BATON ROUGE – Governor John Bel Edwards announced March 13 filed an appeal against the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its denial of his request for public assistance related to the February tornadoes.
Gov. Edwards in his appeal stated that FEMA should reimburse Livingston Parish an estimated $687,000 which he said should qualify for federal public assistance. The $3.3 million Orleans Parish doled out for public assistance should also fall qualify for federal reimbursement.
An EFF-3 tornado ripped through Watson the morning of Feb. 7, while an EFF-2 twister routed an area between Killian and Springfield. The same storm system spawned an EFF-3 which routed parts of New Orleans East, in addition to funnel clouds in Ascension and St. James parishes.
"This incident was of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of state and local governments," Edwards wrote.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration notified Edwards it would not funnel public assistance funds to Livingston, St. James, Ascension, Orleans and Jefferson Parish.
FEMA also nixed a request to provide individual assistance to Ascension and St. James parishes.
The total cost of the damage from the tornadoes came up $2 million short of the threshold to qualify for federally funded public assistance, according to FEMA.
Gov. Edwards, meanwhile, said disasters – including from the March and August floods, along with tornadoes in February 2016 – have already put a strain on parish government coffers.
"The denial of public assistance to affected parishes hurts poorer parishes more significantly than their more capable neighbors," Edwards wrote. "The ability of a neighboring parish to recover should not preclude a needy parish from qualifying for federal aid, especially when virtually identical damage occurred from the same tornado in each parish."
The public funds would help government rebuild infrastructure and help with costs related to the disaster response.
The individual assistance money goes directly to individuals and business owners who apply for the funds.
The tornado that swept through Ascension and St. James parishes did not cause enough damage to trigger a need for individual assistance, according to FEMA.