Authorities hope FEMA will pay 90%
Livingston Parish officials are still putting together bills for their costs from Hurricane Isaac but say they only expect to be reimbursed for about 75 percent
Getting 75 percent rather than 90 percent in federal assistance could cause further financial problems for a parish government that already is struggling financially, Parish President Layton Ricks said.
State officials said that if enough additional costs come in from around the state, the level of federal assistance still could rise to 90 percent.
Livingston Parish officials initially provided federal authorities with a cost estimate of $1.2 million, with additional expenses for schools, municipalities within the parish, drainage districts and fire districts.
The cost for the school system appears to be about $350,000 though that’s not a firm number because the cost for work on the French Settlement High School will depend on bids, said Bill Spear, superintendent of Livingston Parish schools.
Walker Mayor Bobby Font said the storm cost his city about $100,000 and he’s only expecting to get 75 percent back though he still hopes for a larger reimbursement.
Font said getting only 75 percent back makes him feel even better about the decision to have the city’s Department of Public Works handle storm cleanup, since hiring a contractor would have been more expensive.
Denham Springs Mayor Jimmy Durbin said the city is still gathering numbers on the total cost of the storm to Denham Springs.
Although major storms in the past have usually brought federal payments of 90 percent or more of federally approved costs, it doesn’t appear that will be the case for Isaac, said Mark Harrell, director of the Livingston Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness.
At this point, it looks like the parish can only count on getting 75 percent of approved costs back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said.
The percentage paid by FEMA is directly tied to the overall state expenditure, and that appears well short of reaching the 90 percent level, Harrell said.
The cost share currently is 75 percent by the federal government and 25 percent by local governments, Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, confirmed.
To get to the 90 percent level, the state would need to see a cost of more than $593 million, Stephens said.
“FEMA looks at this based on money that is obligated to the disaster for response and rebuilding,” she said.
“We’re at the front end of the process of writing project worksheets, so we haven’t yet identified the full cost of every project and FEMA is still in the process of obligating the full rebuilding amounts, Stephens said.
“Our preliminary damage assessment for the parishes was around $312 million and our estimate of costs to state government agencies is around $120 million,” she said. “So that puts costs at more than $432 million.”
Still to be added is what FEMA pays in individual assistance and hazard mitigation funding, Stephens said.
The total on individual assistance funding was $112.5 million on Friday, according to FEMA documents.
The amount the agency will grant to the state in hazard mitigation funding won’t be known for a few weeks, Stephens said.
When the final numbers all come in, the state could surpass the $593 million mark “and qualify for a lower cost share for the state and local governments,” she said.
“We’re watching this figure very closely and we’re working to keep the parishes in the loop as well,” she said.