FEMA hurricane recovery: ‘We are here to help as long as it takes’

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 7:58 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Millions of federal dollars have been granted over the last six months in efforts to rebuild what the storms destroyed.

FEMA and Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) representatives allocating those millions said there is still much to be done to restore the lives of so many who’ve lost so much.

“I think we want to recognize first and foremost how destructive this hurricane was, particularly for Southwest Louisiana,” said GOHSEP Deputy Director, Chief of Staff Casey Tingle.

There’s no question, Hurricanes Laura and Delta were devastating.

“We had across the state 31 fatalities that were tied back to Hurricane Laura. So it was a deadly event is in addition to being a destructive event,” said Tingle.

To the survivors, FEMA has given more than 46-million-dollars in rental assistance to aid the housing issue.

“Recovery from a big disaster like this is a very complex process that takes more time than anybody wants it to,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating officer John Long.

FEMA representatives are optimistic to find housing placements for every who qualifies for their help by September or October of this year.

“It’s just that everybody recognizes that that just it’s too long, if you’re the family that doesn’t have a place to live, to wait that long is is just very difficult,” said Long.

“Hurricanes, other natural disasters, as big as this one, really just expose where some of those fault lines are and bring to the surface,” said Tingle.

Affordable housing has been scarce in Southwest Louisiana and it has been even more evident since the storms.

“Our first option really is to provide rental assistance so that people can find and rent another place to live if they’re a renter, or if they’re a homeowner, they can can rent a place while they make repairs,” said Long.

There are still so many people displaced and waiting for assistance. More than 226,860 households have registered with FEMA under the disaster declaration for Hurricane Laura and more than 49,400 households have registered with FEMA under the disaster declaration for Hurricane Delta.

“We know that families are frustrated by how long this takes, we know that they’re frustrated, anytime that housing is impacted in a disaster. That’s one of the most difficult problems for any of us to solve and makes recovery that much more complicated,” said Tingle.

Many among those frustrated may have been dined assistance. FEMA representatives said there are a few reasons someone could be denied of their assistance. One being, if a person has already received an insurance settlement that FEMA determines to be adequate.

“Under law, FEMA cannot duplicate insurance benefits and FEMA assistance for repairs will not necessarily bring their house back to pre-disaster condition because FEMA grants aim to help homeowners make their home safe, sanitary and functional,” said FEMA’s Media Relations Specialist Gerard Hammink.

Hammink said another reason a person may be denied is if a person cannot provide the right documentation of damage and need.

“We know that that people will be frustrated, this is always very hard, but we are here to help and and we will be here for as long as it takes,” said Long.

Rebuilding infrastructure will be the most time consuming process in reconstructing SWLA said Long. FEMA and GOHSEP want to evaluate buildings that that survived the hurricanes and use them as examples in future buildings.

“What we want to do is to be able to utilize those examples of what’s worked in the past and what worked in this event, and try to figure out a way to put the right funding opportunity on the table so that homeowners and residents that want to rebuild, either higher or stronger, have the opportunity to do that,” said Tingle.

The road to recovery is far ahead, but FEMA said their hurricane recovery programs will be available as long as they are needed.

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