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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 19, 2005
CONTACT: BRENDA HODGE
COMMUNICATION OFFICER
PHONE: 225-342-9737

JOINT BUDGET COMMITTEE CONTINUES EFFORT
TO SCRUTINIZE FEDERAL DISASTER FUNDS
SENT TO LOUISIANA

APPROVES INCREASED FEDERAL BUDGET AUTHORITY
TOTALING ALMOST $72 MILLION
FOR RELIEF PROGRAMS

In a continuing effort to closely examine the federal disaster relief dollars flowing into Louisiana, the Louisiana Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget reviewed and approved increased federal budget authority for three state agencies and the attorney general’s office totaling almost $72 million. The relief money is aimed at family assistance programs, unemployment assistance, business recovery and fair housing counseling.

"When the federal disaster funds first started coming to the state, the joint budget committee made a commitment to closely review each appropriation before granting the legally required increased budget authority and that is what we are doing," District 7 State Senator Francis Heitmeier (D-Algiers), chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, said. "It is important that we keep everyone informed about all of the disaster assistance money coming to Louisiana and as we review each request we will provide the public with the latest details on those requests."

At the most recent meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget held on Friday, October 14th, the committee approved the following:

  • Increased federal budget authority in the Department of Social Services, Office of Family Support by $32.8 million to allow the agency to accept emergency Temporary Assistance to Needy Family (TANF) funds.
  • The department plans to use the money to fund the efforts of the Louisiana Family Recovery Corps (LFRC), a non-profit, umbrella entity created by Governor Blanco and designed to "reduce fragmentation in the current network of humanitarian aid providers." LFRC, in coordination with the state agency, will be responsible for mobilizing and overseeing a network of state-based non-profit organizations that deliver humanitarian services across Louisiana.
  • The goals of the LFRC are to achieve comprehensive delivery of services by training caseworkers to work one-on-one with displaced families; to coordinate disaster relief by establishing a humanitarian service center based on the International Disaster Coordination model established by the United Nations and to establish a hybrid services model to incorporate best practices strategies tailored for Louisiana’s needs.
  • Increased federal budget authority in the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $4 million for hurricane disaster assistance from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to provide:
  • Technical assistance and counseling to dislocated Louisiana businesses. There are some 81,000 dislocated businesses from the impacted areas.
  • Statewide workshops for Louisiana businesses to enable them to get into the federal procurement process with the major entities - FEMA, the Corps of Engineers and the Prime Contractors for each zone in the disaster area.
  • Economic Development Summit in Washington, D.C. with the State of Mississippi’s Economic Development Team, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Economic Development Council.
  • Focused marketing in USAToday, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and others for the purpose of bringing dislocated businesses back to Louisiana, as well as describing new business opportunities within the state.
  • Increased federal budget authority to the Department of Labor in the amount of $35 million from the US Department of Labor to provide Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) for individuals not eligible for traditional Unemployment Insurance benefits such as self-employed persons or persons who have been employed less than 18 months.
  • The Department of Labor has processed approximately 66,000 eligible claims for DUA benefits as of October 5, 2005. Eligible recipients receive a maximum weekly benefit of $258 for up to 26 weeks.
  • This funding adds to $36.15 million for DUA benefits previously approved by the joint budget committee on September 23, 2005.
  • Some 15 percent of the approved funding will be used for administrative expenses such as call centers, mobile field units and temporary staffing.
  • Increased federal budget authority to the Department of Justice in the amount of $200,000 to provide an educational outreach program to inform displaced persons of their fair housing rights and responsibilities.

The next scheduled meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget is Friday, October 21st .

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