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Office of the Governor State of Louisiana John Bel Edwards
P.O. Box 94004 Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9004
(225) 342-7015
gov.la.gov

September 2, 2016

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

First, I want to thank you again for personally visiting flood impacted areas of Louisiana on August 23, 2016, and for sending a number of your cabinet-level secretaries to our state in response to the August floods. I am confident that it was beneficial for you and members of your cabinet to witness first-hand some of the severe impacts the floods had on Louisiana's families and businesses, and in particular visiting with Louisianans who were literally in the process of gutting their homes and trying to determine a clear path towards their recovery.

During your visit, and in my August 23rd letter to you, I requested both a supplemental appropriation of Disaster Recovery Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-DR) funds and an allocation to the Army Corps of Engineers for the Comite River Diversion project, in order to assist Louisiana in its recovery from the severe storms and flooding occurring in both March and August 2016. The combination of these two storm events has had a devastating impact on our state and our citizens. While short-term relief for immediate needs available through FEMA for items such as temporary rental assistance, essential home repairs, and other serious disaster-related needs are greatly needed and greatly appreciated, our full recovery will not be realized without additional help. This is particularly true for the large number of residents who experienced flooding outside of the designated high-risk flood zones. The majority of these citizens did not carry flood insurance, and I impress upon you that they will not be able to make critical decisions on rebuilding their homes and their lives without the availability of CDBG-DR funds. This additional assistance is critical to Louisiana's full recovery from these floods.

Because of this, I am reiterating to you my call for a Congressional appropriation of CDBG-DR funds for Louisiana, and that this appropriation take place during Congress' September session. Based on the information we have thus far, I believe $2 billion of CDBG-DR funds for additional public investments in housing, economic development, and resilient infrastructure will be necessary for the recovery of our state. With FEMA verified unmet needs in housing repairs, which are typically well below what is actually required to repair a home, estimated at over $900 million, and taking into account that as many as 15% of households may never register for FEMA Individual Assistance, and understanding that over 80% of the flooded homes did not have flood insurance at the time, the funds required to bring these communities back could well exceed $1.2 billion in housing alone. Considering these losses, in combination with the economic impacts of over $3 billion and the as yet unknown public infrastructure damages, I believe $2 billion in CDBG-DR funds is a very reasonable request.

I have discussed the importance of a CDBG-DR appropriations with all of the members of Louisiana's Congressional Delegation, seeking their full backing and asking that they secure the endorsement of their Congressional colleagues. In support of this request, I offer just some of the damage data and estimates of the substantial and long-term impacts of both the August and March flood events:

As a result of the August floods, preliminary data show:

  • Damage to over 55,000 homes has been documented by FEMA so far, with the number expected to rise to over 110,000 as individual assistance (IA) registrations and inspections continue;
  • Based on current registration numbers and historic trends, we estimate that over 150,000 households will apply for individual assistance, with an estimated housing unmet need of $750 million to over $1 billion;
  • Over 80% of flooded households did not have flood insurance, as most were not in the 100-year floodplain;
    Initial indications are that the majority of the flooded households are low-to-moderate income and 20% are renters;
  • Thousands of miles of state and local roads remained under water for extended periods. Estimates are that 30 state roads washed out and 1,400 bridges will need to be inspected;
  • Along with over 200 highways closed statewide during the event, sections of Interstates 10 and 12 were closed for multiple days due to floodwaters. Some areas of I-10 remained closed for nearly a week, significantly interrupting interstate commerce;
  • An estimated 31% of the homes in the impacted parishes are in areas affected by flooding, and only 11% of households in the flood impacted areas carry flood insurance;
  • Conservative estimates for economic impact to the agricultural sector currently stand at over $110 million;
  • Estimates of economic loss in labor productivity stand at over $300 million, with an estimated $836 million loss in value added during the period immediately surrounding the storm;
  • Current estimates indicate that over 6,000 businesses experienced flooding, with structural, inventory and equipment damages of over $2.2 billion;
  • Operations at 19,900 (20%) of Louisiana businesses were disrupted, with a total workforce disruption of 278,500 workers, or 14% of the Louisiana workforce;
    5,447 disaster-related unemployment claims have been filed as of August 18, 2016;
  • Estimates of public infrastructure damage are under way, but will take considerably more time to compile and analyze;
  • Total estimated losses from this disaster, not including public infrastructure, are over $8.7 billion.

As a result of the March storms and flooding:

  • More than 29,000 homes were damaged;
  • A total of 6,143 non-housing structures were damaged;
    Along with numerous road closures during the event, estimates of $20 million in road and bridge damage;
  • Agricultural losses of approximately $15 million, with long-term impacts to farmers of $80 million;
  • 521 disaster-related unemployment claims have been filed;
    Over 40,000 citizens registered for individual assistance.

I am confident that with the local, state and federal resources already being applied to this disaster, along with the resources I'm requesting here, Louisiana will recover from this disaster stronger than before. With smart investments in housing, economic development, infrastructure and planning, we can make our state more resilient in the face of future disasters, whatever they may be. It is also worth noting that because Louisiana has been the recipient of CDBG-DR funds for previous disasters, our state already has the necessary infrastructure in place to appropriately and compliantly administer these funds. Be assured that we will continue to be good stewards of these taxpayer dollars, and that they will go toward the recovery of our state and its citizens.

In spite of the fact that this was a 1,000 year flood event, we know that we can expect more extreme weather events in the future. Because of this, we also feel it is critical that we take steps to make our communities safer in the future. The Comite River Diversion project has been in the works for nearly 20 years, and, if completed, would have reduced some of the impacts of this flood event. We believe it is critical to fully fund this project, as well as complete studies of the Amite River Basin to guide our future investments in resilient infrastructure in this watershed. Understanding how to reduce flood levels in the basin and taking steps to do so is a far superior option to simply trying to elevate all the homes out of the floodplain. As such, I am also including a request for funding for thse efforts through the Army Corpos of Engineers to complete the work that has been started, including $125 million to complete the Comite River Diversion project.

Mr. President, in the face of the adversity our state is experiencing, I have been so proud to have witnessed how Louisiana and her citizens have remained "Louisiana Strong." In response to both disasters, neighbors, school and church groups, and non-profit organizations immediately stepped up to provide needed flood, shelter and care for those who lost homes and possessions. And since the storms we have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from our fellow Americans across the entire country, lending their love and support to our state. The generous hearts and spirit of resilience of the American citizen continues to be an inspiration.

I am confident that with your continued support, our state will be provided with the necessary appropriation of CDBG-DR funds to work towards a full recovery.

Thank you for your partnership in this effort, and for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,
John Bel Edwards

cc: FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate
HUD Secretary Julian Castro
USACE Chief of Engineers and Commanding General Lt. General Todd T. Semonite
Senator David B. Vitter
Senator William G. "Bill" Cassidy
Congressman Stephen J. Scalise
Congressman Cedric L. Richmond
Congressman Charles W. Boustany, Jr.
Congressman John C. Fleming, Jr.
Congressman Ralph L. Abraham, Jr.
Congressman Garret N. Graves

FAQ No. 65    

Date: 2-3-2019 Updated: 2-3-2019 Subject:

Research Based Learning is more than a simple "Question and Answer" or "Frequently Asked Questions" or "Help and Information" pages.

Research Based Learning offers answers with resource links so you can validate the answer.

Construction: When you want to know about building codes you can ask a builder that same question. But when you want to validate what the builder told you as being correct you need to have that same builder offer you the resources they used to provide you with the answer.

Government: When a politician or government worker tells you an answer to your question and you ask for the resource they used to provide the answer you will be told to use the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) channels which can take days, weeks or even months. When you have a question that you require a FOIA we will post it here and keep the solution or answer open until you receive the resources that provide proof that the answer was correct.

The process of Research Based Learning isn't new, but it's not used enough to make us all question those supplying answers to us. The WikiMedia.Org group offers more resources in their pages than any government website offering information as answers to your question. Keep that in mind when you ask your local politicians a question and they give you an answer that seems a bit generic. You might want to post that question here if it's about disaster recovery or building codes.

No one person is perfect and this means no expert is perfect. But we have many experts to call on for answers and resources which may actually produce the perfect answer for all of us to learn from. Some of our best resource providers are simply great WWW search specialists and know how to dig deep into websites for information in any format.

Use the form near the bottom of this column to submit your question you would like us to research and provide research material supporting our answer.

FAQ No. 1    

Date: 12-30-2018 Updated: 12-30-2018 Subject: How To Research

FOIA State of Louisiana OCD-DRU 5-23-2018: Request copies of any communications between the Governors Office (J.B. Edwards) and Restore Louisiana Homeowners Assistance Program related to waiving state requirements that contractors working for Restore LA or IEM Inc tasked with rebuilding, repairing homeowners homes damaged by the 2016 floods (DR4277, DR4263) be licensed and insured as per state contractors licensing board rules, regulations and state laws.

(State of Louisiana Reply)

Your public records request, dated May 23, 2018, was received by the Division of Administration on May 23, 2018. We are conducting a search for records. Once the search is finished, the records will be reviewed for privileges and exemptions. We will contact you as soon as the review is completed, and all non-exempt records will be made available to you.

Thank you,
Public Records Requests
Division of Administration
State of Louisiana
Email:doapublicrecords@la.gov


FAQ No. 2    

Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:

Requested date: 5-23-2018

As of May 11, 2018
1. Total number of households pending Homeowner Responsibility (Solution 2) and Homeowner Escrow (Solution 1).

2. Total number of LMI Households awarded CDBG-DR Grants that have closed on the grants.
Reply: State of Louisiana DOA 6-7-2018:

Reports do not currently exist that are responsive to your specific public record request. However, with respect to item 2, HUD does publish a quarterly report, the most recent of which is attached, that shows at page 8 of 49 that as of in the first quarter of 2018, 1978 grant awards to LMI households were executed, for a cumulative total of 3321.

Attachment download: Flood DRGR 1st Quarter Reports

FAQ No. 3    

Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:

Requested: 5-29-2018: Copies of Active Contracts that are listed online in the OCDDRU folder but do not have the actual contract linked.
  1. Franklin Associates, LLC Louisiana Housing Corporation 2/12/2016 6/30/2019 $7,143,250 $3,618,750 To perform environmental reviews and homeowner inspections. CDBG-DR funds represented are related to 2016 Flood Work. Other components of the contract funded through other sources.
  2. Alpha Media and Public Relations pending New Corp. 5/28/2016 7/7/2016 $33,413 $33,413 Restore LA Marketing and Outreach.
  3. GrantAnalyst.com, LLC 192237977 Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry 3/16/2017 3/15/2018 $6,100 $6,100 ?Online grant application management system.
  4. Spears Consulting 837070833 TruFund Financial 5/15/2017 5/15/2018 $40,000 $40,000 Marketing/Public Relations spent as of 11.30.17.
  5. Start Corporation 859805285 Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals 12/1/2015 6/30/2018 $2,802,482 $2,802,482 ?To provide support services required to help individuals rebuild their lives after homelessness, institutional care or other disruptions due to the Flood of 2016. (multiple sources of disaster funding)
  6. Volunteers of America 0750049916 Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals 12/1/2015 6/30/2018 $49,999 $49,999 To provide support services required to help individuals rebuild their lives after homelessness, institutional care or other disruptions due to the Flood of 2016. (multiple sources of disaster funding)
  7. Westaff 788265564 TruFund Financial 5/4/2017 11/30/2017 $25,686 $25,686 Temp Services.
  8. Xerox Corporation 137644035 Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry 10/16/2017 6/30/2018 $988 $988 Copy machine
>>> State of Louisiana DOA OCD-DRU response.
Dated: 6-6-2018

You will be receiving, or have already received, an e-mail invitation to access a dropbox from which you will be able to access the documents referenced below.

Please click on this link to view the contracts: Dropbox Link to document download.

FAQ No. 4    

Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-9-2019 Subject:

Freedom of Information Request Date: 6-1-2018: I would like to know who and what department created the webpage at this address: http://www.doa.la.gov/Pages/ocd-dru/for_training.aspx

I find it not useful at all and when so many public records are missing from the OCD-DRU website pages I feel this is a waste of government resources to allow to be viewed by the public.

State of Louisiana Response dated 6-5-2018:

Your public record request e-mail, dated June 1, 2018, was received by the Division of Administration on June 1, 2018. Upon review, your e-mail does not present a public records request as described in Louisiana R.S. 44:1(A)(2). As such, we are unable to provide a response.


>>>> NOTES <<<<<
Web page was removed and replaced with a redirect to the main page. The state did not acknowledge the report.

FAQ No. 5    

Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:

Freedom of Information Request dated 6-18-2018.

Copy of the OCD-DRU policy regarding NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) ICC (Increased Cost of Compliance) funds with respect to the calculation of duplication of benefits (DOB).

>> State of Louisiana Response 6-22-2018 <<

See attached manual and/or view at this link:Attached Homeowners Manual version 3.1 and download link

pages 51 to 52 of the document pertain to NFIP (building and ICC) and DOB calculation.

FAQ No. 6    

Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:

Freedom of Information Request: 6-26-2018, Copy of the "Declined SBA Award Policy".

This document is referenced in
1. "Draft ReLa Program Management Policies (Attachment VII) Page 31 of 189"
2. "Homeowners Manual version 3.1 page 52 under SBA Verification"

>>> Response State of Louisiana <<<

Date: 6-28-2018

The "Declined SBA Award Policy" is found on page 52 of the manual you refer to in your email below. This is the current policy:

"Applicants who have applied for an SBA loan but have a record of declining the loan or have not executed the SBA loan may be considered for RLHP funding, but awards will be adjusted to account for any SBA DOB. If a low to moderate income (LMI) household has declined an SBA loan, a hardship will be presumed and the SBA loan will not be considered a duplication of benefit. SBA loan declination is defined as an applicant having never executed the SBA loan documents."

When the "verification" paragraph states: RHLP Declined SBA Award Policy – it is referring to the paragraph above it in the manual (see snip image below).

FAQ No. 7    

Date: 1-4-2019 Updated: 1-4-2019 Subject:

We publish stories with the intent to help others that follow in our post disaster footprints.

Disaster victims often do not want to relive the ordeal but many that have just became victims or have been searching for answers may learn from your experiences of disasters long past. It is our goal to share with others so we all may rebuild and recover faster. Sharing experiences, post disaster experiences, from cleanup to rebuilding and all points in between. Let's document the processes each victim had to complete after the Presidential Disaster Declaration or the Emergency Declaration has been signed into action.

  • We require 600-2400 words.
    If you require additional space consider making two or more submissions which we will group together if possible.
  • Must have 2 or more pictures that have not been reduced in size or edited to change meta information.
  • Must have strong argument about issues that you have experienced.
  • You must have researched each issue, point of interest or experience declared and offer resources or sources to provide a solid foundation and weight to your experience.
  • Do not cite or copy journalists, editorials or the opinions of others. This is your experience only.
  • You allow us exclusive use of your experience article to share with all who are willing to republish your experience in it's entirety without edits or omissions.
  • We will take no longer than 10 working days to review and accept your experience article.
  • If we feel editing is needed we will return the article to you with notes.
    Our goal is to publish everyone's disaster experience.
  • Include your experience article in an email, a document attached to an email or our website form.
  • Include your disaster record number (DR), name (First,Last), street address, city, state, zip, phone, and email address.

We will use your personal information to verify your disaster experience. We will exclude your name from your article and only reference the DR number. Otherwise you must tell us you would like to release your name with your article and then clearly state what personal information you would like included in your by line.

E-mail: archive@LouisianaRecoveryAuthority.Org

FAQ No. 8    

Date: 12-30-2018 Updated: 12-30-2018 Subject: Your Story

Season 1 Ep 1

"Gross Negligence, Gross Incompetence and Willful Misconduct, Restore Louisiana Homeowners Program" the series.

Tonight's episode entitled "Gross Incompetence Elevation Costs" episode 1.

NOTE: You might find this a bit humorous, but it's actually based on documented facts of 2 groups separated by 10 years working on flood recovery projects.

Restore Louisiana Homeowners Assistance Solution 2 Reconstruction program is closing in on it's first complete home elevation and reconstruction project.

Despite being handed the full Reconstruction program policy and procedures, Solution 2 Reconstruction team is still in the beginning phases of creating Process and Procedures.

According to research, outsourced workers and management have taken nearly one year to process one homeowner and still have yet to document the steps in processing Solution 2 Reconstruction homeowners.

Historical data shows state workers employed as workers worked more efficiently than outsourced companies hired by state workers.

It was found in the year 2008 that state workers awarded 18,914 homeowners with elevation grant money using the system they called, "Simplified Award Process." Current state outsourced management (2018) refuse to follow the 10 year old proven simplified processes and are determined to make a complicate process more complicate than rocket science.

The states Simplified Award Process distributed 18,914 checks in the amount of $30,000 to homeowners in less than one year. Outsourced Solution 2 Restore Management has yet to establish procedures to determine foundation costs even after being given the procedure by the Solution 1 Reconstruction team.

Stay tuned for the onsite Solution 2 Reconstruction podcast series coming next year, maybe, if policy doesn't change.

FAQ No. 9    

Date: 12-30-2018 Updated: 12-30-2018 Subject: State Contractors

Comment: Insurance will be needed or you will get nothing. But even then you will need to know how to navigate a system that the states create to make it impossible for them to navigate. Insurance required to cover federal assistance received.

Financial disaster recovery planning team within the Administration grant funding.
OCD-DRU trainer for all county, parish, city, town planning and zoning departments for HUD compliance training.

Resource: HUD OIG Report 2013-FW-0001

>> Start snip of report page 19,20 <<

Some States Did Not Take Sufficient Steps To Protect the Invested Federal Funds

Some States did not require adequate homeowners' insurance for the homes built or rehabilitated with Disaster Recovery funds. Texas initially did not require insurance. It modified its program for the Katrina, Rita, and Wilma second allocation and, along with Louisiana and Florida, required insurance for 3 years. Alabama adopted a deed restriction that "strongly encouraged" insurance. For the Gustav, Ike, and Dolly allocation, Texas again modified its program and stated insurance was required, but its policy, like Alabama's deed restriction, stated only that failure to maintain insurance "may" impact future disaster assistance. However, Mississippi took an aggressive stance by requiring a transferable covenant that required insurance at all times. These variations occurred because HUD allowed the States maximum feasible deference in the implementation of their Disaster Recovery programs as allowed by the State CDBG program.

HUD needs to adopt a best practice to address the issue of insurance to ensure that the Federal funds invested in the assisted homes are protected in the event of future hurricanes or disasters. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, an additional 10 hurricanes and other storms have hit the States and caused damage. Further, our audit of Texas13 found that Hurricane Ike had damaged homes repaired or replaced by Katrina, Rita, and Wilma grant funds, which lacked insurance. In one extreme case shown in figures 10 and 11, an uninsured home suffered significant structural damage, and the homeowner inquired about additional disaster assistance for his recently replaced home.

The Texas audit also found that of a sample of 59 Katrina-, Rita-, and Wilma funded homes tested, 38 homes were later damaged by another hurricane or storm. Of the 38 homes, 23 did not have insurance. Based on a projection of the sample results, at least 133 of 453 reconstructed or rehabilitated homes or homes awaiting reconstruction lacked insurance and were damaged or are at risk of being damaged by another storm. The report concluded that if Texas changed and improved its action plan and policies, an estimated $60.2 million in program funds could be saved.

For Hurricane Isaac, which struck in August 2012, initial reports estimated damage to 13,000 homes in Louisiana located in the same areas previously affected by Katrina. Since Louisiana required insurance for only 3 years, there is the potential that damage had occurred to Disaster Recovery-assisted homes completed before 2009 that may lack insurance, as the State's required insurance period had expired and nothing would prevent homeowners from seeking additional Federal assistance.

>> End snip of report page 19,20 <<

FAQ No. 11    

Date: 12-30-2018 Updated: 12-30-2018 Subject: Transparency

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