(The Center Square) – The United States Senate has passed a bipartisan bill that would allow unused funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to be used for natural disaster recovery and infrastructure needs, which could have an impact on Louisiana.
ARPA was a $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief program enacted in March.
“I hope the House quickly follows suit so that Louisianans get more of the relief they need,” said US Senator John Kennedy, R-La.
Kennedy co-sponsored the legislation, known as the State, Local Government, Tribal and Territory Tax Relief Flexibility Act, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief. If successful, the bill would reallocate existing funds already in state governments’ possession, rather than call for new spending.
Louisiana received nearly $ 4.8 billion from ARPA’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, amounting to $ 350 billion program aimed at reducing the economic impact of the pandemic.
The fund was intended to replace lost state and local government revenue due to lockdowns, business closures, customer restrictions, job losses and other factors, in addition to supporting economic recovery efforts. .
According to invoice, 100% of the remaining funds can be used for traditional disaster relief, such as temporary emergency housing, food aid, financial assistance for lost wages or other immediate needs. Up to 30% could be used for infrastructure.
âWith this flexibility, the decision to invest the remaining COVID relief money rests with the Louisiana state government,â Kennedy said.
The legislation could help communities and areas of the state that have suffered several declared natural disasters dating back to the last year, with many areas struggling since.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter illustrated these needs when he spoke at the Louisiana Capitol last month and urged state lawmakers to remember southwest Louisiana as they consider helping southeast Louisiana after Hurricane Ida.
Since Hurricane Laura in August 2019, Hunter said Lake Charles had seen a 14% drop in public school enrollment, a 45% increase in drug overdose deaths, a 47% increase in unpaid property taxes and an 833% increase in dilapidated properties.
Rep. Ryan Bourriaque, R-Abbeville, said schools and churches have been slow to recover in Cameron Parish.
Kennedy, with a bipartisan effort from the Louisiana Congressional delegation, has asked the Biden administration for disaster assistance numerous times throughout the year. The aid was recently approved as part of a national program incorporated into a congressional interim funding measure ending on December 3.
Louisiana Division of Administration commissioner Jay Dardenne told Baton Rouge last week that Louisiana had about $ 1 billion left. ARPA Fund.
âLouisianans have been through historic hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters in the past 18 months, and they still need help rebuilding their homes and businesses,â Kennedy said. “I hope the House will quickly follow suit in sending this bill to the president’s office.”