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Why A Partisan Battle In Congress Is Preventing Louisiana From Getting Ida Aid

U.S. Capitol
Courtesy of the National Parks Services
U.S. Capitol

Hurricane Ida recovery efforts are moving slowly, particularly when it comes to housing, after a vote for disaster aid and the debt ceiling failed this week and resulted in a Congressional spat.

During a press conference Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters that he is pushing for Hurricane Ida funds, particularly for housing. In the hardest-hit parishes in Louisiana, some residents are living hours away from home or even in tents as they wait for their houses to become habitable again.

But the immediate need for housing — and other necessities slow to get to residents — is getting hung up by partisan battles in Congress over the debt ceiling and the threat of a potential federal government shutdown.

According to the Advocate, Monday’s failed vote means Louisiana will be without $28.6 billion. It could also result in a government shutdown Friday.

The part of the proposed Democratic budget that Democrats and Republicans couldn’t seem to agree on was what to do with the debt ceiling. The former wanted to include a provision that would raise the debt ceiling so that the U.S. Treasury could afford to pay for the disaster aid, but the latter objected to such a provision, claiming it would invite a future proposal from Democrats on increasing funds for social programs.

Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, both Louisiana Republicans, stuck with their GOP peers and blamed Democrats for the vote’s failure.

“We’re three days away from a government shutdown for one reason and one reason only: Democrat-controlled Washington,” Cassidy said. “A clean vote on disaster relief and a continuing resolution to fund the government – the legislation filed by Senators McConnell and Shelby – would pass today with overwhelming bipartisan support. We all know that. But my Democratic colleagues are choosing to hold this critical funding set to benefit our states hostage in order to fund their planned tax and spending extravaganza.”

As it stands, most in southeast Louisiana have power restored, but especially those residents in the state’s river and bayou parishes are still without basic necessities.

“We continue to press FEMA every single day for them to make the decisions necessary and pull the triggers in order to move these assets and get this program started,” Edwards said during the Tuesday press conference.

Fewer than 8,000 customers remain without power in the state after Hurricane Ida, concentrated in Grand Isle and other parts of Jefferson, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, Edwards said. More than 17,000 service members with the National Guard remain activated.

The state has cleared debris from about 21 percent of the roadways in areas affected by the storm, and 314 people are still being sheltered in seven shelters across the state, Edwards said.

The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) has distributed more than $23 million in nutrition assistance benefits to about 73,000 applicants and there have been more than 40,000 disaster unemployment assistance claims filed with the state. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved more than 495,752 applications for over $638 million in disaster assistance, out of a total of more than 758,000 applications.

More than 28,000 people are being sheltered in hotel rooms as part of the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program. The Army Corps of Engineers has installed about 9,000 blue tarps on damaged roofs, about one-third of all applications, Edwards said.

Katelyn Umholtz is the digital editor for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of New Orleans.
Rosemary Westwood is the public reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.