BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Restore Louisiana Task Force has given the thumbs up to a plan that would expand the number of flood victims eligible for awards. Some future recipients would also qualify for larger financial assistance.
The members of the task force approved the plan without objection. The changes were recommended by the governor earlier this week.
"As grants are being awarded and home inspections and damage assessments are being completed, it's clear that there should be enough funds to cover additional affected households," Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a written release.
The changes would be as follows for flood victims with severe or major damage:
- Homeowners with flood insurance and remaining unmet needs after insurance payouts could now be eligible for an award. This means about 12,000 homeowners who have already completed the survey could now have access to funding.
- Homeowners that still have repairs to do can have their costs fully covered. Currently, for homeowners with incomes of more than 120 percent of the Area Median Income, the program only pays 50 percent of repair costs.
- Homeowners with completed repairs can get be reimbursed by 50 percent, which is up from 25 percent before. The elderly, disabled, and those with low-to-moderate incomes will still be fully reimbursed like before.
Some changes will require HUD approval, which could take a few days.
Pat Forbes, the executive director of the Office of Community Development, called the changes "huge."
"It eliminates the risk that we're going to have those neighborhoods with blight in them because people couldn't put the rest of the money together," he said. Forbes oversees the Restore Louisiana program.
However, even with the expanded eligibility, Forbes said low-to-moderate income earners, the elderly, and disabled will still be prioritized when it comes to distributing awards.
"It is not first come first serve for people who have filled the form out now," he said.
The changes are good news for homeowner Mike Myers. He says even with his flood insurance payouts, he is still about $50,000 short of what he needs to finish repairs.
"In the real-world market of price and costs, insurance just does not cover the costs," he said.
Myers could now get access to funds through Restore Louisiana.
So far, more than 500 homeowners statewide have been awarded about $16 million through the program.
More than 41,000 homeowners have completed the Restore Louisiana survey, which is the first step toward getting access to assistance. State leaders estimate that thousands more have not filled out the form that could be eligible for funds right now. The survey can be found here < restore.la.gov >.