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Coastal Desk

Louisiana Elections and Flood Recovery Funding

Jessica Rosgaard: We’re talking to Elizabeth Crisp, Capitol Reporter for The Advocate, about the election, Louisiana's open Senate seat, and the future of flood recovery funding requests. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us.

Elizabeth Crisp: Thanks for having me.

JR: We heard from the Restore Louisiana Task Force that the first $438 million dollars of recovery funding already approved by Congress won’t even be enough to help all of the households that they’ve determined are a top priority. And the money won’t be available until the end of this year. So what does that mean for the Louisiana delegation going forward to try and secure even more funding?

EC: You know, I’ve been hearing from several members of the Louisiana delegation that there is some concern; they are worried that things might be moving too slowly. That if they don’t - if they aren’t able to come back to DC with examples of how the money is being used that they’ve already received - you know, almost half a billion dollars - they’re not able to come back and say this is already going up and it kind of hurts their argument for urgency, you know? It kind of makes it a little hard to argue that we need $4 billion dollars on top of this and we need it now, if people can say well what did you do with that $438-million that we just gave you in September. So there is a bit of concern there.

JR: On the House side of the US Congress we’ve got Representative Steve Scalise as the third ranking member - how helpful has that been to the delegation and getting the funding that’s needed?

EC: I think that has actually been immensely helpful. I went up to DC, met with fellow members of the delegation, spent a lot of time with Steve Scalise during all of this while there was an ongoing fight - I say fight, there wasn’t really a fight, they were just trying to see what they could get for Louisiana in this stop-gap measure that they needed to pass to make sure that there wasn’t a government shutdown. And he was constantly meeting with members, talking to them about how important it was.

JR: The experience and relationships of Congressman Scalise have been a benefit through this process - but Louisiana’s going to have a new Senator in the next session - what challenges does that present that whoever gets elected will be lacking those relationships?

EC: What they’re really hoping for is to get the next piece of it approved in the lame duck session, so that will still be - Senator Vitter will be there through January, they’re hoping to get something through in December. But obviously going forward our next Senator is going to play a key role in that. Senator Cassidy has been, by all accounts - from the Governor to Congressman Scalise to the President has commended him on this - he has been a real fighter for Louisiana in there. I think that there are a lot of people who would argue if it was Senator Landrieu there that maybe this would’ve been more than $438 million, but he really has - I think that he’s kind of gotten lost in a little of it and probably not gotten quite as much credit for it.

JR: Back to the house side, there’s been some criticism from Representative Cedric Richmond and Representative Garret Graves on FEMA and the way aid comes down and the red tape involved. What’s happening there?

EC: there has been a lot of complaints about FEMA, the Governor has been very - he’s defended FEMA a lot and kind of stressed this idea that their hands are tied on a lot of things but if you’re a victim of the flood and this argument that there’s a law that prevents them from doing stuff that doesn’t really help you much, that doesn’t really give you much relief in all of this if you still can’t go back into your home and you’re trying to figure out how your life is going to go forward, so I think there’s a little bit of momentum to try to change this, but we’re about to have a new president, we’re about to have you know, possibly shifts in leadership in congress, and so I think it will be interesting to see how much of this carries forward. (9:40)

JR: Let’s talk about the election and the Senate candidates - what was their response like when the flooding happened?

EC: I don’t think that the flood issue is necessarily something that anybody latched on to because all of them have done so much. There’s nobody saying we don’t want to assist with the flood relief, there’s not a candidate who’s saying that Louisiana doesn’t deserve money or we don’t want to help out with this. I think that there is a possibility that it will become a flood issue into the runoff just because you’re going to be looking for candidates to kind of make their more direct case against one person.

JR: Elizabeth Crisp, from The Advocate - thank you so much for your time.

EC: thank you for having me.

This report has been brought to you by the Louisiana Public Radio Partnership, and made possible with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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