Local officials advocate for disaster relief funding

Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 9:49 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Five hundred thirty-five days. That’s how long it’s been since Hurricane Laura left its mark on Southwest Louisiana. As months pass, concern grows for officials who have fought for supplemental disaster funding.

Mayor Nic Hunter has voiced his concern for what he calls ‘woefully insufficient’ funding. Without the proper financial aid, he said a very long road of recovery awaits.

“When you visit some of our neighborhoods in Lake Charles today, it looks like Hurricane Laura just yesterday, and that’s a very difficult site to see,” Mayor Hunter said. “We are hopeful and prayerful that the people that have the ability to change that in Washington D.C. realize that.”

President Joe Biden visited St. John the Baptist Parish after Hurricane Ida, and in his speech, committed to sending federal funding to aid the community’s recovery. It came after Senator John Kennedy’s attempt to allot over $1 billion to Southwest Louisiana was denied.

“And with regard to Lake Charles, I put in a request in the budget to provide help to Lake Charles as a consequence to hurricanes Laura and Delta,” President Biden said.

Last fall, $600 million was allocated for recovery, but Hunter said not a penny of that has hit the streets. Before it can, the state must publish an action plan and hold a public comment period, which Governor Edwards announced Monday.

“It will probably only go towards housing and will not be enough for the housing need,” Mayor Hunter said.

But Mayor Hunter said that amount is not nearly enough. He said the Office of Community Development estimates the total unmet need between housing to infrastructure at $3 billion from damages caused by hurricanes Laura and Delta.

“Our hope is when what we finally received from the feds would be about $1.5 billion, Mayor Hunter said. “So, when the figure came back and it was $600 million, it was like another slap in the face.”

Sara Judson, CEO of the Community Foundation joined the advocacy efforts. She said contacting state leasers is key to their voices being heard.

“All of that is important to here from people, from businesses, from nonprofit organizations that the time is now for the disaster relief dollars for our region to recover,” Judson said.

At rebuildingswla.org, contact information is listed for Congressional leaders along with a letter urging them to provide the funding needed.

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