WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson came to an agreement this week on important policy changes that will give homeowners and business owners impacted by the March floods in Louisiana more time to recover and rebuild.
HUD has agreed to extend the deadline for homeowners and business owners to receive reimbursement for rebuilding work. Sen. Kennedy also secured a commitment that HUD will begin the process of advising mortgage lenders about the Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims program and will extend the deadline for application.
“I want to thank Secretary Carson for his common sense and compassion on issues that are so important to Louisiana,” said Sen. Kennedy. “This flexibility is needed because it took time to put funding programs in place, and it takes time to recover from such a tremendous disaster. Louisianians impacted by this terrible flooding need all the help we can give them. This flooding was unprecedented.”
“Those affected by the flooding last March will continue to have the resources they need to get back on their feet,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.). “The entire Louisiana delegation will continue to work with Secretary Carson and the rest of the administration to help Louisiana families rebuild, recover and prosper.”
The Louisiana delegation has been working with Gov. John Bel Edwards to ensure that flood victims receive the assistance they need to rebuild. State and federal officials representing Louisiana have made flood relief a priority in conversations with the Trump administration. Last month, staff members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee visited Louisiana to see the damage firsthand.
Full text of Sen. Kennedy's letter follows:
March 3, 2017
The Honorable Ben Carson
Office of the Secretary
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th St. SW
Washington, D.C. 20410
Dear Secretary Carson:
Congratulations on your confirmation as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It was a privilege to participate in your confirmation hearing in the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, and I am very much looking forward to working with you on issues important to Louisiana.
I write to you today regarding the ongoing recovery from the historic flooding that devastated so many communities in Louisiana last year. Out of 64 parishes across the state, 56 parishes received federal emergency disaster declarations due to the major flooding events that occurred in March and August of 2016. The American taxpayers have always been generous to Louisiana in the aftermath of major disasters, and these flooding events are no different. Congress appropriated a total of $1.6 billion in disaster recovery Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to assist Louisiana. These funds will help repair and rebuild homes, businesses, and schools, and ultimately give thousands of Louisianans their futures back.
As you and I discussed during your confirmation process, several legislative and regulatory hurdles are preventing Louisiana families from rebuilding their homes and fully recovering from this disaster. Your ongoing help could directly expedite relief for those 193,000 families negatively impacted from the misinterpretation of several federal regulations.
There are several important requests that I would like to bring to your attention:
- I respectfully request you to grant a waiver of regulations under P.L. 114-223 and P.L. 114-254 to reduce the low-to-moderate-income (LMI) HUD requirement from 70 percent to 50 percent. I also ask that your agency continue to provide technical assistance to the State of Louisiana to work towards this request to allow CDBG dollars to benefit additional families. There is a precedent for this type of action since this waiver was granted for Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
- I respectfully request that you extend, by one year, the limitation on reimbursement for eligible application costs for single and multi-family residential structures and nonresidential structures for rebuilding work completed during the first year after the date of the disaster. As I mentioned previously, the first major flooding event last year occurred in March 2016 and proper programming and funding was not in place in a timeframe that allowed eligible flood victims to participate. Extending this deadline will ensure that the state can develop suitable programs to encourage homeowners and businesses owners to rebuild as soon as possible without fear of missing their chance to receive assistance because of this regulation.
- Homeowners are facing significant delays in receiving portions of their National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) proceeds checks due to federal mortgage servicing guidelines. Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are following Government-Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) servicing guidelines that are actually penalizing homeowners who choose to rebuild their homes themselves rather than hiring a third party, licensed contractor. The guidelines are forcing banks and mortgage companies that service these loans to require homeowners to hire a licensed contractor in order for the lender to release flood insurance funds. I would like to request that you examine this issue for a workable solution.
- Relief from the home-by-home environmental review requirement is a key priority to guarantee that as much disaster assistance funding as possible goes directly to flood victims. Site-by-site inspections in order to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review can generate costs as high as $3,500 per inspection and is unnecessary for the homes that do not need total reconstruction. It is important to realize that while this process was designed with good intentions, it does not allow for a whole lot of common sense. Allowing the flexibility to exempt an inspection for a structure where the rehabilitation work will not have an environmental impact will only improve the recovery process. I am aware that you cannot waive this requirement, and it would need a legislative fix. Please know that I look forward to addressing this issue in the Senate.
- I respectfully request that you work across government agencies with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address a critical duplication of benefits issue and work with SBA Administrator McMahon to alter the appropriate memorandum of understanding that will fix this problem. Many families are ineligible for CDBG funds because they accepted an SBA disaster loan in the weeks following the floods. I understand that the former HUD Secretary and SBA Administrator committed to working together to fix this issue.
- I respectfully request that you extend the application period for one year after the set expiration of the Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims (Section 203 (H)) program. Under current rules, anyone whose home has been destroyed or severely damaged in a presidentially declared disaster area is eligible to apply for mortgage insurance under this program. However, the borrower's application for mortgage insurance must be submitted to the lender within one year of the President's declaration of the disaster. This date is rapidly approaching for both disasters. I would encourage you to quickly extend the deadline to give the state as many venues for assistance and programming as possible.
I personally appreciate your attention to these serious requests and look forward to discussing common sense solutions so that bureaucracy does not impede the recovery process. Our country is lucky to have your leadership at HUD. Thank you for your service to America.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) questioned Roy E. Wright, the Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on why bad actors such as U.S. Forensic and attorney Gerald Nielsen continue to receive flood recovery dollars from the government.
“Victims of Louisiana flooding need to know that FEMA contracts aren't being awarded to companies and people with a history of ripping off impacted families. Unfortunately, players like U.S. Forensic and Gerald Nielsen continue to receive federal contracts despite their reprehensible actions being exposed. I will not stand for these companies stealing tax dollars from Louisiana families struggling to get back on their feet,” said Sen. Kennedy.
A federal judge accused U.S. Forensic of “reprehensible gamesmanship” for rewriting engineer reports to lower the amount of property damage that could be attributed to Superstorm Sandy. A judge also took Nielsen to task for violating discovery orders in a case brought by victims of Superstorm Sandy. Despite these accusations, Nielsen represents most of the major flood insurance companies handling claims from the March and August floods that hit Louisiana last year. U.S. Forensic can still participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Watch the video here.
Mar 08 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) is recognizing Mignon Faget and Linda Biernacki - two outstanding businesswomen from the state of Louisiana - today for International Women's Day.
“Over the past nine years, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate five times faster than the national average. Louisiana is among the states with a growing number of women entrepreneurs and business owners. Mignon Faget and Linda Biernacki are outstanding business owners who have made a positive impact in our communities through their leadership,” said Sen. Kennedy. “I am proud to serve on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship where we will continue to work to alleviate obstacles faced by businesswomen.”
Mignon Faget began her design career in 1969 with the launch of her first ready-to-wear clothing collection. Since then, she has built a thriving company that is dedicated to good design with lasting value. A fifth generation New Orleanian, Faget has flourished in the culture and traditions of her birthplace and has made giving back to her community a core principle of her business. She employs many women in a creative field, making and selling jewelry that is hand crafted in America.
Linda Biernacki began her community involvement more than 30 years ago when she started working at a local fire sprinkler company and joined Shreveport-Bossier Women in Construction. In 1990, Biernacki opened Fire Tech Systems, Inc. This company offers fire protection to residential homes along with commercial businesses and is now licensed in six states. Linda established the Fire Tech Systems Scholarship Program geared towards young women whose studies involve the construction industry. Biernacki also collaborates with the National Association of Women in Construction to offer a scholarship through the Caddo Career & Technology Center.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) Announces 73-Million Acre Oil and Natural Gas Lease Sale for Gulf of Mexico
Mar 06 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced that 73 million acres off Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will be offered for oil and gas exploration and development.
“President Trump recognizes the valuable role that Louisiana can play in making America energy independent. I have been working with the Trump administration since I took office to roll back regulations and policies that put our oil and gas industry in a chokehold,” said Sen. Kennedy. “By reducing our reliance on foreign oil, we will strengthen our country and we will create jobs on American soil.”
The proposed region-wide lease sale scheduled for August 16, 2017, would include all available unleased areas in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The sale will be livestreamed from New Orleans. Two Gulf lease sales will be held each year.
Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) Issues Statement on President Trump's Address to the Joint Session of Congress
Feb 28 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today on President Trump's address:
“I was pleased to hear such a strong emphasis from the President on growing jobs and growing our economy. Louisianians want nothing more than to work hard at a good job,” said Senator Kennedy. “President Trump delivered a powerful message about placing the American people above the Washington bureaucrats. This is exactly why I came to Washington. Our people need more jobs, not more government. I was also pleased to have the President talk about the need for a strong military. I was especially happy the President called for a renewed American spirit.”
Feb 18 2017
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today:
“Today, I urged the White House to approve Gov. John Bel Edwards' request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance (Categories A-G) to help the parishes of Ascension, Livingston, Jefferson, Orleans and St. James following the devastating tornadoes. President Trump has already approved Individual Assistance for tornado victims, and I couldn't be more appreciative of his swift action,” said Sen. Kennedy. “A Public Assistance declaration would take care of additional needs, including helping local governments clean up storm debris and paying for hotel rooms while families wait for their homes to be rebuilt.”
U.S. Senator Kennedy (R-La.) Questions Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Slow Economic Growth
Feb 15 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C.”Today in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Senator John N. Kennedy (R-La.) questioned Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on the slow economic growth that our country has been experiencing since the financial crisis is 2008.
“Can we agree that 1.9% growth is not acceptable to most Americans? …I think we can agree on that,” said Senator John Kennedy.
Watch more of Senator Kennedy's remarks here:
Senator John N. Kennedy (R-La.): Community Banks And Small Businesses Are Being Unfairly Made Victims Of Big Bank Failures
Feb 15 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Senator John Kennedy demanded answers from Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on why community financial institutions are being burdened with regulations that make it hard for small businesses to borrow money.
“If community banks were not the cause for the financial crisis in 2008, then why are they bearing some of the regulatory burdens from Dodd-Frank?” asked Senator Kennedy. “Many parts of Dodd-Frank apply to community banks, so the water is not 12 feet deep but 10 feet deep but you can still drown in 10 feet of water.”
Named after sponsors U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd and U.S. Representative Barney Frank, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, most often referred to as 'Dodd-Frank,' was passed in 2010 as a response to the financial crisis in 2008. Dodd-Frank's purpose was to place major regulations on the financial industry that caused the breakdown of the markets.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Gov. John Bel Edwards met with senior HUD officials last week to identify federal restrictions that are making it more difficult for Louisiana's flood victims to rebuild.
“Gov. Edwards and I met with HUD officials to continue work on ironing out the problems that are arising with the rebuilding process,” Sen. Kennedy said. “It was a productive meeting, and we will continue to work together until every home and business impacted by the March and August floods is rebuilt.”
The issues discussed included:
- The necessity of conducting environmental reviews of homes repaired with disaster funding through community development block grants.
- Amending the requirement that 70% of CDBG dollars benefit low to moderate-income residents. The governor is proposing lowering this to 50%.
- Giving homeowners and business owners more time to apply for the reimbursement of money they spent to rebuild immediately after the disaster before federal aid arrived. Currently, the application process shuts off a year from the disaster.
- Allowing flood victims to repay their Small Business Administration loans with block grants.
“I had a productive and informative meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuch this evening to discuss his recent nomination to the Supreme Court. We used this time to get to know each other better personally as well as professionally,” said Senator Kennedy. “I look forward to continuing our discussions about his judicial philosophy, the decisions he has authored, and his views on the U.S. Constitution. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I believe that the American people deserve a full and fair vetting of the next Supreme Court Justice and look forward to the rest of the confirmation process.”