Hurricane-devastated areas launch grassroots plea for increased federal relief

Louisiana

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KLFY) — Southwest Louisiana has been through the wringer in the last year — the COVID pandemic, Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta, February’s winter storm and a 1,000-year flood event, all in one calendar year.

And yet, the area is still having trouble getting federal relief funds to assist in the rebuilding efforts.

Community leaders held a press conference this morning, launching the “Help Southwest Louisiana Now” campaign in an effort to get additional help.

Specifically, the group is hoping to get supplemental disaster recovery funding, formally called CDBG-DR. Typically, this funding comes in rather quickly after a major disaster, but nearly one year after Hurricane Laura devastated Lake Charles, no funding has been forthcoming.

“By comparison, Washington D.C. acted 10 days after Hurricane Katrina, 34 days after Hurricane Andrew, and 98 days after Superstorm Sandy,” stated a press release.

“The clock continues to tick,” says Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter. “We are closing in on the one-year mark since Hurricane Laura made landfall, tearing a path of destruction through Southwest Louisiana and the rest of the state. We have yet to receive a federal appropriation of supplemental disaster relief funding. It is simply unfathomable and unconscionable that American citizens are still struggling and suffering due to inaction in Washington D.C.”

The total unmet housing need for the state exceeds $900 million from Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta, and this figure was calculated before the Winter Storm and May 17 flood. Within the City of Lake Charles alone, housing damages are estimated at $235 million, less than 13% of residential buildings have pulled permits to begin reconstruction or rehabilitation, 60% of public housing is still offline, average rental costs have risen by 22%, and 21% of businesses have not renewed occupational licenses for 2021.

SOWELA’s & McNeese University’s enrollments are both down by 9% due to weather disasters. Calcasieu Parish School Board enrollment is down by 14%. Thousands in Southwest Louisiana are living in unsustainable and unhealthy housing. Local government, non-profits and faith-based organizations have continuously expressed the need for supplemental disaster aid but to no avail.

Campaign information and resources can be found on www.rebuildingswla.com. Those who wish to help are asked to submit pre-written letters to their Congressional representatives and the president. It is a brief simple process and the letters can be customized. Citizens are also asked to share the campaign video released today on the RebuildingSWLA Facebook page.

For more information, to view the campaign elements or sign and submit a letter of support, visit www.rebuildingswla.com

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