Duplication of benefits fix in jeopardy

Approaching deadline, President Trump has not signed waiver releasing extra funds

President Trump has not signed waiver to release money for flood victims

(WAFB) - President Trump has not signed the waiver that would release flood recovery money many expected to become available after Congress found a fix for the duplication of benefits problem in October, state officials confirmed Tuesday.

Trump had 45 days to approve the waiver request, essentially the last hurdle to securing more flood dollars for thousands of Louisianans still recovering from the 2016 floods. Governor John Bel Edwards sent the request, thought by many to be merely a formality, on Oct. 5, which was 45 days ago.

“We’re hoping to hear something from the administration,” said Community Development Executive Director Pat Forbes. “We’ve done everything within the program to be ready for their answer, whatever the answer is. We can only go so far without guidance from Washington, D.C."

Nearly 6,000 Louisiana families are expecting to benefit from the fix, which amounts to almost $230 million in additional funding, according to Forbes. Many Louisianans were expecting checks by December.

“Our office has urged the White House to communicate the duplication of benefits guidance to the governor, and we will continue working to ensure all flood victims receive what they are owed," a spokesperson for Sen. Bill Cassidy wrote in a statement.

In a Facebook post, Representative Garret Graves said he is working to get the issue resolved “in the next few days.”

After the flooding in 2016, the federal government instructed Louisiana residents who had experienced flood damage to apply for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan to help pay for repairs. Applicants who were approved for the loan could not access flood recovery money through Louisiana’s Restore program, whether they accepted the loan or not.

The Louisiana congressional delegation attached the legal fix for the duplication of benefits problem to the Federal Aviation re-authorization bill, which Congress essentially had to pass to keep planes in the air.

“There are career bureaucrats within the agencies who have opposed us every step of the way,” Graves wrote. “These folks will not win, and we know the president supports providing flexibility on Restore funds.”

Graves said there is a congressional oversight hearing scheduled to “force the people impeding the duplication of benefits fix to be held accountable," adding they are discussing other legal options with a congressional attorney.

In an interview, Senator John Kennedy called the delays “disappointing,” but said he feels “pretty good about getting it worked out.”

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