WASHINGTON, D.C. - The wait is over.
According to U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (R-District 6) the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released Duplication of Benefits (DOB) legal guidance.
Graves said that the 53-page document will be sent to the State of Louisiana for processing, and outlines changes that must be made in the Restore Louisiana program to match new guidelines.
Once the state produces an action plan for the changes and submits to HUD, they will await review and a potential 'green light' to start cutting checks.
"This has taken way too long, but its certainly good news," Graves told the News on the phone Friday afternoon. "This lays the groundwork for these checks to be cut."
Graves added that he believes it will not take the state long to change their rules and guidelines.
The DOB hangup became a problem shortly after the first set of Restore Louisiana checks were to be cut. Victims who expected to receive funds from the grant program found out that by applying for or receiving a loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) they became ineligible for Restore funding.
The state pushed for victims to apply for Restore money and to sign up for SBA loans.
Graves and Louisiana's Washington D.C. delegation went to work on HUD shortly after the issue arose, with Graves leading the charge in communication with both President Donald Trump and Secretary of HUD Dr. Ben Carson. Guidance was promised as early as December of 2017, but now appears in May of 2019.
Graves said that roughly $250 million remains outstanding through the Restore program due to Duplication of Benefits issues. He added that the new guidelines stipulate that reimbursements can also occur for accrued interest on SBA loans, since the Great Flood of 2016.
The new guidelines will target low-to-moderate income households, at roughly 120% of the area-median-income and below. Those above that threshold will be subject to an appeals process wherein they can apply for an exemption.
An early draft of the guidance would have likely restricted those who qualify for the exemption to only victims eligible for a hardship waiver (death in the family, loss of job, loss of income, etc.) which would have greatly limited the eligibility for victims. U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy and Graves pressed HUD to open up the eligibility and they agreed to let Louisiana define the qualifications for the waiver.