Rebuilding funds help cover all Katrina- and Rita-affected
Louisiana homeowners with wind or water damage.
WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today announced that congressional negotiators have agreed to provide an additional $3 billion for Louisiana’s Road Home program in a pending defense bill. Sen. Landrieu worked closely with Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.V., Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other committee colleagues to secure the funds, which help close an estimated $3 to 4.5 billion shortfall in the post-hurricane housing rebuilding program.
“This support for the Road Home is an encouraging reflection of Congress’ commitment to fully funding Louisiana’s rebuilding from the 2005 hurricanes and levee failures,” said Sen. Landrieu. “It is a shot in the arm for our recovery, and with the holidays approaching, provides much-needed peace of mind to those fearing the Road Home would be closed to them.
“A fundamental key to the recovery of the Gulf Coast is ensuring Louisiana’s homeowners the availability of resources they need to rebuild their homes and communities,” Chairman Byrd said. “The Road Home program is an example of the many steps Congress is taking to help the region through its long-term recovery. The people of Louisiana have a strong champion in Senator Landrieu, and I remain committed to working with her to restore the Gulf Coast.”
“The delivery of these critical dollars means a renewed commitment to bringing people home and bringing vitality back to the state Louisiana. We all know that housing is the critical first step to the regrowth and renewal of any community,” said Sen. Murray, a member of the Senate Democratic Leadership. “I am pleased to have worked with Senator Landrieu on this critical issue - this victory would not have been possible without her passion and commitment to the people of Louisiana.”
The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations Conference Report, a compromise between funding bills passed by the Senate and House of Representatives earlier this year, now returns to the floor to be passed in each chamber before going to the President for his signature. However, congressional Republicans have indicated that they may attempt to block the legislation on the floor.
“Senators Byrd and Murray and the Senate Leadership have been essential partners in this effort, standing with Louisiana and the hundreds of thousands of homeowners who need our support,” Sen. Landrieu said. “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to follow this example, and allow this vital measure to move forward by rejecting the partisanship that has entangled past hurricane recovery efforts.”
This funding will help Louisiana fully implement the Road Home program by continuing to cover both water and wind damage resulting from hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. While Bush Administration officials have recently blamed the inclusion of wind-damaged homes for the program’s shortfall, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) originally approved coverage when the Road Home was first developed. Without this coverage, thousands of Rita-affected homeowners would be left out of the rebuilding program.
An additional $1.17 billion could be made available to the program by providing greater flexibility for the state’s use of Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds. Responding to pressure from Sen. Landrieu and the media, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has taken steps to make these funds available administratively.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in August passed the SMART RESPONSE Act, introduced by Sen. Landrieu, which would specifically allow the $1.17 billion in HMGP funds to be used for the Road Home. That bill is pending floor action.
“Today’s agreement is a major step forward, but there is still much work left to do,” Sen. Landrieu said. “I will continue to fight to ensure that every penny due Louisiana’s recovery is made available, and not trapped behind partisan games or federal bureaucracy.”
The Road Home program was developed after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) in negotiations with the White House and Gulf Coast Recovery Coordinator Donald Powell. It provides rebuilding grants of up to $150,000 per home and was funded through $8.1 billion in federal Community Development Block Grants provided by emergency supplemental appropriations bills.
“This money is vital to giving our citizens the resources they need to rebuild,” Governor Blanco said. “Now is not a time for partisanship. The people of Louisiana need our Delegation in Washington to stand together and fight for their people. I applaud Senator Landrieu's continued efforts, the Congressional Leadership has committed to meeting our ongoing recovery needs and I ask that Congress join this effort to deliver on this federal promise.”
Senator Landrieu has given us another reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Norman C. Francis, Chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. “We have been blessed by the support we’ve received from the American people and their representatives in Congress — and this announcement to ensure that all of our families can rebuild their homes and their lives couldn’t have come at a better time or season. On behalf of all Louisianians, we again offer our heartfelt appreciation for having another reason to express our gratitude this holiday.”
The Republican-controlled Congress in 2005 and 2006 capped Louisiana's share of the federal funding at 54 percent, despite having endured more than 70 percent of the disaster's damage.
As of October 25, a total of 185,895 applications to the Road Home had been recorded, with an average of $67,358 having been disbursed to 66,314 homeowners.