Louisiana’s Congressional delegation is working to reform laws to help victims recover from natural disasters.
Representative Garret Graves has a bill that would fix the duplication of benefits policy. Many flooded homeowners who got an SBA loan after the 2016 floods say that policy put them at a financial disadvantage.
“It punishes those that were proactive, that were trying to find a way to get back into their home and their business," says Graves.
SBA loans were available almost immediately after the flood. It was months before the state’s grant program, Restore Louisiana, was up and and running. But the federal government considers an SBA loan and a state grant a duplication of benefits, because they’re both funded by federal dollars. So when a homeowner who took an SBA loan applies for a state grant, it counts against their grant eligibility.
"And that’s wrong. On face value," says Graves, "there is nothing duplicative about a loan and a grant - nothing."
Pat Forbes is the Executive Director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development, responsible for the state’s recovery program.
“Most of the people who got SBA loans actually wound up with a zero award from us,” he explains.
Forbes says more than 8,000 additional homeowners would become eligible for a grant from the state if the bill passes Congress, and the state has the recovery funds to pay them.
Graves’ bill, which has passed the House, would allow governors to ask the federal government not to consider a loan a duplication of a grant following a disaster.
“It doesn’t force the Governor to do it," says Graves, "it doesn’t force the state to do it. It gives them the option of doing it."
That’s an option Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked for since 2016.
Senator John Kennedy has said he and Senator Cassidy are working to get the support the bill needs in the Senate, but so far they’re coming up short.