BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — It’s a tale of two disasters: Hurricane Laura, whose federal pricetag remains a work in progress; and COVID-19, with $44 billion going toward the latest round of unemployment checks.
Both response efforts are using funds from the same pool: FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund. The federal emergency agency maintains it can handle the need — especially in Southwest Louisiana, hit directly by the hurricane and facing some of the nation’s highest coronavirus case counts.
“My conversation with a FEMA administrator yesterday led me to believe that we’re not going to have any challenges,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference Monday. “We anticipate that the current fund balance will be sufficient for us here in Louisiana.”
Edwards noted that in March, Congress added $45 billion for coronavirus relief. That still leaves $25 billion for Laura and other natural disasters, he added.
Senator Bill Cassidy seconded Edwards’ confidence Monday, even wildfires in California’s Bay Area add another item to the federal agency’s to-do list.
“That’s what the fund is there for,” said Cassidy, noting that Congress could also boost disaster funding in its upcoming budget. “I do think there will be a so-called disaster supplemental to help take care of these issues.”
The latest round of unemployment benefits offers at least $300 a week to workers who have lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s poised to cover about four or five weeks of benefits.
The Atlantic hurricane season ends Nov. 30.