CDBG proposal heads to CouncilOct 21st, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: top story
Last week, many residents of Braithwaite, Ironton, and Myrtle Grove—the areas most affected by Hurricane Isaac— voiced that they are unhappy with the grant proposal drawn up by the Parish’s grant administrator, Benny Puckett. This proposal states how the Parish should spend the $16.9 million Community Development Block Grant Fund (CDBG) it will be receiving to help the victims of Isaac.
FEMA provided the Parish with its estimate of the Parish’s “unmet needs” in ranking order. They have assessed that nearly $12 million should go towards housing, almost $5 million to infrastructure, and the remaining money would go to economic interests. There has also been an allocation of $85,000 that will go towards administration. Puckett says that this money will be used to cover paperwork costs and other administrative cost that come along with grant work.
Puckett said he took FEMA’s suggestions, along with the public’s input from an October 10 public hearing in Buras and formed a proposal that he will now have to submit to the Parish Council for approval at the October 24 meeting.
“To form this proposal I went between what FEMA said our unmet needs are and what the people want,” said Puckett. “I have to make my proposal reflective of all of the information that is given to me.”
The proposal going before the Council will allocate:
• 75.7 percent ($12,833,421) to Housing
• 23.8 percent ($4,034,814) to Infrastructure
• 0 percent ($0) to Economic Development
• $85,000 for administrative costs
The housing category is split into two different sections, with 37.8 percent of its money going towards Homeowner Rehabilitation and 37.9 percent going towards a Homeowner Elevation Program.
A tale of two grants
The Parish has also received a $12.1 million Hazard Mitigation Grant that will go towards the upgrading of the Pointe Celeste pumping station and a safe room to be used by Homeland Security and other officials in the event of an emergency. However, in order to receive the money, the Parish must match 25 percent of this grant—approximately $4 million. The infrastructure portion of Puckett’s proposal would satisfy this 25 percent match requirement.
“One of my goals was to be able to fairly address as many of the unmet needs in the parish as possible and to find ways to maximize grant dollars while minimizing cost to the parish,” said Puckett. “This proposal accomplishes both of these goals by allowing for 100 percent utilization of Hurricane Isaac CDBG and HMGP funds at no cost to the Parish. This represents a total of $29,071,394 in Hurricane Isaac grants to assist both Parish residents who received damage, and Parish infrastructure that received damage.”
Councilman Burghart Turner of District 6 disagrees with Puckett’s idea to use $4 million of the CDBG money to fund the pumping station and safe house. He believes that all of the grant money received should go towards housing and is offering up legislation that could possibly change Puckett’s plan.
“This legislation will take $4 million from the $16 million,” said Turner. “I want to cancel this. I will be introducing legislation that would appropriate all of this money to housing needs.”
“All of this money should be going to housing—to the people that were devastated,” said a Braithwaite resident.
However, the Council ultimately has the say-so when it comes to whether or not this proposal should be sent to the state for approval.
“If the Council approves this, it will then move on to the Office of Community Development,” said Puckett. “Once they give their blessing it moves onto HUD for approval. And if they give their blessing as well, then I can start making a detailed plan of how the money will be spent.”
To view the grant proposal in its entirety please visit www.plaqueminesparish.com/uploads/Media/CDBG.pdf.legality of things as well as calm the residents’ concerns.