With communities still struggling to recover in the wake of Hurricane Ida, the state is giving them more time to apply for federal pandemic aid for water and sewer improvements. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
In the wake of Hurricane Ida, deadlines for communities to apply for water and sewer funding have been extended to Nov. 1. Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said this new time frame would allow government agencies to focus on hurricane relief.
“Obviously, Hurricane Ida has affected government operations as well as disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of our citizens,” Dardenne said in a statement. “We believe it is appropriate to allow governmental entities time to deal with the immediate aftermath of the hurricane rather than focus on the rapidly approaching deadline.”
The program was created by the Louisiana Legislature earlier this year to distribute $300 million in federal pandemic aid. Water systems that apply can receive up to $5 million; potentially more for water systems that consolidate. Around 200 applications have been submitted to the portal so far, though not all of these applications may be completed.
Water Sector Commission co-chair Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma, is hopeful that the program can be used to address some water issues in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
“This probably highlighted or exposed some deficiencies that weren’t thought about prior to the storm that we’re going to have to hopefully incorporate into potential planning for projects,” Zeringue said. “There was going to be a sufficient amount of applications as it is, but with this it’s going to maybe either affirm previous projects or re-establish some priorities that maybe weren’t priorities before the storm. The storm exposed some needs that need to be addressed.”
No funding has been allocated to communities yet for their proposed projects, which are at various stages of development. Zeringue said the commission expects to get funding started soon.
“It’s an excellent opportunity and we want to make sure we utilize these once-in-a-lifetime dollars to ensure that we’re putting them to good use on critical projects. We want to make sure we get it right. We also want to make sure we can get these projects on the ground as quickly as possible,” Zeringue said. “We’re walking a fine line of trying to expedite them as much as possible but also make sure that these are the projects that are in the best interest of those communities.”
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