By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The feud between Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Baton Rouge Representative Garrett Graves over the slow response of Louisiana in flood recovery efforts escalated last week when the Edwards camp accused Rep. Graves of spreading false information about the release of federal money given to the state.

Friday, Rep. Graves issued this statement:

Flood victims in need of assistance are waiting on the state government to act. The $1.65 billion that is available TODAY to the state of Louisiana for flood recovery will never be wired to a Louisiana-controlled account; that’s not how it works. It will stay at the HUD CFO Accounting Center in Fort Worth and the state will draw down the money as necessary.

The first step is for the State to upload its Action Plan to HUD’s software pictured in the screenshot. The reason it says $0 is because the state hasn’t uploaded its plan.

Once the state does upload the plan, the process will work like this:

Let’s say The Action Plan budgets $25 mm for drywall and the state needs to purchase $10 mm now.

The State submits a draw request for $10 mm and then the state gets paid within 72 hours. Now the state’s drywall budget is $15mm and so on…

The bottom line is that the state has known for more than 191 days (Sept. 28 is when Congress appropriated funds) that it would receive federal disaster money through the CDGB program, and should be ready to disburse those funds. They’re not ready.

Everything else you’re hearing is noise.

Louisiana is one of the most frequent users of DRGR. The state should be able to submit action plan in its sleep. Commissioner Dardenne is on the radio is saying it is being uploaded now – hurry up.

The spokesman for Governor Edwards, Richard Carbo, says  “Graves’ information is inaccurate and the federal government hasn’t yet released the money to the state to spend. The line of credit “has not yet been set up.”

Clearly, the government hasn’t released the money because the state has not submitted an action plan as required or hired a contractor to oversee rebuilding. Why haven’t they done that?

Meanwhile, as I reported last week, Louisianians are not waiting on the politicians.  The Cajun Navy worked alongside first responders when the floods happened in August 2016 to rescue people, pets, and property, and now the Cajun Relief Foundation is working through crowd funding to get people the financial help they need.

Be sure to read this scathing post from Scott McKay of The Hayride:

Nobody has made a full-on indictment of Edwards’ immediate response to the August floods, though he certainly wasn’t perfect – and it’s fair to say he got bailed out by the Cajun Navy, which filled in a lot of the gaps. But in the effort to get federal dollars into Louisiana to make flood recovery happen as quickly as possible, Edwards has been an unmitigated failure – and if Louisiana’s newspapers weren’t so nakedly partisan on his side the governor would have been thoroughly excoriated for it.

Hopefully the politicians can get their red tape untangled before the next flood hits.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  I wrote on this blog a couple of weeks ago about the excellent work the Cajun Relief Foundation is doing in helping Louisiana’s flood victims get back on their feet as the politicians dicker over who will oversee the $1.6 billion in federal relief dollars.  As of this date, none of that relief money has been disbursed to flood victims to help rebuild their gutted homes.

Cajun Relief Foundation now has their crowd-funding site set up to where you can donate everything from dish towels to stoves to those people who are trying to recover after the August 2016 floods.

Consider the case of flood victim Judy Hood:

[Judy] currently rents a mobile home near her Holden Residence. Her home has been family owned since the ’60’s. Although it was devastated by 4′ of flood water, she’s grateful to God for the safety of her elderly parents.

Upon her return home, she discovered that little was salvageable. Among her greatest losses were Bibles, yearbooks, photo albums, and industrial art furniture pieces designed by her brothers. After the flood, Judy discovered “cotton balls” in which a friend quickly revealed was mold. Staying in the home profoundly impacted her health. Judy is a cancer patient. Unable to eat for two weeks, her health declined and she fell ill with a bacterial infection. Although her health has improved, she remains on a breathing machine. Her home has been gutted and treated for mold; however, reconstruction has yet to begin. Judy has $15,000 in funds to complete the work. Her brother is eager to help, but without supplies, he’s concerned, as labor costs alone would quickly deplete the funds.

There is a list of items you can donate through the site to help Judy: she needs towels ($25), a dryer ($300), dishes ($50) all the way up to building supplies like sheetrock and insulation.

Another case being worked by Cajun Relief is that of Mr. Nate:

At 70 years old, disabled, diabetic and blind in one eye, due to a failed cataract surgery, he just took life as it came and enjoyed being with his neighbors. The great flood of August 2016 was unlike anything he’d ever seen before and turned his once relatively easy going life, upside down.

When the August storm hit the water began to rise quickly. A friend tried to get to Nataniel by truck, but the water was starting to come up into the truck cab. After parking a distance away on higher ground, Nathaniel’s friend was able to reach him and pull him to safety through waist deep water. For six months after the flood Nathaniel was displaced and stayed with his sister. Everything in his home was lost.

In spite of losing many of his neighbors who were displaced due to the overwhelming devastation, Nathaniel has kept is positive spirit. Even surviving with no stove, no hot water, and no refrigerator, he remains active in service to those around him.

He needs silverware ($30), a water heater ($700), refrigerator ($600), pots and pans ($60), etc.

There are many other cases on the Cajun Relief crowd-funding page.  If you can help any of these people rebuild their lives and make a donation, by all means do so. If you can’t, just sharing it on your social media can help.

Go here to read about the crowd-funding and about Cajun Relief Foundation. They’re doing the hard work of interviewing and documenting all of these flood victims and their needs.  A caseworker is assigned to each flood victim and that caseworker follows up on needs, talks to the person, ensures items get delivered to that victim, and serves as an advocate for that person’s needs.

The easy part is clicking the donate button.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – If you will indulge me once more, I’ll wrap up my Louisiana Flood 2016 coverage with this post, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise,” as we say down here.

Some Flood Facts:

  1. At this point, flood damage is estimated to be about $8.7 billion, but they are not finished making inspections and assessments yet.  That isn’t a final figure.
  2. Flood damage has been documented in 55,000 homes so far and that number will probably double. Let that sink in for a moment.  55,000.  So far.
  3. Only 20% of those homes had flood insurance because they were not in a flood plain.
  4. More than 6,000 businesses flooded.
  5. Farmers/Agriculture sustained an estimated $110 million in damages.
  6. Estimates are that about 30 state roads washed out and 1,400 bridges will need to be inspected, according to Governor Edwards.
  7. Up to 5,000 bee colonies were wiped out across South Louisiana.
  8. On the Baton Rouge Police Department, about 170 officers got water in their homes and about 190 firemen. The State Police didn’t fare any better. Meanwhile, they were out helping citizens.
  9. State Farm has received over 18,000 claims for flooded vehicles (so far).  I have a friend that works at a Lexus dealership who tells me the leased, flooded vehicles are being towed in so fast they are running out of places to put them.
  10. Thousands of pets have been rescued; many of these will never be reclaimed from the shelters.
  11. Livingston Parish, just east of Baton Rouge, had to relocate its parish prisoners and is racking up substantial costs housing them while they clean out their jail and order new mattresses and supplies. This is likely the case across south Louisiana.
  12. Damage in the East Baton Rouge school district is estimated to be around $50 million.

All in all, it has been a catastrophic event and as people are drying out and putting belongings to the curb, waiting for insurance adjusters, and trying to resume life, things begin to take on a new normal. Football season is back and although the LSU Tigers played poorly this weekend, there is still hope for the future. There is always hope.

There have been good things come out of this terrible event and that has been neighbors helping neighbors, black, white, whatever – everyone is pulling together. We have a rejuvenated pride in our state and in each other.

The Cajun Navy has been a beacon of hope and love for many.

Most schools will reopen this week and children can get back to their own new normal.

And so it goes.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I talked to a friend this week who just returned to Shreveport from Baton Rouge where he has been helping his son who was flooded this month.

“You can’t imagine the stench down there,” he told me.   There are unending piles of debris lining the streets in neighborhoods now as people begin to gut their houses and work to see what can be saved.

“My son called me when the water started rising,” he said.  “Dad, it’s coming up into the yard.” And then later he called, “Dad, the water is 6-inches into the garage now.”  They moved things to higher levels but by the next morning it was too late to get out.

They called for help and the boats showed up.  The only thing they took with them were their cats, stuffed into pillow cases with their heads poking out.  They lost everything, including two cars.

I talked to another friend with The Cajun Navy who told me about rescuing an eighty-year old couple; they’ve lost everything.  Eighty-years old – how are you going to start all over at eighty?

There has been one horrible story after another.

And now, the water is gone but the debris pickers have moved in.  The dumpster divers are trolling neighborhoods digging through people’s debris piles and taking things they want to try to salvage.  The problem with that is that the insurance adjustors have to come check those piles first.  You can’t make a claim for a lost washer and dryer if it isn’t there.  You can take pictures, and that’s always advisable, but most people don’t want their life’s possessions pillaged while they’re trying to salvage what they can.

As if there was not enough to worry about, Louisiana now has wary eyes cast to the Gulf of Mexico where another tropical depression is forming.  There may not be a soul in the state who isn’t praying for the collapse of that system.

The last thing we need right now is more rain.

Meanwhile, The Cajun Navy is stronger than ever and has been busy gutting houses and delivering supplies.

There has been a lot of grumbling about The Red Cross and while I can’t speak from personal experience, I’ve seen pictures of the scanty meals they are doling out, compared with the hefty red beans, rice and sausage plates other services are giving out!  I can’t fault the Red Cross too much for that – not many people can cook good Louisiana cookin’ like a native.

I do have concerns about one anecdote I heard about local legend Clay Higgins who stopped by a Red Cross shelter and who was praying with an evacuee.  A shelter official stopped him because not everyone in the facility may have been Christian and it might have been offensive to people.  That bothers me.

There was a viral post on Facebook about the Red Cross throwing away donated food and clothes which has been proven partly inaccurate.  The Red Cross wants only your money or your time.  They don’t want to sort through clothes and they don’t want to fool with food.  Because of their poor reputation in that regard, most people I know are donating to Samaritan’s Purse or other faith-based organizations.

All in all, we are rebuilding, recovering, and regrouping.  I’m in northwest Louisiana and we are dry, but just like our friends to the south, we are anxiously watching the sky this week – pray for blue skies.

#LouisianaStrong

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.