Senate plan brings more than $400M in federal assistance to flooded La. communities

Senate plan brings more than $400M in federal assistance to flooded La. communities

WASHINGTON D.C. (WAFB) - Senate Republicans in Washington, D.C. introduced a plan Thursday to infuse Louisiana communities impacted by the August flood with hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding.

That plan still faces many roadblocks, however, and some Louisiana lawmakers feel that the proposed funding is simply not enough.

The money is included as part of a short-term budget fix proposed in the Senate. In it, $500 million is earmarked as disaster assistance for several states.

"It contains a sufficient down payment on flood relief for many states including Maryland, West Virginia, and Louisiana," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, while introducing the plan on the Senate floor.

State leaders estimate about $420 million of that could end up in Louisiana, with some slated for the areas impacted by flooding in northern Louisiana earlier this year.

"It's not the end, but it is the beginning. It is a very good beginning -- and the money that the state will receive shortly, provided this go through, and I don't take it for granted until it goes into law, will be more than enough over the next 10 weeks to help as they work to get back into their homes," said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana.

The money would come in the form of Community Development Block Grants, which can be used for rebuilding homes and businesses.

A spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards said the leader was "pleased" by Thursday's plan. Those positive feelings were echoed in a statement released by the governor:

"Make no mistake, this is a down payment from the federal government on our recovery needs, and I am hopeful and optimistic that the final CR passed by Congress will include this assistance. I look forward to working with Congress in the coming months to address Louisiana's long-term flood relief."

Edwards has made three trips to the district since the historic flooding, meeting with various congressional leaders to lobby for assistance for the state.

That said, the estimated $420 million only makes up about 15 percent of the governor's $2.8 billion request from the federal government.

Louisiana lawmakers are confident that when Congress returns after November's election, they can make up much of the difference, including getting money for infrastructure projects and flood prevention.

However, Rep. Garret Graves, R-Louisiana, does not think flood victims can afford to wait until then. He wants to see more money for Louisiana now rather than later.

He said he worries that without a big investment early on, communities ravaged by the flood may never recover.

"I don't think it provides the financial certainty that our homeowners, our business owners, our flood survivors need right now – it extends the period of limbo," Graves said.

The $420 million in Thursday's proposal is not a done deal, and the state may end up not receiving that money as a partisan fight persists at the Capitol.

"This has become somewhat politicized by people trying to leverage political power on different sides of the issue," Graves said.

Many Democrats want to see money set aside for Flint, Michigan after that community saw dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water. Funding specifically for Flint was not included in the Republican plan introduced by McConnell. That inspired objections from some Democrats.

"We do want to help the people of Louisiana, but we do want to help the people of Flint," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland. She is the vice chair of the Senate appropriations committee.

"This is one of the things that makes this job so frustrating – and infuriating – is that ultimately in many cases like this, things come down to politics," Graves said.

The Senate plan still needs to be approved by the Senate, which could be a tall order given the political divide. It then must also be approved by the House.

RELATED: Gov. Edwards heads back to Washington, D.C. to ask for more flood aid

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