10 months after Hurricane Laura, Louisiana leaders still seek additional federal aid

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 9:47 AM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Nearly 10 months after Hurricane Laura made landfall in southwest Louisiana, communities are still not fully back on their feet, and both local and federal leaders are discouraged by the lack of additional government assistance.

“I don’t think that people are doing the best for this community in Washington, D.C. right now,” said Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter, who still sees devastation as he looks around his community.

Southwest Louisiana remains on the road to recovery since Hurricane Laura hit last August. But between Laura and a number of other storms, Hunter is asking for more help from the federal government.

“We sit here languishing, pleading, begging, for someone to come up with the proper commensurate federal response for what has hit us,” Hunter said.

The mayor hopes Governor John Bel Edwards’ request of three billion dollars is fulfilled by the federal government. A fraction of that would go to Lake Charles, a welcome boost as a new hurricane season picks up.

“There is a lot of, just, weight, on our shoulders,” Hunter said. “And there is a certain level of trepidation, and almost a PTSD, in the air when you have a new hurricane season approaching.”

Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) wrote in a letter to President Biden last month that Hurricane Laura caused an estimated $19 billion in damages before the state was battered by Hurricane Delta just a few weeks later.

FEMA has spent around $570 million on public and individual assistance for those impacted by Laura, but Hunter and other local leaders continue to look here to Capitol Hill for help putting roofs on houses and repairing businesses.

“It’s just taking a little bit more of an effort because so few states were affected last year,” said Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

With fewer states impacted by disasters, fewer senators are willing to spend money, Cassidy said. But he expects funding to be included in a larger bill in the coming weeks.

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) said he has a supplemental bill ready to introduce, but he wants to wait for buy-in from Democratic leaders before doing so. He claims Speaker Pelosi would block his effort.

“It can be harmful to introduce legislation because now you’re sort of disrespecting those in charge that you need their support,” Higgins said.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement that the House passed a $2 billion disaster aid bill in 2020, but the then-Republican Senate did not take it up.

“Going forward, the Democratic Congress will work with the Biden Administration to consider the need for supplemental disaster funding to continue aid for victims of natural disasters in Louisiana and across the country,” Hammill said.

The timeline for additional aid remains unknown.

Grace Ferguson contributed to this report.

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