(The Center Square) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has distributed more than $800 million since Hurricane Ida devastated southeast Louisiana one month ago, but state officials say temporary housing remains an unmet need.
More than 500,000 individuals and households have been approved for recovery assistance, FEMA said, including $223 million in rental aid, $111 million for damaged property and $318 million for other needs, such as medical, funeral and child care expenses.
“In the 30 days since Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana, disaster survivors have received more than $660 million in grants and $211 million in low-interest loans to survivors of the storm, as state and federal efforts remain focused on helping survivors and communities recover,” the agency said.
While large sums of funding have been committed, state leaders are concerned about the pace of temporary housing support, as thousands of residents in affected communities lack basic living arrangements needed to bridge the gap until their homes can be repaired.
Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, has used social media to raise awareness about living conditions in hard-hit Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.
“People do not have shelter,” Magee tweeted. “My question for [FEMA] is when can we expect the first [temporary] housing solution to arrive? And if there is an issue – what is it?”
Magee has promoted stories of residents living in trucks and tents and sifting through rubble to locate homeowner documents required for FEMA applications; other scenarios include homelessness and sleeping outside.
Magee said 10,000 residents in Terrebonne Parish have applied for FEMA trailers that have not arrived, which he said was “ridiculous.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry also has decried housing conditions. In a letter sent Tuesday to Gov. John Bel Edwards, Landry praised faith-based and charitable organizations for providing food and supplies in the absence of on-the-ground government support.
“My team and I have heard from many local leaders in the impacted region that they need thousands of housing units to provide for their citizens and aid in our coastal recovery," Landry wrote. "My staff has heard from these same locals leaders that they have been told these housing units are still weeks from arrival.”
Edwards has maintained that housing is top priority for storm-damaged areas since a recent trip to Washington, where he petitioned federal lawmakers and the Biden administration for recovery support alongside members of Louisiana's congressional delegation.
In a letter to members of Louisiana's congressional delegation, Edwards wrote nearly 1,000 people still were living in storm shelters one month after Ida made landfall, and thousands of others were “living in very difficult circumstances.”
Edwards proposed amending federal law to allow FEMA to grant funding for temporary housing programs directly to states so Louisiana could circumvent federal bureaucratic delays and meet its own temporary housing needs.
Magee said Wednesday on Facebook that delegating FEMA’s temporary housing authority to Louisiana might come to fruition.
“Trying to update [temporary] housing situation as best I can," he wrote. "After countless phone calls with (state) Rep. (Jerome) Zeringue, Congressman (Steve) Scalise, Congressman (Garret) Graves, Congressman Troy Carter, the Governor’s office, FEMA, and (Terrebonne) President (Gordon) Dove, it is my understanding that FEMA is going to allow something it hasn’t done before, which is allow the state to manage and secure mobile units.
“The exact details of how this will work I’m still learning," Magee said.