Public Input Sought on Use of Louisiana Storm Recovery Money

October 13, 2009

Louisiana’s disaster recovery agency is seeking public input on plans to spend $112 million for rebuilding after hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008.

Louisiana Recovery Authority Director Paul Rainwater said the agency conducted nearly 100 visits with parish officials, civic organizations and other groups in hurricane-affected areas to see what gaps still needed to be filled.

The plan is to rebuild infrastructure, businesses and response systems so that they will not fail in the future.

“Maybe it’s providing a generator to a sewage pump so that pump won’t go down during the next storm,” Rainwater said.

The largest part of the allocation – $40 million – will go toward economic revitalization. Preliminary estimates by the LRA show Hurricane Gustav’s economic impact topping off at around $15 million.

Nonprofit organizations and businesses damaged in the storms will be eligible for grants and low-interest loans ranging from $100,000 to $5 million.

Another $30 million will go to small municipalities for drainage improvements, road and bridge repairs, and improving utilities and structures to withstand future storms.

The proposed plan also allocates $10 million to a pilot program that will allow communities to hire zoning and code enforcement staff to help with storm-resistant specifications. The program includes an option for homeowners and private employers to relocate to safer areas.

LRA Deputy Director Robin Keegan told the agency’s board last month that the program will show federal officials that the state is trying to build back smarter and stronger. That will help Louisiana compete for another $312 million in federal dollars available for resiliency planning, she said.

More than $22 million will go to a communications program for first responders.

The remaining $10 million will be split between the fisheries industry and homeowner rehabilitation. Louisiana’s commercial fishing industry suffered more than $250 million in losses from the hurricanes. Despite $40 million from NOAA and another LRA allocation of $27.4 million to the fishing industry, gaps remain.

Rainwater said the LRA is holding on to another $100 million in federal money for future use, possibly for the reimbursement of money already spent on recovery in the state.

Public comment on the plan for the $112 million will be open through Oct. 15. The proposal then has to receive approval from the LRA board, the joint legislative budget committee, the Legislature and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Information from: The Advocate,

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