“I know we’ll get through this storm and we’ll build back our state better and stronger than it was before Isaac.” Gov. Bobby Jindal
Hurricane Isaac’s stormy crawl across Louisiana left state and parish governments with a pile of bills from storm preparations and the devastation.
For state government, the cost of setting up shelters, putting state troopers on double shifts, evacuating residents and other expenses totaled $56.4 million on Friday. The total is expected to climb as rivers continue to swell, threatening another wave of flooding.
Gov. Bobby Jindal activated 4,126 Louisiana National Guardsmen, an emergency contract for more than 300 commercial buses and more than 5,000 shelter spaces before the storm even made landfall.
The biggest expenses, so far, were $38.4 million in supplies followed by $9 million for personnel.
Repair costs still are being tallied. No estimate is available yet for the number of homes that flooded or the amount of uninsured damage.
Fallen trees must be removed and a leak in the state library’s roof repaired. At the state parks in the southeastern swath of the state, cabins and bathhouses flooded. Venturing to Grand Isle to assess the damage at the state park has been impossible because of lingering floodwater.
“I’m very concerned about Fairview and Fontainebleau, which are two of our very popular ones,” Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said. “In the scheme of things, it’s not as bad as it could’ve been.”
Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklinton reopened Friday after escaping serious wind and tree damage. Parks in Madisonville, Mandeville, Springfield, Braithwaite, Westwego and Grand Isle are closed indefinitely.
A report on Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville noted “flooding on par with Katrina,” a reference to the devastating 2005 hurricane.
So far, the federal government — through the Federal Emergency Management Agency — has agreed to pay 75 percent of the state’s emergency protective measures, debris removal and infrastructure repairs.
If costs stay at $56.4 million, the state would be responsible for paying $14.1 million.
The state is experiencing financial problems that recently prompted heavy cuts in health -are spending.
Helping the state is the fact that the storm hit early in a state budget year that runs from July 1 to June 30. The state also has $16.4 million in an emergency fund.
However, Jindal is pushing for the federal government to pay more of the storm-related expenses.
“I ask that you exercise your discretion to approve the State’s pending request for all emergency protective measures. Further, I ask that you consider a cost-share adjustment to eliminate the State’s nonfederal share of the costs for this event,” the governor wrote FEMA and the White House on Aug. 27.
Christina Stephens, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said the percentage of expenses the federal government pays for a storm depends on the loss per resident.
For the federal government to pick up 75 percent of the cost, the average loss per person across the state must be at least $1.35. The state already reached that threshold.
To qualify for the federal government to pay 90 percent, the threshold rises to $131 in loss per person, or $594 million for the state to respond and rebuild. The state would be responsible for 10 percent of costs.
Stephens said the Jindal administration believes Louisiana is well on its way to the 90/10 cost-share.
For hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Congress agreed that the federal government should pay 100 percent of state and local governments’ eligible expenses. Katrina victims also got debit cards loaded with cash and help rebuilding their homes.
Hurricane Gustav struck in 2008, hammering Baton Rouge and causing billions of dollars in damage in the U.S.
FEMA paid 90 percent of Louisiana state and parish governments’ Gustav-related expenses.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Louisiana on Monday for a firsthand look at Isaac’s destruction.
The storm prompted thousands of people to flee from their homes. Some of the worst flooding was in St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany and Plaquemines parishes.
At least seven deaths are tied to the storm: five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.
In addition to agreeing to pay state and local governments’ costs, FEMA amended a disaster declaration to authorize grants for temporary housing, home repairs and uninsured property losses for residents in the following parishes: Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist, Jefferson, St. Tammany, Orleans, Ascension, Lafourche and Livingston.
The Jindal administration asked FEMA to expand the assistance to more parishes, including East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge.
The administration also wants disaster food stamps for Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes.
“I know we’ll get through this storm and we’ll build back our state better and stronger than it was before Isaac,” Jindal said.