Rental properties and owner-occupied houses will have an equal shot at an $11.1-million round of East Baton Rouge flood recovery funds that leaders hope to begin disbursing in the first quarter of 2017.
Smaller amounts of money are also being set aside to help shelter homeless people and to clarify property titles for lots without clear succession so owners can qualify for federal aid.
In September, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development announced it would offer $13 million in stop-gap flood recovery money for Baton Rouge and Lafayette, most of which would go to the Capital City.
East Baton Rouge and Lafayette parishes have received about $13 million in stop gap federal …
Wednesday, the city-parish staff asked the Metro Council to approve a spending plan so the local government can receive the money from HUD. Some members of the Metro Council were critical of the delay, though Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel and Office of Community Development Director Connie Hall attributed the hold-ups to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which had to provide the city-parish with data such as the number of homes that flooded and whether they were rentals or owner-occupied.
According to a report presented Wednesday, East Baton Rouge was split, with about half of the 50,579 flooded structures being occupied by owners and the other half with renters.
The city-parish will spend $3.7 million of the HUD money to repair low- to moderate-income owner-occupied houses and another $3.7 million to repair low- to moderate-income rentals.
Another million will go toward providing beds at homeless shelters, and a half-million dollars will be dedicated to helping people clear up their property titles. Residents can't qualify for federal assistance for property if they can't prove they own it, as happens when an owner dies and family members move in without a clear title in place.
Thousands of flooded families across the Baton Rouge area are getting hung up on legal techn…
The final $2.2 million has been set aside to pay administrative costs. Though the city-parish will direct how the money is spent, the state will officially administer the program, since the local Office of Community Development is still working to account for $2.2 million in HUD funds flagged during a recent audit.
The city-parish could be forced to repay as much as $2.2 million in federal money because au…
While HUD and the OCD have agreed broadly on how the money is to be spent, authorities have not yet determined which properties will qualify for the rebuilding funds and how projects will be prioritized, another sticking point with the Metro Council.
"This is very vague. … I want to make sure that this money goes to make the homeowners whole," Donna Collins-Lewis said of the proposal she was asked to approve.
The councilwoman said she's read in the newspaper that FEMA is spending $129,000 per mobile home — an "insane" amount — and she wants to make sure the HUD funds are spent appropriately.
For the amount of money FEMA is spending on temporary mobile homes for flood victims, the fe…
Collins-Lewis briefly led a charge to try to rewrite the ordinance so none of the HUD money could be spent without Metro Council approval, but parish attorney Lea Anne Batson talked her out of it. The council's lawyer said she had "grave concerns" that the federal government would not agree to a plan that relies on contingent local support.
Collins-Lewis withdrew her motion after reassurances from city staff that they will bring back the final plan before spending any money. Daniel said more-specific information about how the money will be spent will likely be available in February or March.
In other flood-related business, the total cost of debris removal, damage to local government property, and other municipal costs has risen to $65 million. Finance Director Marsha Hanlon has said the increase from $47 million is mostly due to a more-expensive debris removal process than was initially anticipated.
Months after the August flood, the cost of the damage continues to rise.
Wednesday, the Metro Council agreed to pay for the extra expenses, at least 90 percent of which are expected to be reimbursed by the federal government.
Capital Area Human Services also gave an update on their efforts to treat anxiety, depression and other mental and emotional health concerns among flood victims. The agency has received FEMA grant money to provide free counseling through the Louisiana Spirit program.
They are especially concerned about how children and the elderly are handling the stress of homelessness, loss and displacement.
The day is drawing nearer when the reality of what people lost in last month's floods will h…
Area manager Henrietta Spears said she's heard some elderly people who have lost a lifetime of possessions say they "just want God to come and take me."
Yet there are also stories of incredible resiliency. She recalled the story of a triple-amputee mother of four, including a child with special needs, affected by the flood. When Spears visited the family to discuss their needs, the children were just getting off the school bus, arriving home to find their mother cooking a meal for them.
Crisis counselors are canvassing neighborhoods and visiting areas where flood victims are staying, but residents can also reach them around the clock by dialing (877) 310-7977.