NEW ROADS — Residents of a Pointe Coupee Parish community prone to flooding were encouraged Thursday night to apply for the state's new Shelter at Home program as they try to restore their lives following last month's devastating floods.
That encouragement from federal, state and local leaders occurred during a town hall meeting during which many residents of Pecan Acres, located in a flood zone, vented their frustrations over being repeatedly denied aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after previous flooding in their community.
"When you keep getting denied and denied, who else can you go to?" Betty JeanPierre said.
Pecan Acres has been dubbed "Flood City" by residents who claim their neighborhood has flooded some 17 times over the past decade or two.
JeanPierre has lived in the Pecan Acres area, just outside New Roads city limits, for 38 years and said she maintained flood and homeowner's insurance but rarely received payouts on claims from previous floods because insurance companies used loopholes to avert their responsibilities.
"And then FEMA denied me because I didn't have flood insurance anymore after I dropped it," she said. "I'm in a frustrated state!"
JeanPierre was one of nearly 80 people who filled the gymnasium at Rosenwald Elementary School on Thursday seeking help.
Flooding in the community has been an ongoing issue since 1971. The most recent flood, which impacted the entire Baton Rouge region as well, was the last straw for residents in the fixed-income, mostly elderly black community.
The last major flood in Pecan Acres occurred during Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Back then, residents blamed the flood on a drainage pump that failed, causing a canal to overflow and overtop a nearby levee and flooding more than 100 homes in the Pecan Acres and Pleasant View neighborhoods.
Parish officials had said the pump was equipped to handle only 10 inches of rain — not the nearly 14 inches that inundated the system during Gustav.
NEW ROADS — Like thousands of other households across the region, residents in a quaint Poin…
Residents banded together following the Gustav flood in a class action lawsuit accusing the parish of negligence because of the drainage pump malfunction. They were awarded part of a $2 million insurance settlement in 2012.
They banded together again following last month's historic floods, leaning on help from retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who galvanized their efforts during a recent community meeting.
Honoré, who grew up in Pointe Coupee Parish, leads the Green ARMY, a coalition of environmental groups in Louisiana. His involvement in the Pecan Acres saga has already got the attention of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who toured the area following Honoré's Aug. 29 meeting with residents.
Meanwhile, many of the residents aren't qualifying for FEMA aid because they didn't maintain flood insurance the federal government required of them after the were awarded federal aid following previous floods.
"Like healthcare, we need affordable flood insurance," Honoré told the crowd Thursday. "If you're spending $3,000 a year on insurance and making only $12,000 a year, it's impossible to afford it for seniors on fixed incomes. But we don't have a solution."
Honoré said it's going to take action from national leaders and the White House to address that issue.
In the meantime, local elected officials offered the state's Shelter at Home program as one option.
More than 5,400 people whose homes were damaged by the catastrophic flooding that swept acro…
"This is a different pot of funds," said Cornell Dukes, president of the parish Police Jury. "It doesn't matter if you've already received FEMA funds before. They're not trying to make us whole again, but it's there for you to get as much help as you can."
Through Shelter at Home, certain homeowners can get up to $15,000 worth of basic repairs to get them back into their houses while the remainder of the repairs are completed. The initial repairs come at no cost to the homeowners.
Organizers of the town hall had representatives from FEMA, the Governor's Office and American Red Cross at the meeting to help with registration and application concerns.
Local leaders also said they are working now on infrastructure measures to provide some immediate protection should another heavy rainfall pound the area. Honoré said the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is also working on more long-term solutions that could better protect the community from future flooding.