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La. delegation urges Trump to send disaster aid

27th March 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Michael Patrick Welch
Contributing Writer

With FEMA under the Trump administration still denying requests for disaster aid following recent tornadoes (as well as last year’s floods), two Louisiana Senators and two of the state’s Congressmen have now written a letter begging for help directly from President Trump.

The new letter is meant to support an appeal by Governor John Bel Edwards of the denial of Public Assistance (PA) for Orleans, Livingston, Ascension and St. James parishes as well as for Individual Assistance (IA) in Ascension and St. James parishes.

“The federal government has a responsibility to step up and support its citizens when they are in need,” said Congressman Cedric Richmond, LA-02, who signed on to the letter.

In February of 2017, an outbreak of severe weather throughout the south begat nearly three dozen tornadoes throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Nineteen people have been confirmed dead in Georgia and Mississippi, with a twentieth person killed in Florida. Over 1000 homes were damaged near Hattiesburg alone.

At the time, Governor Edwards asked for Public Assistance and Individual Assistance for Ascension and St. James parishes as well as PA for Livingston and Orleans. The Governor had already been seeking another $2 billion from the federal government to help with rebuilding after the 2016 floods, for which Congress has since allocated $1.6 billion, which Edwards says is inadequate.

Not yet President at the time, Donald Trump famously sent Play Dough to the flood victims.

But one day after Edward’s first plea for tornado aid, Trump at least approved Louisiana’s request for a disaster declaration. It was assumed that the designation was designed to bring in federal resources to supplement state and local recovery efforts, and make federal money available for storm victims in Livingston and Orleans parishes.

But in March, before that aid could arrive to Louisiana, FEMA denied the funds. According to the rejection letter, assessment crews deemed the tornado damage not severe enough to trigger the extra aid.

Though Trump’s handling of Louisiana’s tornados this past February has widely been deemed a “failure,” this new request letter to the President, signed by Senators Bill Cassidy, John Kennedy, Congressmen Steve Scalise, Cedric Richmond, and Garrett Graves, begins, “Thank you for your swift action, assistance and support following the devastating EF-3 tornados that struck the state of LA on Feb 7, 2017.”

The new letter goes on to say that, “New Orleans is incurring costs nearly 300 percent of what is necessary for a PA declaration… Orleans Parish suffered nearly 78 percent of the total damage suffered statewide, and the City estimates that total damage from the storm could exceed $52 million — a very high per capita cost…

“Livingston and Ascension are still struggling to rebound from Katrina,” the letter mentions, going on to detail the staggering number of poor and vulnerable in New Orleans East, and the area’s strained resources. “Livingston Parish alone has already collectively expended more than $615,000 in response efforts at a time when tax revenues have been dramatically undermined by substantial business and property losses resulting from the March and August [floods],” the letter reads.

No word yet from the Trump administration on whether it will push FEMA to dole out the needed funds.

Until aid is located, any Louisiana resident visiting New Orleans East will be confronted with bad memories of Hurricane Katrina, and the government’s woefully inadequate response during that time.

“Hardworking people throughout Louisiana are still struggling to piece their lives back together after these devastating storms,” Richmond said in a statement. “Every available resource should be tapped to ensure that each person who suffered as a result of this disaster is made whole.”

Additional signatories include Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), Congressman Steve Scalise (LA-01), and Congressman Garrett Graves (LA-06).

This article originally published in the March 27, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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