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If you had uninsured property that was destroyed by floodwaters this year, you're entitled to a refund of the state sales tax on those items. State Treasurer John Kennedy says this applies to the parishes that were federally declared disasters during the March and August floods.


"If some of your personal property was destroyed and you weren't reimbursed for it, you can at least file a form with the Department of Revenue and get the sales tax back that you paid on the destroyed property," said Kennedy.

To learn more, visit latreasury.com and click on Sales Tax Disaster Relief. Kennedy says it may not seem like much, but every little bit helps and the money will really add up.

"The state will reimburse you for the state sales tax you paid on any portion of destroyed property not reimbursed by insurance or disaster relief," said Treasurer Kennedy. "The reimbursement applies to furniture, rugs, utensils, clothing, linens, televisions, cameras, toys, exercise equipment, books and even lawn mowers."

Claims should be filed with the Louisiana Department of Revenue. Kennedy says the secretary of that department can waive documentation requirements if original receipts are not available.
 
 
 
 

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The historic flooding in the southern part of the state not only destroyed thousands of homes, but greatly affected the agriculture business. Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain says farming is a 13 billion dollar industry in Louisiana and 28 to 30 parishes were hurt by the massive rainfall.

“So far, we’re looking at upwards of $110 million and that’s directly in rice which is $33.6 million in rice, $46.7 million in soybeans.”

Strain says those are preliminary numbers and expects total losses to be anywhere from $150 to $200 million, if the rain stops now. He says some farmers have crop insurance but not all commodities or parishes allow insurance.

“Crop insurance is a very costly thing for farmers and even if you get your highest degree of crop insurance, you may only have 60 to 75% coverage.”

Strain says livestock and crawfish are not covered under crop insurance. He says they don’t have the exact numbers on how many livestock died during the flooding but they have aircraft working to connect lost livestock with their owners. The commissioner says the flooding has also caused a severe increase in the mosquito population.

“We’re now seeing surges in mosquitoes. I’m advising all of my horse owners, if you have not vaccinated your horses within six month to booster them specifically West Nile and Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis.”

 
 

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Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge was a shelter for displaced flood victims and now one of the movie studios properties has become a multi-agency disaster warehouse. Mike Steele with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness says people making large donations should call ahead of time to make sure that someone is there to help unload.

“You get to a point where you have so many items coming in sometimes that it makes it difficult to know exactly what to do with them,” Steele said.

Steele says people can call 225-800-2227 to arrange a drop off any day between 9am and 5pm. He says they really need snow shovels, which are good for removing debris, but they are accepting a wide variety of items.

“Canned goods, sports drinks, personal care items, work gloves, baby diapers or anything associated with care for a baby,” Steele said.

Steele says they also need blankets, cleaning supplies, flashlights, batteries, and new kitchen items. He says right now they do not need any new or used clothes.

“It has to deal more now with some of the goods that people need cleaning up their homes and caring for their families, and just the day to day type items are really what’s needed,” Steele said.

Steele says people can find a complete list of needed items at emergency.la.gov, as well as an address to ship donations.

The drop off location is on Celtic Media Center property, but the exact address is 9550 Dawnadele Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70809. The old Crescent Crown Facility.
 
 

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State agencies are severely understaffed at a time when people need them the most. West Monroe Senator Mike Walsworth says during tough budget times, there were employment cutbacks at the Department of Children and Family Services and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, because Louisiana hasn’t seen a hurricane in several years.

“You just can’t have them sitting there saying, ‘Well, in case there’s an emergency we’ll have you on staff.’ So it’s not unusual to go down that road that you’re short staffed when there’s an emergency,” Walsworth said.

Walsworth says Louisiana is the most disaster prone state in the nation, and we need to be prepared for these kinds of events. He says they may need to look into training state retirees in case of emergencies.

“Retirees still like to work, just because they’re retired doesn’t mean they’re dead. They like to work, and they like to do things, and they like to help. So maybe we can train some of them,” Walsworth said.

Walsworth says people are still waiting on disaster food stamps, and he’s worried about kids who are not in school because if they were, they could be getting at least one good meal every day. He says DCFS is having trouble opening DSNAP locations because many of them are working at shelters.

“They had two roles, and maybe we change up their roles a little bit. Maybe they should do just SNAP, and maybe we can figure out somebody else to help out when it comes to the evacuees,” Walsworth said.

 
 
 
 

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Some people have suggested that if the Comite River Diversion Project in East Baton Rouge Parish had been completed, the flooding wouldn’t have been so severe. But the Army Corps of Engineers says that’s not the case. Deputy District Commander Mark Wingate says the project would only have helped a small part of the affected region.

“Just a qualitative analysis and professional judgement, we believe maybe we would’ve reduced damages to 5% to 10% of the damaged structures if the Comite project would’ve been in place,” Wingate said.

Wingate says the project would have helped on the Comite River, but not the Amite or other rivers in the basin that also flooded. He says it would have reduced flooding in areas around Joor Road, but not very much in Denham Springs or farther south.

“We believe north of the confluence of the Comite and Amite, you’re probably talking stage reductions maybe in feet with respect to this most recent event, but unfortunately south of the confluence, it’s probably limited to inches,” Wingate said.

The Comite project would cost upwards of $220 million. Wingate says what they need is a system wide approach to prevent flooding in the region. He says flood mitigation projects are also needed along the Amite River and Bayou Manchac.

“We need to bring all this together with the Comite and see how all this would work together because it is possible you could put something in play and have negative impacts either upstream or downstream,” Wingate said.

 
 
 

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After the agriculture businesses took a $110 million hit from the flood, crawfish farmers will have to wait to see how much their harvest was affected. LSU AgCenter aquaculture specialist, Mark Shirley, says fields that were flooded for a day or two should be alright. But he says fields that had more water could see some losses.

“Some of the ponds are in lower lying areas that may have had flood waters five or six or seven days, those potentially could have some crawfish leave the field,” Shirley said.

Shirley says right now female crawfish are usually burrowing down in the fields to lay their eggs. But he says the flood waters may have pushed some of them out.

“They could get eaten by predators such as birds or fish, or the water could go bad and some of them could die from just no oxygen in the water,” Shirley said.

Crawfish began laying eggs in late August and continue through November or early December. Shirley says farmers need to get the water out of the fields to keep predators away when the eggs start to hatch.

“If there’s fish in the pond at that time especially, those predatory fish can eat those baby crawfish, and that’s where the impact comes from,” Shirley said.

Shirley remains optimistic there will be plenty of mudbugs next year.

 
 
 

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US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and the administrator from the Small Business Administration Maria Contreras-Sweet say the federal government is committed to the flood recovery in Louisiana. The two of them toured damaged areas of the Baton Rouge area yesterday. Contreras-Sweet reminds flood victims they can apply for low interest loans to repair their damaged home or business.

“They are up to 30 year term loans so if you need 20, 30, 40, a million dollars over 30 years it becomes more manageable.”

Castro says he supports the temporary housing solutions offered by Governor John Bel Edwards. He says the federal government learned many lessons from Katrina, which has led to better produced manufactured homes for displaced residents.

“These are better, sturdier, stronger manufactured homes. They’re made to last longer, they have better safety features.”

A FEMA spokesperson says manufactured homes have arrived in Baton Rouge and will be set up soon. Castro hopes a lot of the flood victims can take advantage of the shelter at home program, which gives a homeowner a chance to live in their residence as repairs to their home continue.

“If they’d had up to $15,000 worth of damage but they’re able to do some minor repairs and stay there.”

 
 
 

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Over 120,00 people have applied for federal aid following the historic flood in south Louisiana, and many are encountering problems trying to get their assistance. Baton Rouge Senator Regina Barrow says she doesn’t like the idea of sending people to multiple locations, possibly across town, to meet with FEMA and apply for disaster food stamps.

“You have individuals that are so devastated in some of these areas, and they have to go to one place, and it could take them five, six, seven hours to be seen, and then they have to go to another place,” Barrow said.

Deputy Director for Disaster Recovery with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Mark Riley, says they are trying to get people out of their cars and shelters as quickly as possible. He says there are already some manufactured homes in the state after the March flood in north Louisiana, but it will be a while before they get these flood victims moved into them.

“I would say it’s going to take us a couple of weeks to build some momentum and capacity to get large numbers of households eased into these, if that’s what these survivors want to do,” Riley said.

DSNAP has been rolled out in three phases, and many victims are still not able to receive their food stamps. Flood victims in East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Lafayette can’t get theirs until next week. Barrow is not happy about the delay.

“DSNAP program, to me, has taken too long to come into place. Many people are having to take their limited resources to try to eat,” Barrow said.

 
 
 

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AAA is warning motorists looking to purchase a used car to beware of flood damaged vehicles for sale. Spokesperson Don Redman says usually damaged cars are quickly moved farther away from the devastated areas as early as one week after the disaster. He says be careful when buying a car off of Craigslist or resale sites.

“If you’re not dealing with a reputable dealer, you definitely want to take extra precautions. These are vehicles that are sold in auctions a lot of times and end up in any number of lots.”

Redman advises people to use their sense of smell to detect any wet or musty odors inside the car. He also says to check for new carpeting, as well as, areas where there could still be signs of dirt or mud.

“Look up under the dash board, areas that may not have been reached thoroughly just to see or even looking on the exterior, looking at the windows, are the windows fogged up from the inside?”

Redman says no matter what, you always want to get a Carfax report or some kind of vehicle history because it can give an indication of where the car is coming from. He says the potential damage from the flooded vehicles may not be obvious in the short term but…

“In the long term, in terms of corroding the wiring, a lot of parts of the brain of your car are actually mounted under your seat and so if water rises above that, you’re going to see some short circuiting.”

 
 

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FEMA owned temporary housing units are returning to Louisiana to provide housing for flood victims who are in the process of rebuilding their homes. Governor John Bel Edwards says these trailer units are different from what we say after Hurricane Katrina.

“They have built in certain quality features to make sure that they’re safe and they’ve had HUD approve these homes. That’s why they have moved to a different home because hopefully they will hold up better.”

Edwards says these trailers are similar to actual mobile homes. He says flood victims who suffered over $17,000 in damages to their homes are eligible for a trailer.

“The people who will need them will be the people whose homes cannot be made safe, habitable, and secure.”

FEMA says it will be a couple of weeks until a large number of people will be living in the manufactured housing. Edwards says the trailers will be secured on concrete blocks and not on wheels. The governor says FEMA representatives are checking to see if the FEMA units can fit on the property of a flooded home and they are also planning on putting multiple trailers on a commercial lot.

“You want to have individuals in a manufactured housing unit, and if they’re not in their yard, you want them as close as possible to their homes so that you ease that burden on transportation.”

 
 

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Louisiana has seen two historic floods just five months apart, and though similar in nature, the devastation is vastly different. Rev. Allison Sauls was living in Monroe during the March flood, and recently moved to Lafayette just before the flood in south Louisiana. She says the flooding in the south was more widespread than it was up north.

“While the flooding in Monroe and the Ouachita parish area while I was there was extreme and affected folks that I knew, it was much more isolated than what has happened this go around,” Sauls said.

Sauls says up north there was more flash flooding from the rain, whereas in the south it was hard to tell if the water was coming from the rain or the rivers. She says it’s been incredible to see folks who are still recovering up north coming to help people in south Louisiana.

“I think maybe it really struck a chord, not only because this is fellow Louisianans, but because folks just went through this five months ago,” Sauls said.

Sauls says much of the flooding in north Louisiana was in rural areas. But she says the southern flood was so expansive it pushed water into more urban areas, especially in the Baton Rouge region.

“Infrastructure has been affected. Business has been affected. While here in Lafayette, for the most part, it hasn’t, and in Monroe it wasn’t,” Sauls said.

 
 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards will be in Acadiana today to speak with local officials about the recovery process form the historic flooding. One of his stops will be in the town of Youngsville. Mayor Ken Ritter says the flood devastated the Lafayette parish town. He says the silver lining is that they have a strong community, and what was a rescue mission has moved quickly into recovery.

“We have already removed nearly 1,400 tons of storm related debris from some of our hardest his areas,” Ritter said.

Ritter says over 600 homes were affected by the storm, and most of the affected areas are not in flood zones. He says this poses a serious problem for many of their young residents who didn’t have flood insurance.

“They’ve simply done what they’ve been told to do, and they didn’t know that flood insurance was really something that they should purchase,” Ritter said.

Ritter says their focus now is helping those people without insurance who may have just lost their first home. He says the community is coming together to help these people rebuild, and they’re hoping for more federal assistance.

“We’re optimistic that FEMA and the feds can offer some sort of assistance to enable these residents to get back on their feet,” Ritter said.

(photo courtesy of Facebook)
 
 
 
 

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Governor John Bel Edwards announces multiple options on how the state plans to house displaced flood victims. The governor says one option is manufactured homes for those homeowners who received extensive damage to their months that will take months to repair.

“These are not the same as FEMA trailers that have been used in the past, and most notably after Hurricane Katrina. These are HUD approved mobile homes that will be available to those who need them,” Edwards said.

Edwards says homeowners whose home sustained more than $17,000 in damage are eligible, as well as renters whose rental was destroyed. He says the Shelter At Home Program is new to Louisiana and seeks to get people back into their own homes quickly.

“If eligible, FEMA will pay for basic initial work to make the home safe, secure, and habitable,” Edwards said.

Edwards says the Shelter at Home program pays up to $15,000 for plumbing and electrical inspections, removing debris, making sure there is a working bathroom and air conditioning, and providing small refrigerators and microwaves.

“These emergency cleanups and minor repairs will help families get a jumpstart on recovery while they continue larger, overall repairs,” Edwards said.

Edwards says the program will be open on Monday, and they will announce then how people can apply.

 
 
 
 

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The City of Central was hit hard by the Great Flood of 2016, with 90% of its residents taking on water in their homes. Mayor Jr. Shelton says 9,000 out of 11,000 homes were affected. He says complete subdivisions are just devastated and now Central residents are trying to rebuild.

“It’s evidence by driving though and seeing the piles of debris that are on the roadway, it’s our citizen’s lives laying on the streets. Absolutely everything they own has been destroyed.”

Shelton says Central is a very resilient city and even after losing everything, people are still helping each other with the cleanup. But, he says his residents are working on adrenaline and he’s worried that will soon run out.

“But of course our needs are great, they’re going to be going on for months, if not years to try to recover. So, it’s going to be a long tedious process and I’m concerned about them tiring out.”

Shelton says up until today, people have had trouble signing up for FEMA assistance, mostly because they are stuck in their homes still in the cleanup process. But now he says they’ve set up a good communication line with FEMA.

“FEMA has set up a portable disaster recovery center in City Hall’s parking lot so now it’s easy for citizens in Central to come to the parking lot and actually file their claims, check on their claims.”

 
 

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The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank received more than four feet of water, lost a million pounds of food, along with the majority of its equipment during the Great Flood of 2016. President and CEO Mike Manning says with the hard work and donations from the Salvation Army and other food banks, they’re back online distributing food.

“We’re even doing mobile pantries, bringing mobile drops into certain neighborhoods that were particularly devastated. To bring food right to the people who are having the problems.”

Manning says other food banks from across the country have stepped up to donate during this tough time. He says right now, agencies from Tennessee and Texas are here to help.

“Sending people, and food, and equipment to help with this. That will continue over the next several weeks as different people come and swap out for potentially two week stints.”

It’s estimated it will take more than one million dollars to clean their facility. Manning says the warehouse is now completely gutted and it will take a few weeks to dry out and sanitize the facility but they’re lucky to have multiple satellite locations.

“The Commissioner of Agriculture has been tremendous to help us by providing space in his warehouse facility for us to accept these significant tractor trailer loads of donations coming in.”

 
 
 

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It was recently reported that Kaplan Senator Jonathan Perry wants to file legislation that would create more red tape for the “Cajun Navy” during emergencies. But Perry says that’s not the case. In an interview this morning with KPEL Radio in Lafayette, the senator set the record straight that he wants to help those volunteers.

“They’re just going to get in their boats and go, and I’m not saying they won’t. The problem is they’re breaking the law, and my intent is to remove that so they’re not breaking the law and that they can assist law enforcement,” Perry said.

Perry says he just wants to clear up the misconceptions about what he said. He says bills can’t even be filed until next year, and if and when he does file this legislation, it would not require a fee or tax to be a part of the Cajun Navy.

“It may be that something has to be done as simple as signing a waiver prior to the disaster so when you do come across law enforcement you can say, ‘Look, I signed the waiver,’” Perry said.

Perry says after WWL-TV and The Hayride wrongfully reported that he wanted to regulate the Cajun Navy, calls and emails came in attacking not only him, but his family as well. He says if anyone disagrees with what he said, that’s fine, but he wants people to get the facts straight first and leave his family out of it.

“It comes with the job. When people run for office, it’s part of it, but my 15-year-old daughter, my 11-year-old son, and my 6-year-old little girl, they didn’t get on the radio and talk about it. So leave them alone,” Perry said.

 
 
 
 

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After President Obama visited Louisiana, he left with a better understanding of this 1,000 year flood and a letter from Governor John Bel Edwards asking for help. The Governor’s Communications Director, Richard Carbo, says while seeing the devastation first-hand is important, he doesn’t want to discredit what the federal government has provided to Louisiana.

“It definitely doesn’t change the amount of federal resources that we’ve had at our disposal since the governor first declared an emergency back almost two weeks ago,” Carbo said.

Carbo says Governor Edwards gave the President of a list of aid requests that includes assistance for flood victims and money to improve flood protection along the Comite River. He says Louisiana is also looking to reduce the costs the state will have to absorb for responding to the disaster.

“We feel like we have a level of destruction throughout south Louisiana that warrants a 90-10, where the state of Louisiana is only responsible for 10% of the cost,” Carbo said.

Over 115,000 south Louisiana residents have signed up federal disaster assistance. Many of these storms victims had significant damage to their home and do not have flood insurance. Carbo says the President’s visit is part of the dialogue on how to help these individuals out.

“We’re trying to figure out what the best way is to get some assistance to them as well, as opposed to just the $33,000 that would normally be available,” Carbo said.

Many are hoping that President Obama’s visit to Baton Rouge will help Louisiana get more federal funding quickly. Republican US Senator Bill Cassidy says it’s good that the visit shined a national spotlight on this disaster, but now we need to see the follow through.

“Will he work with us in Congress to get the needed funding, and will he make it a priority to for the Army Corps of Engineers to fund mitigation projects,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy says Congress will vote on additional funding for Louisiana when they convene for the fall session after Labor Day. He says what they need now is an exact dollar amount from the state.

“The federal fiscal year starts October 1. So we will be voting on these packages in September. So we need the state to come through, and I’m sure they will,” Cassidy said.

The Governor’s Office hopes to have those dollar figures by the beginning of September. Cassidy says there have been thousands of people across the country affected by natural disasters, and Congress wants to help them all.

“There’s a lot of interest in Congress of helping those who, through no fault of their own, have been affected by natural disaster or by infectious disease,” Cassidy said.

 
 
 
 

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Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Chuck Carr Brown signs an emergency order that’s designed to expedite the process of cleaning up debris in flooded neighborhoods in the 20 parish area affected by the recent severe weather. DEQ spokesperson Greg Langley says the order expands the range of debris that can be accepted by certain landfills.

“This order will allow them temporality to be able to receive carpet and furniture, along with drywall and timber and things like that,” Langley said.

The emergency order ends September 30. The debris removal process has started in some areas. Langley says many people also lost appliances like refrigerators and washing machines and he explains how they will be handled.

“Normally what happens with those is they’re scavenged. What can be recycled is recycled, and the rest will just be crushed and disposed of,” Langley said.

This is the first time since Hurricane Katrina that DEQ has expanded what is allowed in landfills. Langley says they hope that if there are more places to take debris, it will speed up the cleanup process before the debris becomes a health hazard.

“It’s wet carpet and wet clothes and wet drywall, and that all produces an unpleasant odor. It can mildew and mold and things that are unhealthy,” Langley said.

 
 
 
 

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First Lady Donna Edwards is working with the Louisiana School Board Association to assist flood damaged schools with repairs and supplies. LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard says at this point, about 20 schools were severely damaged during the rainstorm.

“The bulk being in East Baton Rouge Parish, Livingston Parish, Ascension Parish, Central Community School District, City of Baker, one in Vermilion Parish, and one in Lafayette Parish.”

Visit the LSBA Fund for Restoring Schools GoFundMe page to donate. Richard says mold in the schools is an issue but the biggest problem is teachers and school employees are struggling to get back up and running when it comes to an actual place to live. He says they created the campaign to help local school districts.

“Our goal is to get those dollars to the superintendent who can trickle those dollars down to school level and make sure that those kids who are returning, those teachers that are returning, have the necessary basic supplies.”

The East Baton Rouge School System and Central Community Schools are set to resume classes after September 6th, but Livingston Parish has not made a decision yet. Richard says they’ve raised right about $8,000 over the last few days. He says it’s unfortunate that we’re losing instructional time but they understand how many families have been affected.

“We want to make sure that when school does get back up and running that we are in the best position that we can be in as local school systems to provide the services that are needed for a safe learning environment.”

 
 

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President Barack Obama visited a flood damaged neighborhood in East Baton Rouge parish that was inundated by flood waters. The President says he was encouraged by the heartwarming stories of neighbors helping neighbors. He says Louisiana will have all the federal support it needs for as long as it takes.

“You’re not alone on this. Even after the TV cameras leave, the whole country is going to continue to support you and help you until we get folks back in their homes and lives are rebuilt,” Obama said.

The Commander in Chief says FEMA is continuing to work around the clock to find temporary housing for those that have been displaced. He says when Congress gets back in session, they will look at how to help Louisiana long term, but the state has already received millions in federal assistance.

“As of today, federal support has reached $127 million. That’s for help like temporary rental assistance, essential home repairs, and flood insurance payments,” Obama said.

 
 
 
 

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