Biden administration approves 90/10 split for Hurricane Laura reimbursement

The decision to have the federal government cover 90 percent of disaster recovery costs should...
The decision to have the federal government cover 90 percent of disaster recovery costs should save taxpayers millions of dollars in spending for debris removal and other measures.((Source: KPLC))
Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 8:02 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Recovery from Hurricane Laura reached a new milestone this week. The Biden administration increased the federal cost-share between FEMA and local governments.

It’s something Mayor Nic Hunter says many thought would never happen. In the long run, having the federal government cover 90 percent of disaster recovery costs should save taxpayers millions of dollars on debris removal and other recovery measures following the category 4 storm.

“After Hurricane Laura, there were people that told me the federal government would never again grant 100 percent reimbursement,” Mayor Nic Hunter said. “There were people that told me we would never reach 90 percent.”

Hunter says the latest move by the Biden administration will mean a great deal for local residents, schools and non-profits.

”If local government was on the hook for 25 percent of this disaster, it means that local citizens tax dollars are going to have to fill that gap, and we have narrowed that gap tremendously, which is a huge deal for locals,” Hunter said.

Previously, the rate was set at 75 percent, meaning the parish and the state had to split 25 percent of recovery costs. Hunter and local delegations requested the increase in federal cost-share to 90 percent on all public assistance costs for the hurricane.

”We had paused some projects because of the uncertainty about that federal cost-share.”

Typically after major storms, residents see increases in the form of taxes and extra fees on utility bills. While the mayor couldn’t speak on utilities other than water, he’s hopeful the federal government picking up a bigger portion of the bills will help with future needs.

”With what has happened with the storm and even the recent ice event, we do not want to see headlines in the City of Lake Charles, with the water department, like we’ve seen coming out of Texas with their electric utilities.”

In a one-on-one meeting with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Hunter expressed the greatest needs of the city, including housing, and how future stimulus bills could directly help with that recovery.

“Whether it’s money that the federal government is contributing for COVID-19 or hurricanes, the City of Lake Charles will make sure to take full advantage of any bill coming out of congress. We were able to discuss some of those highlights yesterday.”

So far, the state has spent at least $43 million in just Hurricane Laura’s recovery alone with $19 billion projected to be spent over the next several years. To put it into perspective, this cost-share increase will save the city about $11 million on just debris removal alone.

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