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Louisiana delegation presses Obama for flood aid

Posted at 4:43 PM, Sep 12, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-dominated Louisiana congressional delegation on Monday swung behind a request by Gov. John Bel Edwards for emergency aid to help the state rebuild from last month's disastrous flooding.

The Pelican State lawmakers urged President Barack Obama to send Congress an official request for money to rebuild homes and infrastructure, reduce flood risks and fund social services such as child care.

Bel Edwards, a Democrat, upped his request for flood aid to $2.8 billion in a letter sent to Obama on Monday. Torrential rains last month damaged more than 84,000 homes in the state, many in the Baton Rouge area. More than 180,000 people have registered for disaster aid.

The bipartisan effort comes as Congress is about to move ahead on a government-wide temporary funding bill that would avert a government shutdown Oct. 1. Any flood funding probably wouldn't be added to the stopgap spending bill but could advance after the election.

The Republican lawmakers, joined by Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, did not endorse a specific aid figure and did not suggest the aid package would advance before Congress adjourns for the elections.

"It is crucial that a Louisiana supplemental disaster funding component be included as part of a funding bill," the lawmakers wrote. "To facilitate and expedite consideration of a Louisiana supplemental spending package, we request you to make a supplemental appropriations request to Congress."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides help with immediate needs such as funding for cleanup and temporary housing, has plenty of money available in its disaster relief fund. Bel Edwards and the congressional delegation are asking for longer-term help, especially through community development block grants to help people without flood insurance rebuild their homes and to help local governments rebuild and repair infrastructure, such as schools.

Senior Louisiana Republicans like House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Sen. Bill Cassidy voted in 2013 against the bulk of a far larger $50.5 billion aid bill for northeastern states like New Jersey in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

A top House Republican was noncommittal about the prospects of any Louisiana aid bill.

"We stand ready to help. The latest information though is that FEMA has plenty of money available," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said last week. "At the moment I don't think we need a supplemental, but if we get a request from the White House for one, we'll take a hard look at it."