A call to participate in rebuilding your city

Helen Wale Turner Publisher & Managing Editor

Helen Wale Turner
Publisher & Managing Editor

Denham Springs has started to work on a new flood recovery plan which they hope will chart the course for thoughtful and viable projects that will get the city not only “back” but better. This process started in April when the city accepted an offer from the state to participate in a disaster recovery mentoring-type program and began putting the framework in place to develop plans for moving forward. (See the story on the progress of this planning program on page 18).
The city accepted the offer in order to gain access to the knowledge, guidance and resources that are now available through the state, FEMA and other state and federal agencies.
However, the city is clear in making it known that the people of the city will be the ones who decide on which projects to adopt. It’s also up to the city to come up with a plan for financing the projects that are ultimately chosen.
FEMA representatives are clear in stating that FEMA and the various agencies will offer advice, but they are not drawing up the plan. Although they do not provide funding for the planning process nor the projects. city will get the benefit of the experience of FEMA having worked with other cities and knowing which agencies can help in which areas, including possible grants and other types and sources of funding.
The group which was brought together and formed a steering committee are citizens from various backgrounds who want to help their city. They are working on coming up with ideas that will be the jumping off point for discussions with anyone else who wants to join the conversation about the direction in which they want the city to go.
To that end, an open house will be held June 15 at the Denham Springs Jr. High gym, 401 Hatchell Lane, Denham Springs, 4-8 pm. The steering committee will present ideas and solicit comments, suggestions and ideas from those who attend. There will be no speeches or formal presentations at this event; people are free to come at any time during the open house and walk around to visit the several stations which will be set up for the public to see what ideas are being considered. Everyone is welcome and invited to attend.
There is still time for other city residents who would like to help by serving on the steering committee or on one of several sub-committees; anyone who is interested can sign up at the open house.
The city needs your input to make a practical yet ambitious recovery plan. I call on all concerned residents to go to this meeting and volunteeer to help make it happen.
P. S. There will also be information at this event about the state’s homeowners flood damage survey, signing up for zero interest small business loans and other flood recovery information.
Why you should take time to take the survey
The Restore LA task force, which is administering the funds allocated by Congress for people in Louisiana whose homes flooded, have compiled a flood damage survey for homeowners to determine who is eligible to receive funds, and in what order. The response has been slow, perhaps because some people think they will not qualify for the grants, or perhps don’t know about it.
If you are in an affected area you should take the survey because you may actually be eligible – or you may become eligible if the scope of funding categories are expanded – as they may well be. Taking the survey is the only way to potentially receive any money.
The survey can be taken online anytime at restore.la.gov or by calling toll free 1-866-735-2001 Mondays through Saturdays, 7 am-7 pm. It takes about 15 minutes to take the survey. Those who are determined to be potentially eligible will then be invited to apply for funds. Others may be invited to apply at a later date as funds remain available, or as more flood relief is approved by Congress. State and local leaders emphasize that it will be difficult to persuade Congress that more funds are needed if the number of people taking the survey remain low. You have nothing to lose and possibly a lot to gain.
Even if you are absolutely sure you won’t qualify, just taking the survey may help get funding for your relatives, friends and neighbors. So, please spend 15 minutes to take the survey.
Zero percent small business & non-profit loans offered
If you own a small business, you need to know that zero percent interest, partially-forgivable loans for qualified small businesses and non-profit organizations became available May 26.
Community lenders will provide the funds. The application, guidelines and lenders are online; go to Restore.LA.Gov and click on Recovery Assistance and follow the link for Small Business Assistance.

Helen Wale Turner
I invite you to email your questions, comments, suggestions for stories, constructive criticism, etc. to me, Helen Turner, at helen@inspiredmedia-la.com. I’d love to hear from you.