Louisiana's two senators have resorted to a parliamentary tactic attempting to force the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to clarify rules that have slowed the recovery efforts of some homeowners impacted by the 2016 floods.
U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy announced early Wednesday morning that they have placed "holds" on two Trump administration nominees for positions within the department, hoping their statement will prompt the department to issue guidance needed for Louisiana homeowners to access long-delayed recovery grants.
The holds prevent the Senate from confirming the promotions of two officials: Seth Appleton, nominee for HUD assistant secretary of policy development and research, and Robert Hunter Kurtz, nominee for HUD assistant secretary.
"There is nothing wrong with these nominees, what is wrong is HUD's delay," Cassidy said in a statement. "HUD needs to realize we aren't going to tolerate bureaucratic games. They need to get serious, because this is very serious to the flood victims in Louisiana still struggling to put their lives back together."
WASHINGTON — State officials are still waiting on action from the Trump administration before paying out millions in Restore Louisiana flood …
Gov. John Bel Edwards supported the delegation's maneuver and said his office would work with Louisiana's representatives in Washington to resolve the duplication of benefits matter. Families' recovery hang in the balance as they wait for HUD instructions that will determine whether they can participate in the Restore program, he wrote in a statement.
"It is beyond frustrating for so many homeowners who need and deserve answers. We cleared one hurdle of getting the legislation passed and now we are faced with another," Edwards wrote.
As many as 6,000 Louisianans who took out loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration have been waiting to see if changes to federal rules will allow them to also access Restore Louisiana recovery grants.
After being pressed by Louisiana's congressional delegation, Congress changed the law in October to specifically allow disaster victims who applied for SBA loans to not have those count against the Restore grants. But state officials and impacted homeowners have continued to wait for HUD to issue new legal guidance that would give Restore Louisiana the green light.
That guidance was expected by the end of March but could be delayed another month due to the federal government shutdown.
A month-long shutdown of the federal government likely further delayed recovery grants to homeowners trying to get back on track after the 201…
The policy in place before the law was passed in October said that any loans approved by the SBA had to be deducted from potential grant assistance. That policy was widely criticized by homeowners and state officials because it left flood-impacted homeowners who otherwise could have qualified for Restore Louisiana grants on the hook for years of loan repayments.
More than two years after the 2016 floods and four months after the October law change, state and federal officials are still struggling to resolve the issue.
"I'm not trying to play games here, but a lot of flood victims in Louisiana are waiting on HUD," Kennedy said in a statement Wednesday. "They need HUD to issue guidelines so they can rebuild their homes and get on with their lives. I'm hoping this will give HUD the nudge it needs."