BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - U.S. Representative Garret Graves threatened to essentially sue the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) over delays in delivering aid to 2016 flood victims who could not get their money because of the duplication of benefits problem.
The federal government told victims to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans with the understanding they could use Restore LA money to pay off the debt, but the duplication of benefits clause kept flood victims who qualified for SBA loans from receiving flood aid whether they took the loan or not.
Congress passed a fix for the problem in October.
“We changed the law and we rolled them,” Graves said Thursday. “I think we’ve got some people with hurt feelings that are trying to throw up any last impediments that they can.”
Graves says HUD and other federal agencies want to oversee the administration of the checks, but will not be able to complete guidelines for the process until early spring 2019. Graves has urged the state to go ahead and pay the 6,000 families waiting for help, although he acknowledged a risk that the federal government would want the money returned.
“I firmly believe that people are going to get their money, but I also firmly believe it’s going to be later than they should and later than the law actually requires," Graves said.
Graves also threatened to push an amendment to the federal appropriations bill that would withhold funding from HUD until they pay Louisiana families - essentially a sanction. Graves says he would write the amendment so HUD would be able to provide assistance in the event of another disaster, but the “top bureaucrats” would feel the cut.
“This is what the deep state looks like,” Graves said. “This is all about the slow wheels of bureaucracy.”
Texas and North Carolina are dealing with similar issues, although they were impacted by disasters in 2017 and 2018. Graves says their delegations have joined in Louisiana’s complaints.