‘We Need Help Now’: Southwest Louisiana Officials Plea For Overdue Supplemental Disaster Aid
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter and other elected southwest Louisiana officials called on the federal government in a press conference Tuesday to send relief for the series of disasters that hit the region over the past year.
“We're asking for the same response that was received after Katrina, Maria, Michael, Sandy, Andrew, a dozen other examples of the last 30 years,” Hunter said while standing in front of a screen that displayed the number of days since Hurricane Laura hit the region, tallying nearly 335 days without any supplemental disaster aid, formally called Community Development Block Grant — Disaster Recovery, from the federal government.
“Every day that goes by without a minimum public commitment to this end is a day that Washington, D.C. continues to ignore Americans in southwest Louisiana who are suffering.”
As part of a campaign called Help Southwest Louisiana Now, Hunter asked his community to help out by writing letters to Congress asking for aid, spreading the word inside and outside of Louisiana and sharing an informational video that played before his remarks. The video, created by the initiative, Rebuilding SWLA, showed the damage from the disasters and highlighted members of the community that were affected, each of them repeating the phrase, “We need help now.”
The plea comes on the 11-month anniversary of the day Hurricane Laura, a category 4 hurricane, made landfall in Louisiana, August 27th. Laura was the strongest hurricane ever to affect southwest Louisiana. The damage was exacerbated by floods from Hurricane Delta, a category 2 hurricane that hit six weeks later. Later in February, the same winter storm that affected Houston also hit southwest Louisiana. In May, high rainfall caused historic flooding.
Lake Charles was hit particularly hard by all these events and, amidst their recovery, battled high levels of COVID cases.
“I literally think if you were sitting down with a Hollywood producer and you pitch what has happened to Lake Charles and southwest Louisiana the last year and a half, there might be a point where he or she said, ‘Oh, that's a little ridiculous. I don't think that much can happen to one community,’” Hunter said.
Hunter has been struggling since Hurricane Laura and Delta to get the federal government to pay attention to the city. President Biden did visit the city in May, pledging to assist with hurricane recovery and arguing in favor of replacing the Interstate 10 bridge as part of his wider plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Hunter addressed this visit during the press conference.
“I thank President Biden and the members of Congress who have offered words of support, encouragement and prayers," Hunter said. "I still think his administration cares. But I plead for an official request for community development block grant disaster recovery for this community and for the public acknowledgment of this support.”
Last week, U.S. Senator John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, introduced the Gulf Coast Hurricane Aid Act of 2021, which would provide $1.1 billion in relief to Louisianans affected by hurricane season, but it was blocked by the Senate.
Hunter has become increasingly frustrated with the lack of action coming from Washington, D.C.
“Lake Charles residents, southwest Louisiana residents are pawns in the middle of a pretty disgusting game of chess right now,” he told WWNO.