Major Disaster Aid May Reach Southwest Louisiana Soon, Governor John Bel Edwards Says | Lake Charles News

LAKE CHARLES – Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Wednesday he was optimistic that legislation that could provide hundreds of millions of dollars in federal disaster assistance to southwest Louisiana would take shape within weeks coming, the clearest indication yet that help may finally be on its way to the region more than 10 months after Hurricane Laura hit.

Edwards, speaking to The Advocate | The Times-Picayune after inaugurating a project in Lake Charles, said it spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday to push for the legislation again. He said he also had recent conversations with White House officials. The governor has already spelled out some $ 3 billion in unmet statewide need in the wake of last year’s trio of hurricanes – Laura, Delta and Zeta – but said he wouldn’t expect receive only about half of that figure from the federal government.

Most of the aid would likely go to southwest Louisiana, which is struggling to recover from the devastation left by Laura, the most powerful storm to make landfall in the state since 1856, and the Hurricane Delta Category 2, which followed a similar path for about six weeks. later. Zeta, a Category 3 storm, hit southeast Louisiana in late October.

LAKE CHARLES – Boats and debris along Lake Charles beach in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura on Thursday, August 27, 2020.

“We’re disappointed because we wanted the money earlier,” Edwards said. “But if you look back in recent history, it took so long in the past. But that just shouldn’t… And of course, if it’s frustrating for me, I can only imagine how frustrating it is for the people who live in southwest Louisiana, who really have. need this help, and for local elected officials who are trying to drive the recovery.

When asked what kind of timeline he envisioned, he said, “I think in the next few weeks to months we’re going to see that ownership take shape.”

Edwards cited the change in presidential administrations as well as the huge list of priorities in Washington as contributors to the delay in approving the money. He and local officials had the opportunity to make their case in person to President Biden in May, during his visit to Lake Charles, though that trip focused primarily on the president’s infrastructure plan.

LAKE CHARLES – Coming west on Interstate 10, the lake that gives this town its name stretches out on the horizon – followed by…

While FEMA and the US Small Business Administration have provided more than $ 1 billion in immediate aid, officials in southwest Louisiana say they won’t be able to rebuild without additional federal help, which is running after major disasters. Of particular concern is housing. Local authorities hope to put in place a program, similar to Road Home after Hurricane Katrina, that would help close the gap between insurance payments and what is really needed to rebuild.

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In Lake Charles alone, city officials estimate between 3,000 and 5,000 people remain displaced, a number that includes those who were forced from their homes by severe flooding in May, which added even more of misery in the region. Some who had just finished repairing their homes after the hurricanes were forced to empty them again.

The region has experienced an impressive series of disasters over the past 10 months. A severe winter storm in February also caused damage, largely due to bursting pipes, while complications such as supply shortages and price increases linked to the pandemic have slowed reconstruction efforts.

Laura is estimated to have caused $ 19 billion in damage in the United States, including $ 17.5 billion in Louisiana. State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said it would become the second costliest disaster in the state after Katrina.

But while Edwards is hoping the money is on the way, a lot of work remains to be done in Washington in a time of partisan rancor and populist posture. The Louisiana congressional delegation will need to figure out how best to get the money approved, which could mean tying it to a larger bill that is likely to pass. It is also possible that aid will be approved on an ad hoc basis rather than all at once, although local authorities prefer the opposite.

Edwards was in Lake Charles for two groundbreaking ceremonies Wednesday for projects the region hopes can help mark a turnaround after the hurricane. They include a $ 20 million plan to build a children’s museum and science and nature center on the Charles Lake waterfront, and the reconstruction of the BioLab chlorine plant just across the city. the Calcasieu River at Westlake.

The factory was destroyed by fire during Laura, prompting a shelter-in-place warning. It was such a big player in the industry that its destruction contributed to a nationwide shortage of chlorine tablets for swimming pools.

The plant will cost $ 170 million, more than initially expected, and create 82 jobs in addition to the 19 existing ones. It benefits from considerable tax breaks under the state’s industrial tax exemption program.

CREOLE – Cherie Hardie and her family were determined to come back and rebuild for the third time, near the church where she got married and…

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