Edwards seeks Major Disaster Declaration after Hurricane Delta
Gov. John Bel Edwards requested a Major Disaster Declaration on Wednesday for five parishes impacted by Hurricane Delta, a move that could bring additional assistance for residents.
Edwards' initial request includes Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermilion parishes, though more may be added as damage assessments are completed.
“Hurricane Delta made landfall around six weeks after and 13 miles from where Hurricane Laura hit, devastating many of the same communities twice over. The people of Southwest Louisiana are strong and resilient, but they need our help to rebuild their communities and recover their livelihoods,” Edwards said in a news release. “I also met with the FEMA administrator this week and discussed the need to address the complications and financial challenges following these back to back storms.”
The governor made a similar request after Hurricane Laura, including 23 parishes. But many parishes were slow to be approved for the extra relief from FEMA, owing to new processes, including requirements to send damage reports online, which complicated damage assessments for parishes facing widespread internet and power outages.
Five parishes were approved within two days of Hurricane Laura's landfall. Some parishes had to wait more than two weeks from Laura's landfall to be approved for the assistance. The parishes that ultimately received approval after Hurricane Laura were Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Caddo, Calcasieu, Cameron, Grant, Jackson, Jefferson Davis, LaSalle, Lincoln, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Rapides, Sabine, St. Landry Vermilion, Vernon, Winn and Union.
Edwards' request includes FEMA Public Assistance for government and public entities, help with debris removal and emergency protective measures, and FEMA Individual Assistance.
To be approved, parishes have to complete damage assessments to document the damage to communities. But during the pandemic, FEMA changed its qualifying process, opening "virtual disaster centers" that require submissions of damage reports online. FEMA typically mobilizes in-person recovery workers to help with the process.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy asked FEMA to reconsider its decision to go with virtual centers, saying the state needed "boots on the ground, not bureaucrats with iPads on Zoom."
In addition, the state must show that the governor took appropriate action, provided an estimate of the damage to the public and private sectors, and submitted a description of the state and local resources being used. The state also is responsible for estimates of the type and amount of assistance needed and certification from the governor that the state will comply with cost-sharing requirements.
Louisiana parishes were given access to some help from FEMA after President Donald Trump approved Edward's request for a federal emergency declaration. The additional benefits that come with a major disaster declaration include grants for temporary housing and home repairs; low-cost loans for uninsured property loss; and other programs to help residents and businesses recover.