BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Just over a month since the federal funds were made available to the state, Governor John Bel Edwards handed out checks to a few flood victims who have already qualified for recovery dollars.
Kimberly Skelton, a single mother of three, is elated. She is one of the first Louisiana residents to receive part of the $1.3 billion set aside for flood recovery.
"It feels great for me, but it's got to feel much better for the individuals that are receiving those reimbursement checks," said Edwards.
It's been a long time coming, but Edwards says getting the money to those who need it most has been his priority since day one of the flood.
"There are an awful lot of federal hurdles that you have to go through in order to deliver that assistance, but we're at that point now," said Edwards.
It's a point the governor promises will only get faster from here, but in order to get a check in hand, Edwards says flood victims must first fill out the flood assistance survey. Right now, more than 26,000 Louisiana residents have filled it out, but he says more are needed.
"They have to take the survey, they have to complete the application, and then we'll be able to deliver that assistance," said Edwards.
The governor also toured the newly opened Housing Assistance Center at Celtic Studios, one of two centers up and running. At least two others are expected to follow statewide. The Housing Assistance Centers are one-stop-shops. Not only can families get help with filling out those surveys, but they can also get a first-hand look at what future construction in their homes could look like.
"That's the exciting part as people are coming in here that they're seeing the progress and the movement of the program," said Jeff Haley, director of the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Program.
Haley says that's the best part about the program. It's something he says takes the guesswork out of the recovery process. "What they see here is what they can expect that will be put into their homes and so we think that trust is important and want them to be able to place it into this program," said Haley.
Those who receive assistance can still choose between a state-managed, homeowner-managed, or reimbursement option. While some had mixed reaction to the Shelter at Home program, the governor says this is different and hopes the people will notice that difference.
"It's just a different program, but I'm excited about the opportunity we have to deliver real assistance to people," said Edwards.