Gov. Edwards updates request for disaster relief funding

Staff Report
John Bel Edwards

Gov. John Bel Edwards sent a letter to President Barack Obama updating his request for disaster assistance from the historic floods in Louisiana in March and August 2016. Gov. Edwards requested more than $4 billion in additional assistance in order to respond to the unmet need for Louisiana families, businesses and communities. 

"The federal government has been incredibly responsive to the needs of our state in the wake of two historic floods,” Edwards said. “However, FEMA now estimates that our unmet needs are greater than our initial request. Congress approved a down payment for assistance, and we are extremely grateful, but there are significant challenges ahead. Addressing our agricultural losses, rebuilding homes and businesses, restoring our infrastructure and strengthening communities to ensure this type of flood does not happen again are critically important for Louisiana’s future. I look forward to working with Congress and our congressional delegation after the election to give the people of Louisiana the assistance they need.”

FEMA estimates that 6,000 Louisiana businesses flooded this year, many of which may not re-open and whose closure will result in the permanent loss of jobs in communities struggling to come home.  

FEMA also indicated that more than half of the homes impacted by this year’s floods were not in the 100-year floodplain and 78% of the impacted homes did not have flood insurance.  Some communities had over 80% of their homes impacted by these floods.   

FEMA Public Assistance grants to Louisiana communities are expected to approach $1 billion in repairs.  This does not include damages to roads and bridges, which are estimated at over $100 million. 

Gov. Edwards is further requesting an additional $125 million to fund projects such as the Comite River Diversion Canal, ensuring that these large-scale basin-wide projects can address future flood impacts on a community-wide basis. Additional requests to the President also include $92 million in Social Services Disaster Block Grants to address post-flood mental health and child-care challenges for Louisiana families, as well as the distribution of $39 million in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Emergency Highway backlog assistance for roads and bridges damaged in the floods.

Recently, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that included $500 million in disaster assistance for states, including $438 million in disaster relief for Louisiana alone. Gov. Edwards made three separate trips to Washington, DC to lobby Congress for the assistance, including two trips with Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.