Governor ‘optimistic’ SW La. can get more federal recovery funds

Gov. John Bel Edwards, after a political rally in Lake Charles, said he will once again be in Washington D.C., early next week to meet with federal lawmakers and White House officials on the need for additional hurricane recovery dollars for Southwest Louisiana.

Nearly $600 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding was allocated for Southwest Louisiana’s recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, both of which made landfall more than a year earlier. As part of a bill Congress passed in October to avoid a partial government shutdown, $1.6 billion was dedicated to all disasters that occurred nationwide in 2020.

Local elected leaders, including Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter and Calcasieu Parish Police Jury President Brian Abshire, said the $600 million doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the lingering post-hurricane needs, such as sustainable housing, infrastructure and revitalizing the economy. Congress must approve another spending plan before Dec. 3, which leaves the door open for Southwest Louisiana to secure more money for hurricane recovery.

Edwards said it’s frustrating that it took more than a year after Hurricane Laura’s devastating landfall to secure federal recovery dollars. However, he’s optimistic that more relief can be obtained.

“We think we have at least one more bite at the apple when it comes to hurricane recovery funding for Southwest Louisiana,” he said. “We’re not giving up; we’re going to keep fighting.”

The governor said it’s too soon to tell just how the $6 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be spent. The IIJA was recently passed by the U.S. House and passed by the Senate in August. It will provide money for roads, bridges, ports, broadband, airports and other efforts.

“That $6 billion is going to come in very handy for Louisiana because we have a plethora of transportation needs, including right here — the highest priority of which is being a new Calcasieu River bridge on (Interstate) 10,” he said.

Edwards, a Democrat, visited Lake Charles to support Dustin Granger, a Democratic candidate running for the open District 27 state Senate seat Saturday. Granger is running against Republicans Jeremy Stine and Jake Shaheen. Ronnie Johns formerly held the Senate seat, but resigned after