Although there were a few objections raised regarding administrative costs, state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a proposed action plan last week that includes more than $33 million in hurricane relief spending for East Baton Rouge Parish. The plan, which the Louisiana Recovery Authority drafted to address parish-level needs for rebuilding, now goes to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval. It outlines how $438 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds should be spent statewide.
The Legislature, since it’s not in session, voted by mail over the past two weeks on five separate parts of the plan. While the Senate voted unanimously in support, there were nine opposing votes in the House against the amount of money earmarked for administrative costs for local and state governments. “It’s just excessive,” says Rep. Jerry “Truck” Gisclair, a Larose Democrat who voted against the provisions. “No matter how you look at it, $22 million is way too much just to run a program like this. That’s just creating overhead and the money isn’t going where it should.”
LRA spokeswoman Christina Stephens says the “recovery effort is growing,” especially as the state prepares to receive $438 million from the federal government to fix the challenges left behind by hurricanes Gustav and Ike last year. Stephens says the initial CDBG allocation could eventually grow by another $400 million or so. If all goes as planned and HUD approves the plan, East Baton Rouge should start seeing its money in the spring, Stephens says.—Jeremy Alford