Last month, many parts of Southern Louisiana were faced with disastrous flooding that submerged thousands of homes and businesses and also resulted in 13 reported deaths. The flood has been called the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Seeing homes where families have spent their entire lives destroyed along with gutted furniture piled on neighborhood sidewalks is truly heartbreaking. While distressing, I do believe that through the strength of the community, Louisiana will continue to rebuild and move forward. I am most proud to see residents working together each day after such a tragedy. Some of the USDA Rural Development (RD) Louisiana staff members have volunteered their time with the American Red Cross at local shelters or have helped clean out their neighbors’ damaged homes. Despite the devastation, these RD staff volunteers have approached this work in a positive and kind-hearted manner.
This disaster has impacted our rural communities significantly. Through its many services, USDA RD can help flood-impacted residents, farmers, ranchers and businesses with immediate disaster assistance. The USDA RD Multi-Family Housing (MFH) team has identified vacant housing units that are available for qualified individuals impacted by the flooding. Each week, our team receives updated MFH reports that list which properties have vacant units. Anyone who was affected by the storm in declared disaster areas can be placed at the top of the waiting list for an RD Multi-Family Housing Direct property by receiving a Letter of Priority Entitlement (LOPE) or provide the property owner with a FEMA-registered documentation.
Since the August 2016 flood, our team has received many LOPE letter requests. Despite the negative impact that has taken a toll on Southern Louisiana, our community continues to strive for a better tomorrow. With the help of RD’s housing programs and vacant MFH units, USDA RD remains committed to helping the future of rural communities.
To request a LOPE letter, please contact the RD Louisiana State Office which is located at 3727 Government Street, Alexandria, LA. The local phone number is (318) 473-7920 and the toll-free number is (866) 481-9571.
Individuals who were impacted in declared disaster areas needing temporary payment relief on their existing RD Single-Family loans may also contact the Centralized Servicing Center at (800) 414-1226. Please go to the Louisiana Flooding Resources page for more information on natural disaster assistance.
Because September is National Preparedness Month and after working with our partners on these disasters, it is a good time to think about emergency planning. Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan for you and your family because you just don’t know when disasters will impact your community.