JBE at St James 090521 (copy)

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Sunday updates recovery efforts from damage caused Hurricane Ida during a briefing in Convent.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday he is not ready to echo complaints by Louisiana's congressional delegation that federal officials are being too restrictive on which parishes qualify for temporary roofs in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

"I cannot tell you I have a concern today," Edwards told reporters. "That may change once I know whether additional parishes have been added."

A total of 15 parishes have been authorized by FEMA to get temporary roofs under the Blue Roof program.

But 10 parishes declared disaster areas have been left out, including East Baton Rouge Parish.

U.S. Reps. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson and three others in the congressional delegation sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Deane Criswell on Monday. It asked that the agency revise its criteria so more parishes are eligible for the fiber-reinforced sheeting designed to keep homes dry until permanent repairs are made.

Edwards said he has not seen the criteria used by Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine which parishes qualify.

He said he was told earlier by the Corps that parishes subjected to hurricane-force winds would be eligible.

The first roofs are set to go up Wednesday weather permitting. The work is done by contractors under the direction of FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

About 40,000 households have applied for the temporary roofs, and an official said Monday the request list may grow to 70,000 households.

The 15 parishes approved for blue roofs are Ascension, Assumption, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Terrebonne.

Those declared disaster areas but excluded from the blue roofs are East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, St. Martin, St. Mary, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes.

The governor made his comments during a 75-minute briefing on hurricane recovery efforts nine days after the Category 4 storm arrived near Port Fourchon.

Edwards said the death toll from the hurricane has risen to 15 with the deaths of a 68-year-old man who fell off his roof while making repairs and a 71-year-old man who died from lack of oxygen during a power outage.

Both were St. Tammany Parish residents.

Edwards said about 435,000 customers remain without power, which means individuals grappling without electricity are three of four times higher since a customer can be a home with multiple family members.

About 25,000 state residents are in hotels under a federal program that pays for rooms and taxes.

FEMA has paid about $175 million in emergency assistance.

Stephen Russo, general counsel for the Louisiana Department of Health, said a wide-ranging investigation is underway after major problems developed when seven New Orleans-area nursing homes were evacuated to a warehouse.

Russo said when LDH employees tried to check on the evacuated nursing home residents Tuesday they were "intimidated" by someone claiming to be a nursing home owner.

He said at the time state officials were told by the owner that he had a plan in place and things were fine.

"That is not what we were finding when we were on the ground," Russo said.

The seven homes are owned by Baton Rouge businessman Bob Dean.

Officials also spelled out benefits for 18 parishes with residents who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP.

Those whose cases were certified before Aug. 29 will get replacements of 55% of the August benefit allotment because of power outages that affected at least half the parish. Benefits are set to be loaded on EBT cards by Sept. 11.

The parishes are Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne and Washington.

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.