Gov. John Bel Edwards provided updates on the state's response to Hurricane Laura today.
As of noon, more than 11,000 people were being sheltered in Louisiana, Edwards said. Almost all of them are in hotels, he said. All residents must go to the reception center in Alexandria to be processed for a hotel. For information, call 211 or text LAShelter to 898-211.
Every day the number of those being sheltered increases, usually because their home is damaged, they have no power or they have no water, Edwards said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana National Guard are working to get generators to water systems who lost their generators and still don't have power, he said. But many water systems also suffered damage to the actual system, meaning the outages may remain for some time, he said.
The governor reminded everyone that there is a lot of information, links and resources on https://hurricanelaura.la.gov/
He also said he wanted to clarify something he said about Louisiana catching a break.
"It was never my intention to convey to anybody that the damage from Hurricane Laura was anything other than horrific and catastrophic," Edwards said.
Thousands of Louisianians have seen their homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, lost their livelihoods and belongings, he said. He apologized if anyone felt he was downplaying the storm, and said he never intended that.
"It's every bit as bad, probably worse than Hurricane Rita was in the area that was struck. Where we thought we caught a break, is that the storm surge didn't come inland as was forecasted," he said.
Back to recovery, Edwards asks people who may be eligible for disaster food stamps to pre-register now. This would be people in nine parishes approved by FEMA who are not already getting food stamps. To pre-register, go to DCFS.la.gov/DNSAP and pre-register. If you pre-registered for DSNAP in the past, you need to do it again, he said. If you're already on SNAP, the state is working with utility companies to verify who will be eligible, and the disaster benefits will be added to your account, he said.
FEMA has approved three additional parishes for individual assistance. To read about that, and how to apply, click here. That brings the total to nine parishes; the state has requested that status for another 14 parishes. As damage reports come in, they are being forwarded to FEMA, he said. If you're in one of the nine parishes, you should register with FEMA as soon as possible, he said.
To get aid, you need a complete registration with FEMA, you've verified your identity, you've established you have critical needs, your pre-hurricane residence was in an approved parish, and you've been displaced from your home because of the hurricane.
If you are in a parish that hasn't been approved yet, Edwards said he's asking residents to be patient. The state, the National Guard and other agencies are providing aid to those parishes, he said.
"We're working as hard as we can as a state, and we are hopeful that FEMA will see what we saw," he said.
FEMA looks at the amount of damage, the concentration of damage, the vulnerability of the population and the availability of insurance, he said.
There also are federal unemployment benefits for people who are unemployed because of the disaster, but not eligible for regular benefits. It's $108 per week, he said. For information, call 1-866-783-5567.
The governor also talked about COVID. He said the White House Task Force has requested that governors talk about Labor Day with citizens.
"It's important that we don't do things that will unnecessarily spread the virus," he said. "It's important as we approach Labor Day weekend that we keep in mind the restrictions and mitigation measures that are in place."
That includes wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and staying home if you're sick.
He said many, many cases are attributed to small activities like backyard barbecues and get-togethers. If you do go out, follow the mitigation measures, he said.