(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Office of Community Development will hold a series of public hearings in the coming weeks to gather input on the state’s plan to spend $600 million in federal funds to help residents recover from hurricanes Laura and Delta.
Officials will hold five in-person meetings; in Alexandria and Lake Charles on March 9, in Monroe and Shreveport on March 16 and a virtual meeting March 14. The public comment period will run for 30 days, after which state officials will incorporate the public comments and submit the plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval. HUD approval is the last step before Louisiana can access the funds, according to a statement from Gov. John Bel Edwards.
“By proactively preparing our state’s action plan, we are taking the first step in getting long awaited federal assistance on the ground in our communities that are still recovering,” Edwards said. “With the allocated funding, we will be able to address housing, economic revitalization, infrastructure and planning programs, which is why we need the public to participate in these hearings and provide input on the state’s plan to ensure program priorities are aligned with community needs.”
Edwards said Louisiana was the first of 10 states set to receive funds as part of the federal Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act to publish an action plan, which is available on the state website.
The 189-page action plan, which was published Friday, is designed to address billions of dollars in remaining unmet needs after a series of storms in 2020 and 2021.
“Louisiana residents across the state are looking to rebuild and recover after six different federally declared disasters occurred in just two years amidst an ongoing pandemic. In total, 60 out of the 64 parishes were impacted by at least one of the disasters of 2020 and 2021. From Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta, and Ida, 100,778 homeowners sustained wind damage, an estimated 75% without homeowners’ insurance,” according to the plan summary. “Based on the Unmet Needs Assessment presented in this document, the state has calculated a total unmet need of $5,397,311,690 attributable to Hurricanes Laura, Delta, and Zeta and an additional $8,489,208,010 attributable to Hurricane Ida.”
Highlights of the plan include a proposed $189 million for the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance program to rehabilitate homes of the state’s most vulnerable; $107.6 million for an Affordable Rental and Homeless Prevention programs; $5.1 million in loans, grants and technical assistance for small businesses; $196 million for infrastructure and nonfederal cost share assistance programs; and $78 million for mitigation work to improve resilience to future storms.
The Office of Community Development launched a survey Feb. 1 for homeowners who sustained major damage from hurricanes Laura or Delta, which is the first step in registering for the Restore Louisiana recovery program.
The survey is available at restore.la.gov or by phone at 866-735-2001.
Louisiana’s action plan notes while the damage is different from the storms over the last two years, when compared with the past, recovery will focus on the most important aspects first – housing those most in need.
“While the state is cognizant an award large enough to cover all unmet needs is not reasonable to expect as a result of these disasters, it does believe this unmet need total illustrates the unique nature of these disasters relative to those from which it has coordinated past long-term recovery activities,” according to the plan.
“Specifically, Hurricane Laura’s, Delta’s, Zeta’s and Ida’s powerful winds cut across a swath of rural Louisiana, that while lacking in dense population centers provides essential drivers to Louisiana’s economy – specifically in the agriculture and timber industries, for which this disaster was as catastrophic as any in the state’s history,” the plan reads. “Still, given the intent of the (Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery) program, the state will – as it has in the past – first prioritize housing recovery activities in effectuating its long-term recovery efforts.”