WASHINGTON, D.C. – A federal lawsuit filed today will seek a declaratory judgement that would force the federal government to comply with the Duplication of Benefits provision Congressmen Garret Graves and Cedric Richmond authored last year.
The legal action would force the federal government to comply with the legislation that Graves, R-Baton Rouge, and Richmond, D-New Orleans, sought after provision by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) blocked survivors of the 2016 flood events from receiving Restore Louisiana awards if they received or applied for a Small Business Administration loan.
Baton Rouge attorney J.R. Whaley filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jeffry and Amanda Whaley of Denham Springs. The News attempted to reach them for comment on Tuesday, but they were not avaialable for comment.
The suit comes five months after President Donald Trump signed the provision into law. The House and Senate approved the measure in late September as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act.
“The word frustrating hardly conveys what our flood victims have had to endure, and this suit complements our ongoing efforts to get flood victims their money,” Graves said in a prepared statement Monday afternoon.
“We have been working with the attorneys and plaintiffs of this case while continuing to push the issue on our end through meetings and weekly calls with HUD and other administration officials. The bureaucrats at HUD are going to be held accountable for not doing their job.”
The bill to eliminate the Duplication of Benefits provision passed the House three times during the last session of Congress. The Senate approved the measure in late September after Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) was able to have it attached to a Federal Aviation Bill.
The additional $250 million the House appropriated for Duplication of Benefits flood victims has been sitting dormant for two years.
“This is nothing more than bureaucracy at its worst, continuing to inflict additional harm to flood victims,” Graves said. “And while the HUD bureaucracy has unlawfully dragged this out, homes have been foreclosed upon, people are struggling with medical bills, and other financial strains have further compounded the impact of this disaster.”
The law Congress passed provided HUD 45 days to issue the guidance they now cite as “the final hurdle.” The waiting period expired the third week of November.
“It’s time for an accountability check,” Graves said. “We haven’t asked for a flight to Mars here; we’re simply asking them to follow the law.”