WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in a meeting Wednesday with Congressman Garret Graves renewed a commitment to eliminate critical obstacles for homeowners who sought assistance from the Restore Louisiana program after the August 2016 flood.
Carson’s commitment came after a meeting with Graves, Edwards Administration Chief of Staff Mark Cooper and Pat Forbes, director of the Governor’s Office of Community Development. The meeting focused on deficiencies which have plagued the implementation of Restore Louisiana, the state-run program which has been slow in its distribution of the $1.7 billion federal disaster recovery package Congress approved four months after the August 2016 flood.
Secretary Carson and HUD officials indicated a renewed commitment to get better recovery results in three primary ways:
· HUD agreed to work with Graves and the State of Louisiana to put together a strike team to identify and fix state, federal and contractor delays to Restore Program implementation, and like programs in 2017 hurricane-affected states.
· HUD acknowledged the possibility of relief for certain homeowners caught in the Duplication of Benefits trap and committed to work with Graves and the State to identify a path forward under the current HUD regulations.
· HUD acknowledged that the Graves’ Duplication of Benefits legislation that passed today in the US Senate Homeland Security Committee is necessary for a comprehensive Duplication of Benefits fix.
Graves and the Governor’s office pointed to the 1.2 billion flood mitigation dollars that were approved by Congress in February and urged HUD to quickly issue the federal guidance necessary for states to begin using these dollars for flood protection and other projects in affected states.
HUD indicated that the state may be able to proceed with flood protection work using state funds that could then be reimbursed with the HUD dollars in coming months.
“The slow process of getting recovery money to flood victims is inexcusable, Graves said. “We secured the first federal appropriation 20 months ago, yet only a fraction of the dollars are in the hands of flood victims.
“I am not interested in casting blame, but we need to work together to fix this for Louisiana’s flood victims and for the 2017 hurricane victims,” he said. “At the meeting today, we secured a commitment to work together to get this fixed.”