The Restore Louisiana Task Force met on Friday, March 17 at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.
Local leaders detailed how Ascension Parish was affected by both the March and August 2016 floods. More than 12,300 homes were damaged between both disasters ‒ 12,060 in August and 287 in March.
Members also received updates on several flood-relief programs that would assist homeowners, small business owners and rental property owners.
The Office of Community Development says that the state will reissue its request for proposals in seeking a company to manage the homeowner program.
“In light of a decision from the state contractor licensing board, along with concerns that the costs proposed under the original RFP were high, we’ve asked the state Office of Purchasing to cancel the RFP and reopen the bidding process,” said Pat Forbes, Office of Community Development executive director. we believe that, in accepting a new set of proposals in an expedited procurement process, this path forward will minimize any delay to homeowners who are rebuilding and deliver a construction program that offers the best cost and quality for homeowners and state taxpayers.”
Forbes said that under the expedited procurement process, a contract should still be in place with the winning firm by mid-April and ahead of when the federal flood-relief funding becomes available.
Additionally, an overview is available for the homeowner assistance program, which is expected to open in April with an initial survey. The overview gives residents an advanced look at the important survey process, as well as the criteria for eligibility and the method for distributing assistance funding.
Meanwhile, the Office of Community Development is on track with the Restore Louisiana Small Business Assistance Program. The office expects to announce on April 22 the organizations chosen to serve as lenders for the program, which will offer partially forgivable loans to qualified small businesses affected by the 2016 floods.
Once agreements with the lenders are in place, the state and the lenders will conduct outreach to make eligible businesses aware of the program. Distribution of the loans is scheduled begin in early July.
Task force members also heard how the recovery has been especially difficult for flooded landlords and renters. The Louisiana Housing Corp., which oversees state-financed housing programs, said the 2016 floodwaters damaged rental properties that were already in short supply. In addition, demand for rental property has grown significantly as flooded homeowners seek temporary residences while their homes are repaired. Currently, the state has a deficit of nearly 108,000 affordable and available rental units.
The Office of Community Development has joined with the Louisiana Housing Corp. in developing several programs to help landlords, nonprofits and larger developers repair damaged rental properties and, in some cases, build new homes and apartments. A mix of incentives, grants and forgivable loans would be made available to property owners who agree to charge affordable rents in return. Details on the programs are expected to be made public within the next several weeks.
Last modified: March 17, 2017