Elevation grant policy changed

Reported by Associated Press

Federal and state officials expect an aid program to offset some of the costs homeowners bear in elevating their hurricane-damaged homes to move quickly.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency today made good on its promise to let homeowners who made flood-protection improvements after the 2005 hurricanes be eligible for federal aid.

The agency has normally shunned paying for hazard mitigation work that is already done or in progress because the required studies dealing with the environment, cost and risk had not been conducted first.  But the massive destruction caused by hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005 prompted the exception.

Although not all the details of the program have been worked out, FEMA has given property owners until March 16 to complete or start elevation or other mitigation work.

The property must be eligible for elevation under the state-run Road Home program, a federally funded aid program that helps hurricane-affected homeowners rebuild, or be listed in a hazard mitigation grant program application proposed by a parish.

Eligibility requirements, such as cost and environmental reviews and proof of damage, still apply.  But those falling within the 60-day grace period, or having done work before, will not need prior approval.