Graves tells President Biden we need immediate short-term fixes

Published 10:05 am Saturday, September 4, 2021

RESERVE, LA –U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) met with President Biden, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, St. John the Baptist Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell, St. James Parish President Pete Dufrene and other officials.

Click to watch Graves’ remarks here after the meeting.

Below are highlights that Graves wanted to point out from the meeting:

We spent a few hours with President Biden today and wanted to fill you in on the conversation.

The first thing we pushed was addressing the fundamentals: we’ve got to get gasoline, cell service, internet access, water systems and electricity up faster.

Congressman Graves emphasized the importance of getting the Mississippi River opened back up again as quickly as possible. Any delays are going to delay our recovery. It even affects farmers across the Midwest. 

We talked about things like ice and water and meals are not getting to the right places or there fast enough. We’ve got to cut through this red tape and bureaucracy and address the immediate needs.

But that’s where the conversation pivoted.

We talked about the critical need for recovering the right way. Graves established the current state coastal agency and led state efforts to rebuild our coast and improve hurricane protection systems after Hurricane Katrina. We can’t simply put things back the way they were – that didn’t work. The hurricane protection systems and resilient infrastructure in place worked. The areas with insufficient protection got pounded. We saw catastrophic failure with electricity, cell service and other losses.

We saw major flooding in communities that had never flooded before. Graves pushed President Biden to recognize important communities like Fourchon, Lafitte, Grand Isle, Kraemer, as well as areas in Ascension, Baton Rouge and Livingston Parishes that were severely impacted. He also pushed the president to fund large-scale protection like the Morganza to the Gulf system and the Upper Barataria project. Graves told the president that it was critical our residents had the confidence to rebuild and invest back in our communities. If these areas remained vulnerable to flooding, they would leave. 

The congressman discussed how even US Highway 90 went underwater. That’s an evacuation route. I-10 was covered with cars bumper to bumper. That’s not evacuating when you can sit there in park on the interstate or a United States highway.

Finally, Graves told the president that simply funding recovery through the legacy disaster recovery program like Road Home and RESTORE Louisiana are unacceptable. These programs take years to get the funding to the disaster victims that need it most and discriminate against some of our citizens. Recovery dollars need to come through functional programs without all the bureaucracy. 

We talked about how rebuilding resiliently in a way that’s stronger and allows us to withstand these storms is so important. We can spend millions now or billions later, he told Biden. 

We are going to keep pushing the White House and keep working all these federal agencies and help y’all get back in your homes.