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Louisianans Seek State And Federal Assistance Following Hurricane Laura

Aubri Juhasz

As Louisiana continues to recover from Hurricane Laura, state officials said Wednesday that more storm victims are seeking state assistance to find shelter.

The state is sheltering more than 11,000 evacuees. The vast majority of those have been placed in hotels to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that he is not sure how long storm victims will remain there.

“We’re going to shelter people as long as we need to,” Edwards said.

The state has entered into 30-day contracts with dozens of hotels across the state to secure temporary lodging for evacuees. Once those lapse, storm victims will be able to secure lodging through the voucher-based Transitional Shelter Assistance program.

The loss of utilities has rendered large swaths of Southwest Louisiana uninhabitable. Calcasieu Parish is still under a mandatory evacuation order.

There are still about 237,000 power outages in Louisiana — down from 615,000 in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

“Service is being restored pretty rapidly to North Louisiana,” Edwards said. “When you get to Vernon Parish [and continue] south, it gets much harder, just to the sheer amount of damage to the infrastructure.”

Edwards said Tuesday that 22,000 utility workers from 29 states are working to restore power across Louisiana. As they complete their work farther north, they will converge on Southwest Louisiana.

More than 220 water systems are experiencing outages or are under a boil advisory, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) approved seven more parishes in North and Central Louisiana for individual assistance, allowing storm victims in those parishes to apply for a variety of disaster relief grants to pay for home repairs or cover their expenses while they are displaced.

FEMA has doled out $1.8 million in individual assistance since the first parishes were approved Aug. 29. Seven of the 23 parishes identified by the state as areas of need have not yet been approved for individual assistance.

Karen Clark & Company, a Boston-based disaster modeling firm, estimates that Hurricane Laura wrought $9 billion of property damage in the United States.

Edwards and local officials will survey storm damage in Lake Charles Wednesday afternoon.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.