Governor Edwards back in Washington looking to improve flood relief process

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Governor John Bel Edwards (D-LA) is back in Washington this week trying to get recovery moving in his state. Last year’s storms and floods hit Louisiana hard. Some think aid is coming too slowly. Edwards testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday about what he thinks can improve the process.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) says he wants to disburse the money to his state, but the bureaucratic hoops are elongating the process.

“There’s always lessons to be learned and things you can do better,” said Edwards.

Governor John Bel Edwards tesitified in front of a House Committee on the state’s recovery efforts, and the efforts of FEMA in the aftermath of devastating flooding. He told lawmakers the “shelter at home program” that makes destroyed homes livable has kept thousands in their communities, but it’s not adequate.

“The repairs that we’re making are too austere,” said Edwards. “People are not satisfied. They want a much larger scope of work, and the work that is done they want it to look more permanent and less temporary.”

Edwards has traveled to Washington multiple times since August, asking for federal aid. Congress appropriated $1.6 billion since then, but Edwards says he hasn’t been able to use a dime.

“There is a lot of frustration, I feel it too because these homeowners want assistance,” said Edwards. “I want to be able to deliver it faster, but there is a bureaucratic maze that you have to work through and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Some members of the Louisiana delegation here on Capitol Hill say it should not be taking this long to get the money disbursed to folks in Louisiana. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA) says the state needs more than what it’s already been given, but says they can’t ask for anymore until they spend it.

“This week…yesterday wouldn’t have been soon enough (to use the money),” said Abraham. “But we’ve got to get them back to where they want to be.”

He says FEMA’s efforts have been lagging, not getting Louisianans back in their homes fast enough.

“I’ve got people from the March flood, this is over a year ago, they’re still living literally out of state, with relatives, in hotel rooms, not being able to go back to their jobs, not being able to contribute to the local economy,” said Abraham.

Both leaders say they’ll keep pushing Washington to help move this recovery process along.