Destroyed home

Homes like this one were among thousands destroyed when Hurricane Laura hit Lake Charles on Aug. 27, 2020.

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter sent a letter to a FEMA senior official Thursday, criticizing the agency for delays that have left a tremendous gap in temporary housing, more than six months after Hurricane Laura’s Aug. 27 landfall.

The letter, addressed to FEMA Senior Official Robert Fenton Jr., called the agency’s temporary housing plan “a complete, wrenching disappointment.” He said FEMA pushing the timeline to finish its temporary housing plan from June to September or October is “outrageous.”

“It is with a heavy heart that I use such blunt language, because it means that our federal government has let down the people of Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana,” the letter reads. “It seems with Hurricane Laura, FEMA has experienced a regression in effectiveness.”

Hunter also took issue with FEMA denying a request by Gov. John Bel Edwards for a Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power program. He said the program was used to speed up home repairs in other hurricane-impacted states, such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas.

“Why not Louisianans,” the mayor asked.

Hunter said FEMA’s denial of the program has left residents waiting for Community Disaster Block Grant Disaster Recovery money. 

“If it is not sufficient, many citizens will never fully recover, and this would be yet another sad and unwarranted blow to Americans from their government,” he said.

The mayor said FEMA should have started work “in earnest” six months ago on its group temporary housing sites, instead of considering it a last resort because of how long it takes to set up.

“If this process had begun (sooner), we might be welcoming people into their new homes at the group site today, as opposed to only now going before the necessary boards and applying for the proper zoning,” he said. “Where was the foresight?”

Hunter said the Lake Charles Housing Authority offered land to house the temporary homes, but FEMA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development “balked.”

“Today, hundreds of Housing Authority tenants remain displaced,” he said.

Hunter praised FEMA personnel working on site, saying they “have been thorough and quick with offering any resolution at their disposal.”

Hunter sent copies of the letter to Edwards, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Point Barre, U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Tony Robinson, FEMA Region 6 administrator. The mayor sent a letter to Robinson Dec. 21 expressing similar frustrations with housing after Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

Officials with FEMA did not respond to requests for comment as of presstime Thursday

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