As I travel the world promoting Louisiana, I am often asked about Louisiana’s recovery in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
I tell them proudly over $6 billion has now been invested in rebuilding houses and apartments, levees and public infrastructure like roads, fire stations and schools. But I remind them this is just the beginning, and that for every ounce of progress we make, there is a pound of work ahead of us.
It is still difficult to appreciate the magnitude of challenges we’ve confronted as a result of this catastrophe. Katrina and Rita impacted a Gulf Coast area of about 90,000 square miles, roughly the size of Great Britain. Spanning the Texas to the Mississippi borders,
Louisiana bore the brunt of the destruction – 1,464 lives lost and more than 650,000 people displaced, more than 200,000 homes destroyed, 835 schools and 18,000 businesses impacted.
But as I marvel over the profound challenges surrounding the largest and most complex reconstruction process in American history, I also take great pride in the sense of determination I see every day as people take steps to rebuild their lives. Recovery programs are taking hold.
We have delivered more than 3,500 small business grants and loans, awarded over $600 million in funds to rebuild thousands of rental properties, funded infrastructure projects that result from citizen-driven rebuilding plans and given out $2.8 billion to assist 40,000 homeowners rebuild.
All told over $6 billion in federal recovery dollars invested so far and another $25 billion in state and federal resources continue to be invested over the next few years.
This is the toughest test we’ll ever face, but we are beginning to see progress – not only in bricks and mortar, but in the revival of our dreams for what Louisiana can become.
We are rebuilding a South Louisiana that is safer and stronger than before. We have carried this message with us to Washington and continue to work with the new leadership of the 110th Congress to stress the necessity of Louisiana getting its equitable share of recovery dollars so residents can get the help they deserve.
Of particular focus is the anticipated shortfall in Road Home funding for our homeowners.
I asked the Louisiana legislature to invest $1 billion of our own state funds toward the deficit and they have done so, and the newly secured commitment from congressional leaders will help us with the remaining dollars. Resolving this issue will provide emotional and financial stability for tens of thousands of families and further ignite an economic boom that benefits the entire state.
As we move into the second anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I am humbled by the personal sacrifices so many people are making to rebuild. We will honor their hopes and dreams and make Louisiana better than before. With our recovery Louisianans will show the world how to turn adversity and destruction into a model for community resurgence and recovery.