La. gets 100 percent cost share for debris removal

Rita LeBleu

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D., said President Donald Trump has approved his request for a 100 percent cost share for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.
In addition to allowing for additional funding at 100 percent federal cost share, state officials will determine the 30 continuous days to be covered at 100 percent.
Cassidy said he spoke to the president before Laura hit, and the president pledged to do whatever was needed, short of FEMA committing to picking up 100 percent of the tab.      
Under the president’s major disaster declaration issued for Louisiana on Aug. 28, federal funding  was made available for public assistance at 75 percent federal funding of total eligible costs.
Coming up with 25 percent of the expense to haul away hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of debris would have made a considerable impact on local parish and city budgets.
“For a city the size of Sulphur, going to the 100 percent cost share of debris removal ensures a greater long-term stability,” said Sulphur Mayor Mike Danahay. “Without such a declaration, we would have had to make some difficult financial decisions.”       
Calcasieu Parish Administrator Bryan Beam agreed.
“We want to thank our elected leaders at the state and federal levels for working together to make this happen,” Beam said. “This will save parish government and municipalities several million dollars.”
In September, Cassidy wrote a letter asking the president and FEMA to waive the local cost-share percentage of 25 percent, and cover 100 percent of the costs associated with damages, instead of 75 percent.
The letter included the following paragraph:
“While the prompt federal assistance and relief efforts by FEMA and other federal agencies to assess the damages and needs of our Louisiana citizens is commendable, there is no doubt that much more needs to be done before there is anything resembling a return to normalcy in the hardest-hit communities impacted by Hurricane Laura,” Cassidy wrote. “A stronger federal commitment to help people and communities recover from this cataclysmic hurricane is therefore required…”
Cassidy said the president’s timing of the additional funding to the state, eligible tribal and local governments and certain nonprofit organizations.
“The problem is, once people know there will be a 100 cost share, they could end up being less responsible, spend more money,” Cassidy told the American Press on Friday. “I think the president balanced his priorities to taxpayers and disaster hit areas very well with the timing of this decision.”
The 30-day window is a plus, Cassidy said.
“Aside from the 100 percent, letting the state pick the 30 days means municipalities and parishes can use, obviously, the most expensive 30 days,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy said he also spoke to Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing.
“Ben Carson said we are always there when people need help and Southwest Louisiana has had not one hurricane but two. We’re really going to be there because these people have had a hard go of it,” Cassidy said.
When Laura was about to hit, the president called “and assured me, ‘We’re going to be there for you, Bill. We’re going to be there for you,’ “ Cassidy said. “Not only has he been there for us, I thank him for his commitment to the people of Louisiana.”

A debris worker lifts a large tree branch from a truck with a crane at 2111 Common St.

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