Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards called on U.S. Senator John Kennedy to pass the disaster supplemental bill that has been stalled in the U.S. Senate since December 21, 2017.  The statement comes in response to an unrealistic proposal by Sen. Kennedy to use unclaimed property to fund the $450 million Comite River Diversion Canal (CRDC) project, which the federal government committed to fund more than two decades ago. The supplemental bill includes funding for infrastructure enhancements across the state, including the CRDC, and eliminates the Duplication of Benefits (DOB) penalty that has prevented flood victims from receiving federal grants. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation on December 21, 2017, but it has yet to receive a vote in the U.S. Senate.

"This is other people's money, even Sen. Kennedy has repeatedly acknowledged that.  I appreciate his proposal, but he’s had a bill sitting in the Senate for more than a month that already provides the critical funding for the Comite River Diversional Canal and eliminates the Duplication of Benefits penalty.  As the only member of the Louisiana congressional delegation who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he should focus his full attention on the legislation before him to get this federal project moving.  Louisiana’s congressional delegation in the U.S. House sees the supplemental bill as a positive step forward, which is why they have acted to assist the state.  If the $600 million in anticipated funds available in the disaster supplemental passes the Senate, I have already announced that this will provide the necessary funding for the Comite River Diversion Canal.

"This proposal is not a new concept for Sen. Kennedy.  Year after year, he has proposed using unclaimed property to fund various state projects, while also promising to return the money to its rightful owner.  However, given that there is a bill pending that Sen. Kennedy can help pass, I ask that he focus his efforts on securing the federal funds for this federal project, rather than floating unrealistic proposals that give false hope to the people who are waiting for the U.S. Senate to act."

BACKGROUND

On December  21, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.4667, a disaster supplemental bill that includes an anticipated $600 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funding that Gov. Edwards announced would be used for the CRDC and other infrastructure enhancements.  In addition, the bill includes a provision by Congressmen Garret Graves and  Cedric Richmond to eliminate the Duplication of Benefits penalty.  

PREVIOUS STATEMENTS

"I am so proud that we were able to return this much money.  We beat our previous year record by $4.2 million," said Kennedy in a news release.  "This isn't our money.  It is taxpayers' money, and it belongs back in their hands." (The Advocate)

"The Treasury holds over $500 million dollars that needs to be returned to its rightful owners. No matter how small the amount, I want to get it back into your pocketbook." (KPLC-TV)