. - Around 40,000 people have filled out surveys for the Restore Louisiana Program, the first step to tap into federal funding for flood recovery, according to the latest figures from the Division of Administration. However, officials say there are thousands of more who need to apply.
"It's not just important, it's not just critical, it's necessary," said Division of Administraiton spokesman Pat Forbes.
The survey can be filled out online through Restore.La.gov or over the phone at 866-735-2001. Denham Springs native Brent Dugas said he filled out the survey a few months ago, and is waiting for final word on what he may receive. Dugas said applied to FEMA for help, but still drained his savings to rebuild. Still, Dugas said he's been blessed to receive help and support from friends and family. He said he's not getting his hopes up, but believes the Restore Louisiana program could help offset some of his costs.
"The hope is still there, do I have the expectation? No. If it happens, it will be a plus," said Dugas.
Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry said he's worried not enough people are following Dugas' lead and filling out the survey. He believes misconceptions and confusion over the survey have kept many people from taking that step.
"People may be leery of big government and that's something that we have to overcome," said Landry.
According to data from the state, more than 16,000 in East Baton Rouge parish have completed the survey, while only 7,800 surveys were completed in Livingston Parish. There were even fewer completed surveys in Ascension Parish, just over 2,000.
Landry admits the process is slow, but said it's necessary.
"If we don't get full participation, then that second crunch of money may not ever come and we can't Forbes explained that every homeowner who received major damage can be eligible for aid, even if it's not immediately. He said the surveys provide crucial data that Congress can use to decide if the state should receive more funding. More importantly, he said as they receive more funding more homeowners can receive aid. That now includes those who had insurance.
"A lot of folks think that they're not eligible, or that they'll never get any funding from the program, but they could be wrong," said Fobes.