Floods will carry multi-million dollar price tag for the state

Floods will carry multi-million dollar price tag for the state

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The amount the state of Louisiana is spending in the aftermath of the historic flooding continues to add up, with the latest figure Tuesday topping $50 million. That figure includes the costs of rescue operations, shelters, and more.

"It's going to continue to escalate as the bills come in and the rebuilding process begins," said Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

About three quarters of the state's expenses will be reimbursed by the federal government. The Edwards administration is asking that the feds increase their share to 90 percent. So far, Dardenne said that an additional special session to defray the flood costs is not likely.

"For now, we're pursuing every single funding opportunity from the federal government," Dardenne said.

However, that still leaves a multi-million dollar price tag for the Bayou State, at a time when Louisiana does not have much to spare.

Just two months ago, Louisiana wrapped up a second special session aimed at fixing a mounting budget crisis. Meanwhile, the state is facing another possible shortfall, with an economist projecting that last year's tax revenue may be lower than expected.

State leaders are considering taking out a loan to help balance the budget.

In the aftermath of the flood, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) alone will rack up costs of about $17 million through operating shelters and overseeing the DSNAP program.

"We have 1,000 of our 3,000 workforce deployed right now doing food stamps -- that is one third of our workforce," said DCFS secretary Marketa Walters.

Administering DSNAP requires, among other expenses, overtime for employees that manage the DSNAP locations. There are also transportation and housing costs, as employees are brought in from across the state to supplement local workers.

The price tag for phase 1 of DSNAP is estimated to reach approximately $4 million, according to DCFS leaders. Phase 2 will likely carry a cost of $7 million. Meanwhile, the upcoming phase 3 will likely cost between $1 million and $2 million.

DCFS also operated the shelters at the Baton Rouge River Center, Celtic Studios, and the medical shelter at the LSU field house. That carried a cost of around $4 million.

With federal contributions, DCFS leaders estimate their department will end up having to pay around $7.5 million. That amounts to about 5 percent of the department's overall state general funding.

With her department's budget stretched thin, Walters said those storm costs may limit the ability to do building improvements or update technology.

"I do not want to lose a single person to a budget cut -- that would be grossly unfair to the state, to the staff, and the children and family we serve," Walters said.

The storm costs come after more than a decade of reductions and cutbacks at the department. Compared to the era of Hurricane Katrina, DCFS now has approximately 2,000 less staff members, according to the secretary.

Adding further complication, after Katrina, state agencies benefited from several federal gr ants to help cover other expenses. DCFS used the money to help repair foster homes.

With Louisiana on the backburner nationally, the secretary worries that Congress may not approve as much supplemental help this time around.

"Nobody in America knows about this flooding, so the public outcry to help Louisiana is not there," Walters said.

DCFS has other expenses during this storm, including the costs of repairing a facility in Livingston that took on flood water.

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