Graves applauds White House concurrence on disaster funding for flood control and schools

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
U.S. Representative Graves lends a hand with Volunteer Ascension for Hurricane Harvey Victims.

One lesson we are sharing is ‘never give up’, whether that means the struggle to recover or the fight for resources. We will fight for these resources”

Congressman Garret Graves (R-South Louisiana) issued the following statement on the White House’s request for supplemental disaster appropriations:

After countless meetings with White House, HUD, FEMA and Congressional leaders since August 2016, I am encouraged by the Trump Administration’s proposal to use CDBG funds for flood mitigation and other funds for school rebuilding costs. And I will work with other Members of Congress to ensure that our state is best positioned to secure these funds to advance our recovery.”

On November 17, the White House Office of Management and Budget submitted a request for disaster supplemental appropriations that includes, among other items, a request for $12 billion for flood mitigation projects and $1.235 billion in school repairs not covered by FEMA. The funds are proposed to be administered through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the Hurricane Education Account respectively.

We have been saying from the beginning that Louisiana’s two billion recovery dollars should be made available to fund the Comite River Diversion Canal and the shortfall in school repairs. It is gratifying that the administration agrees with this strategy, but now is the time for sharp elbows to get the dollars we need to complete our recovery,” Graves said.

Flood mitigation (p. 45). The Comite River Diversion Canal is estimated to cost $212 million to complete. Any combination of funds from federal CDBG, federal Hazard Mitigation, state capital outlay, Corps of Engineers and Amite River Basin Commission funds are enough to substantially complete, if not totally complete, the project. The White House proposal offers an obvious choice for Louisiana to compete for all necessary resources to ensure total funding and timely completion.

School repair (p.28). Potentially a major step to help Capital Region school systems that are struggling to rebuild from the August 2016 floods because of FEMA’s draconian reimbursement policies. If enacted, this policy will result in more funding for school damages, quicker and complete recovery, and returning our students to a safe learning environment.

Many Capital Area public school districts are denied necessary public assistance funding due to FEMA’s strict implementation of federal flood insurance reimbursement rules. School campuses that flood are penalized $500,000 per building, instead of $500,000 per campus. This means a maintenance shed and t-building is treated the same as classroom space and athletic facilities.

The impact is real. For example, the penalty costs Livingston Parish Schools in Denham Springs is $31.6 million of their estimated $104 million in damages. The cost to Ascension Parish Schools is $11.4 million of their estimated $90 million in damages.

Duplication of benefits. The White House proposal is consistent with the recovery efforts proposed in H.R. 4438, the Graves-Richmond bill to waive duplication of benefits prohibitions that prevent disaster survivors from accessing all available recovery resources and communities from accessing all available resiliency resources. Joining Graves and Richmond are members and delegates from Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Louisiana rushed to aid Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and to share with them our expertise in flood recovery. I’ve traveled there personally to see the devastation in each of these locations and to work with their congressional delegations. One lesson we are sharing is ‘never give up’, whether that means the struggle to recover or the fight for resources. We will fight for these resources,” Graves said.

Contributed by Stacy Schliewe, Community Liaison & Deputy Communications Director, Office of Congressman Garret Graves (LA-06) 225-442-1731 (office)