Mar. 22, 2013
Baton Rouge - Several staff members of the state’s Office of Community Development-Disaster Recovery Unit, the Louisiana Housing Corporation and the Louisiana Land Trust joined members of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in New Jersey March 18 through 20 to share their knowledge of federal disaster funding with representatives from the states of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, as well as New York City, as they rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.
At the request of HUD, OCD’s Executive Director Pat Forbes, Director of the Homeowner Assistance Program Lara Robertson, Director of Economic Development Adrienne Celestine and Community Development Program Manager Hugh Hyman teamed with LHC’s Disaster Housing Director Janel Young and Housing Finance Manager Ted Guillot and LLT’s Executive Director Michael Taylor and Property Management and Development Director Daniela Bryant in meetings with HUD officials and representatives from New York City and the other states’ government agencies that have been tasked with leading their recovery.
HUD led the discussions with the new grantees about establishing and running their recovery programs using federal disaster Community Development Block Grant funds, which could include housing, economic development and infrastructure components. The Louisiana delegation shared their experiences through one-on-one technical assistance. Hyman also provided an overview of the state’s computer management system for the projects within the 53 parishes that received disaster funding for recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
“Since Katrina, people from all over the country have responded again and again to help Louisiana in our recovery from disasters,” said Pat Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development. “It just makes sense for Louisiana to lend our hard-earned experience and lessons learned to others as they go through the challenges of recovery and rebuilding that are so familiar to us now. We hate that they’ve been hit by this disaster, but if we can speed up their recovery in any way, we’re glad we can help.”
Louisiana’s first major assistance to the northeast was sending Stacy Bonnaffons, OCD-DRU chief of staff, in January to be embedded in New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs, helping them establish recovery priorities and procedures. OCD-DRU staff members have also participated in many meetings and calls with delegations from Sandy-impacted states, addressing specific questions and sharing lessons learned, as well as sending other targeted staff to the northeast as requested.
The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act in January included an allocation of $16 billion in disaster CDBG funds for recovery from natural disasters in 2011 through 2013. On Mar. 5, HUD allocated the first $5.4 billion for recovery from Hurricane Sandy, including: $1.83 to New Jersey; $1.77 billion to New York City; $1.7 billion to New York State; $71.8 million to Connecticut; and $3.2 million to Rhode Island.
Louisiana received $13.4 billion in disaster CDBG funds for recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, then $1.09 billion in disaster CDBG dollars for recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
The primary goal of the Office of Community Development is to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Louisiana. OCD consists of three sections: the Community Development Block Grant Program; the Local Government Assistance Program and the Disaster Recovery Unit. All work together to achieve this goal.