By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
Officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Louisiana officials announced Tuesday nearly $3 billion in funding for disaster relief.
HUD is allocating $450 million to Louisiana for recovery from hurricanes Laura and Delta and $1.27 billion for Hurricane Ida as part of the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act approved by Congress in September.
The money is in addition to $600 million allocated by HUD last year for Laura and Delta and raises the total available in Louisiana through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program to more than $1 billion.
“I contacted [HUD Secretary Marcia] Fudge to personally thank her for this significant allocation that should provide Louisiana with an opportunity to implement a more effective, albeit late, recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “… Louisiana will receive $1.27 billion for recovery from Hurricane Ida and other 2021 disasters. However, the need is much greater, which everyone we have spoken with in Washington acknowledges. We will continue working to secure that additional funding.”
Fudge said the announced allocation is in addition to more than $2 billion in block grant recovery funds approved in November and completes the allocation of the remaining $3 billion of the $5 billion supplemental disaster appropriation approved by Congress last year.
“HUD funds can be used in different ways than FEMA funds,” Fudge said, adding that the money can go toward housing, job training, workforce development and repairs to infrastructure such as water and wastewater systems, among other uses.
“The low- to moderate-income housing both for homeowners and renters will be taken care of with the allocation today,” Edwards said.
Fudge said HUD is working to promote legislation that would create a permanent allocation for the grant program in the future to eliminate the department’s need for special allocations for each round of funding, which would reduce the timeline to get money to areas hit by disasters.
The $5 billion HUD allocation approved by Congress last year included money for all disasters across the country in 2020 and 2021. In Louisiana, five named storms made landfall in 2020, breaking the state’s record for the most strikes in a single season, according to an Edwards’ statement.
Louisiana is set to receive a total of nearly $1.3 billion from HUD, while Baton Rouge will receive $4.6 million and Lake Charles will get $10.6 million, according to Congressman Troy Carter, D-La.
“Today’s announcement is yet another example of the federal government showing up for the people of Louisiana,” Carter said. “This more than $1.27 billion infusion into our state will not only help communities rebuild and recover from Hurricane Ida and recent floods, but will help build long-term strength and resiliency in our systems. These funds, along with the Infrastructure Law, are historic investments for Louisiana. I am proud to have supported and voted for these efforts.”
HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Grant Programs Kevin Bush said each state is required to develop an action plan and provide 30 days for public comment before HUD reviews the plan. Once approved, the funding will flow, he said.
“That process can take anywhere from a few months to a year,” Bush said.
The HUD funding announcement followed a day after Carter and Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled a new Flood Mitigation Swift Current Grant Initiative included in the infrastructure law approved by Congress last year that will allocate $60 million to Louisiana and three other states impacted by Hurricane Ida. Louisiana is set to receive $40 million of the $60 million.
Carter also joined the rest of the Louisiana congressional delegation last month to pen a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees to seek additional funding to address at least $1.8 billion in unmet need from storm damage and recovery, as well as additional funding to invest in pre-disaster mitigation and protection from future flooding events.