JBE: 'There are still many needs left to meet,' La. governor holds press conference on federal flood aid

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards has formally submitted a final plan Friday to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for how to distribute a portion of the federal flood aide granted to Louisiana.

The finalized plan for the $438 million was announced at a press conference held at the state capitol.

Under the governor's plan, a large majority of the first pot of money, more than $405 million, will be used to help homeowners rebuild. That will help about 4,000 households, according to Pat Forbes, the executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development. Even so, that is far short of the more than 100,000 homes impacted by the flood.

Under the plan, low-to-moderate income earners who are elderly or disabled and do not have flood insurance will be prioritized for the federal aid. Smaller portions of money, meanwhile, will go to help renters and businesses in the recovery process.

Edwards said 4 percent of the federal aid will go to administrative costs, which is below the 5 percent allowed by HUD. An additional 15 percent will go to program delivery, which includes the cost of paying home inspectors.

The governor defended the speed at which his office was working to get the federal funding to the state, saying the plan for the first $438 million was submitted just three days after the public comment period ended and more than a month before the federal deadline.

"Contrary to what you may have heard publicized, our state is not slowing down," Edwards said. "This is actually the fastest the state has worked to meet the federal requires to bring this type of recovery funding home."

Several Republicans, including Rep. Garrett Graves and Sen. John Kennedy, have criticized the governor's team for the speed at which the federal money is getting to the state.

On Thursday, the governor's team indicated that that money will likely not arrive in the state until March or April, with repairs paid for with that money not beginning until April or May. Edwards blames federal hurdles and bureaucratic red tape for slowing the process down.

"We in Louisiana are setting new standards in the pace of federal disaster recovery assistance, although it is not as quick as we'd like to be," Edwards said. Edwards also criticized the idea floated by some Republicans that the state could loan out money to help people rebuild and then reimburse the state with federal aid, calling the proposal "ridiculous and unhelpful."

Overall, Congress has approved approximately $1.6 billion in federal assistance for Louisiana, which is about $2 billion short of the amount the Edwards said the state needs to recover following the historic floods of March and August.

"Make no mistake, there are many needs left to meet and we will return to Congress," said Edwards, who expressed confidence that President-Elect Donald Trump is also willing to extend greater assistance Louisiana.

He said he plans to return to Washington in February to lobby Congress for additional funding.

The governor's office is also currently developing a plan for the $1.2 billion pot of money approved by Congress in December. They say that money would help a wider group of people. That plan cannot be submitted to Washington, however, until HUD releases guidelines.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.