Louisiana Gov. requests $2 billion in federal funding for flood recovery

Gov. John Bel Edwards appealed to Congress on Friday to ask for $2 billion for housing, economic development, and public works.

Molly Riley/AP
FEMA Regional Administrator Tony Robinson (c.) and Central City, La., Mayor Jr. Shelton (r.) listen as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Friday, before the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets hearing on FEMA's response to the flooding in Baton Rouge, La.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards appealed to Congress on Friday to approve $2 billion in federal funding for flood recovery efforts, telling lawmakers that the state "cannot recover without it." 

Speaking at a House subcommittee hearing on the federal response to the August flooding that displaced thousands and caused $8.7 billion in damage, Governor Edwards said the money was needed for housing, economic development, and public works. He also urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to speed up the delivery of manufactured housing units, part of efforts to shelter people who were living in the more than 55,000 homes now destroyed. 

"While the response with manufactured housing units has been quicker than any other Louisiana disaster, it has not been fast enough for the families in Louisiana who have lost their homes and have no place to go," Edwards said.

But while the governor praised the federal response to the flooding thus far, a number of local mayors who spoke said that it was not enough, and lamented a lack of communication between local and federal officials. 

One mayor, Jr. Shelton of Central, La., said that he did not directly speak with FEMA for three weeks after the flooding. 

"That debris that's out there? That's not debris, it's people's lives," Mr. Shelton said. "We have suicides, we have mental breakdowns, we have families being torn apart." 

Some have argued that the slow federal response could be due, in part, to a lack of national media coverage of the disaster. 

"It's not just water that's rising," Mike Scott, of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, wrote on August 16. "So is the frustration level of many observers who can't help but notice a key absence amid the tragedy: the national media." And such complaints "aren't trivial," he said. 

"As Louisiana well knows, the loosening of the recovery purse strings is directly commensurate to the number of people who are made aware of the scope of the devastation," Mr. Scott wrote. "In this case, where national news coverage has been scarce, locals have every reason to worry that recovery funds will be just as scarce."

While displaced residents wait for FEMA housing units to arrive, a number of local Airbnb hosts have offered to let flood victims stay in their homes for free, as Winston Ross reported for The Christian Science Monitor last month.

"The generosity, compassion and caring, to take from their own income and welcome strangers into their property. There are just no words for that," Kim Stewart, a Baton Rouge resident staying in an Airbnb property while her home is repaired, told the Monitor. "There are no words. I truly believe it’s a Southern thing."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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