Louisiana senators stall HUD nominees in flood aid fight
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s U.S. senators have stalled Trump administration nominees for jobs at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, trying to force the agency to release long-stalled legal guidance that could help Louisiana flood victims.
Republican U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy said Wednesday they don’t oppose the two HUD assistant secretary nominees, but they said they object to HUD inaction that is delaying recovery aid nearly three years after the 2016 floods.
“I’m not trying to play games here, but a lot of flood victims in Louisiana are waiting on HUD,” Kennedy said in a joint statement issued by the senators. “They need HUD to issue guidelines so they can rebuild their homes and get on with their lives. I’m hoping this will give HUD the nudge it needs.”
A spokesman for the federal housing department declined to comment Wednesday on the agency’s stalled nominees or the senators’ criticism.
Louisiana flood victims who took out loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration were unable to access a federally financed homeowner grant program because that was deemed a duplication of federal benefits. That meant thousands of homeowners ended up facing decades of loan repayments when, otherwise, they could have received rebuilding grants.
Congress changed the law in October so the SBA loans would no longer count against the grants. State officials are waiting for HUD to issue legal guidance about how the law changes apply, so the Restore Louisiana program can dole out millions of dollars in available homeowner grant money to as many as 6,000 Louisiana households.
“The law we passed to fix this duplication of benefits mess couldn’t be more clear. HUD needs to realize we aren’t going to tolerate bureaucratic games,” Cassidy said. “They need to get serious, because this is very serious to the flood victims in Louisiana still struggling to put their lives back together.”
Cassidy and Kennedy said they have stopped the Senate from approving the nominations of Seth Appleton for HUD assistant secretary of policy development and research and Robert Hunter Kurtz for the position of HUD assistant secretary.
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