Restore Louisiana Task Force inches closer to plan to distribute flood recovery dollars

Restore Louisiana Task Force inches closer to plan to distribute flood recovery dollars
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Restore Louisiana Task Force is one step closer to deciding how the state will distribute the $438 million promised by Congress for flood recovery.

One plan presented Friday could allow residents to customize their recovery process, but members of the task force said there are still a lot of questions they need answered.

"I'm going to have to rely on y'all to give us some direction and guidance and specifics on how we can cut through these programs to help people because that's why we're here," said Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston.

Pat Forbes, a spokesman for the Louisiana Office of Community Development, went before the group Friday to walk through the plan and show where the federal grant money could be spent.

Forbes said middle to low-income households, residents without flood insurance and those outside the flood plain should be the priority.

"They are the most likely not to have been able to have access to other resources chiefly savings, additional income or eligibility for SBA," Forbes added.

Forbes admitted figuring out exactly how to divide the money fairly among the people who need it most is tricky, mainly because everyone's recovery is taking shape differently.

"There are people in different stages of their recovery," Forbes said. "Some people have rebuilt already, some are in the middle of it, and some have had zero resources to get started."

Under the plan, Forbes suggested a three-option approach to rebuilding.

The first option is a state-managed construction plan. Similar to the state's Shelter at Home program, this approach would allow the state to hire contractors to complete the work for homeowners.

Forbes said this option would be a hassle-free process and would reduce the risk of contractor fraud because homeowners would not be involved in the process.

The drawback though is that homeowners would have no say in how their home is rebuilt.

"For people who want to have more say in that work they would have very little in the state managed program," Forbes said.

The second option is a homeowner-managed construction plan. With this option, homeowners would be able to hire their own contractors and oversee the work themselves.

This option is ideal for people who have already started the process of rebuilding.

"It doesn't make sense for us to step in, stop the process and put our contractor in place," Forbes added.

The third route is a reimbursement option where people who are already done with their recovery get back money that they had to pay out for construction, provided that they can produce receipts.

"There probably are not that many who got finished, but there will be some folks who got finished," Forbes said. "We want to be able to reimburse them for the expenses they've had already."

The state is expected to present a final action plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development by January.

While many members of the task force said meeting that deadline is vital, they said what's more important is making sure the process and the recovery that follows is done right.

"We need to move forward as quickly as we can but let's make sure we get this right. Let's be sure that we do it as fair as we can and get people back in their homes as quickly as they can," said Sen. Dan Morrish, R-Jennings.

Members of the task force now have a chance to make changes to the plan before they present it to the governor.

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