fourth named storm to hit Louisiana when it made landfall last October. Areas of the southwest region have struggled to recover ever since.

A bipartisan effort from the state’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Bel Edwards yielded numerous attempts to secure supplemental disaster relief from the Biden administration, but aid has arrived only recently, and, according to Edwards, it’s not enough.

Edwards thanked Louisiana’s congressional delegation in a news release and said the HUD funding is a step in the right direction.

“However, we don’t think the allocation for Hurricanes Laura and Delta is adequate for a full, sustainable recovery of Southwest Louisiana and the other impacted areas of the state, especially when it comes to housing,” Edwards said. “We will continue to work with our delegation and the White House to get the additional money we need.”

The funding comes from a national natural disaster relief package that was included in a congressional stopgap budget bill last month. Previously, supplemental aid would have required an approval from President Joe Biden to initiate a congressional appropriation for southwest Louisiana.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, urged Biden to provide supplemental disaster aid in May and joined the state’s congressional delegation in July in urging the Office of Management and Budget, which produces the president’s budget, to prioritize southwest Louisiana’s recovery needs.

Kennedy pegged the funding amount at $1.1 billion – nearly twice the HUD allocation – when he proposed an amendment to a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that passed the Senate in August, though the amendment was blocked.

Kennedy said Tuesday, “Louisianians still need help rebuilding from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, and some help is here. This $595M in community development block grants is going to fund crucial recovery efforts in our state.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., echoed the sentiment, saying, “It has been over a year since Louisiana was hammered by Hurricane Laura, and this relief has taken far too long. This funding is a welcome first step, but there is more work to be done to return southwest Louisiana to wholeness.”

The Louisiana Office of Community Development will receive the $595 million allocation as a HUD community development block grant. Edwards said he is working with local communities to develop a comprehensive plan. 

“HUD has not yet published the rules that govern this allocation, but as soon as they do we will submit our plan for investing these funds into recovery from the hurricanes that devastated our state more than a year ago,” Edwards said.

Edwards also said he is expecting a “down payment” in supplemental aid for damage caused by Hurricane Ida, a category 4 storm that slammed into southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, almost exactly one year after Laura. No supplemental aid has been allocated, he said.

Louisiana’s congressional delegation sent a letter to Biden nearly two months ago, emphasizing the Ida’s destruction and dangerous conditions. The letter cited $10 billion in aid occurring only four days after Hurricane Katrina similarly devastated southeast Louisiana in August 2005.

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