Hunter puts forth proposal for local aid package

Kathleen Hilliard

The city of Lake Charles has been affected financially by COVID-19 and Hurricanes Laura and Delta, something that impacted practically every resident and business.

Now, Mayor Nic Hunter’s administration will be proposing a “local relief package” to the City Council on Dec. 16.

Hunter explained that the city has limitations legally as far as donations of public funds and must be careful to follow state law, but they’ll have the ability to offer relief to citizens through this package.

The relief package will include a few different initiatives, including 50 percent reduction in occupational licenses for 2021 with a maximum benefit of $100 per business in relief and a 30-day extension before penalties and interest begin to accrue for 2021 occupational licenses. This would target those businesses who need assistance the most.

The second and third portions of the package include a water bill assistance program, where the city will partner with a local nonprofit. The nonprofit will help vet low to moderate applicants to make sure they meet certain criteria, therefore allowing them to receive grants for up to 3 months of delinquent water bills.

This came from the concern over the amount of water bill accounts that are becoming extremely past due and the city wanting to offer an avenue for those falling behind.

“The nonprofits that we have spoken with are absolutely elated that we are considering these efforts. They conferred to us that the need is very real out there, the need for help with utility assistance and the need for help with rent and mortgage assistance. The need for small business support is monumental right now,” said Hunter.

The final part of this relief would be a waiver of public transit fees beginning Dec. 17 and lasting until the end of February 2021.

Hunter also said, “It is my proposal with the latest money that we received from the federal government that we have a very strong focus on rental assistance and mortgage assistance. This would be coordinated with a local nonprofit and applicants would have to meet certain low-to-moderate criteria but we know that people have been severely affected, both renters and homeowners, by all of these events of 2020.”

Along with these initiatives, his administration is asking that people shop local this holiday season.

Hunter  praised the ability of the city’s residents to support themselves and their community throughout this year.

“It’s absolutely miraculous,” Hunter said about the city’s strides forward since August, “And that is not only because of government, it’s because of the average citizen. I think we have to acknowledge that we still have a lot of work to do. We have a long road of recovery ahead of us. Also acknowledge that we have made tremendous progress. We have seen this city pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and we have not sat on our hands and waited for handouts to do this.”Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter meets with Gov. John Bel Edwards near the Civic Center after Hurricane Laura crushed the region in late August.

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