WASHINGTON, D.C. – Federal guidance on the distribution of additional relief funds for victims of the 2016 floods and other natural disasters may final come to fruition, Congressman Graves told The News in a phone conversation Friday night.
The long-awaited issuance of guidance for approximately $250 million could come by the end of April, the Republican congressman from District 6 said.
“It could be earlier, but a lot of people within the federal bureaucracy don’t want this to happen,” Congressman Graves said. “It doesn’t matter if they don’t like it … the law has changed.”
The announcement comes more than six months after the House and Senate agreed to a fix on the Duplication of Benefits issue which blocked applicants and recipients of Small Business Administration loans from eligibility for funds from federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The legislation – authored by Graves and Louisiana Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond of New Orleans – was included in the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill, which the House and Senate approved shortly before the Sept. 30 deadline.
Guidance from the Office of Management and Budget was expected to come within 45 days after President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law.
Louisiana’s House and Senate delegation originally pegged HUD as the roadblock on fund distribution, but conversations with HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson drew focus on OMB as the obstacle.
Graves and other House members have had difficulties with high ranking OMB officials, including one who has since been let go.
Congressional officials from 12 states – all of which encountered natural disasters in the last three years – have worked with Graves and Richmond to end the holdup.
“We did that with intentions to put more pressure on the bureaucracy,” Graves said.
Louisiana will likely receive $230 million of the relief money, which will help those who have been denied on requests for the Restore Louisiana awards, which came from funds allocated through HUD. Congressman Graves said.
“Louisiana may not get every penny of the $250 million, but now residents of Livingston, East Baton Rouge, Ascension and are much closer to receiving the relief money they waited so long to receive,” he said.
The announcement came less than eight hours after Sen. John N. Kennedy told The News he may join in the flood-related litigation against the federal government if Vought turns a deaf ear to the release of funds before or after the conversation with President Trump.
The disbursement of funds will come as a big relief to the residents who remain in the recovery phase in Livingston Parish, said Parish President Layton Ricks.
"Our residents have waited for too long to get some financial relief from a disaster they didn't cause," he said. "I personally am very grateful to Congressman Graves for working tirelessly on this issue for us."