WASHINGTON – An informal agreement is in place with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to release an additional $250 million to victims of the 2016 flood events, according to Louisiana’s two U.S. senators.
Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, both Republicans, met March 14 with HUD Secretary Ben Carson to discuss the long-delayed distribution of relief money the House and Senate approved last September as an end to the Duplication of Benefits provision.
President Donald Trump signed the measure into law in early October.
The law struck down the DOB barrier, which had disqualified thousands of flood survivors from Restore Louisiana awards if they had previously received or applied for a Small Business Administration loan.
The homeowners were originally expected to receive the additional funds by Thanksgiving, but monies have not been allocated.
Cassidy and Kennedy urged Carson “to take immediate action” on issuance of the specific guidance regulating the duplication of benefits fix.
“Louisiana families are still waiting to put their lives back together, and they’ve waited far too long,” Sen. Cassidy said. “I made this clear to Secretary Carson and emphasized how deeply this mess has hurt Louisiana homeowners.
Carson committed to release the necessary legal guidance, but Sen. Cassidy said he wants action immediately.
“I reiterated that I will not lift my hold on his nominees until his department does its job,” the senior Republican senator said.
Kennedy and Cassidy also placed holds on Seth Appleton, nominee for HUD assistant secretary of policy development and research, and Robert Hunter Kurtz, nominee for HUD assistant secretary. The holds prevent the Senate from approving the promotions.
“We were able to express our frustration today to Secretary Carson about HUD’s delay in issuing the guidelines needed to implement Congress’ duplication of benefits’ solution,” Sen. Kennedy said. "It’s been three years since the flooding, and many people can’t rebuild. This is an important issue for countless Louisiana families.”
The meeting took place three days after a Denham Springs couple filed a lawsuit which requests a declaratory judgement that would force the federal government to comply with the Duplication of Benefits provision Congressmen Garret Graves and Cedric Richmond authored last year.
The legal action would force the federal government to comply with the legislation that Graves, R-Baton Rouge, and Richmond, D-New Orleans, sought after provision by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) blocked survivors of the 2016 flood events from receiving Restore Louisiana awards if they received or applied for a Small Business Administration loan.
Baton Rouge attorney J.R. Whaley filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jeffry and Amanda Whaley of Denham Springs.