BATON ROUGE – Reimbursement award amounts will increase from 50 percent to 100 percent for eligible homeowners affected by the 2016 floods after the Restore Louisiana Task Force approved the recommendation Gov. John Bel Edwards issued Friday.
The resolution will allow for full reimbursement for new applicants and up to an additional 50 percent of who have already received the awards through the program.
The program will loosen the strings for an additional $110 million in reimbursement grant funds for more than 10,000 eligible homeowners, Gov. Edwards said in an address to committee members.
“It has always been our goal to provide as much assistance as possible to homeowners who are stretching their hard-earned paychecks and are tapping into their savings to recover from the floods of March and August 2016,” he said. “Increasing the reimbursement amount will help ease the burdens of thousands.”
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The maximum reimbursement had been 50 percent for homeowners in Phases 3-6, a group which encompasses more than 10,000 eligible homeowners.
The 14-0 vote came one week before the final day residents affected by the 2016 flood events can complete the homeowner survey application, a prerequisite to qualify for the award money.
“We now have a more comprehensive understanding of the needs of the homeowners across the state,” Gov. Edwards said.
Committee member and state Rep. J. Rogers Pope – himself a flood victim –
That’s going to have a huge benefit for those who have received funds or will potentially receive funds,” he said. “It’s probably one of the biggest things we’ve done since this Task Force started, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
He expressed hope that the Duplication of Benefits clause – a stumbling block for thousands of homeowners – will soon come off the books.
“It’s killing people, which is why you have people whose homes aren’t finished, or they’re living in substandard homes, and hopefully we’ll get past that part very soon,” said Pope, R-Denham Springs.
The move extends the full benefit eligibility beyond the low-to- moderate income families, and families with elderly or disabled residents in their household.
The Denham Spring/Walker branch of the Livingston Parish Library will host the final assistance seminar from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, July 19.
All homeowners affected by the flood are encouraged to complete the survey, regardless of the extent of damage, Gov. Edwards said.
He also reached out to the applicants of SBA loans who were denied funds because of the duplication of benefits provision, which
Homeowners who do not complete the survey by the July 20 deadline will not be eligible for the award.
Originally, Phases 1-2- which included low-to-moderate income (LMI) households with either a homeowner age 62 or older or a household member with a disability – allowed for 100 percent of their repair award and 100 percent of their reimbursement award. Homeowners in Phases 3-6 could receive between 50-100 percent of their repair award and 25 percent of their reimbursement award.
The Office of Community Development initially structured the reimbursement portion of the program to meet requirements by the U.S. Department Housing of Urban Development (HUD) that mandated the limited amount of funding made available for the Restore program be prioritized to assist homeowners with the greatest unmet needs.
During the Restore Louisiana Task Force meeting on August 18, 2017, members approved a similar request by Gov. Edwards to increase the tiered award structure for all homeowners in Phases 3-6 to 100 percent of the repair award and 50 percent of their reimbursement award.
The Task Force will submit the expansion request to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval. Upon the approval, the program will immediately begin work to update grant calculations and contact all eligible applicants, including homeowners who have already executed their grant agreements.
Eligible recipients could receive the additional award within weeks of the HUD approval.