WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Consolidating Losses Associated to Severe Storms Act of 2018 (CLASS Act) to relieve the financial stress that Louisiana school districts are suffering because of the 2016 floods. Joining as co-sponsor is U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.).
At issue is a penalty that threatens to drastically reduce school districts’ flood recovery funding. FEMA requires school districts to carry flood insurance on buildings that are in a special flood hazard area. Penalties are deducted from recovery funds for uninsured buildings that flood. At least some of the school districts impacted by the 2016 flooding did have flood insurance for buildings located in what they considered to be high-risk areas. Their recovery funding stands to be slashed multiple times for every single uninsured building that flooded.
The CLASS Act strikes a compromise by applying the penalty deduction to an entire campus instead of to every single building. This should spare school districts from millions of dollars in penalties.
“School districts incurred huge costs because of the historic 2016 floods,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Not only did campuses flood, but new campuses had to quickly be created. These school districts are under tremendous financial stress. This legislation will ensure that they are not unfairly penalized for every single structure that flooded. Instead, they’ll get a one-time penalty. They’ll take a lick and be able to move on and rebuild.”
“The NFIP penalty will financially cripple the Livingston Parish school district,” said Livingston Parish Schools Supt. Rick Wentzel. “Without some type of relief from this terrible interpretation of the Stafford Act, Livingston Parish stands to lose approximately $20 million that would normally be used for educating our students. Denham Springs High School alone has over twenty buildings that each would be subject to this $500,000 penalty.”
“We continue to be appreciative of efforts being made to consider relief for critical facilities as it pertains to penalties imposed by the National Flood Insurance Program,” said Ascension Public Schools Supt. David Alexander. “We know that the relaxing of these penalties occurred in recent past disasters for similar school systems. Our mission is to provide high-quality educational experiences for children and anytime we can allocate funding towards that mission rather than repairing buildings from disasters is a win for everyone in our community.”
“Almost all of our schools that were impacted by the Historic Flood of 2016 had more than one disaster-damaged building on-site, so the CLASS Act will be a tremendous help to our schools that reside in special flood hazard areas,” said Superintendent Warren Drake. “This legislation will allow us to maximize the use of the remaining funds in a way that will benefit our students the most.”