Critical relief for Louisiana disaster victims on the way

Staff Report
Congressman Garret Graves

Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) announced that the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to provide important relief to Louisiana disaster victims. The emergency appropriations bill (H.R. 4667) passed December 21 includes a number of top priorities for Louisianans. H.R. 4667 and the tax relief bill (H.R.1) include the following:

1) Permanently eliminates “Duplication of Benefits” policy that considers disaster loans duplicative of grants – and prevents disaster victims from participating in Restore Louisiana program grants;

2) Provides an estimated $600,000,000 in additional disaster recovery dollars so our communities can recover and build back stronger;

3) Eliminates IRS tax penalties on early retirement withdrawals for flood recovery and makes flood losses tax deductible (H.R. 1);

4) Clears legal and funding obstacles to complete the Comite Diversion project with billions of dollars in federal Community Development Block Grant and Hazard Mitigation funding.

This is a huge win and early Christmas present for Louisiana. We have been working on these problems for months and now have duplication of benefits fixed, additional federal recovery funding, tax relief and a clear path to complete the Comite Diversion project,” commented Graves following the House vote.

Duplication of Benefits: On November 17th, Graves introduced H.R. 4438 which addressed the duplication of benefits issue many have encountered after the August 2016 flooding. This bill explicitly provides that a loan is not duplicative of a grant – making flood victims eligible for both disaster recovery loans and grants through the Restore Louisiana program. Graves’ bill was included in the final version of the appropriations bill passed this evening.

Only the federal government could think that a loan duplicates a grant. This absurd concept is over and our flood victims will be eligible for Restore Louisiana grants.”

Additional Recovery Funding: Louisiana will receive at least an estimated $600,000,000 in additional Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds for the 2016 floods. Total federal recovery and flood prevention funds provided to Louisiana will now exceed $2,600,000,000. Total federal funding to Louisiana for the 2016 floods, including flood insurance payments, approach $8,000,000,000.

We continue to push for additional federal flood recovery funding to build back smarter and stronger.”

Disaster Tax Relief: In June, Graves introduced a measure to provide tax relief (H.R. 2849), along with Congressmen Richmond, Abraham, and Higgins. Two of the provisions penalizing recovery include a 10% penalty for individuals withdrawing from their retirement accounts and having to meet a 10% threshold in claiming losses for the significant devastation caused by the 2016 floods. With passage of these provisions in the tax reform bill passed earlier this week, individuals are given the ability to file amended returns for the losses incurred. These provisions are necessary tools for individuals who did not wait on government assistance and would like to rebuild using their own hard earned savings, without incurring penalties. Along with lower tax rates and larger standard deductions, the recovery process will be aided.

Flood victims should be rewarded for being proactive and using their own resources to rebuild – not penalized by the IRS. This injustice is now fixed.”

Completion of Comite Diversion Project: Graves’ legislation (H.R. 4438) also provides the State of Louisiana the clear ability to use federal funds provided to the state to complete the Comite Diversion project.

The Comite Diversion project dates back to the early 1980s and we finally have a clear path to finish this project once and for all. Our citizens have been paying taxes to fund this project for decades and they have seen little progress for their money. With the vote tonight and the enactment of our legislation, taxpayers can witness completion of the Comite Diversion project.”

H.R. 4467 passed the House by a vote of 251-169 this evening. It now goes to the Senate for passage.

With the strong bi-partisan vote in the House tonight, we have provided the Senate momentum and great common sense solutions to send to the President before Christmas. We urge quick action.”

Contributed by Stacy Schliewe, Office of Congressman Garret Graves