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Congress Passes Disaster Fix to Help Louisiana Flood Victims




Photo by Brendan Smialowski

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Legislation headed to President Donald Trump's desk could help thousands of Louisiana flood victims.

The U.S. Senate gave final passage Wednesday to a package of federal disaster policy changes, included in a bill authorizing spending for federal aviation programs.

Federal policies have kept thousands of victims of the 2016 Louisiana floods from being able to access a federally financed homeowner grant program because they already received Small Business Administration loans. The regulations meant that Louisiana homeowners ended up facing decades of loan repayments when, otherwise, they'd have received grants.

Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said the bill will eliminate those restrictions so homeowners with flood damage who received SBA loans can get grants through the Restore Louisiana program.

Trump is expected to sign the measure into law.

"We had thousands of people in Louisiana (after) the great flood of 2016 who were told to get an SBA loan. Then they found out that because they did exactly what they were told, they couldn't get a Restore Louisiana recovery grant," Cassidy said in a statement. "Folks were punished for being responsible, doing the right thing. This bill fixes that."

Gov. John Bel Edwards extended the application period for the state's homeowner aid program until Nov. 16 in anticipation of the federal change. He said the change will do away with a "ridiculous federal regulation."

"This penalty has been the single biggest roadblock to getting assistance to homeowners," the Democratic governor said in a statement.

He said that as soon as Trump signs the bill, his administration will submit the federal paperwork required to seek permission to let the homeowners access the grant program.

Other provisions in the legislation, according to Cassidy's office, will ensure food banks are eligible for disaster aid and will decrease aid penalties for schools and other public entities that did not maintain flood insurance before the 2016 floods.

 

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