Citizens weigh in on how to spend $16.9 million Isaac grantOct 14th, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: top story
CDBG money could spell relief for Isaac victims
Last week, Plaquemines residents resoundingly said the Parish should spend the $16.9 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) on housing needs for Isaac victims. If approved by the state, the Parish’s grant proposal could spell relief for those residents affected by the 2012 storm.
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.
After Isaac, several areas of the parish including Braithwaite, Ironton and Myrtle Grove experienced the most damage caused by Isaac’s flood waters. Houses were inundated by as much as 15 feet of water and residents in these areas have had a hard time bouncing back—especially those in Braithwaite.
“We need to give the money to the people who need it the most; the people in the most affected areas,” said one Braithwaite resident. “We need to give it to the people that lost everything.”
The money going towards housing could be used in three ways. The Parish’s grant administrator, Benny Puckett, explained that these funds could be used to raise houses to FEMA’s base flood elevation standards, replace houses that received at least 50 percent damage, or it could be used for buyouts.
Money alloted to the infrastructure category could go to anything from pumping stations to emergency services. The Parish wants to fund an upgrade project for the Pointe Celeste pumping station, and a safe-room to house Homeland Security and other officials during a Hurricane so that they can safely operate, Puckett said.
This project will come at the cost of $12.1 million. Puckett hopes that 75 percent of this project will be paid for by a Hazard Mitigation grant that the Parish received and “a piece of this grant could be used for the 25 percent that the Parish has to put up.”
In the wake of Hurricane Isaac, the citrus industry experienced a rise in harmful bacteria, or citrus cankers. Some of the CDBG money could potentially be used to mitigate the damage done by this wind-blown parasite.
It has also been suggested that a portion of the money could go towards generators for businesses that lost power during the storm.
Puckett agrees with FEMA’s assessment but believes that instead of using money for an economic interest, that portion should probably be added to either infrastructure or housing.
“It depends on where the people say they want the money to go,” said Puckett. “We’re taking comments tonight to see how the communities want the money to be spent. We really need to focus on the area of unmet needs though. There isn’t enough money in the world to take care of all our unmet needs, so we need to take care of as much as we can with what we have.”
However, it was clear that those present at the meeting want most, if not all of the money to go towards housing.
One resident said, “It’s time for the lower end of the Parish to get what we deserve; we need our homes now!”
“We need to focus on those that are victims of loss,” said Councilman Burghart Turner of District 6.
Puckett believes that the housing category should receive most of the money, but explained that infrastructure is also a very important element.
“It won’t matter how much housing there is if you can’t get to it [during or after an emergency such as a hurricane],”said Puckett. “We need to be able to clear Highway 23. We need to get our pumping stations up and running.”
In May of this year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, appropriated $106,778,000 to the Louisiana to be used for Isaac recovery. The $16,953,000 grant is Plaquemines’ cut.
There will be another public meeting on October 17 in the Braithwaite Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. for the public to voice their opinion on the finished grant proposal. After this, this proposal must be approved by the Council at their October 24 meeting. If approved, the grant will be sent to the state by November 1 where it will either be approved or denied.