Community leaders from across Southwest Louisiana held a press conference last month announcing the launch of the Help Southwest Louisiana Now campaign.
This grassroots effort, launched on the 11-month anniversary of Hurricane Laura, represents a unified, collective regional effort to advocate for much needed federal supplemental disaster relief funding.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, SWLA was impacted by more federally declared natural disasters than any other community in American history: Hurricane Laura (8/27/20), Hurricane Delta (10/9/20), Winter Storm Uri (2/15/21) and a 1,000 Year Flood Event (5/17/21). Supplemental disaster recovery funding is the customary response communities have received from the federal government after being impacted by major natural disasters. This funding has always been awarded in a much shorter time period. By comparison, Washington DC acted 10 days after Hurricane Katrina, 34 days after Hurricane Andrew, and 98 days after Superstorm Sandy.
To date, nearly a year after Hurricane Laura, the federal government has provided no supplemental disaster recovery funding for Southwest Louisiana.
“The clock continues to tick,” says Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter. “We are closing in on the one-year mark since Hurricane Laura made landfall, tearing a path of destruction through Southwest Louisiana and the rest of the state. We have yet to receive a federal appropriation of supplemental disaster relief funding. It is simply unfathomable and unconscionable that American citizens are still struggling and suffering due to inaction in Washington D.C.”
Help Southwest Louisiana Now is a way for those concerned about this region’s recovery to join together to communicate with Congress and the President about the dire need for supplemental relief. The total unmet housing need for the state exceeds $900M from Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta, and this figure was calculated before the Winter Storm and May 17 flood. Within the City of Lake Charles alone, housing damages are estimated at $235M, less than 13% of residential buildings have pulled permits to begin reconstruction or rehabilitation, 60% of public housing is still offline, average rental costs have risen by 22%, and 21% of businesses have not renewed occupational licenses for 2021.
SOWELA & McNeese enrollments are both down by 9% due to weather disasters. Calcasieu Parish School Board enrollment is down by 14%. Thousands in Southwest Louisiana are living in unsustainable and unhealthy housing. Local government, non-profits and faith-based organizations have continuously expressed the need for supplemental disaster aid but to no avail.
Campaign information and resources can be found on www.rebuildingswla.com. Those who wish to help are asked to submit pre-written letters to their Congressional representatives and the President. It is a brief simple process and the letters can be customized. Citizens are also asked to share the campaign video found on the RebuildingSWLA Facebook page.