Assistance program kicks into gear in Lafourche, Terrebonne waiting

Assistance program kicks into gear in Lafourche, Terrebonne waiting

Credit: Chris Heller / Houma Today

Army Spc. Elijah Roberts, left, passes a box of emergency meals to Spc. Dustin Boudreaux Tuesday at the distribution site set up at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church in Golden Meadow.

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by Jeremy Alford / Houma Courier Capitol Correspondent

wwltv.com

Posted on September 5, 2012 at 7:26 AM

HoumaToday.com

BATON ROUGE — Slightly more than $100,000 has been distributed under an individual assistance program to residents of Lafourche Parish who were impacted by Hurricane Isaac, a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday.

Terrebonne Parish residents, meanwhile, are still waiting to be included in the program after Gov. Bobby Jindal asked FEMA to do so over the weekend.

St. Charles Parish became the latest to gain approval Tuesday, joining nine other parishes including Ascension, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. John and St. Tammany.

FEMA public information officer H.R. Holman said a damage assessment is being conducted in Terrebonne Parish that will tell officials exactly how much assistance is needed.

Also on the waiting list are Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. James, St. Mary, Tangipahoa, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana parishes.

“As soon as the assessments are done, declarations will come out,” Holman said. “But if a parish doesn’t get a declaration, that’s pretty much it.”

The only appeal that can be made to the federal government would have to come from the governor, he added.

To help facilitate the flow of claims locally, FEMA has established a disaster recovery center in Mathews inside the parish government building at 4876 La. 1. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Holman said the center will offer Lafourche Parish residents a place to ask questions, file paperwork and track their claims.

So far 1,420 Lafourche residents have applied for individual assistance, he said.

About $99,000 has been doled out for housing needs to those eligible, and another $3,700 has been disbursed for needs categorized as “other” than housing.

The housing category provides cash payments for temporary housing, such as in a hotel; home repair or replacement; and permanent or semi-permanent housing construction — but only if an applicant is eligible.

In the “other” category, individuals may be eligible if they have “necessary expenses or serious needs because of the disaster” or they have already “accepted assistance from all other sources” for which they’re eligible and their needs persist.

Although Terrebonne Parish residents are not yet eligible for the same, Holman said 514 residents have pre-applied.

Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet said damage reports from individual residents increase the likelihood of federal assistance.

“The more we report, the closer we get to getting individual assistance from FEMA,” Claudet said. “Consequently, it is a good thing for everyone to report their damage to the (Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness) ... even if it is as small as a couple hundred dollars.”

Claudet said FEMA inspectors visited Friday but were unable to complete their inspections because of flooded roads in south Terrebonne. He expects them to be back in the parish this week to complete the inspections.

“Given the fact that they are coming back, we are probably on the borderline of getting it,” Claudet said. “It all depends on the extent of the damage. It isn’t a political thing. We are trying hard to get it for our people. As parish president, of course I want as much benefits as we can get for the people of Terrebonne.”

Should Terrebonne be added to the program, the applications will be processed, Holman said. If not, they’ll be treated as null and void.

The application process can be accessed at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

Holman said all participants will need their Social Security number, a description of their loss, all applicable insurance information, directions to the property in question and a contact telephone number.

Additionally, he said all applicants will be given a number that should be recorded and kept in a safe place. That number will allow FEMA to keep track of your claim throughout the process.

Jeremy Alford can be reached at jeremy@jeremyalford.com.

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