HUD, Jindal confirm $44 million to Iberville

DEIDRE CRUSE
Nearly every home and business in Iberville Parish felt some sort of effect from Hurricane Gustav, which ravaged south Louisiana on Sept. 1. A canopy at a local convenient store was among the structures destroyed in the storm.

It’s now official that Iberville Parish will receive nearly $44.2 million to aid its recovery from Hurricane Gustav, Governor Bobby Jindal announced Monday.

Jindal said 53 parishes will share more than $565.5 million in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to aid their recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which caused widespread housing and infrastructure damage last year.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notified Louisiana last week of its second award of disaster recovery funds, which means the state’s $800 million recovery plan is fully funded, the governor’s office said in a news release.

HUD determined the damage levels for each parish based on an analysis of Federal Emergency Management Agency assessments.

Iberville sustained the third heaviest damages, coming in behind only Terrebonne Parish, which will receive $123.27 million and Cameron Parish, which will receive $53.14 million. Other area parishes scheduled to receive the aid include East Baton Rouge, $34.22 million; Ascension, $19.37 million; Pointe Coupee, $15.9 million and West Baton Rouge, $8.19 million.

“Hurricanes Gustav and Ike affected almost every parish in Louisiana, and we knew that creating a one-size-fits-all program out of Baton Rouge for administering federal recovery aid just wouldn’t work,” Governor Jindal said.

“By directing this $565 million in federal funds directly to parishes we have removed bureaucratic red tape that would prolong the recovery process. Instead, we are pushing federal recovery funds directly to parishes in order to speed up local efforts to rebuild homes, repair infrastructure and ensure that communities are better prepared for future storms,” the governor said.

The biggest portion of funding goes directly to the parishes affected by the storms, but the state will invest a portion of the total allocation to aid the fishing and agricultural sectors, create affordable housing and improve coastal protection.

“Pushing dollars directly to parishes and cities allows recovery decisions to be made in the most devastated communities, instead of creating large programs envisioned and run out of Baton Rouge,” said Paul Rainwater, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

“Already we have signed agreements with 30 parishes to allow them to move forward with their work and we are committed to providing technical assistance and advice to local leaders throughout the recovery process,” Rainwater said. “Coupled with state-run programs for fisheries and agriculture aid, these parish programs will put hundreds of millions of dollars on the street for comprehensive recovery.”

To use federal CDBG funds, states had to present action plans for federal approval. HUD already approved Louisiana's first action plan for using these funds, giving the state the ability to draw down administrative and other funds.

Additionally, Louisiana has submitted its first amendment to this action plan, which HUD must also approve. The state has held several outreach events for parish leaders and has already signed Cooperative Endeavor Agreements (CEAs) with 30 of the 43 round one designated parishes and the Department of Agriculture, allowing them to act as “subgrantees” of the state and administer their own programs.

Many parishes, working in conjunction with municipalities, have started holding required community participation meetings to obtain citizen input on their recovery plans and critical needs.

The state anticipates beginning to approve individual parish plans this summer.