Edwards: Ida Temporary Trailer Program Ramps Up in Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s temporary housing program for people displaced by Hurricane Ida is increasing its pace of getting people into travel trailers, but Gov. John Bel Edwards said he’s still pushing for the program to accelerate its work.

“We’re not satisfied. We’re going to keep moving faster,” the Democratic governor said.

Nearly two months after Ida wrecked southeastern parishes, the state has bought 2,000 trailers to distribute to storm victims. By Wednesday, 68 of those trailers have families living in them in Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, Jefferson and St. James parishes, said Mike Steele, with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

That’s five times the number from a week earlier, and it comes as the Federal Emergency Management Agency has yet to deliver its first trailer to families with Ida destruction under its own separate program.

Still, the Edwards administration program faces criticism that its pace remains too slow when people are living in makeshift sites because their homes are uninhabitable.

Republican Rep. Tanner Magee, the House’s second-ranking leader who lives in hard-hit Terrebonne Parish, said he appreciates that the governor created the state-managed program, but he’s unsatisfied with the effort’s speed. He said his office receives daily calls from people waiting for information about their trailer application.

“I get that it’s a one-of-a-kind program that just got started, but we’re buying trailers and giving them to people. It’s not rocket science really at the end of the day,” Magee said. “I am sympathetic to new programs, that we are learning and making mistakes on the fly, but at the same time people desperately needed this a month ago.”

Edwards said he understands the frustration. He said recovery from storms always is slower than he’d like to see. But he defended the temporary housing program as moving faster than FEMA’s trailer effort.

“The goal is — and what I’ve been assured will happen — is that the (state) program is going to ramp up from this point going forward,” the governor said.

The Edwards administration launched the state-managed and largely federally-funded Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program on Oct. 4, to help people whose homes were wrecked by Ida and keep them closer to the homes they need to rebuild or repair. Louisiana hired APTIM, an engineering and construction management firm, to run the program in a $9 million contract.

The state-run program, which also has constructed temporary tent units for housing, is supposed to dovetail with FEMA’s temporary housing efforts.

The administration estimated nearly 13,000 households could need sheltering assistance because of Ida, which struck Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm. FEMA currently is housing 5,000 households in hotels, according to the governor.

Steele said the state’s temporary housing program is having some difficulty getting the needed paperwork from people or tracking them down to deliver the trailer.

“There’s kind of a connection problem with some of the families in the program,” he said. “They get to a certain point, with a trailer due to be deployed, and we can’t get in touch with them or we’re still missing a document that they need to sign.”

Program workers are visiting federal disaster recovery centers and parish civic centers to help applicants complete the registration, Steele said. Meanwhile, group trailer sites are being created at mobile home park locations for renters and others whose homes may not be available for setting up a trailer, he said.

About the photo: John Talamante checks on the lights he just installed inside a temporary housing center being setup just south of Houma, La., weeks after Hurricane Ida Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. Louisiana residents grappling with severe home damage from Hurricane Ida and unable to shelter nearby may be eligible for a new program offering travel trailers and other temporary housing. . (Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)