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Brian Luke Community Blogger, WGRZ-TV

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gustav and Ike: Two Years Later

NEW ORLEANS,La. -- It has now been two years since hurricanes Gustav and Ike wreaked havoc on Louisiana. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of Louisiana continue to work together closely to help residents, local governments and nonprofits, all of which are well on their way to recovery.

"These two storms, which occurred back to back, posed a major challenge," said Mike Karl, interim director of the Louisiana Recovery Office, "but the character, courage and commitment of the people of Louisiana have resulted in significant forward progress. FEMA is committed to working closely with its federal, state and local partners to ensure that these communities recover."

Office of Community Development Executive Director Robin Keegan said, “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated approximately $1 billion to Louisiana for the state’s recovery from hurricanes Gustav and Ike. OCD’s Disaster Recovery Unit awarded $565.5 million, or more than 53 percent, to the 53 impacted parishes based on damages. We continue to work with FEMA, HUD, GOHSEP and our other partners to ensure obligations and to help displaced families find secure, permanent housing.”

Immediately after the disasters, FEMA held community meetings and set up 53 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) across the state to meet the need for more personal one-on-one, face-to-face assistance. These DRCs made it easier for residents by providing them with a single location at which they could obtain answers to a wide variety of questions about FEMA, SBA disaster loans and other state and federal programs.

Individual Assistance funding of $280.7 million was provided to help 114,141 residents with their recovery efforts. From providing rental assistance to offering personal property grants, and from assisting with transportation to helping with disaster-related medical and dental expenses, FEMA has been working to help disaster survivors recover as quickly as possible. Approximately 1,100 families were initially housed in hotels or motels, and another 639 were leased into mobile homes or park models for longer term housing needs. In addition, Louisiana Disaster Unemployment Assistance of $1.4 million was provided to eligible residents who lost their jobs because of Gustav or Ike, enabling them to continue caring for their families.

In an effort to ensure that survivors’ housing needs were met, FEMA partnered with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP). Over 25,000 families displaced by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav were assisted by HUD under DHAP. The DHAP program provided rental assistance and intensive case management to displaced families and continues to provide assistance today to the 2,100 Louisiana families and 4,500 Texas families remaining in the program. Originally scheduled to end in March 2010, DHAP-Ike was extended until October 2010 to ensure all families remaining in the program are able to have their long term housing needs met.

FEMA understands that helping communities recover requires providing assistance, not only to families, but also to the infrastructure that supports those families. For that reason, $642.8 million has been obligated for debris removal and emergency protective measures. In addition, more than $259.5 million has been obligated for permanent work. Included in this amount is funding to repair or replace facilities such as schools, police stations and fire stations. The sooner these buildings are up and operational, the sooner families with children can return to their neighborhoods and police and fire personnel can help ensure those families’ safety.

FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is expecting to make more than $279 million in mitigation funding available to help prevent the loss of lives and property through planning and by elevation, acquisition and retrofitting of structures.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

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