Together Baton Rouge launched a website Thursday it hopes will help the state get more victims of last year's historic floods qualified to receive a share of more than $1 billion in federal recovery money.
"Check My Block," an online web mapping program, asks users to plug in their home address, then shows them how many homes on their residential blocks were swamped by floodwaters.
The website, www.togetherbr.org/checkmyblock, also shows how many of the flood-impacted households haven't completed and submitted surveys that serve as the gateway to aid for flood victims through the state's federally-funded Restore Louisiana Homeowner Program.
Together Baton Rouge leaders said they hope giving users a bird's eye view of the floods' impact on their residential blocks will encourage some of those who have not yet signed up for the Restore LA funds to do so. The program is being administrated by the state's Office of Community Development.
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"Part of the reason people are not filling out the survey is trust," Broderick Bagert, lead organizer for Together BR, said at the organization's luncheon Thursday where the new website was revealed. "People think, "Is [the government] going to deliver? They haven't in the past.' "
The state has received nearly $1.7 billion from Congress since last year's floods.
But only $15 million of it has been doled out to more than 500 families, OCD Director Pat Forbes told Together BR members Thursday.
"That's a drop in the bucket compared to how much money we need to get out," he said.
Forbes said the bureaucracy associated with allocating federal funds is partly to blame for that. But, he said, the state isn't getting the number of surveys returned it should be getting based on the estimated number of households that were severely impacted by the floods.
As of early Thursday, 41,259 surveys had been completed and submitted to the state, according to Shauna Sanford, spokeswoman for the Restore Louisiana Task Force.
"We know there are thousands more that are eligible for the program," she said.
Eligibility numbers could increase if state leaders are allowed to expand the program to not only those victims who didn't have flood insurance, but also those who had insurance but received payout amounts didn't cover all their recovery costs.
"I'm super excited about this tool," Forbes said about the "Check My Block" website. "People coming together as a community for a common cause is the single most important thing you can do for resilience."
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Together BR has asked members in various communities throughout East Baton Rouge to hold local meetings to better assess recovery needs and push for greater participation in Restore LA.
"The recovery process includes many elements...but without social capital, then recovery does not succeed," Bagert said. "Social capital means relationships. It means networks."
He said it is important to the community for "people to come together and have their voices heard."