Town Hall Meeting on Flood Recovery 9/13/2016

Town Hall Meeting on Flood Recovery 9/13/2016

Notes and comments on the meeting

I attended this meeting last night, which was held at our beautiful Live Oak United Methodist Church. Those present included State Representative Valarie Hodges, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks, Livingston Flood Administrator Chuck Vincent, several representatives of FEMA, SBA, the governor’s office, GOHSEP, and others.

Below is a summary of the notes I took during the meeting, along with my comments in italics.

First of all, the advice from all agencies is even if you had flood insurance, do not wait for your insurance claim to settle. Go ahead and register with FEMA, (including their Shelter At Home program if you need it) as well as SBA.

If you are denied by SBA, go back to FEMA and apply for assistance. (Pretty much try every avenue available, and don’t give up.)

FEMA

FEMA’s individual assistance program gives grants (up to $33,000) which don’t have to be repaid.

NOTE: This program will cover the cost of reinterrment of any caskets which floated from graves in the flood.

FEMA said their assistance is determined on a case by case basis, and depends on the damage suffered. This applies for both monetary grants as well as placement of their mobile homes.

They no longer use the “FEMA trailers” such as those placed after Katrina. They now provide mobile homes, though they didn’t specify a size. You must have suffered a minimum of $17,000 in damage to be eligible for a mobile home.

They said that in general, having flood insurance doesn’t automatically disqualify you for the mobile home.

There have been 18,000 applicants in Livingston Parish for the FEMA Shelter At Home program. This program provides up to $15,000 of work in the home to create a safe, secure, habitable place for the family to live while they continue their permanent rebuilding.
Click here to visit the Shelter At Home website.

The following important items came direct from a FEMA representative:

  • The flood maps are NOT changing as a result of this flood.
  • Flood insurance rates are NOT being increased as a result of this flood.
  • If a person gets a FEMA grant, a flood policy MUST remain in place forever on the property. Otherwise, without flood coverage, that building will not be eligible for any federal aid if an event occurs in the future.
  • FEMA’s elevation standard is to elevate at least to the BFE (Base Flood Elevation). Communities can elect to mandate “freeboard” above the BFE, but that’s a community requirement, not FEMA.

Livingston uses the FEMA standard for elevations. However, Ascension Parish required that “substantially damaged” properties be elevated 1 foot above the highest water level, which is MUCH more strict than FEMA. Ascension then suspended this requirement, and at least for now, has reduced it to 1’ above BFE, which is still a foot higher than what FEMA requires. Click here to view a recent article in The Advocate about the Ascension Parish requirements.

SBA (Small Business Administration)

SBA provides low interest disaster loans for both homeowners and businesses.

Loans to homeowners can be up to $200,000 for the home, $40,000 for personal property including cars.

Loans to businesses can be up to $2 million, and can be both for physical and economic losses.

SBA also has mitigation loans to help with elevation.

Click here for the official SBA fact sheet on the Louisiana flooding and related SBA loans.

URGENT: THE DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR AN SBA LOAN FOR PHYSICAL DAMAGE IS OCTOBER 13, 2016!
THIS IS LESS THAN 1 MONTH FROM THE DATE OF THIS ARTICLE, SO IF YOU PLAN TO APPLY, DON’T WAIT!

Businesses have until May 15, 2017 to apply for loans due to economic damage.

Note: I called and spoke directly to SBA about how long flood insurance is mandatory on properties which secure an SBA loan. They confirmed that flood insurance must be carried on the property for the life of the loan. That requirement does NOT extend past the time when the loan has been paid in full. HOWEVER, WE STRONGLY ADVISE THAT YOU ALWAYS CARRY FLOOD INSURANCE! Click here to see our 4-part series on flood insurance, and how it saved us from ruin when we lost our house to Katrina.

FEDERAL NEWS

Local and state officials went to Washington DC and convinced the federal government to lower the percentage paid for disaster recovery by the parish(es). Usually the parish(es) pay 25% of the recovery costs (which I’m guessing are things like cleanup, etc.) and the feds pay 75%. The feds are now paying 90% of the cost, which reduced the local share to 10%.

They are also asking the federal government for overs $2 BILLION in Community Development Block Grants. If approved, local governments would have a lot of leeway in deciding how this money is spent. THEY SAID IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SUCH MONEY MAY BE USABLE TO ASSIST WITH ELEVATING HOMES!

However, I would not hold my breath for that. Keep pursuing ALL other available avenues, but pray for something like this to come through. As we mentioned in our recent article, it will be a long-term disaster for our area if many homes are abandoned because the owners can’t afford to elevate them.

PARISH NEWS

There are over 100 trucks working on debris removal in Livingston. The parish asks that you be patient, but they WILL get to you. There is a form you can sign to give them permission to come about 30’ onto your property to remove debris, without you having to be there. Click here for that form.

Chuck Vincent is the parish flood administrator and building administrator. He has final authority over substantial damage assessments. His numbers are:
225-686-3021 office
225-278-7317 work cell

Mr. Vincent said to get an inspection and permit regardless of water depth. Having this will help in the future when it comes to selling, etc. Someone will eventually want to see proof that the house was properly inspected and repaired.

IMPORTANT: Other entities (such as the City of Denham Springs) are using a water depth of 18″ as a guide for issuing permits, but NOT Livingston Parish itself.

Several homeowners said they were issued permits without a thorough inspection having been done. (A proper inspection should include a test for moisture level.) Mr. Vincent was not happy to hear about this, and invited all of those homeowners to get with him after the meeting.

A few homeowners said they were still a bit confused about issues such as inspections and permits, and how the whole process works, including the issue of mandatory elevation. Mr. Vincent said they will be working on improving communications.

GENERAL ITEMS

ICC (Increased Cost of Compliance) coverage is separate from the other coverages on your flood policy. However, the total of an ICC claim and a damage claim cannot exceed the maximum, which is currently $250,000 on a residential structure. (Click here for more information about ICC coverage. )

ICC provides up to $30,000 toward elevating a home. (This is not nearly enough, but it’s a start.)

The estimated cost to elevate a slab home is $45.00-$75.00 per square foot.

CONCLUSION

Overall, it was an informative meeting. Many of those residents in attendance were devastated by the flood, and are looking for answers. While those in charge of the meeting (along with some residents) gave out good information, many questions remain. This flood was a huge and devastating event, and recovery will be a slow process, with much that is still unknown.

We plan to attend any future such meetings, and will continue to distribute accurate and current information.

As always, if you have questions about your specific situation, let us know and we will do our best to find you the answers.

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