This letter to the edior by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) first appeared in The Lafayette Daily Advertiser on Nov. 10, 2021.
First came Laura. Then Delta. Then Zeta. Then February’s deep freeze, historic May flooding, and, of course, Ida. Louisianians have been wincing and rebuilding from nature’s onslaught long enough, and the Senate recently passed a bill that would mean our state could stop waiting on Washington for billions in disaster aid.
Local lawmakers can now help Louisiana themselves. Louisiana’s state government got about $4.8 billion in COVID relief through the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. With the worst of the pandemic in the past, I think state officials should be able to use that state and local funding for what Louisianians need most: disaster relief.
I amended the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act to give local lawmakers that flexibility. Since the Senate passed that bill a few weeks ago, the only thing standing between it and the president’s desk is a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This bill would give state leaders the freedom to use unspent pandemic relief funds from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund on both natural disaster victims and actual infrastructure needs. If the state hasn’t spent the entire $4.8 billion in that funding yet, officials can use up to 100% of the remaining money for traditional disaster relief efforts. They could also invest up to 30 percent of the $4.8 billion on infrastructure — the roads, bridges and flood protection we need down here. In other words, Louisiana would be able to tap up to $1.44 billion, if the funds are still available, to spend on infrastructure.
The fake federal infrastructure bill just bankrolled Sen. Chuck Schumer’s $12 billion Gateway Tunnel project, and I think Louisiana should be able to improve our highways and waterways as well, if that’s where state officials want to direct these federal dollars. The Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act would meet real infrastructure goals and help hardworking Louisianians rebuild their homes and businesses.
The bottom line is that this bill takes the handcuffs off Louisiana’s COVID money so that our state can focus on our people’s biggest needs, like disaster relief.