Louisiana secures $1.7B for hurricane recovery; $450M for hard hit Lake Charles region

·5 min read
Vincent Settlement Elementary in south Calcasieu Parish sustained significant damage from Hurricane Laura in August 2020. The school was closed for 61 instructional days.
Vincent Settlement Elementary in south Calcasieu Parish sustained significant damage from Hurricane Laura in August 2020. The school was closed for 61 instructional days.

Louisiana has secured about $1.7 billion in federal disaster funding for storm recovery, which includes $450 million for Lake Charles' ongoing recovery from 2020 Hurricanes Laura and Delta and about $1.27 billion for Hurricane Ida in 2021.

Congress passed a $5 billion supplemental disaster funding bill last fall, but most of that was unallocated until the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development finished its allocation process.

“This is hard-earned relief for South Louisiana,” Cassidy said in a statement. “We still have a long road to go to fully recover, but this level of funding helps tremendously. We will continue to work to address unmet needs.”

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About $600 million for the 2020 storms from the bill had already been targeted for the Lake Charles area, bringing the total to just over $1 billion for southwestern Louisiana.

“Today is a great day for Lake Charles,” Mayor Nic Hunter said. “To all of the residents in my community who are still struggling, I’m sorry it took this long. I'm sorry you've had to traverse a longer and rockier road than you should have, but help is on the way.”

The $1.27 billion had already been expected for recovery from Hurricane Ida, which devastated what's known as Louisiana's bayou country in 2021.

Last year state officials estimated Louisiana had $3 billion in unmet needs from the 2020 Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta, which included about $1 billion in unmet housing needs.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the $450 million for Lake Charles shows that despite southwestern Louisiana’s long wait for federal aid after a pair of devastating back-to-back hurricanes shows that the area has not been forgotten.

“The additional $450 million in (federal) funding for Hurricanes Laura and Delta from 2020 brings the total allocation of funding for that program to over a billion dollars and will certainly go a long way to help Southwest Louisiana recover from those disasters,” Edwards said.

“People in Southwest Louisiana are still hurting from the August of 2020 time period, and this will go a long way not just help them recover, but they will know that they haven't been forgotten.”

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The local governments of Baton Rouge and Lake Charles will be getting an additional $4.6 million and $10.8 million, respectively, as part of the federal disaster aid package.

“This is welcomed news, but it shouldn’t have taken six months for the funds to be allocated," said Congressman Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, in a statement. "We have hurricane victims that needed these funds back in September when we passed the law.

“This is a great first step and down payment, but there remains more work to be done to get these funds in motion and to help those still struggling to recover from Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. We are approaching the 2022 hurricane season – we’ve got to get these funds moving as soon as possible before any storm inevitably barrels through the Gulf.”

U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, whose district covers Lake Charles and southwestern Louisiana, called the announcement “welcome news” but noted there is still work to do for the region.

“We have continued to push for additional disaster relief in Congress and have repeatedly called on HUD to prioritize Louisiana’s unmet needs as it allocated remaining disaster block grant funding,” Higgins said in a statement. “While this announcement delivers on those efforts, we still have work to do.”

U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, and Mike Johnson, R-Benton, were the only members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation to vote against the package.

U.S. Rep Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, called the funds “historic investments for Louisiana.”

“Today’s announcement is yet another example of the federal government showing up for the people of Louisiana,” Carter said in a statement. “This more than $1.27 billion infusion into our state will not only help communities rebuild and recover from Hurricane Ida and recent floods, but will help build long-term strength and resiliency in our systems."

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HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said on a press call with Edwards and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear Tuesday that the funds will give communities the tools they need to build resilience for the future.

"You can use those funds for housing, whether it be new construction or rehabilitation for infrastructure, which would include rebuilding or replacing things like public infrastructure, schools, healthcare facilities, water, wastewater, economic revitalization, job training, workforce development," Fudge said.

"So there are a lot of other things that are available to be done with these resources."

Louisiana is also getting $40 million from the federal government's new Swift Current initiative to buyout homes and properties that have repeatedly flooded, Vice President Kamala Harris announced during her trip to Sunset Monday.

That funding is coming from the bipartisan Infrastructure Act passed by Congress last year.

"Today, we are announcing $60 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law will be made available to help communities build flood resilience, and $40 million of that funding will be spent right here in Louisiana," Harris said. "This is about helping homeowners. This is about helping residents. It's about knowing something's going to come, and let's build up in a way that we can mitigate so we can minimize, so we can lessen the harm that we know happens every time."

Those funds come in addition to regular funding that is targeted toward repetitive loss properties covered by the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides flood insurance to thousands of homes in Louisiana.

"These investments show the federal government’s commitment to helping communities in Louisiana impacted by flooding get back on their feet,” Carter said in a release Monday. “We need to build resilience within communities, and these Swift Current grants put money in the hands of homeowners to do exactly that.

"We must reduce the financial burden facing families struggling to rebuild after a storm, and the next step is to address the rising cost of flood insurance facing many Louisianans."

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Louisiana secures $1.7B for hurricane recovery; $450M for Lake Charles