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|Jindal to farmers: More help coming|
Gov. Bobby Jindal has pledged more help to farmers hit hard by storm damage, this time promising to send any federal grant dollars directly to impacted communities rather than establishing new programs in Baton Rouge.
Speaking in Monroe on Monday, Jindal said he expected more help to flow to regions of the state impacted by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, including federal grant money to aid in agriculture recovery efforts in northeastern Louisiana.
Jindal recently announced additional community development block grants — or CDBG money — had been approved by the U.S. Congress for hurricane relief.
The CDBG program is administered by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Develpment and delivers billions in aid to poor neighborhoods, communities and cities.
Under the newly approved provisions of the CDBG program, that aid can now be extended to farming communities hit by the storms.
Jindal said that "a good first step", but that he will continue to press Congress for additional hurricane relief dollars.
"If they do not provide that funding, what we are committed to doing is one, whatever CDBG money we get for hurricane recovery giving that directly to parishes and local communites so it's not tied up in a Baton Rouge bureaucracy or a D.C. bureaucracy," Jindal said. "But secondly, if they don't help our farmers and agriculture industry, we'll use a portion of those dollars and give that to Commissioner Strain to help the agricultural industry get back on its feet."
Jindal was quick to point out the CDBG money for farmers and rural communities is not tied to funds used in places such as Shreveport and Monroe, and said those dollars are protected funds and cannot be used for hurricane recovery.
"We continue to get billions in normal CDBG dollars," Jindal said. "But for those grant dollars associated with the storm, the Congress put aside $6 billion for Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi just for the storm."
Before going into its fall recess, Congress authorized HUD to distribute that $6 billion as hurricane aid. The first allocation of those funds is due to be made by the end of November.
Jindal said he expected Louisiana to receive anywhere from $800 million to $2 billion for hurricane recovery.
Additionally, Jindal said he wanted Congress to do more to repair the storm damage and called additional aid necessary for the nation's economic health.
"We think Congress should, as part of the recovery effort, help our farmers get back on their feet," Jindal said. "It's critical for the economy, it's critical to help feed and provide for our country."
Jindal said he expects the U.S. Senate to take that issue up when they go into session in late November.
However, any action would also have to be approved by the House of Representatives and that body has not announced it will come back into session following the presidential elections next week.
Jindal said he has spoken with the leadership of both the House and Senate and said they understood the urgency.
"Both are aware of why this is so important," Jindal said. "We certainly believe they will work with us—whether it is on another stimulus bill or on another hurricane relief package."