LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -In the final days of 2020, Lake Charles City Council approved a four-part local relief package that was proposed by Mayor Nic Hunter in hopes of bringing some financial relief to residents still reeling from the pandemic and the hurricanes.
Lake Charles Covid & Hurricane Relief Package Ordinances:
- A 50% reduction in occupational licenses for 2021, with a maximum benefit of $100 per business. This targets those businesses who need the assistance the most.
- A 30-day extension before penalties and interest begin to accrue for 2021 occupational licenses
- A water bill assistance program, whereby the City will partner with a local non-profit. The non-profit will help vet applicants to make sure they meet certain income criteria, allowing them to receive grants for up to 3 months of delinquent water bills.
- A complete waiver of public transit fees beginning in mid-December 2020 until the end of February 2021.
Now that the new year is here, the mayor says his office is making good on that promise.
It’s a new year but thanks to the pandemic and an active hurricane season, many of the fiscal challenges of 2020 traveled into 2021.
“We’re now many months into this pandemic and we have to get back to a point and this is for both the city’s and the public in general’s benefit,” said Mayor Nic Hunter.
As part of the local relief package adopted by Lake Charles City Council in December, Mayor Hunter says they are now ready to start providing direct help to those in need.
“This program will allow a citizen if they meet certain income criteria to have up to 3 months of their water bill paid for.”
Hunter says his office has teamed up with Catholic Charities to start disbursing the relief as soon as next week.
“It’s really difficult for people right now and we’ve seen a great increase in need in many, many areas. So, to be able to provide assistance is a great gift,” said Sister Miriam Maclean.
Mayor Hunter also spoke about budget concerns going into the first quarter and how housing remains a top priority for his administration.
“I wrote a letter to FEMA about a month ago...at the time 400 housing units were installed. Fast forward to today that number is 800. It’s still not the speed we want to see but in very recent days and weeks we have seen a marked improvement,” Hunter said.
He says, according to FEMA, the goal is to have about 3,000 temporary housing units installed by June.
“Moving forward, we have to start thinking about long term recovery. Right now, we’re still in a bit of an immediate response phase.”
With a new presidential cabinet set to be sworn in next week, Hunter is hopeful more federal help is on the way to assist with recovery.
“The first impression we’re receiving is that the Biden administration realizes the need and will be responsive for help and the needed Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars for SWLA. So, I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Catholic Charities anticipates residents will be able to sign up for water bill assistance starting Tuesday, January 19th.
To apply: Contact Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana at 337-439-7436 or visit their website.