Republican votes against Superstorm Sandy aid will not negatively impact Louisiana’s chance for help, Vitter says

U.S. Sen. David Vitter says he doesn’t think Louisiana’s chances of obtaining from Congress a long-term disaster aid package to help the state recover from the recent flood will be adversely affected by the fact that some of his fellow Louisiana delegation members voted against a similar package in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Vitter, chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, is leading a disaster tour today through flood-affected areas. Flanked at an afternoon press conference by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and the administrator of the U.S Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet, Vitter said he doesn’t think the votes of three members of the Louisiana delegation against the Sandy aid package will have a negative impact this time around.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Rep. John Fleming and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, all Republicans, voted against aid for Superstorm Sandy.

“I think when there is a disaster Congress, administrations, whoever they are, come together and respond in a responsible way,” he said. “I was involved in the Sandy package and built good relationships based on that, so I don’t foresee that difficulty.”

When asked whether the Obama administration would support a supplemental appropriation of the state, Castro said HUD is already doing its part to help craft the aid package.

“HUD is already actively providing technical assistance to the appropriations staff that has inquired about putting together a legislative package,” he said. “I don’t want to speak for the entire administration. I only want to let you know what we’re doing with the appropriations staff.”

Vitter said the state’s congressional delegation is still putting pencil to paper and working with the governor’s office to try to come up with an appropriate dollar amount for the ask. He says it’s too soon to say how much it will be or when the determination will be made.

“That will be done in the next few weeks, and our delegation is actively talking about that and working on gathering all of the metrics, all the data,” he says.

In the meantime, the SBA is promoting its programs designed to help both small businesses and homeowners get back on their feet. Unlike the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides short-term assistance for temporary housing and transportation, SBA makes low-interest loans available to those who need to rebuild.

More than 100 SBA employees are on the ground in Louisiana taking applications with flood victims, who are encouraged to register for the program even if they don’t yet know whether they will need assistance.

In just a week or so, the program has already registered more than 3,600 victims and approved more than $26 million in loans.

“The SBA today in not your grandfather’s SBA, and it’s not the Katrina SBA. The electronics we put in place. They way we engage our constituency and the response time are extraordinarily different,” Contreras-Sweet said. “We were here in 24 hours. We have $26 million out the door in five business days. That is enormously different than what we found when we arrived.”

—Stephanie Riegel  

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