HUD releases guidance on duplication of benefits fix; ‘Still at the mercy of federal government’ says Gov. Edwards

HUD releases guidance on duplication of benefits for flood victims

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., Congressman Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, and Senator John Kennedy, R-La., announced Friday, June 14 that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released the legal guidance needed to implement the duplication of benefits fix for 2016 flood victims. The fix was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in October of 2018.

Rep. Garret Graves looks on as President Donald Trump signs the duplication of benefits fix in October of 2018
Rep. Garret Graves looks on as President Donald Trump signs the duplication of benefits fix in October of 2018 (Source: Office of Congressman Garret Graves)
US Sen. Bill Cassidy explains duplication of benefits fix

While some elected leaders believe the latest duplication of benefits fix is a done deal, others are optimistic but still cautious.

“What we pushed for is that the state could work with the federal government to come up with a solution that the federal government could accept and that these folks would be eligible and well, we’ve got that,” said Cassidy.

He also said it’s now up to the state to iron out eligibility standards, which means more folks could now end up with money in their pockets. It’s something he estimates could happen within the next two months.

“In about two months, and we’re guessing, I think almost, if not everybody, no matter what their income, will be eligible for a Restore Louisiana Grant,” Cassidy explained.

Lawmakers believe families who’ve been desperately waiting for those federal dollars will soon get the help they deserve.

We’ve heard this problem was behind us before and some are understandably skeptical. Graves, though, said they are working to make sure this is the real deal.

“On the one hand, I’m excited that we’re finally to this point, but there are certainly some imperfections in the guidance and we’re continuing to work with HUD while going ahead and moving to get checks out the door for the people that we can pay now,” Graves stated.

“We are doing our best to make them whole,” Cassidy added.

We’re told people do not have to do anything right now to make sure that money makes it to their mailbox.

Governor John Bel Edwards released a statement following the release of the guidance document from HUD.

“We are reviewing the document HUD has posted online, which we understand is to be the final guidance, to determine the additional opportunities it provides us to help homeowners. Once HUD actually makes the guidance effective, the Restore program will begin the process required by the federal guidance to help those homeowners who have been waiting for so long for this help. The Restore team has been working diligently for months to prepare for this HUD guidance and will move to quickly communicate and take the next steps to aid homeowners. We greatly appreciate the help of our congressional delegation and will continue to work with all members. To be clear, the guidance does not say state officials will be able to determine who will qualify for additional assistance from Restore. The unofficial guidance HUD issued this afternoon specifically states: ‘to reimburse costs paid with subsidized loans for applicants with incomes that exceed 120 percent of AMI when the grantee requests, and HUD approves, a hardship exception for the applicants.’ While we hope this guidance allows us to provide much needed relief to some homeowners right away, it is clear that we are still at the mercy of the federal government to provide the full relief.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards
US Sen. Bill Cassidy talks about duplication of benefits fix

“I’m glad to report that duplication of benefits is fixed,” said Dr. Cassidy. “I’ve urged HUD to minimize restrictions on which flood victims receive Restore Louisiana grants. HUD is allowing state officials to determine who qualifies. I urge the governor to make as many flood victims as possible able to receive the resources they need to recover.”

“Long overdue doesn’t even begin to describe this announcement. However, the fix is in, the guidance is in the books and Louisiana now has a path forward to provide the relief that our flood victims deserve,” said Graves.

Rep. Garret Graves explains HUD releasing guidance on duplication of benefits

“President Trump told me two months ago that he wanted to help Louisiana. I am hopeful that this guidance delivers the solution that Louisiana flood victims need,” said Kennedy. “I’ll be reviewing it carefully to make sure it complies with Congress’ legislative intent. The people of Louisiana deserve the disaster relief they were promised. They shouldn’t be penalized for unprecedented flooding.”

The guidance says those who make below 120% of the area median income (AMI) will be immediately eligible to receive grants from Restore LA. Those making above that threshold will have to apply for an exemption to receive a grant. An earlier draft of the guidance would have restricted those who qualify for the exemption to only those victim eligible for a hardship waiver (death in family, loss of job, loss of income, etc.), however, Sen. Cassidy says he pressed HUD to open up the eligibility. The department agreed to let the state define qualifications for the waiver.

Click here to read the full guidance document.

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