With parishes facing a gasoline shortage during Hurricane Isaac, state Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain became the go-to-guy for fuel to run hospital generators and water pumps.
Strain said Thursday that he fielded requests for 411,960 gallons of fuel — 293,554 for diesel and 118,406 for gasoline.
“It does put a strain on our cash flow,” he said. “If you look at (hurricanes) Gustav and Ike, it was over $14 million.”
Ultimately, parishes like Ascension — which received fuel to pump out floodwater — will be responsible for reimbursing the state. In the short run, though, the state will have to pay the fuel bill.
As of Thursday, Isaac’s cost to state government totaled $119.6 million. The tally includes taking evacuees by bus to shelters, activating the Louisiana National Guard and distributing 3.1 million meals, 5.3 million bottles of water, 1.4 million bags of ice and nearly 100,000 tarps.
The Division of Administration listed:
- $48.7 million for operations.
- $38.8 million for supplies.
- $23.2 million for personnel.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is expected to pay at least 75 percent of the cost, leaving the state on the hook for $30 million.
Gov. Bobby Jindal outlined in a news release Thursday some of the measures the state took in response to the storm.
Isaac made landfall in Louisiana last week, flooding parts of St. John the Baptist, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes. An estimated 13,000 homes sustained storm damage.
The Louisiana National Guard is helping clear debris in Plaquemines Parish and coordinating the delivery of generators. State Department of Transportation and Development crews repaired 671 traffic signals. Engineers with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority assessed a 230-foot-wide opening in Plaquemines Parish’s back levee.
Philanthropists helped trim some of the state’s costs.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition donated animal food for shelters. A Thibodaux cattleman contributed to the food bill for cattle stranded in Plaquemines Parish.
State and federal governments are responsible for other expenses.
FEMA offered housing and home repair grants to residents in Assumption, St. Helena, St. James, Terrebonne, Washington, Ascension, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.
The Jindal administration reported that 12,637 households secured approval Wednesday for $5.3 million in federal assistance to replace spoiled food. The assistance, officially called Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is designed to help people who do not regularly receive food stamps.
Tabitha Bingle, 30, walked out of a Springfield disaster food stamp center with approval for $668 in assistance after losing power for two days at her Denham Springs home. “I need meat, milk and eggs,” she said.
Strain said he hopes the federal government swiftly pays parishes’ fuel bills.
He said he will pay the upfront costs for the fuel, then bill parishes, which will bill FEMA for a percentage of the expense.
Parishes sent fuel requests through their emergency operations centers for law enforcement, hospitals, nursing homes, firefighters and the military.
“We generally fuel the government,” Strain said.