[StBernard] LRA Board Endorses Road Home Amendments as Program's Official Launch Nears

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Aug 10 22:54:23 EDT 2006

LRA Board Endorses Road Home Amendments as Program's Official Launch Nears

Other action involved workforce training, school repairs, infrastructure, long-term planning, health care and fraud prevention

LAFAYETTE, La. (August 10, 2006) - Nearly one month after Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco launched the Road Home pilot, the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) Board of Directors endorsed a proposal to fine tune the state's sweeping homeowner assistance program at their monthly board meeting in Lafayette, LA today. These changes will now go to the Louisiana Legislature for final approval.

These revisions come just as the Road Home program topped 100,000 registrants and a schedule for opening 10 housing assistance centers across the state was announced. Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco will officially launch the program at a housing assistance center in Lake Charles, LA on August 18, 2006. Openings of locations in New Orleans, Houma and elsewhere will follow.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 homeowners whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have yet to register. In order to reach those citizens that may be eligible for assistance, the Road Home will launch a local and national media campaign next week encouraging homeowners to register online or via phone.

"Today's action shows we are just days away from launching the Road Home program," said LRA Chairman Dr. Norman C. Francis. "By this time next week, we will be opening the first of several housing assistance centers across Louisiana so homeowners can finally get the answers they've been waiting for."

The LRA board also endorsed a proposal to reallocate additional funds, if necessary, to create more mixed income housing developments through the Road Home Housing Programs for rental property development, and discussed the importance of financing mixed income housing programs as a tool for de-concentrating poverty - a critical piece of the overall recovery effort. Based on recent negotiations with the Housing Authority of New Orleans, the LRA may be able to bring additional financial resources into the Road Home rental program from housing vouchers. This proposal will be published as an Action Plan amendment for public comment and will subsequently be forwarded to Governor Blanco and the Louisiana Legislature for final approval.

In other action, the Long-Term Planning Task Force delivered an update on the New Orleans planning initiative and noted the importance of keeping the unified process moving.

"The LRA is about progress," said LRA board member David Voelker. "We're supportive of all of the parishes and their planning efforts, and we are here to assist them in any way we can. We should be ever vigilant and connected to each community's needs and react to them as quickly as possible."

The board also received grassroots-level feedback on neighborhood planning efforts from New Orleans City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis and other community leaders.

In other action:

The LRA recommended to the Governor and Legislature the approval of an Action Plan to use $38 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for recovery workforce training to meet the immediate and long-term needs of critical recovery sectors, specifically targeting construction, healthcare, transportation, advanced manufacturing, oil and gas, and the cultural sector. The plan includes programs to address the needs of local underserved populations such as high school students not planning to go to college, out-of-school youth, soon to be released inmates, and adults needing basic skills instruction such as reading and math.

The board also passed numerous resolutions to address other recovery activities. The resolutions include:

* Endorsed that building code enforcement funding be used to support the operating capacity shortfalls of the most severely impacted parishes for code enforcement activities, especially in areas where this capacity could limit the ability of homeowners and businesses to get building permits;
* Adopted eligibility and evaluation criteria for the state to use in distributing more than $200 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to repair and rebuild K-12 schools seeking funding for FEMA ineligible repairs which has been previously approved by the Governor and Legislature;
* Endorsed that a study be conducted to assess damages to water wells to ensure Louisiana citizens have access to safe, uncontaminated drinking water;
* Approved a measure to authorize that Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) match costs be covered through CDBG expenditures, both for the HMGP used in the Road Home Homeowner Assistance Program as well as for local governments to the extent that they are eligible under federal guidelines; and
* Endorsed adding public rural hospitals that were destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as an eligible category for certain local infrastructure repairs, given the shortage of available services in areas such as Cameron Parish.

The Health Care Committee delivered a report on the Louisiana Health Care Redesign Collaborative including the criteria and procedures the Committee will use to ensure the group meets its responsibilities for designing a new health care delivery system for Greater New Orleans and to facilitate the replication of lessons learned in New Orleans to all corners of the state.

The Audit Committee provided an update on audit and fraud investigative activities, while the Southwest Louisiana Task Force provided an update on their goals and activities.

Board resolutions and presentations for today's board meeting are available on the LRA website at www.lra.louisiana.gov <http://www.lra.louisiana.gov> .

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated South Louisiana, destroying more than 200,000 homes and 18,000 businesses. The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) is the planning and coordinating body that was created in the aftermath of these storms by Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to lead one of the most extensive rebuilding efforts in the world. The LRA is a 33-member body which is coordinating across jurisdictions, supporting community recovery and resurgence, ensuring integrity and effectiveness, and planning for the recovery and rebuilding of Louisiana.


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