U.S. Rep. Garret Graves: Year anniversary highlights flood recovery frustration
Nearly a year after catastrophic floods washed over south Louisiana, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves says he's frustrated by the pace of the recovery.
"We still have people living in gutted homes, tents, trailers and other conditions that are not acceptable," Graves said during a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday. "That's an example of why people are so frustrated with government."
Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the 1000-year flood that inundated the capital region, leaving thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.
The state has received about $1.7 billion from the federal government to aid the recovery. About $1 million has made its way to homeowners, after the state gained access to the money in April.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, who toured one of the renovated homes last week, has said that his administration has moved as quickly as it can to navigate the federal bureaucracy tied to the money.
"I'm as frustrated as anybody," Edwards said. "We're working as hard as we can."
Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican who took office in 2015, has voiced concerns over the flood recovery in the past.
"I've had strong concerns about how this disaster has been managed," he said Monday.
Congress is currently on its annual August recess. In addition to the flood recovery, Graves said priorities ahead include transportation and infrastructure upgrades and coastal restoration.
Graves said he was troubled by recent reports over the city of Baton Rouge's anti-violence BRAVE contracts, which are paid with federal dollars.
Unused money from the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program is set to expire next month, but Mayor Sharon Weston Broome last week halted some contracts amid growing controversy over the program.
Graves said he supports reviewing contracts, but he also thinks its important for leaders to be mindful of the September deadline.
"We have precious federal resources that are going to expire," Graves said. "We need to get those contracts in place and make sure we don't lose those dollars."
Graves said that U.S. Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Jefferson Republican who was critically injured in a mass shooting in June, is expected to return to work next month when Congress returns from its break.
"He may be fighting off doctors on his way," Graves said.
Scalise was hit in the hip when James "Tom" Hodgkinson opened fire on Republicans who were practicing ahead of an annual charity baseball game. Hodgkinson was later killed in a shootout with police.
"It is a miracle that (Hodgkinson) sent off perhaps 80 rounds and the only person that died was him," Graves said. "It's absolutely amazing."