Graves Announces $40.5 Million to Livingston Parish Schools for 2016 Flood Repairs
Graves legislation added nearly $18 million to Livingston schools
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) announced $40,563,208.73 of federal flood recovery resources to repair damages at Denham Springs Elementary School (DSES), Southside Elementary School (SES), Southside Junior High School (SJHS) and for system-wide school contents replacement needs resulting from Louisiana’s Great Flood of 2016. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allocation will be distributed through the Livingston Parish School Board.
“The 2016 Flood has been an absolute strain across our communities and for many families, having both their homes and schools flood. Grants such as this one show the recovery process isn’t just picking up debris from the side of the road. It is literally rebuilding entire community structures over many years while also hoping bureaucratic hurdles don’t slow down the progress. I am proud to have helped them secure these long-overdue FEMA grants to help get the schools much needed funding to rebuild,” Graves said.
Following the 2016 Flood, Graves co-authored the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) to prevent FEMA from diverting tens of millions of dollars from educating our students to filling federal coffers.
President Donald Trump signed Graves’ provision into law in October of 2018, which enabled more funds to be allocated through the FEMA grants.
“We have worked around the clock to get legislation amended so that when future disasters hit, the government isn’t adding fuel to the bureaucratic fire. These new laws are what we call common sense and will make South Louisiana and the entire country more resilient and proactive, enabling American communities to come back stronger much more quickly,” Graves said.
“I stood with hopeful optimism next to former Superintendent Rick Wentzel while demolishing Denham Springs Elementary, and with great anticipation working with current Superintendent Joe Murphy while planning for Southside Elementary and the return of Livingston’s storied education reputation. These exceptional leaders and former School Board President Buddy Mincey have been important forces shaping Livingston’s promising future,” Graves bellowed.
The legislation removed a huge penalty that was imposed on each flooded school building to be limited to a one-penalty-per-facility limit, meaning several million more could be awarded from FEMA. Livingston Parish schools, for example, the overall reduction was nearly $21 million and when the Graves’ language was applied, the deduction was reduced to $3 million – saving the Livingston Parish schools $17.8 million in recovery funding with the Graves’ provision.
Graves authored a series of bipartisan federal disaster policy changes which advanced the bill out of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
This award provides $40,563,208.73 in federal funding to the Livingston Parish School Board for flood related repairs to the Denham Springs Elementary School (DSES), Southside Elementary School (SES), Southside Junior High School (SJHS) and system wide school contents damaged as a result of FEMA-DR-4277-LA (Severe Storms and Flooding). This funding is authorized under Section 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Act and the total cost of the project is $45,070,231.92
As of July 31, 2019, 16 of the 19 schools damaged by the 2016 flooding had finished repairs, according to the Livingston Parish School Board. In September 2018, it was announced by the school board Denham Springs Elementary School, Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High would rebuild. Denham Springs High School held a groundbreaking ceremony to highlight the newly renovated and expanded facility on campus for their U.S. Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program that Graves helped to secure and Denham Springs Elementary School held a demolition event that Graves attended. Graves worked with Southside Elementary and Southside Junior High to mitigate the school system’s recovery, merged campus construction process, and celebrate the new and improved facilities in the fall of 2019.
These projects coming to fruition, due to the Graves’ provision, showcase the impact the federal aid made in the schools’ recoveries.