FEMA’s denial of Gustav cleanup funds reviewed

The U.S. Inspector General’s Office has agreed to hear complaints from Livingston Parish officials over the lack of Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for most of the Hurricane Gustav cleanup.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., made that announcement as part of a speech in which she also talked about flood insurance, school funding and health care.

FEMA may owe Livingston Parish as much as $63 million in cleanup funds that the agency has denied, she told the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce.

The inspector general can send FEMA to arbitration with the parish if it finds FEMA did anything wrong in its denial of cleanup funds, Landrieu said.

“I don’t know what the final outcome will be,” but the parish will have a chance to present its case to someone other than the agency that denied the payment, the senator said.

Getting to this point has been a four-year battle that included Landrieu getting a provision put into law that provides for oversight by the inspector general, she said.

The inspector general’s staff agreed Thursday to meet with parish officials next week, she said.

Later in her talk, Landrieu complimented Livingston Parish on having a good school system and said such systems shouldn’t lose state funding to pay for vouchers to fund students attending private schools.

Some school systems aren’t working and need to be fixed, but others are “doing phenomenally well,” Landrieu said. “They should be rewarded.”

Landrieu said she is gathering information from parish presidents on flood insurance problems and plans to introduce a “stand alone bill” to replace her flood insurance amendment that got blocked in the Senate.

Her amendment to a water resources infrastructure bill would have delayed annual premium increases of 20 percent or more for some participants in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Using a procedural move, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., blocked all proposed amendments to the bill from receiving votes, until Landrieu withdrew her proposal earlier this week.

Like her proposed amendment, Landrieu’s stand-alone bill would include a five-year delay in raising flood insurance rates that had been grandfathered previously.

However, it also would deal with additional flood-insurance concerns being pointed out by parish presidents, she said.

Landrieu said she hopes to introduce the bill next week.

In answer to question about the cost to Louisiana businesses from “Obamacare,” Landrieu said a big part of that problem would be remedied if Louisiana accepted $16 billion from the federal government to bolster its Medicaid program.

That would take care of workers making up to $20,000 a year, she said.

If Louisiana rejects the money, it will go to other states, even though Louisiana residents are paying the taxes, Landrieu said.