Louisiana is in line for almost $595 million in newly approved Community Development Block Grants for disaster recovery and mitigation, says Kevin Bush, deputy assistant secretary for grant programs with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Those recently announced grants represent the minimum the state can expect to receive for 2020 and 2021, Bush said during a session of the Center for Planning Excellence’s Virtual Smart Growth Summit.
“It’s a safe assumption that that $595 million is likely to increase for the state,” he says.
Bush notes that a lot of money is flowing from the federal government to state and local governments and says it’s not necessarily a good idea to spend it all on immediate needs. Long-term recovery and mitigating the risk of future disasters also are important.
While HUD sets parameters for how the money can be used, Bush urges local officials and stakeholders to get creative.
“You know your communities better than we possibly could,” he says. “Our role is to be a partner.”
Sanjay Seth, climate resilience program manager for the city of Boston, says his city is facing many of the same issues as south Louisiana. He says dealing with extreme weather and climate change should be “baked into the way you do business,” adding that his city has established flood standards that developers have to meet and standardized the process for doing so, so everyone knows the rules.
When it comes to public engagement, officials shouldn’t just be satisfied to point at the number of public meetings they have held, Seth says. Instead, they need to be able to point to specific community priorities they are delivering.
“Put people at the center of the recovery,” he says. “It means that you have to look beyond just threats to physical assets and infrastructure. You have to start from the people out, versus the infrastructure in.”