Lots of unresolved flood issues

Helen Wale Turner
Email your questions, comments, suggestions for
stories, etc. to helen@inspiredmedia-la.com. I’d love to
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Delays, inefficiency, and wasteful processes surround us . . .
Eight months after the horrific flood of August 2016, federal funds for flood victims still has not yet been delivered to the people who have been waiting for it. While Congress did authorize a substantial amount, they did not appropriate enough to cover all of Louisiana’s citizens’ housing needs. Underlying it all is the obvious need for FEMA’s rules and processes to be streamlined, simplified, more efficient and more cost-effective. Our state government also could have been more efficient in areas of their response.

And on top of that, we get more political fighting that people don’t want to hear . . .
For the last several days, there has been an ongoing partisan argument over the disbursement of federal flood relief funds between Con. Garret Graves and Gov. John Bel Edwards. Graves initially issued a press release March 31 which said that the money was being released that date to the state. When Gov. Edwards correctly disputed that the funds were being released, Grave later walked back his statement an amended it to say the funds were available to be released but the state did not have all its ducks in a row. It is true, however, that the state had not yet chosen a contractor to manage the state’s $1.6 billion flood recovery program, and did not do so until April 13.
Subsequently, Edwards was invited to Washington, D.C., to testify April 5 before Congress’ U.S. House Oversight Committee. I daresay that people in this area who were watching his testimony were expecting that there would be some discussion of how to resolve problems getting relief dollars more quickly into the hands of displaced people who need it, and they were likely hoping that as an outcome of the meeting, (1) the initial allocation of money would be released to Louisiana and start to flow to flood victims, (2) it would start the ball rolling for a second round of funding, and (3) perhaps it would be the start of FEMA reform. None of these outcomes materialized, because, in fact, there was no a meaningful discussion in the first place.

I have disagreed with some of Edwards’ actions, and, sure, the state’s relief processes in forming a plan for spending the funds and choosing a contractor could have been handled better, but, as our governor, he did not deserve to be invited to Washington under the guise of fact-finding, only to be blindsided by partisan accusations from the committee.
Furthermore, the grilling of Gov. Edwards did nothing to expedite flood relief, and an opportunity for genuine dialogue was wasted. Worse, the committee criticisms – on top of the state not be ready to accept funds – might make it more difficult for Louisiana to get additional funding that has been requested.
Everyone who participated in this fiasco should realize that people here do not want to hear any more partisan bickering. We want results and reform, and we want it now. We expect our state and Congressional delegation to figure out how to get along and take care of business.

Helen Turner
Editor & Publisher

Update: In a related matter, two days after Gov. Edwards’ visit to Washington and as we were going to press, he announced that the first part of the Flood Recovery Package – the homeowner’s damage survey – will be available beginning April 10, and, indeed is can now be accessed on the state’s website, restore.la.gov. It is a brief survey to help determine eligibility and can be complete online or by phone over the next few weeks. (See our full article about this on page 16.) Caution: People who had flood insurance, even if it was inadequate to cover their losses, should not get their hopes up too much. The information states that for all phases of the Restore Louisiana Homeowners Assistance Program, homeowners must have had major or severe home damage, and NO structural flood insurance at the time of the flood. I reiterate a point I have made before, that if, indeed, this is the case, I feel this exclusion is grossly unfair. I believe that if a homeowner’s flood insurance coverage was not enough to cover all of their structural damage, they should be eligible to share in the benefits of the program up to the amount that was not covered. Why penalize people who carried and paid for flood insurance all these years?
The online surrey asks people to complete the survey even if they believe they don’t quality because the state wants everyone included in the survey stats, and they may qualify for benefits in later phases of funding, when and if those additional funds become available.
It doesn’t take long for crooks to dream up a scam, and a new one is currently being perpetrated by dishonest people who are emiling people and telling them there is a fee for applying for relief funds. This is totally false. Do not pay anyone anything for you to apply.
Email your questions, comments, suggestions for stories, constructive criticism, etc. to me, helen@inspiredmedia-la.com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

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