On July 1, it was reported that when Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) was fielding calls from flood victims last fall that he was embarrassed by having to tell those people to print, fax, scan and mail forms to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to act. This was especially the case because many of those flood victims had lost those technologies that would help them get those forms started. Last Friday, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) was trying to encourage those at a town hall to fill out certain forms in order to get government aid to pay for their property damage. Since last fall, Louisiana residents have had to manage destruction from tornadoes and more recently tropical storm Cindy.

Hurdles for Louisiana's flood victims

As reported, Cassidy was faced with some questions by angry constituents at a town hall about how he would vote for the Senate health care bill. But he effectively steered the conversation away from responding to questions about the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) and back to trying to get federal aid for flood relief victims and also expressed where they as lawmakers had fallen short. Part of this had to do with the bureaucratic red tape lawmakers have to go through in order to get relief.

Last week, Rep. Graves and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MASS) introduced a measure called the Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents Act of 2017 (CASES) which gives constituents the ability to authorize their lawmakers to get a federal agency to act.

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Currently, all processes to resolve issues with social security, Veterans administration, and other agencies have to go through a process that requires a lot of paper. But there is still the matter of just being able to get funding to the state of Louisiana for flood victims who are having to dip into their retirement savings and overall their own pockets to get relief.

Louisiana working on flood relief issues

Rep. Graves already filed a bill in June for tax legislation that would provide those hardest hit individuals with relief. This means that flood victims would be able to get tax relief as opposed to simply being handed money. At the same time, Louisiana Governor Edwards has also requested an additional $1 billion to go with the $2 billion that the U.S. Congress has appropriated so far. Even with this, they have already said that it still won't be enough. During Sen. Cassidy's town hall, one flood victim complained that they were unable to get to rebuilding funds that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) promised to provide them with, loans that are required to be repaid.

Pat Forbes who is the head of Louisiana's Office of Community Development, which oversees distribution of flood aid, was at the town hall with Sen. Cassidy where he said that his office has been after federal officials to specifically address that problem. Others at the town hall also referred to infrastructure issues that were responsible for flooding such as in the Comite River Diversion Canal. Specifically, the people of Central have been paying property tax on it for 10 years but nothing has been constructed yet. They also address the matter of a barrier on Interstate 12 which acts as a dam which makes flooding even worse. The situation is bad enough that the city of Walker sued the state over that barrier.