Louisiana would receive less than $400 million in additional flood recovery funds under a spending proposal Congress is mulling this week.
The precise dollar amount is unclear, but Congress' spending deal to fund the government through September would set aside $400 million for Louisiana and other states that have been through recent disasters. State leaders say they expect Louisiana will receive a significant portion of it through a formula used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The state has already received $1.6 billion in flood aid from Congress, the bulk of which will go toward programs to help homeowners affected by last year's historic floods rebuild their houses.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and members of the state's Congressional delegation had sought about $2 billion in additional federal assistance in the latest spending plan, holding repeated meetings with members of President Donald Trump's administration and influential members of the U.S. House and Senate to try to build support.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, is working on a bipartisan amendment to the bill to increase the $400 million total and lay the ground work for additional funding in the appropriations bill expected in September, according to his office.
Edwards, a Democrat, said he is working with the delegation to identify additional opportunities for funding. In the past, disaster aid has been tucked into other measures, including defense spending.
“Louisiana’s recovery from the historic floods in March and August is far from complete, but we are well on our way," Edwards said. "While it does not fulfill our unmet needs completely, we are extremely grateful that Congress has stepped up to help the people of Louisiana."
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, meanwhile, said that he proposal "marks another big step in making our state and families whole.”
“Louisiana’s state and federal officials have worked together as a team to make sure Louisiana families have the resources they need to recover, rebuild and prosper,” he said.
If the additional nearly $400 million receives final approval, the state estimates that it still needs another $1 billion for homeowner assistance, $125 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Comite River Diversion project and $86 million in social services block grant funding to address the health and mental health needs of the communities affected by the floods.
State leaders have approved putting about $1.3 billion of the money already received toward the homeowner programs, which are expected to be running later this month.
More than 17,000 homeowners have completed online surveys for the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program – the first step in the application process.
Aside from the homeowner programs, the state also expects to launch programs to aid flood-affected renters and businesses.
The state will be reaching out to landlords and developers to try to address the state’s supply of affordable rental housing with about $36 million available in loans that will go toward building and repairing rental houses and apartments.
Another $51.2 million program in interest-free loans will be available for flood-affected businesses. If certain conditions are met, borrowers can get 20 percent of their loans forgiven.
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