Louisiana flood victims end aid lawsuit against Trump, HUD

Local News

FILE- In this Aug. 13, 2016 aerial file photo, the LSU campus is flooded due to heavy rain in Baton Rouge, La. Two Louisiana homeowners who sued the Trump administration over federal policies that stalled grants for 2016 flood victims have dropped their lawsuit. The administration has since released regulations allowing the homeowners to receive aid.
(Patrick Dennis/The Advocate via AP, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Two Louisiana homeowners who sued the Trump administration over federal policies that stalled grants for victims of a massive 2016 flood have dropped their lawsuit, after the administration recently released new regulations allowing the homeowners to receive aid.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick dismissed the lawsuit on Friday, according to court documents, at the request of homeowners Jeffry and Amanda Meyer, whose Livingston Parish home was destroyed in the August 2016 flood.

The Meyers took out a $280,500 disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. They were among as many as 6,000 homeowners who applied for the SBA loans after the massive flooding three years ago and then were later unable to access the federally financed Restore Louisiana disaster grant program.

Receipt of both a disaster loan and grant for the same damage was deemed a prohibited federal benefits duplication. Millions in aid Louisiana set aside for homeowners like the Meyers remained stalled amid the disagreement. Many homeowners faced decades of loan repayments when, otherwise, they could receive rebuilding grants to pay off that debt.

Congress changed the law in October so SBA loans wouldn’t count against the grants.

But HUD, which oversees the disaster grant money, didn’t issue legal guidance to match the law changes until June, under pressure from Louisiana’s congressional delegation, including a direct appeal from Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy to the president.

The Restore Louisiana program, overseen by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration, announced in early July that it had started issuing grant checks to homeowners previously unable to receive the aid because of the duplication-of-benefits problem.

The grant process is two-tiered, with low- to moderate-income homeowners who make below 120 percent of the area median income more quickly eligible for grants. Those making above that level will have to apply for a hardship exemption to receive the grants.

A lawyer for the Meyers didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to questions about whether the couple has received a grant check or information about when they may get the grant aid.

The lawsuit said the Meyers’ $120,000 home was inundated with more than five feet of water in the 2016 flood. The mortgage company required the couple’s flood insurance money pay off their debt on the home. At a federal disaster recovery center, the Meyers were told they needed to apply for an SBA loan to be eligible for disaster aid, the lawsuit said. The loan allowed them to demolish the flooded home and build a new elevated home, but the lawsuit said the couple now owes more than their home’s value in loan repayments.

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