Louisiana will get an extra $390 million from FEMA
WASHINGTON — Louisiana will get an additional $390 million in hazard mitigation money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly a 30 percent increase in funding designed to reduce future flooding damage in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
FEMA made the announcement Monday after the Obama administration agreed to recalculate financing after the state’s congressional members said previous allocations didn’t reflect actual damage from the 2005 storms.
So far, according to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who led the delegation efforts, the state has received about $1.4 billion in mitigation money.
Landrieu said the additional money is expected to be targeted to parishes with the most damage, mentioning Orleans, St. Bernard and Cameron parishes as the likely biggest beneficiaries.
“This is really a big deal for our state,” said Landrieu of the money, which can go for a variety of purposes, including repairing levees, strengthening schools and other public facilities to protect them against future storms and, if needed, more money to help homeowners raise their homes.
Gov. Bobby Jindal welcomed the announcement and said the state will allocate the funds to parishes most affected by the hurricanes so they can set their own priorities.
“As we did after Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike, we are sending these dollars directly to parishes because local leaders know how best to protect our communities from future losses in the event of another natural disaster, not folks in Baton Rouge,” Jindal said.
He made no mention of the Obama administration, which freed the funds, or Landrieu and other congressional members, perhaps reflecting tension over the senator’s criticism of the Jindal administration after an $80 million federal grant to develop broadband service in the state’s rural communities was rescinded by the Commerce Department. Commerce officials said the state’s application was insufficient and late and state officials didn’t respond to questions.
In her press release on the hazard mitigation money, Landrieu makes no mention of Jindal.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Monday’s announcement is “great news for our recovery and preparedness.” He praised Sen. Landrieu, who is his sister, for pushing for the financing.
“Along with Sen. Landrieu, I have been advocating for our fair share of these funds so that we can be better prepared for disaster and prevent damages in the future,” Mayor Landrieu said. “We have a strong relationship with FEMA and appreciate their commitment to getting it right.”
Louisiana’s allocation of $1.4 billion in hazard mitigation funding from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was based on a calculation of 7.5 percent of FEMA’s estimates of costs for response and recovery operations. It was calculated 18 months after the disaster, which is usually enough time to assess an accurate figure.
But Sen. Landrieu and others argued that the damage from the 2005 hurricanes was so overwhelming that it would take many more years to develop accurate data.
Landrieu praised Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate for giving the delegation’s arguments a fair hearing. Her staff said FEMA regional director Tony Russell was also instrumental in getting the hazard mitigation funding increased.
Bruce Alpert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.450.1406.
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