Now that the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program has started, outreach efforts are underway to help flooded homeowners navigate the process of rebuilding. Wallis Watkins has more.
The first Housing Assistance Center for flooded homeowners opened in Baton Rouge Monday at Celtic Studios, which also served as a shelter immediately following the August flood.
"Right when you walk in, the very first thing you see is a model, basically it looks like a little model home," said Jeff Haley, Director of Homeowner Programs for the Office of Community Development. "You can see the carpet, we have a kitchen that shows the different appliances used, the cabinets, countertops."
Haley says the center is there to support homeowners - anything from help with surveys and applications to what their home will look like if they choose to use the state’s contractor.
A second center also opened Monday in Monroe. "We have plans to open one in Lafayette and one in Hammond," Haley said. "We’ll see based on the survey, that helps us understand if we need to open other locations."
As of Tuesday, close to 25,000 people had completed the Homeowner Survey - that’s a fraction of the 86,000 homeowners who were impacted by the flood.
To help more people apply for the state’s assistance program, Restore Louisiana is holding six outreach events across the state. Tuesday morning, nearly one hundred people had come to the Greenwell Springs Library.
Nick Speyer with Restore Louisiana says some are just looking for additional help. "While it’s real simple, some people want that face-to-face touch and it’s the reason we’re doing these events," Speyer said. "And then for others, they’ve completed the survey but they just want to see someone face-to-face and find out what’s the status of their survey, what are the next steps they can expect."
Once the survey is finished, homeowners are placed into one of six phases. The most vulnerable will be the first to receive help. "We’re then going to invite phases to come in and apply, starting first with phase one, which is low-to-moderate income and elderly or disabled, living outside the floodplain," Speyer said.
This report was made possible by the Louisiana Public Radio Partnership, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.