Disaster relief aid for Louisiana tied up in political debates

Politics

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (BRPROUD) — Lake Charles has been described as America’s “most weather-battered city.”

It’s been over a year since Hurricane Laura hit and residents still have not received additional supplemental aid to build back and finally fix the remaining widespread damage.

“As of a couple [of] weeks ago we sat having endured Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta, the winter storm, the May 17th flood,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said. “More federally declared disasters than any other city in American history, all in the middle of the greatest pandemic in 100 years, and we did not receive the same response that southeast Louisiana after Katrina received in 10 days.”

In a joint Commerce Committee hearing in Baton Rouge, Hunter explained that Lake Charles has seen an 833% increase in blighted properties and the mayor said there is no money to clear away. They had to borrow $20 million to help address the drainage issues they believe have led to some of their storm damages since they could not wait any longer on Washington.

Now southeast Louisiana is calling for supplemental aid, with temporary housing and major infrastructure repairs desperately needed. Leaders are calling on FEMA to expedite housing needs as many people are homeless or living in the rubble of what their homes once were.

But in Lake Charles, they didn’t start to see temporary housing arrive until spring of the next year.

“They don’t want to go to a flood zone. There’s great sites, then they map it and say, ‘wait a second, the approach to it is in a flood zone, we’re not going to go there…’ I’m thinking to myself how could you not say Grand Isle is just not one big flood zone. So we’ve got some challenges,” Sen. Bill Cassidy said.

President Joe Biden has shown support for additional disaster aid for the states affected by Ida. Hunter said he is glad the state is closer to getting help and he’s trying not to focus on how long it’s taken.

“The other thing which is no consolation for the people in SWLA is that in 2020 there [was] not a heck of a lot of major hurricane disasters that rose to the level of Hurricane Laura geographically dispersed,” Hunter said.

But political fighting could once again tie up the vote on aid. Sen. Cassidy said there are a few scenarios of how the aid could be voted on before the fiscal year closes at the end of the month.

“One of which is the disaster supplemental is tied to raising the debt ceiling,” Sen. Cassidy said. “I don’t think it will get 60 votes, which is to say it won’t pass the Senate. Now, I sure hope that doesn’t happen.”

A temporary spending bill that would keep the government from shutting down includes $28.6 billion for Hurricane Ida relief. There are also hold-ups over the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill by Democrats.

In the meantime, Louisiana picks up the pieces while hoping more help is on the way.

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