Louisiana might not receive federal funding for Hurricane Laura relief until after the presidential election, or even until early 2021, according to U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who spoke today at LABI’s second virtual seminar of The IMPACT continuing education series.
Though Graves ultimately expects Louisiana to receive some federal funding as part of a larger natural disaster relief package, he pointed to a few reasons the process will likely be delayed.
“The reality is, is a federal emergency aid package the right thing to do? … Yes, absolutely, and I do think it’s going to happen,” Graves said. “But to be clear to you all: Your federal government has been hijacked by political parties over the last few months, and I’d expect that to continue through the election. The reason the vote’s not happening [now] is because it’s being held hostage by politics.”
He also noted Laura happened only weeks ago, saying it normally takes lawmakers “a few months to qualify everything.”
What’s more, the federal government is working to address other recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Sally on the Gulf Coast and ongoing wildfires in California and Oregon. Graves said it’s important for Louisiana to join forces with the states impacted by these other disasters in order to work on a large-scale package.
However, the congressman did not offer any insight into approximately how much money Louisiana could expect to receive from the feds, or how funding would compare to previous hurricanes. Laura particularly devastated the Lake Charles area, but largely flew under the national radar.
During his speech at today’s LABI seminar, Graves also updated attendees on federal energy and infrastructure policy discussions underway in Washington.
Among other legislative updates:
• Wanting to avoid following California’s lead in implementing a Green New Deal, Republican lawmakers are instead eyeing opportunities to sequester greenhouse gases through carbon capture and storage, a new industry from which Graves believes Louisiana could benefit.
• Graves expects a new, major transportation package—which would fund, among other projects, a new bridge in Baton Rouge—to hit the House floor early next year.
• The Comite River Diversion Canal will be complete by the end of 2021, while other Baton Rouge-area flood control projects are slated to wrap in the next two to three years.
• A water resources bill that recently passed the House would provide Louisiana with $1.5 billion in financial relief for infrastructure projects, if the bill is able to pass the Senate as well.