LAPLACE — Financial assistance with home repairs and potential reimbursement options is still available for Hurricane Ida survivors who have suffered severe property damage.
Last week, Jaclyn Hotard, parish president of St. John the Baptist, joined Pat Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development, for a public hearing introducing the RESTORE Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program to the community.
The public hearing was also an intake event where volunteers from Catholic charities provided case management services to help residents take the first steps to get help. According to Forbes, the first step residents should take is to complete the short program survey at restore.la.gov or by calling 866-735-2001.
Assistance may be available to individuals who have struggled to repair damaged homes following Hurricanes Ida, Laura, Delta, or the severe storms of May 2021. To qualify, individuals must have had and still own the damaged home, the occupied their home at the time of the disaster, sustained major/serious damage by FEMA standards, and did not receive (or expect to receive) structural insurance payments in excess of $25,000.
According to Forbes, major/serious damage is determined when FEMA-inspected home damage is at least $8,000, FEMA-inspected personal property damage is at least $3,500, OR there is at least one foot of flooding on the first floor incurred.
Parish president Jaclyn Hotard urged residents to use the resources of the Office of Community Development.
“We know that FEMA often does not properly assess storm damage. There are many resources and programs to help you even if you have started the rebuilding process or have completed repairs,” she said.
Four potential program solutions were presented as part of the RESTORE Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program. Solution #1 is program managed, meaning homeowners don’t select contractors or do business directly with contractors. Under Solution #1, the program’s contractors repair or reconstruct damaged properties.
Solution #2 enables homeowners to manage repair or reconstruction work by directly selecting and working with contractors. The program would advise and monitor. With this solution, the program reimburses economical quality repairs, but the homeowner gets to pay the difference for quality materials and finishes.
Solution #3, Reimbursement, is suitable for homeowners who have made partial or full repairs before requesting assistance. These persons may be eligible for reimbursement of eligible costs incurred.
Solution No. 4 is a voluntary buyout program for homeowners whose primary residence is in a flood zone or V-zone. This puts eligible homeowners away.
To ensure that the most vulnerable populations are served first, the state program has developed a six-stage approach.
“We’re going to prioritize the lowest-income people first,” Forbes said. “The people below 50% of the area’s median income are in the first group (Phase I).”
Phase II allows eligibility for households with incomes ranging from 50% to 80% of the median income of the area with homeowners who are at least 62 years old or have a family member with a disability. Phase III includes households between 50% and 80% and eliminates the age/disability requirement.
Homeowners who have started repairs and have household incomes greater than 80% of the area’s median income are eligible for Phase IV and Phase V. In these phases, priority is given to households in the most affected geographic areas.
Phase VI is reserved for applicants who have completed repairs and have household incomes greater than 80% of the area’s median income.
Forbes added that structures will be rebuilt to gold standards, meaning the properties will be reinforced in the future and more resistant to storms.
“The first thing you need to do is fill out the survey,” Forbes said. “The survey isn’t the application, but it helps us understand how many people there are so we can get a little more information about them and see if they qualify for our program.”
At last week’s public hearing, Forbes also shared information about proposed funding allocations for storm recovery efforts. The state was recently allocated $1.27 billion for Hurricane Ida recovery, combined with allocated funding for Hurricanes Laura and Delta for a total of more than $2.25 billion in funding.
According to Forbes, program and funding allocations should prioritize vulnerable populations, including those under 20 or older than 64, those with disabilities, those living in poverty, and those living in manufactured homes. The following programs were discussed. Please note that funding allocations are not final yet and are subject to change.
Affordable Home Ownership Programs
- Flood Insurance Program – Covers the cost of flood insurance premiums for one year for eligible applicants who have suffered damage to their homes. Proposed $1 million
- Interim Housing Assistance – Provides mortgage or rent assistance for up to 20 months, or temporary hotel assistance for up to 90 days for eligible individuals who are currently facing additional mortgage or rental costs or are currently housed in temporary FEMA units with no housing plan. Proposed $3M
Affordable Rental Programs
- Soft Second Mortgage Program – Help for homeowners for low to middle income first home buyers to acquire locally built homes outside the Special Flood Hazard Area. This promotes home ownership in relatively low risk areas of the affected parishes. Proposed $10M
- Middle Market Loan Program – Supports the development of affordable rental housing. Proposed $30M
- Prime Piggyback Program – Provides funding to build high-quality, affordable multi-family rental developments. This program requires all new units to take disaster preparedness measures. Suggested $407,873,287
- Rapid Rehousing Program – Provides hiring assistance and support services to displaced persons at risk of homelessness. Proposed $10M
- Neighborhood Landlord Rental Program – Provides financing for landlords to renovate existing units or build new, affordable housing. Proposed $20 million.
- Permanent Supportive Housing Program – Improves long-term outcomes for individuals whose disabilities would seriously compromise housing and economic security. This includes affordable rental housing and access to community support services. Suggested $6M.
Economic Development Programs
- Small Business Loan and Grant Program – Addresses unmet needs of disaster-affected small businesses and supports non-construction related spending. Suggested $45,695,232.
- Hometown Revitalization Program – Revitalizes the commercial district affected by Laura, Delta, Ida and/or severe storms in 2021. Proposed $75 million.
FEMA Competition Programs
- Nonfederal Share (PA) Match Program – State provides match funding for FEMA public assistance grants. Applicants may include parish/municipal authorities, government agencies/authorities, schools and universities, first responders, critical infrastructure and public housing authorities. Suggested $140,788,035.
- Infrastructure Program for Resilient Communities – Addresses unmet needs in infrastructure to improve resilient community planning. Proposed $50 million.
- Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Global Match Program – Funds will be used for eligible mitigation projects where the required 25% non-federal match is not otherwise possible. Projects may include elevation, procurement of flood-prone structures, site drainage improvements, safe space construction, and wind modification of structures. Suggested $42,095,605.