Edwards addresses Restore La.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, seen here speaking to the Restore Louisiana Task Force,  discussed how a waiver to the duplication of benefits ban could help many additional flood victims in their recovery process after the 2016 flood

BATON ROUGE – A waiver on the “Duplication of Benefits” ruling could open the gate for more than 29,000 Small Business Administration loan applicants, but it would also tack additional costs to the recovery, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The waiver would bring about $400 million in additional costs if it includes applicants who were previously rejected under the duplication rule, he told members of the Restore Louisiana Task Force at their Jan. 12 at the State Capitol.

Gov. Edwards said he will meet with the state’s congressional delegation to secure the funds.

He hailed the Disaster Bill that Congress approved before Chrsitmas.

“The duplication of benefits issue with FEMA and SBA may be the largest barrier to helping provide the relief many homeowners need, and it’s also the single largest force of frustration,” Gov. Edwards said. “We all know a loan is different from a grant, and we want to see this addressed so homeowners are not penalized in terms of assistance they may receive from the Restore program, especially for approval on loans they may never have accessed in the first place.”

The legislation awaits a Senate vote.

The number of additional applicants could range from 25,000 to upwards of 35,000, according to Pat Forbes, director of the Governor’s Office of Community Development.

He based the number on 25 percent of the total number applicants who sought relief through SBA and/or FEMA.

Qualified applicants who would receive the award after rejection on a previous attempt would likely obtain the money as a reimbursement for work they have completed.

Forbes cautioned that the waiver still must cross hurdles. The Disaster Bill must gain Senate approval, President Trump’s signature and his agreement to declare the waiver.

If approved, the waiver would be retroactive to 2011, which would cover Hurricane Isaac, Hurricane Sandy and other natural named and unnamed storms that received federal disaster declarations up until the end of 2017.

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