Louisiana congressional delegation urges Biden for Hurricane Ida disaster relief

Louisiana’s two U.S. senators and six U.S. House representatives are pushing President Biden for emergency disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Ida, as well as aid for past hurricanes he’s yet to approve.

The state’s bipartisan congressional delegation sent a letter to the president this week, emphasizing widespread storm damage and dangerous conditions and citing $10 billion in emergency aid provided only four days after Hurricane Katrina similarly devastated southeast Louisiana in August 2005.

“Hurricane Ida moved slowly through Louisiana causing catastrophic wind damage and flooding in numerous parishes and leaving nearly 1,000,000 people statewide without electricity, which experts say it will take weeks to restore,” Thursday’s letter read. “At this time, many communities remain without access to drinking water, food, gasoline, and basic needs, while temperatures remain in excess of 100 degrees.”

Biden was scheduled to visit Louisiana Friday and tour hard-hit areas with state and local leaders, six days after Hurricane Ida made landfall.

The full extent of the Category 4 hurricane’s destruction cannot be accessed at this time, the congressional delegation said, given the immediate focus on public safety.

“Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds when it struck Louisiana’s coast 16 years ago. Conversely, Hurricane Ida had sustained winds of 150 mph when it made landfall, and it was just 7 mph shy of ranking as a Category 5 storm,” the letter read.

Biden approved Gov. John Bel Edwards’ requests for a Federal Declaration of Emergency before the storm’s impact and a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration after the storm passed. Both items allow for federal assistance, with all 64 Louisiana parishes qualifying for federal emergency protective measures.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 93,626 individual assistance applications have been approved as of Friday morning, totaling more than $93.7 million in assistance. A FEMA news release said five Incident Management Assistance Teams are deployed across affected areas of the state.

While the congressional delegation did not include a total dollar amount in their request for disaster aid before Biden’s Friday arrival, the letter cited a $10 billion emergency appropriation occurring days after Hurricane Katrina.

“This law provided $10 billion for the Department of Homeland Security’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Disaster Relief and $500 million for the Department of Defense’s Operations and Maintenance for emergency hurricane expenses to support costs of evacuation, emergency repairs, deployment of personnel and other costs resulting from immediate relief efforts,” the letter read.

Hurricane Ida is the latest storm to hit the vulnerable gulf coast state. Five other hurricanes have slammed into Louisiana over the past year: Cristobal, Marco, Laura, Delta and Zeta.

Despite repeated attempts to secure supplemental disaster relief from Biden for the series of previous storms, the associated aid has yet to be approved.

“To-date, communities across Southwest and Central Louisiana such as Lake Charles, Lafayette, Leesville and Alexandria, among others, still await desperately needed funding … to address unmet financial needs,” the letter read.

FEMA issued $69 million in grants Thursday to address debris removal and flood mitigation for hurricanes Laura and Delta, which hit in August and October, respectively, last year. Louisiana U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy welcomed the federal assistance, though it’s far short of the delegation’s consistent $1.1 billion request.

“Unfortunately, we know from experience how long disaster aid can be held up. Almost a year later, we’re still working to get supplemental CDBG-DR relief for Hurricanes Laura and Delta,” Cassidy said. “However, these reimbursements are substantial to get southwest Louisiana back on its feet.”

The delegation closed its appeal by requesting a single disaster relief appropriation for the past storms and current devastation wrought by Hurricane Ida, as all supplemental aid regarding natural disasters must start with the president making a request to Congress.

“Without substantial and robust emergency appropriations from Congress for critical unmet needs … Louisiana families will continue to languish as a result of these devastating storms,” the letter read.

This article was originally posted on Louisiana congressional delegation urges Biden for Hurricane Ida disaster relief

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