Edwards increases request for federal disaster assistance to $4B

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has upped his request for federal disaster assistance from $2.8 billion to more than $4 billion to help the state recover from the historic March and August floods.

“The federal government has been incredibly responsive to the needs of our state in the wake of two historic floods,” Edwards says in a prepared statement issued today. “However, FEMA now estimates that our unmet needs are greater than our initial request.”

Edwards sent a letter seeking the additional funding to President Barack Obama today. His office has said Louisiana sustained $8.7 billion in damage as a result of the severe August floods.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 6,000 Louisiana businesses flooded this year, the governor’s office says, adding that many of those businesses may not reopen, leading to permanent job losses in communities struggling to recover from the disaster.

Citing additional data from FEMA, Edwards’ office says flooding impacted roughly 80% of homes in some communities. More than half of the homes impacted by this year’s flood were not in the 100-year floodplain, and 78% did not have flood insurance.

Louisiana communities are expected to receive nearly $1 billion in FEMA Public Assistance grants, but this does not include money for damage to roads and bridges, which has been estimated at more than $100 million, the Edwards administration says.

Earlier this month, Louisiana was awarded $438 million in federal flood aid—the bulk of a $500 million allocation included in a continuing resolution Congress passed to fund the federal government.

State and local government officials have called the funding a “down payment,” while emphasizing that more money is needed to help Louisiana communities.

“We are extremely grateful, but there are significant challenges ahead,” Edwards says. “Addressing our agricultural losses, rebuilding homes and businesses, restoring our infrastructure and strengthening communities to ensure this type of flood does not happen again are critically important for Louisiana’s future.”

Edwards also is requesting an additional $125 million to fund projects such as the Comite River Diversion Canal, $92 million in Social Services Disaster Block Grants to address post-flood mental health and child-care challenges, and $39 million from the Federal Highway Administration for roads and bridges.

—Alexandria Burris 

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