Congressman Graves Criticizes LA's Flood Spending Plan

BATON ROUGE. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Garret Graves said Monday he expects Louisiana to need additional congressional aid to recover from this year's flooding, and he's displeased with the plan to spend the money received so far.

         Graves, R-Baton Rouge, raised objections to plans developed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration to spend more than $400 million on home repairs for elderly and disabled residents in low- to moderate-income households.

         Louisiana shouldn't discriminate and should have sought a waiver of federal rules that require the money to go to poorer households, the Republican congressman said. He also had concerns about the program's administrative costs and a timeline that won't have payments to homeowners until spring.

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         "People are in need right now," Graves told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

         The Edwards administration said it's constrained by federal rules governing the money and the approval process required to spend it. Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said Graves hasn't made legislative attempts to help speed that process.

         Carbo defended the administration response, saying money is on track to flow at a quicker pace than Louisiana has seen in previous storms. He added that the primary aim of the homeowner repair program is to bring "whole communities back."

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         "The initial down payment of assistance is going to low-to-moderate income homeowners, disabled homeowners and the elderly because they are the least likely to have access to resources to rebuild," Carbo said in an email.

         Estimates are that the homeowner plan would cover repairs to about 4,000 homes — a fraction of the 112,000 homes damaged or destroyed by the March and August floods.

         Louisiana received approval last week for another $1.2 billion in block grant assistance from Congress. The governor hasn't yet proposed a plan for that money, but it's expected to be used in part to boost the number of homeowners who receive repair grants.

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         Between the two appropriations, Louisiana has received more than $1.6 billion in flexible disaster recovery grants, plus additional dollars earmarked to specific items. Edwards intends to seek more money and spoke to President-elect Donald Trump about flood recovery last week.

         Graves didn't say how much more assistance he thought would be needed. He said Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence haven't made any commitments about the aid in his conversations with them.



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