Wait for extra flood recovery dollars could be months

Wait for extra flood recovery dollars could be months

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Any additional financial assistance Louisiana receives from the federal government to help with flood recovery will likely not arrive in the state for several months.

Congress passed a short-term budget bill Wednesday that includes $500 million for disaster recovery across the country. More than $400 million of that is expected to come to Louisiana. The bill now awaits President Obama's signature.

Even so, the federal assistance included in that bill will not be available for flood victims to use for four to eight months, according to Pat Forbes, the head of the Louisiana Office of Community Development.

That is because the federal government needs to make rules to regulate how the money is spent, and then state and local leaders need to assign how to use the money.

On Wednesday, the Restore Louisiana Task Force met for the first time. Organized by the governor, their assignment is to determine how to allocate any federal dollars that come to the state, such as Community Development Block grants (CDBGs).

"It's incredibly important that we deliver to the people the peace of mind of knowing that help is on the way," Gov. John Bel Edwards told the group.

Edwards told them the fate of many communities may depend on how quickly the group works to outline a plan for recovery.

Money from the CDBGs can be used for anything from rebuilding homes and businesses to constructing big projects that could prevent flooding in the future.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could so some projects that lower the base flood elevation rather than have people raise their homes?" Edwards said.

While they wait to see exactly how much money they will get from the federal government, the committee is working to get a head start on their plans for what to do with the funding.

"We are doing many of the parts that are in our control right now, performing environmental revues, writing action plans to the extent that we can," Forbes said.

Because they are getting a head start, however, flood victims waiting to figure out what to do next may soon be able to find out what kind of additional assistance they qualify for long before the funding arrives in the state.

"We will be able to tell folks what sorts of programs will be available and what those programs can do for them well before to give them the opportunity to make their recovery plans," Forbes said.

More than 130,000 homes were damaged during the historic August flooding. Early estimates have the damage costing more than $8.7 billion. That does not include the cost of damage to public infrastructure, according to the governor.

President Barack Obama has requested that Louisiana receives $2.6 billion overall in additional flood aid. Federal lawmakers could consider additional emergency funding for Louisiana when they return for a lame-duck session after the election.

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.