Louisiana's housing recovery from 2016's historic floods is picking up its pace and on track for near completion by the end of the year, state officials said Friday.
"We're on the path to do that," Office of Community Development director Pat Forbes told the state's flood recovery task force. "We still have more work to do."
The state has distributed 4,790 awards so far, totaling $138 million, out of its $1.3 billion in federal aid that the state has dedicated to flood recovery assistance for homeowners.
About 47,000 homeowners have taken the initial survey to apply for aid. More than 38,400 environmental reviews, which are a federally-required first step toward construction, have been completed.
"We're moving faster than any other home building recovery effort in our nation's history," Gov. John Bel Edwards told the panel. "While we're making real progress, I think we can agree that it isn't enough, it isn't fast enough if people are still suffering."
Forbes told Restore Louisiana Task Force members that the program has been ramping up its output and is preparing for a Congressional fix that will allow people who were awarded federally-backed loans to also receive additional grant dollars.
"We're still very much in the middle of recovery and we have a lot of work to do," Edwards said.
Forbes said the state expects to have all homeowner grants awarded by August – two years after floods swept Baton Rouge. The housing recovery program is three tiered, with a state-selected contractor option, homeowner-selected contractor option and the option to receive funding for work already completed.
Forbes said all construction through the first option should be done by the end of the year. Homeowners who select their own contractors may face a longer timeline and not meet the end-of-year projection if they face construction delays.
Officials have continued to encourage flood-affected homeowners to apply for assistance if they have not done so already or to check back on the status of pending applications. People can apply online at restore.la.gov or by phone at (866) 735-2001. Phone applications can be submitted Monday through Friday. Several outreach events are also being held across the state in the coming weeks to provide more information.
Restore Louisiana Task Force chairman Jimmy Durbin, the former long-time mayor of Denham Springs, which was hit particularly hard by the catastrophic floods, said that he was encouraged by the updated year-end target for the program.
"That gives a lot of hope to people," he said.