I talk about disaster debt burden every year, this year is no exception.
This year marks the final year for disaster survivors of the 2016 floods to finish their repairs and Hurricane Laura households to start the grant award process which will start assisting you in 2023 to 2028. It's a long road and it will be very stressful for most of you. Some will opt to allow the state to manage all their repairs and you'll get just what the state offers, economically priced materials and outsourced labor.
Some of you will be able to afford your repairs with savings, retirement funds or private loans. You'll be first in line for reimbursement in most cases. Keep your receipts, get your estimates all printed out and make sure your contractor detailed all the repairs to the component level for your home.
I estimate their are 56 homeowners still in the repair and construction of new homes from the 2016 floods. The program officially has to distribute all grant funds by May 17, 2023. The state will place pressure on homeowners to either change their grant award to a lessor amount and close out the grant or the state may attempt to rescind the grant completely then ask for the distributed funds be returned. This is the recapture process, for those in the disasters of 2020 and 2021 you'll start to hear about this if you join some of the better interactive groups on your favorite social media sites.
Currently 56 solution 2 homeowners are at risk of the program running out of funds because management has once again transferred homeowners grant funds to state agency special interest projects. Of the 56 homeowners 20 are new construction and 36 are repairs. Those in the repair process will be offered deductive change orders (DCO) to reduce their grants. Those in the new construction will either be called in as a full recapture or a partial rescinded grant leaving the homeowner permanently homeless at that point.
Each and every program the state will offer is funded by Federal Tax dollars and allocated based on the total number of impacted homes occupied by the citizens of the state. The funds for the 2016 floods were calculated first by the reported 120,000 homeowners who received damage from minor to severe. Then, HUD required that only major to severe damage be reported and the state estimated just over 43,000 household were damaged. From that 43,000 the state estimated 35,000 would qualify for HUD CDBG-DR grants and later corrected that to be 24,000. After the DOB SBA loans were corrected and the declined loan issue corrected by HUD retraining the state managers on how to read guidance and instruction from HUD the new goal from the state was to keep the total of assisted households under 15,000. The 15,000 number came when HUD granted reimbursement of SBA loans and the state had skimmed funds off the homeowners program that would not have had enough to cover all eligible SBA and grant recipients.
The state launched a campaign to terminate or as the letter stated, "Rescind" grants. The letter didn't offer any appeals information and many people simply walked away. The state then filled with HUD that the homeowners (over 3,500) voluntarily quit the program. The state was not going to list it sent termination letters out to HUD.
For those looking to the Restore Louisiana Homeowners Program for HUD CDBG-DR Grants to help rebuild I would suggest finding someone from the 2016 floods that was successful at navigating the program and have them coach you until your repairs are completed. Your biggest obstacle will actually be finding people to do the repairs correctly at the amount you are to receive in grants. The state will give the lowest possible estimate for materials and labor which is often so low even if you did all the work the current material costs would put you over budget.
Start reading about the program so you have all the information you need and know what to expect. The state managers for the 2016 / 2017 disaster years is still managing for the 2020, 2021 and this year will be no different. You'll find if you follow the action plan changes that the state will place you as only a homeowner with zero representation from any agency. You will in the end do as you are told when you are told or the state will find you ineligible to use federal grant dollars for your unmet repairs.