BATON ROUGE, La. – Nearly three months ago, Hurricane Isaac swamped Louisiana with torrential rains, high winds and storm surge. Since then, local, state, federal and voluntary agencies, plus the private sector, have worked hand in hand with survivors to help them recover from the storm’s destruction.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal assistance have jump-started the recovery efforts of individual survivors, their families and their communities in the 55 parishes designated for Individual Assistance and/or Public Assistance. And more help will arrive with the rollout of recovery programs designed to help Louisianians over the long haul.
“Louisianians have made tremendous progress in their journey toward recovery from Hurricane Isaac,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Gerard M. Stolar of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “The efforts of the survivors themselves, combined with those of the whole recovery community, have made all the difference in Louisiana.”
Even before Hurricane Isaac made its first landfall on Aug. 28 before wobbling back out to sea, then hitting the coast again, emergency workers at all levels of government, law enforcement and voluntary agencies mobilized to prepare for the storm’s onslaught. On Aug. 27, President Obama issued an emergency disaster declaration authorizing FEMA to provide assistance for emergency protective measures to alleviate the hurricane’s impact on life and property. The major disaster declaration came just two days later.
Although weaker than Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac moved inland much more slowly, causing devastating flooding, some of it in areas largely unscathed by the 2005 storm. Along with the seasoned storm veterans of the coastal parishes and New Orleans, survivors unaccustomed to major storms found themselves needing help.
For many, assistance came almost immediately. Just a week after the Aug. 29 disaster declaration for Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana, more than $10 million in state and federal disaster assistance had already headed to survivors. Within 16 days, that total had soared to $100 million.
Today, disaster assistance has topped $365 million. This includes more than $116 million in grants from FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) program, more than $135 million in low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and more than $113 million in reimbursements to the state and local governments from FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) program. Separately, the FEMA-administered National Flood Insurance Program has paid more than $370 million on claims from policyholders in Louisiana.
Beyond the funds disbursed to individuals, families, businesses and communities, federal programs have helped survivors stay temporarily in hotels when their homes were unlivable; funded crisis counseling for Louisianians suffering from the emotional effects of the storm and its aftermath; helped connect survivors to other agencies’ assistance programs to ensure that they would get the help they needed; and reimbursed municipalities for emergency protective measures taken to preserve lives and property, restoring hurricane-damaged infrastructure and removing debris from parish rights-of-way and private property.
Within hours of the Aug. 29 declaration, the first Community Relations specialists began their work of providing crucial recovery information to storm survivors. Over the following weeks, hundreds of Community Relations specialists visited parishes designated for Individual Assistance, answering survivors’ questions in neighborhoods, at Disaster Recovery Centers, and at points of distribution and shelters.
Forty recovery centers served survivors throughout Louisiana, and two centers remain open in hard-hit parishes so residents can meet face to face with specialists who can help them register and answer their questions about state and federal assistance. Mitigation and National Flood Insurance Program specialists joined the staff at the centers, greatly expanding the information available to survivors.
Mitigation outreach specialists also met with more than 24,500 Louisianians in several settings, including the disaster recovery centers, home improvement stores, fairs and festivals, providing advice and tips on rebuilding stronger homes. Two strike teams in Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes visited residents, some accessible only by boat, to offer advice and mold cleanup kits.
As Louisianians continue to recover from Hurricane Isaac, they may have some needs that go beyond the scope of assistance the state or FEMA can provide. That’s when community-based long-term recovery groups can help.
With support and guidance from FEMA and the state, long-term recovery groups are already working in 15 hard-hit parishes. Formed from a network of nonprofit and voluntary agencies and faith- and community-based organizations, these recovery groups are working with survivors to determine their longer-term needs and connect them to assistance.
Staff and volunteers from some groups have helped clear debris at damaged homes, while others are recruiting volunteers and staff. Some groups have programs to help survivors pay utility bills or obtain necessities such as clothing and furniture.
On a community scale, the state of Louisiana, along with FEMA, has activated the new National Disaster Recovery Framework for the first time. Like initial response efforts, extended recovery requires a united effort beginning at the local level, plus the private sector and individuals — the whole community — and the framework aims to help make that happen.
Already, framework coordinators have held the first public meetings in two parishes to identify local recovery priorities, with more public sessions expected in the coming weeks, said Wayne Rickard, who was appointed the federal disaster recovery coordinator for Louisiana’s Hurricane Isaac recovery effort. After this stage, agencies at the state and federal levels will pool their resources and information to help communities and parishes find alternative pathways to secure technical assistance and funding.
Meanwhile, our Public Assistance mission continues to gain momentum and meet the challenges in Louisiana’s hard-hit coastal parishes. We are coordinating with our state and local partners, and reaching out to the federal family as well as FEMA Headquarters and Region VI leadership to find viable solutions to the more complex issues that stand in the way of full community recovery.
Because we extended the Individual Assistance registration deadline, Hurricane Isaac survivors have until Nov. 29 to register with FEMA for potential assistance. Louisianians can register for assistance or check the status of their cases online at www.disasterassistance.gov, via smartphone at m.fema.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711 Relay or Video Relay Services may call 1-800-621-3362. FEMA phone lines operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week; multilingual operators are available.
For more information on Louisiana disaster recovery, click www.fema.gov/disaster/4080 or www.gohsep.la.gov. You can follow FEMA on Twitter at www.twitter.com/femaregion6 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FEMA. Also visit our blog at www.fema.gov/blog.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
SBA is the federal government’s primary source of funding for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private non-profit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts, and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For information about SBA programs, applicants may call 800-659-2955 (TTY 800-877-8339.)