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Higgins: Delegation United Behind Southwest Louisiana’s Long-Term Recovery Needs

April 18, 2021
Editorial
Originally Published in the American Press

     Nearly eight months have passed since Hurricanes Laura and Delta devastated Southwest Louisiana. Two major hurricanes hitting the same parishes a month apart presented significant challenges and requires an extended, large-scale recovery effort. As our communities continue to rebuild, my office and the entire Louisiana delegation remain committed to providing needed assistance and supporting the impacted areas.

     We have worked with our federal partners to deliver over $1 billion in relief funding. These resources support housing and rental assistance, utility repairs, debris removal, hazard mitigation, and other disaster response costs. The state, impacted parishes, and families will continue to see additional funding allocated. Further, we worked with both President Trump and President Biden to increase federal assistance, securing a 100% federal cost-share for 30 days and a 90% federal cost-share for remaining Hurricane Laura public assistance program expenses. These federal commitments have greatly eased the financial burden for local governments.

     Still, much work remains. While over $193 million in housing assistance has been provided, our region continues to face dire housing needs. FEMA regulations and its own bureaucracy, as well as local zoning laws, state component rules and guidelines, restoration of post-hurricane utility corridors, and private insurance company rules, have all been significant barriers to the fast and efficient deployment of temporary housing units. I have repeatedly and directly addressed these concerns with HUD, local and state officials, the FEMA Administrator, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, and many FEMA representatives. The change in Executive administration at the White House was unexpected and caused additional recovery complications as President Trump’s team began closing operations and President Biden’s administration had not been assembled. This dynamic certainly exacerbated the challenges of pushing the executive branch in DC. Louisiana lost a great friend in President Trump. However, our office officially communicated with the Biden administration on the day after his inauguration, touching on many topics, including disaster recovery in Louisiana.

     While the efforts thus far have helped to address Southwest Louisiana’s immediate needs, we also recognize the importance of long-term recovery resources. The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury recently echoed calls from Governor Edwards for Congress to appropriate additional funding for hurricane recovery and disaster mitigation efforts. We support this request. Further, just last week, my office led a Delegation letter to Speaker Pelosi, addressing the need for supplemental disaster relief. Louisiana’s entire congressional delegation is united behind Southwest Louisiana’s long-term recovery needs.

     Although the letter to Speaker Pelosi is a recent interaction, I have worked for months to build support in Congress for a supplemental disaster relief bill. That support exists broadly. However, the Democratic majority and Speaker Pelosi would not allow our supplemental funding to move forward prior to the November Presidential election. Further, the Democrat majority blocked our disaster recovery amendments to the most recent COVID-19 spending bill. One such amendment would have prioritized up to $10 billion of the Disaster Relief Fund for Southwest Louisiana and other communities hit by a major disaster in 2020. We will not stop pushing. It’s not in my nature to quit. DC politics will not deter us from our mission. I remain confident that Congress will produce a bipartisan disaster relief package. In the meantime, none of the Federal agencies that have authority over disaster recovery programs have ever come close to running out of money. Scores of millions of dollars that have already been set aside through various programs for Louisiana recovery remain available. Navigating through the application process to access these monies can be difficult, and our office has helped many local government entities, businesses, and families push through the complicated application procedures and receive their recovery assistance. This is an ongoing mission. Every day, our District and DC staff work on helping Louisiana stand back up.

     Our region will not be forgotten. Louisiana is my home. You are all my neighbors. I work for you. A great deal of federal support has already been delivered, and more relief is coming. We are working across congressional barriers to deliver results. I am not alone in this commitment. Our local and state elected officials have done heroic work, my own staff has served tirelessly to deliver compassionate relief, and the entire Louisiana delegation stands behind recovery efforts. We are all in this together, shoulder to shoulder. It’s been an incredibly challenging year, on many, many levels. As one people, we will move forward day by day, toward full recovery from the many disasters of this past year, to emerge better, stronger, wiser, more loving, more resilient, and more united.

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Congressman Clay Higgins represents Louisiana’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.