Significant amount of Ascension Parish recovery funds axed by new FEMA rules

Ridge Road in Prairieville (Source: WAFB)
Ridge Road in Prairieville (Source: WAFB)
Bluff Road in Prairieville (Source: WAFB)
Bluff Road in Prairieville (Source: WAFB)

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Ascension Parish leaders said FEMA has come up with a new set of rules that could keep them from collecting millions of dollars they were promised to help pay for building and road repairs from the August 2016 flood.

The flood left a nasty mark on the parish's buildings and roads. Parish President Kenny Matassa said the government agency they were counting on to fund major repairs has now left a bad taste in their mouths. "I can't get over the dollars they tell you they are going to give you and they turn around and cut you," Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa said.

Leaders said they just learned that due to new rules set by FEMA, if a certain building was not covered by the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP), there will be a penalty assessed for the amount that should have been covered. Ascension Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Rick Webre said most government agencies are self-insured, which fell in line with FEMA's regulations in place last year.

"Historically you would sign a document stating you mandate future insurance coverage for whatever disaster that transpired, whether that be hurricane or flood, and you would maintain insurance moving forward. But we are not even given that option this time," Webre said.

Ascension Parish is faced with a loss of at least $2 million in federal recovery dollars under FEMA's new rules. That does not include millions more to cover repair funds earmarked for the school system. "We are not asking for anything more. We just asked for by law what we are authorized to receive from the federal government," Webre said.

According to Ascension Parish flood documents, the Mosquito Control Office building was awarded $117,000. But the assessed penalty by FEMA brings it down to $29,775. That is roughly $87,000 the parish now must come up with.Some other projects that could be impacted include a fire station in St. Amant, PJ Landing which housed animal control, and the St. Amant Recreation Building and Park. 

"We won't be able to build it right now because we don't have the money. We were counting on those funds to do that, plus the roads getting there," Matassa said.The cuts, leaders said, also impacts 40 to 50 miles of roads that were damaged by the flood including Bluff Road and Ridge Road.

President Matassa has written a letter to Louisiana Senator Eddie Lambert asking for "help in finding a federal fix for the parish's FEMA assistance claims." He added, "the only fix will be action from Congress to clarify NFIP regulations."

Click here to read President Matassa's letter to Senator Lambert

"As parish president, I have to fight for every dollar for our citizens," Matassa said. In the meantime, leaders said the money to cover dire repairs will have to come out of parish coffers.

It is highly likely that other parishes in the capital region could soon be hit with the same news.

We contacted FEMA for an explanation. They referred us to their public assistance policy guide.

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