Regulations holding back recovery process, HUD Secretary Carson says during visit to Denham Springs
DENHAM SPRINGS – The secretary of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development got an overview Monday on the progression of recovery one year after the worst flood event in Livingston Parish history.
Dr. Ben Carson made the visit Monday afternoon to Denham Springs along with Gov. John Bel Edwards, U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, Congressman Garret Graves and Mayor Gerard Landry in a visit to area homes that culminated with a press conference at the offices of The Livingston Parish News, which took in more than five feet of water during the August 2016 flood.
Carson believes the federal government has held up its end regarding distribution of revenue to residents in the aftermath of the flood, but rules have hindered the process as a whole.
“There’s no question the money that has been allocated, but there are a lot of hurdles that slow down the process and I think we can simplify it and do it better,” he said. “A lot of well-intentioned people put regulations in place.
“Instead of replacing them, they put more regulations on top of regulations,” Carson said. “It has become a labyrinth.”
Graves, an outspoken critic of the state’s distribution of flood recovery money, said bureaucracy on both the state and federal level have kept homeowners waiting too long.
"The time we spent today talking with homeowners was very informative in shedding light on the bureaucracy and red tape,” the Republican 6th District Congressman said. “We need to move past the duplication and red tape so we can get this money to the homeowners.”
Kennedy was also outspoken in the state’s handling of the flood funds. He echoed statements by Graves and other Republicans which criticized the Edwards Administration for its distribution of the federal relief money from the Great Flood of 2016.
“Congress approved $1 billion in relief money last year, yet the state has only distributed two percent of that revenue,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got to do better because I believe we need more, but we can’t get more if we haven’t spent it.
“We have $1 billion, and that may not be as much as we need, but it’s not chopped liver,” he said. “People are disgusted with government at all levels, and they need this money to recover.”
Edwards, meanwhile, said the homeowner surveys issued through the Restore Louisiana Task Force are imperative to the distribution of dollars.
“We’re making progress, but we would love to be further along than we are,” he said. “There are still a lot of homeowners who are waiting to be rebuilt.”
he slow response on the surveys has prevented state action with the federal funds and hindered the possibility of receiving more money, Edwards said.
The state has received approximately 40,000 surveys, but an estimated 90,000 homeowners had damages during the 2016 flood, the governor said.
As of the Great Flood's anniversary date, more than $15 million has been awarded and the state has made over 500 awards, Edwards said.
“It’s not as fast and it’s not as we want, but there hasn’t been another program that has gotten flood money out this fast,” he said.
John Dupont is a reporter for the Livingston Parish News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @dupont_john.