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Cambridge neighborhood residents react to Biden’s visit

LAPLACE — Some residents of the Cambridge subdivision neighborhood say they are optimistic President Joe Biden’s visit Friday and his message for insurance companies will “make a difference” for recovery efforts.

Biden joined state and local officials Friday at the Emergency Operations Center before touring the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and delivering remarks to the nation from the Cambridge neighborhood. He vowed to help locals gain access to the resources needed for recovery.

During his remarks, Biden put pressure on insurance companies threatening to deny coverage of living expenses for residents in parishes where a mandatory evacuation was not announced, including St. John the Baptist. Eligible post-hurricane assistance includes hotel stays, moving and transportation costs, pet boarding and some cell phone services.

“We know with parishes that issued strong voluntary evacuation orders, many didn’t have enough time to make that order mandatory, as the storm moved so fast,” Biden said. “Even with voluntary evacuation orders, folks felt safest leaving their homes in many cases. No one fled this killer storm because they were looking for a vacation or a road trip. They left their home because they felt they had to flee the risk of death. There’s nothing voluntary about that.”

In a direct call to private insurance companies, he added, “Don’t hide behind the fine print and a technicality. Pay what you owe your customers. Cover temporary housing costs in natural disasters. Help those in need.”

Cambridge Drive resident Leroy Brown said he was glad to hear the president scold the insurance companies. But Hattie Alexander, who lost her home on the nearby Yorktowne Drive, remains skeptical based on her past experience and challenges with disaster assistance.

Brown said Biden’s visit to LaPlace “will make a difference” and that Biden did the right thing by demanding insurance companies “pay their people.”

Larry Snyder, 74, was among the residents who stayed behind and rode out the storm. The Cambridge Drive resident said he didn’t anticipate the storm to be as severe as it was. And since his home only sustained minor damage, he held out on registering for disaster assistance with FEMA as he felt others needed it more. But when Biden and other officials stopped by to speak with Snyder, he was told to apply anyway so they could provide him with supplies.

“From what I could see, he’s concerned and he wants to get us some help as soon as possible,” Snyder said. “That’s important to people like us. A lot of people left. And a lot need help.”

Residents who apply for assistance through FEMA are eligible to receive up to $500.

Snyder said the president, along with St. John the Baptist Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, were comforting and asked what they needed. Snyder, who’s now met two U.S. presidents, was happy to hear Biden talk to his grandson, Legend Taylor. Snyder said Biden told Taylor, who’s 13 years old, that he was also from a small town and became the president. His message to Taylor was that he could grow up to do anything, including becoming the president of the United States.

“I think that’s going to stick with him,” Snyder said.

Taylor said he wants to be a scientist one day.

“It was pretty cool,” Taylor said. “I didn’t expect it at all. He was very nice. He told me I could do anything.”