[StBernard] LRA Approves Plan to Reallocate Funds to the Road Home

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Jul 30 23:17:23 EDT 2007

LRA Approves Plan to Reallocate Funds to the Road Home

Board Also Urges FEMA to Act Quickly on Marine Debris Removal

BATON ROUGE, La. (July 30, 2007) - The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) Board of Directors today approved plans to reallocate $627 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to the Road Home program. Under this proposal, the funds will now be used to provide homeowner assistance grants to help resolve the projected shortfall in the program budget.

In recent months, as the rate of closings increased, it became clear that the $7.5 billion originally allocated by the federal government for the program was insufficient. Three main factors contributed to the shortfall. Current projections indicate more homes were damaged and the amount of damage is more severe than FEMA estimates originally suggested, and the estimated percentage of losses covered by insurance are less than expected relative to the original estimates.

"Today's action reaffirms the state's commitment to comply with congressional requests and invest $1 billion of our own funds to address the Road Home shortfall," said Walter Leger, Chair of the LRA Housing task Force. "We hope Washington will take note of this and act quickly to provide full funding for the program once and for all."

This resolution approved by the LRA Board of Directors today details plans to reallocate funds for rebuilding projects to the Road Home, including $300 million of construction costs for the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans, and $187 million for the costs of repairs to state buildings.

Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and the Louisiana Legislature passed legislation to cover the costs of these critical recovery projects with state funds.

The action plan amendment also proposes reducing a number of CDBG programs' uncommitted funds to reallocate an additional $50 million to the Road Home program.

After working with community leaders from The Jeremiah Group, the Board revised its original proposal to reduce cuts to the small rental and supportive housing program. Under the revised proposal approved by the Board today, cuts to the Small Rental Assistance Program will be reduced to $2.5 million, instead of the $12 million that was originally proposed. Cuts of $2.5 million initially proposed in June to the Supportive Services Program, which provides assistance to homeless and special needs citizens, will also be completely restored under the new reallocation plan.

After hearing a presentation from Vermilion Parish officials, the Board also passed a resolution to officially receive and approve Vermilion Parish Long Term Community Recovery Plan. This measure clears the way for the parish to access $2.2 million in CDBG funds to begin implementing this plan.

"This long range plan for Erath, Delcambre and other parts of Vermilion, serves as a model for how communities can reinvent themselves to rebuild safer and stronger," said Donna Fraiche, Chair of the LRA's Long Term Planning Task Force. "With extensive input from its citizens and expertise from a team of planners led by Andres Duany, Vermilion has developed a truly world-class plan."

As a procedural measure, the board also approved a resolution to reallocate $3 million in Technical Assistance funds to Planning so that grants can be made to local governments to support local planning capacity.

During a report from the LRA's Environmental Task Force, the Board also approved a resolution urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fully fund the Louisiana Marine Debris Removal Program, paying for the identification and removal of storm related debris in the state's inland shores, waterways, bayous, and coastal waters from I-10 South to four miles out in state waters.

The resolution also requests FEMA to recognize the work and mission assignment model that has been in place in Mississippi and Alabama and immediately grant a one-year extension for all marine related debris work in Louisiana for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"While Louisiana has removed more than 54 million cubic yards of debris on land-- that's nearly 30 times more than was removed from the World Trade Center site following 9/11-- not much has been done about the debris that remains littered on our shores and throughout our marshlands and waterways," said Tom Henning, Chair of the LRA's Environmental Task Force. "We hope FEMA will recognize this as a critical issue and work with us to look past the arbitrary deadlines and cut through the red tape to address it quickly."

Highlighting this as an environmental issue, a public safety issue and an economic development issue for the fishing industry, the Board also heard public comments from citizens across the state, including commercial and recreational fisherman from Calcasieu, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and Orleans parishes.

Kim Boyle, Chair of the LRA's Health Care Committee, also provided a brief update on health care issues, including a preview of her upcoming testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Wednesday, August 1, 2007.

"This testimony will serve as an opportunity to reiterate the monumental importance of the planned joint Medical Center of Louisiana (MCLNO) and Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center in downtown New Orleans to the sustainability of our health care system and to ask these members of Congress for their support to get this project off the ground," said Boyle. "We'll also be asking for Congress' help to address the immediate barriers that continue to plague the comprehensive restoration of health care services in the New Orleans region."

The Board also received a briefing on the "quick start" school construction initiative that was recently announced by State Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek. Through the quick start process, the Recovery School District will begin construction to build and/ or renovate as many as five new schools in Orleans parish by the end of the year. The initiative will be funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Orleans Parish public schools also have access to more than $107 million in CDBG funds that were allocated by the LRA last summer. The process for determining which schools to build/ rebuild will be done with extensive community input, in cooperation with the New Orleans City Council and the Orleans Parish School Board, which began last week.

The board also heard a presentation from Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) President Phyllis Landrieu focusing on the funding needs for the development of an early childhood education facility in the Central City area of New Orleans.

During the afternoon session, the Board also received updates from its Economic Development, Audit, State Legislative, and Housing committees.

During an update from the Housing Task Force, the Board heard a presentation from St. Bernard Parish officials regarding a plan they approved for the disposition of property that is acquired by the Road Home Corporation.

The Board also received an update on the implementation of the Road Home program. According to the program's administrators at the Office of Community Development and ICF International, the program has received more than 164,000 applications and held close to 145,000 in-person appointments. More than 109,000 benefits have been calculated with grants averaging about $69,000. To date, almost 39,000 homeowners have closed on their grants.

The deadline to apply to The Road Home Homeowner Assistance Program and Round 2 of the Small Rental Property Program is tomorrow, July 31, 2007.

Louisiana homeowners who owned and occupied their homes at the time of Hurricane Katrina or Rita and suffered major damage as a result of one of the storms may be eligible to receive assistance through The Road Home program. Owners of single-units, double-units, condominiums, town homes and mobile homes are encouraged to apply.

To learn if you are eligible and to apply today, visit www.road2la.org <http://www.road2la.org> or call 1.888.ROAD.2.LA (1.888.762.3252). TTY callers use 711 relay.

Board resolutions and presentations for the board meeting are available on the LRA website at http://lra.louisiana.gov/meetings.html <http://lra.louisiana.gov/meetings.html> .

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated South Louisiana, claiming 1,464 lives, 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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