BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards heads back to Washington on Wednesday to continue his push for federal disaster aid for Louisiana, after establishing a state task force charged with overseeing recovery efforts from the August flooding.
The Democratic governor will meet with President Barack Obama and congressional leaders during his trip, making his plea for a $2.8 billion recovery package that Edwards says is crucial to Louisiana’s rebuilding.
While the governor said he’s optimistic about getting aid from Congress, he acknowledged the difficulties in adding it into budget legislation targeted for passage this month, amid the ongoing partisan disputes of Washington in an election year.
“That is a hard nut to crack, so we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Edwards said, ahead of his second trip to the nation’s capital in two weeks.
The trip, which continues through Friday, is a bipartisan one. Traveling with the governor are Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, both Republicans. Among Edwards’ scheduled meetings are with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
The mid-August flooding hit more than 20 parishes, causing more than $8.7 billion in estimated damage in what has been described as the worst disaster in the U.S. since Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast in 2012. More than 73,000 households have been approved for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On Tuesday, Edwards announced the creation of the Restore Louisiana Task Force, a 21-member group, that will help devise flood recovery and redevelopment plans.
Its role will be similar to the Louisiana Recovery Authority created after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 to guide billions of dollars in rebuilding programs. Recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike was added to its agenda three years later. The LRA wrapped up its work in 2010, but rebuilding programs it created are still ongoing.
The new task force will determine recovery needs, push for federal funding and set priorities for using the dollars Louisiana gets from Washington from both the August flooding and earlier flooding across north Louisiana in March.
The Restore Louisiana Task Force includes economic development, local government, state lawmakers and community leaders from areas ravaged by the flooding.
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