A bridal salon on Ryan Street in Lake Charles is nearly destroyed from Hurricane Laura. (Photo by Wes Muller/LA Illuminator)
With promised federal assistance slow to come, $11.3 million in funding has been cobbled together from different state and federal sources to help Lake Charles residents whose homes were damaged from hurricanes and floods.
The funding was announced Monday in a joint press conference with Gov. John Bel Edwards and Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter. Lake Charles residents who suffered damage from Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta or the May 2021 floods are eligible for aid, with the goal of helping lowest income residents first.
“The housing situation in Lake Charles is absolutely dire,” Hunter said. “Absolutely dire over a year post Laura.”
Hurricane Laura landed as a Category 4 in August 2020, causing billions in damages and killing almost 30 people. It was one of the strongest hurricanes to hit in more than 150 years and displaced thousands of families, devastating Lake Charles.
The Lake Charles area was hit again by Hurricane Delta in October 2020, flooding streets and undoing recovery efforts started after Hurricane Laura. The city has also had to contend with a winter storm, heavy flooding, and an October tornado. Around 15 months after Laura hit, residents are still struggling to recover.
“No community quite frankly in recent history has waited longer for supplemental disaster aid nor when the first tranche finally came had a smaller allocation for what is actually befalling us. All that being said, however, at this stage of the game we have to acknowledge that we have some wins,” Hunter said.
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Funding will be divided between two programs, the City of Lake Charles Small Rental Rehabilitation Program and the City of Lake Charles Home Rehabilitation and Recovery Program.
The first will provide assistance for rental owners to fix their rental properties–with the caveat that these properties be rented out to low- to medium- income households at affordable prices for a certain period of time. The second program will give grants to low- to medium-income residents who need help fixing their damaged homes. Funding is capped at $50,000 per household.
The city of Lake Charles will administer the programs, which have been allocated $5.3 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, $1.3 million from the city itself and $700,000 in Community Development Block Grants, along with $3 million from the Louisiana Housing Corporation and $1 million in National Housing Trust Fund Program funds.
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While around $595 million in federal disaster aid has been approved by Congress to fix damages from the 2020 hurricanes, the money likely won’t come through until January and is far less than the original $3 billion in aid requested by Edwards.
Edwards said that he is grateful for this federal funding, but at least $700 million in hurricane funding is still needed.
“We appreciate that assistance,” Edwards said. “But we have to acknowledge at the outset it is insufficient for the type of recovery that we all expect to be able to deliver.”
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