Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards released the following statement on the U.S. Senate’s passage of a fix of the federal Duplication of Benefits (DOB) penalty that has kept homeowners impacted by the 2016 floods from receiving full assistance from the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program. The bill is now awaiting President Donald J. Trump’s signature.
“This has been a long time coming. In the earliest days of our recovery, my administration began to sound the alarm on this ridiculous federal regulation,” said Gov. Edwards. “Thousands of hardworking families and individuals have been unable to receive the assistance we feel they deserve from the Restore LouisianaHomeowner Assistance Program because the federal government has required the Restore program to consider a loan from the Small Business Administration the same as a grant, therefore calling it a duplication. This penalty has been the single biggest roadblock to getting assistance to homeowners. This fix would not have been possible without the leadership of Congressmen Garret Graves and Cedric Richmond, as well as Senator Bill Cassidy. As soon as President Trump signs the bill into law, we will submit the necessary waiver and await guidance from HUD. We are one step closer to providing these families the assistance they need and deserve. Last week I instructed the Restore Louisiana program to reopen the survey period until October 19 to allow every homeowner who has not filled it out one last opportunity to do so. I encourage you fill it out and submit it immediately.”
Once the new legislation is signed into law by the President and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides guidance indicating it will no longer consider SBA loans for home repairs to be a duplication of benefits, the program will update awards for all current applicants impacted by the legislation regardless of where they are in the program. The program will implement this change once the guidance is issued and contact applicants as the workflow progresses.
Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards instructed the Office of Community Development (OCD) to reopen the Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program survey until October 19, 2018, and extend the formal application deadline until November 16, 2018, in response to these potential changes.
All flood-impacted homeowners who were approved for SBA loans and have not yet completed the initial program survey are strongly encouraged to do so, regardless of income or whether they have completed their repairs. The survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete and is accessible online at restore.la.gov or by calling 1-866-735-2001 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additionally, homeowners may visit one of the program’s four Housing Assistance Centers in Baton Rouge, Hammond, Lafayette and Monroe, all of which are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Homeowners who meet program eligibility requirements based on their responses to the initial survey will be invited to complete a formal application. No action is needed by homeowners who have already submitted a program survey or application.
Currently, flood survivors who applied for Small Business Administration loans immediately following the floods are not able to make full use of grant funding available through the RESTORE Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, insists that survivors apply for a SBA loan without fully disclosing that they could be penalized down the road. For example, a homeowner who was approved for a $90,000 SBA disaster loan, but perhaps only borrowed $30,000 immediately following the disaster, would be penalized in the grant program for the full approved amount of the loan. The federal government labels this scenario as a Duplication of Benefits (DOB). This is also the case if a homeowner borrowed $0. That homeowner is still penalized for the full $90,000.