Task Force Jimmy Durbin

Jimmy Durbin, Restore Louisiana Task Force Co-Chair, listens intently during the Restore Louisiana Task Force meeting at the First United Pentecostal Church during the August meeting in Denham Springs. The task force meets 9:30 a.m. Friday at the State Capitol for its first meeting of 2018.

BATON ROUGE – Discussion of the proposed Congressional legislation to help flood victims on federal aid eligibility will highlight the agenda Friday at the next meeting of the Restore Louisiana Task Force, the first meeting in more than two months.

The meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. at the State Capitol. The Task Force last met in October at the Covington City Council chamber, where members discussed the delays in inspections.

The Jan. 12 meeting will focus on the legislation that includes an $81 billion disaster recovery bill that eliminates several bureaucratic roadblocks faced by survivors of the disastrous floods in March and August 2016. The bill also provides funding for infrastructure projects that could reduce the risk communities face from future disasters.

The current version of the bill, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives but yet to be considered by the U.S. Senate, eliminates the current federal policy that designates disaster loans – primarily SBA loans – offered to homeowners after the disaster as a duplication of benefits in federal grant programs.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, Louisiana’s Congressional Delegation, the Restore Louisiana Task Force and the Office of Community Development have tirelessly advocated for changes to this policy since the 2016 floods devastated large parts of the state. The change would affect roughly 10,000 flood-impacted Louisianans who were approved for SBA loans after the floods, even if they didn’t accept the loans.

Also included in the bill are billions of dollars in disaster mitigation dollars earmarked for flood-prevention and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects. If passed, the state could receive up to $600 million for infrastructure and flood-mitigation projects.

Meanwhile, Louisiana’s Office of Community Development has received more than 46,600 survey of damage submissions from flood-impacted homeowners and has invited more than 37,800 of the respondents to apply to the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program.

The survey of damage is used to determine if homeowners will be invited to formally apply for an award. The program uses this two-part process to prevent homeowners from being forced to stop repairs on their home in order to satisfy federal environmental regulations.

The initial survey is still available to flood-affected homeowners who have not yet responded. It’s available online at restore.la.gov or by phone from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays at (866) 735‐2001.

To date, the assistance program has awarded $134 million to 4,600 homeowners.

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