LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Southwest Louisiana leaders say the disaster assistance approved by Congress will be too little to solve the lingering housing crisis and other needs caused by Hurricane Laura, which struck the region more than a year ago.
Billions of dollars in federal disaster aid were included in legislation passed by Congress on Thursday that also helped avoid a government shutdown.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter told The American Press that the package has $1.6 billion in disaster block grant aid to split among states for all the 2020 disasters, with southwest Louisiana anticipated to get $600 million for Laura and the follow-up blow of Hurricane Delta.
“When you look at other singular hurricanes over the last 20 years and the billions of dollars that have flowed down to those communities, $600 million is crumbs,” he said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration has estimated the unmet needs for Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta is around $3 billion.
Calcasieu Parish Police Jury President Brian Abshire said in a statement that while the parish has waited patiently for federal aid, “Washington politics has diluted the relief bill.”
“This feel-good bill makes no one but the federal politicians actually feel good, and it will do very little for Calcasieu Parish,” he said. “We will continue to fight for what our residents need, and, frankly, what our residents deserved a year ago.”
Housing needs alone for the 2020 hurricanes are estimated to reach $900 million.
“That ($600 million) will put a small dent in housing,” Hunter told the newspaper. “I’m thankful it’s something, but it’s just really like a punch in the gut. It makes you feel like we’re less American.”
Hunter said there won’t be any money left for economic revitalization and infrastructure, two major components needed to recover from a major natural disaster.
Since Laura roared ashore as a Category 4 storm in August 2020, Hunter and other local elected leaders have sought federal aid for months.
“I’m pretty exasperated and worn out from this whole process,” Hunter said. “I thought we would be so much further along than we are.”