Five months ago tomorrow, Hurricane Laura slammed into the southwestern of Louisiana, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. Just 43 days later, Hurricane Delta hit almost the same location.
Tuesday, state and federal officials joined Calcasieu Parish government officials to discuss long-term recovery in Lake Charles' Burton Coliseum.
"It's been a long five months for everybody impacted by that hurricane, especially when you realize they were hit again by hurricane Delta, and all this happened during a global pandemic," Gov. John Bel Edwards said. "It's a very, very challenging environment, and that's why I appreciate so much the work that's been done and is being done. Recovery under the best of circumstances takes a long time and it's hard. And these are not the best of circumstances."
The point of the press conference was that the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury is establishing and collaboratively implementing this Recovery Framework, which is aligned with FEMA's National Disaster Recovery Framework and provides governance, oversight, and structure to recovery operations in partnership with local, state, and federal agencies while ensuring Calcasieu Parish leads and manages its own recovery process.
To learn about the process in Calcasieu Parish, click here.
Bryan C. Beam, Parish Administrator, explained that the federal process has been in place since 2012 and focuses on local priorities and needs.
"When a community has a disaster, this comes into play. That process, the long-term recovery effort, recognizes the need for a long-term, structured approach that is community directed and keeps the community involved," Beam explained. "And it allows us to set our sites on long-term priorities, not just the short-term. It also helps us be better prepared for future disasters. We don't want them to happen, but they're going to happen, and every time we need to learn so we can be better prepared."
Beam said the initial work is hard, but ensuring long-term recovery is a bigger job.
"This is the tougher part, compared to the early response," he said.
He said the people of Calcasieu Parish have been "magnificent" in their recovery and response so far.
"But now we must deal with the larger scope, with issues more chronic than acute," he said.
Even so, Beam says he does not worry about the future.
"We are a strong people, a resilient people. We are not afraid of hard work or self-sacrifice," he said. "And we are not alone. There is help, and it will come in many forms."
State and federal agencies and officials have been helping, and "we feel very positive about where we're headed," Beam adds.
Edwards pledged that his people are working and will work hard for the area and the recovery.
"Progress is being made, and we're not going to let up. Every disaster is different and every recovery is different, but they have to be driven by the people who live here to be successful. That's why this framework is so important," he said. "That's why federal and state agencies are working so closely with your local officials, because it is your priorities that should drive this process."
Edwards said last week he sent President Biden a letter requesting a supplemental disaster appropriation of about $3 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding to help Louisianians. That money would be spent to rebuilt homes, create affordable rental housing, modernizing infrastructure, disaster mitigation and agriculture. The federal government has sent hundreds of millions of dollars already to help, he adds.
"The assistance we've received so far has been substantial, it's just insufficient," Edwards said.
Tony Robinson, a regional administrator for FEMA, said federal agencies have put more than $1 billion into the hands of Louisiana residents and agencies to help.
"We want to commend the parish for taking the lead on this long-term recovery," Robinson said. "A lot of progress has been made, but there's a way to go."
According to the governor's office, Louisiana has unmet needs totaling $3 billion for hurricanes Laura and Delta alone. These include $396.3 million in homeowner needs, $481.7 million in renter needs, $130 million in non-federal FEMA Public Assistance cost share, $50 million in non-federal FEMA Hazard Mitigation cost share, $25 million in transportation damages, $576.4 million in estimated crop losses and $1.397 billion in estimated timber losses.
A livestream can be viewed below:
At the press conference, leaders highlighted efforts and planned next steps, including a multi-faceted approach to incorporate input from various sectors, identify appropriate recovery strategies, engage the necessary agencies and partners, and apply the necessary resources to impacted areas.
The Recovery Framework provides a comprehensive plan for Calcasieu Parish's recovery operations in six key areas - Community Planning and Capacity Building, Economic, Health and Social Services, Housing, Infrastructure Systems, and Natural and Cultural Resources. The Police Jury will work together with local, parish, state and federal partners, as well as public agencies, non-governmental partners, and community stakeholders to lead, manage and implement the recovery process.