Pat Forbes, Louisiana Office of Community Development Director, updated the Legislature’s Homeland Security Committee yesterday on recovery from the 2016 floods.
“We know that recovery - disaster recovery especially for homeowners - is never fast enough. We’re 14 months after the August flood,17 months after the March flood," explains Forbes.
Louisiana has received $1.7 billion from the federal government to help meet those recovery needs. The majority is being spent on repairing homes. So far, only about 1,800 homeowners have been awarded home repair grants.
“Again," says Forbes, "that’s a drop in the bucket for the 36,000 we plan to give out. But it’s three times the amount we had out at the anniversary.”
One year after the August flood, the state had awarded $15 million to approximately 500 homeowners.
Forbes says money is being awarded faster than it was in previous disasters, like Superstorm Sandy. But one major hurdle is still the federally-required damage assessment for each home. And after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, there’s fewer people available to do that work.
"We’ve had a huge loss of skilled personnel to these other disasters in that particular skillset - in damage assessment," he explains.
Many who might be eligible for the state’s program haven’t taken the first step in applying. Nearly 90 thousand had FEMA verified losses, and Forbes says only about half of them have filled out the homeowner survey.
“We know there are still folks out there who would be eligible for our program if they will complete our survey. And so we are still asking folks, if you’re a homeowner who flooded, go spend the five minutes to fill out the survey and see if you’re eligible now, or if you may be eligible in the future if we get additional funding, or are able to expand the program further,” urges Forbes.