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Six Months Post-Flood, Survivors Are Confused And Waiting For Answers

Gonzales, Louisiana; August 2016
Jessica Rosgaard
Gonzales, Louisiana; August 2016

It’s been nearly six months since the historic flooding in southeast Louisiana. Since then, Congress has authorized $1.6 billion for the state to help people repair homes and businesses. But that’s well short of the estimated $8 billion in damage done. Wallis Watkins spoke with some flood survivors trying to navigate the recovery process.

Over one hundred people sat in a Baton Rouge Community College theater on a Monday night, where Office of Community Development Director, Pat Forbes, explained who will be eligible for the $1.6 billion.

When Sharon Padilla and Alvin DeGuzman’s house flooded in August, they didn’t receive any money from FEMA, so six months later, they’re living in their gutted home - and they're not sure what the next step is.

“We haven’t started anything even just a single sheet rock," Padilla said. "There is no clear picture on what to do and what to do about it or even if there’s actually 100% help. For now, we don’t have enough money to rebuild the house.”

Because of federal regulations, seventy percent of the money must first go to low-to-moderate income households, the disabled or elderly who suffered major or severe damage and had no flood insurance.

But before people can start applying, the state has to receive the money - and the earliest they expect that to happen is at the end of March.

Until then, residents like Francis Farlow wait. Her home in Baton Rouge took on six feet of water. "It’s all gutted out, we finally got a trailer on our property," Farlow says. "We may have to elevate but no one is telling us about that either. So, it’s just that we don’t know what to do.”

Wilburt August Jr. is confident he’ll qualify. He’s 69 and retired from teaching construction, a skill he’s put to use as he and his wife work on repairs.

“We have a bedroom we’re able to stay in, we’re able to use the bathroom. We’re washing dishes out of the bathroom because we still have to get the kitchen repaired. We’re trying to put it back together piece by piece And it’s stressful.”

After two feet of water rose in his home, which still sits gutted, Ranches Hall says it’s hard to keep a positive attitude.

“I kind of see a little flicker of light somewhere in that dark tunnel, it’s a little teeny-weeny flicker of light there.”

Pat Forbes understands the process can certainly be confusing. But he says it’s still early. Until the plan is approved by Housing and Urban Development, progress will continue to be slow.

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

Wallis Watkins is a Baton Rouge native. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Philosophy from Louisiana State University in 2013. Soon after, she joined WRKF as an intern and is now reporting on health and health policy for Louisiana's Prescription.

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