Originally printed in the American Press
It’s time to say thank you to the members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation for the first step in funding for Disaster Relief. After more than one year, funds will now begin to come to Louisiana. President Biden quickly signed the bill Thursday night after passage by Congress. The legislation provides temporary funding to avoid a government shutdown, an extension for national flood insurance which we certainly need, and very important to our region, a $28.6 billion national disaster aid package.
The exact amount our state will receive will depend on a formula that will be applied to every affected state. We want to thank the members of the Louisiana delegation for voting for this legislation. They are Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, and U.S. House members Clay Higgins, Julia Letlow, Garret Graves, and Troy Carter. Congressman Higgins said with this legislation additional relief and long-term recovery grants will soon be on the way for Louisiana. He went on to say that he is not satisfied with this supplemental disaster bill. “It falls short of the request from our Governor and the needs of the citizens in many ways. We will continue to seek further enhancements to disaster recovery that will help Louisiana stand back up.” Governor John Bel Edwards had requested $3 billion for Louisiana alone.
This is a flashback to funding issues in 2005 when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit our state. Katrina was so devastating with over 1,800 deaths that this grabbed the national spotlight requests for disaster funding. Three weeks after Katrina, Hurricane Rita hit our area along with Southeast Texas. Our area had to scramble to get attention from Congress. This was before the Alliance was formed but the Chamber SWLA and The SWLA Partnership worked together and made several missions to Washington, D.C., seeking recovery funding for our area. Elected officials from Cameron and Calcasieu and business leaders were included. The two senators, Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, of two different political parties, worked together. Our then Congressman Charles Boustany worked across state lines with Texas Congressman Kevin Brady and others to get funding for both Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas.
In fact, Congressman Boustany coined the phrase, “Rita Amnesia” because we seemed to be forgotten. Dr. Boustany was the first recipient of the Chamber SWLA’s LegisGator of the Year Award for his efforts. East Texas chamber officials told us that Senator Landrieu was their “third Senator” because of her work to get Southeast Texas included in recovery funding.
We learned then and it still applies today that recovery is a long-term legislative process. Times have changed since those dark days of 2005. Out of that disaster, our region had the largest industrial and economic growth in our state’s history as well as in the nation. It also became evident that our five parishes needed to work regionally and combine resources to effectively market and recruit industry. Thus, The SWLA Alliance for Economic Development was formed in 2006. This combined the public members of the Southwest Louisiana Partnership, The Chamber SWLA, and what became the Alliance Foundation under one umbrella. Combined resources and strong support by public and private investors continue to keep this region in the forefront of economic growth, statewide and nationally. With announced industrial projects, and some not announced, there will be another major economic boom in our region.
Just as Rita money followed the Katrina financial response, there is no doubt that Ida’s impact, especially the massive flooding in the Northeast, helped pass this most recent legislation. Additional recovery funding will be needed in order to implement many of the priorities in the Calcasieu Parish Long-Term Community Recovery Plan. For now, we want to thank our Federal Delegation for voting for this recovery. They deserve respect for the difficult job they have in Washington in a rough, partisan atmosphere. Needed are funds, incentives, and policies to empower the people of Southwest Louisiana led by the business community to rebuild and strengthen our area. We’re on the way.