Senate passes bill with Kennedy measure empowering Louisiana to channel COVID relief funds to disaster recovery, infrastructure

Published 12:48 pm Thursday, October 21, 2021

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WASHINGTON – The Senate has passed the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act, cosponsored by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). The bill, S. 3011, would allow state governments to use unspent pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to provide relief for natural disaster victims and to invest in infrastructure needs.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sponsored the legislation along with Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).

“Louisianians have gone through historic hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters over the last 18 months, and they still need help rebuilding their homes and businesses. I’m thankful to have worked with Sens. Cornyn and Padilla to give Louisiana’s state officials the power to redirect unspent coronavirus money for disaster victims and/or infrastructure. I hope the House follows suit quickly by sending this bill to the president’s desk,” said Kennedy.

“In 2020, states and cities across the country delayed or canceled transportation improvement projects totaling about $12 billion. This legislation puts decision-making power at the local level and gives these leaders more flexibility to invest in the most critical projects for their communities, whatever those might be. This will give communities in Texas and all other states the ability to use pandemic relief funding when and where it’s needed most. I want to thank Senators on both sides of the aisle who have worked with Senator Padilla and myself on this,” said Cornyn.

“Each region of the country has unique local challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill will provide state, local, tribal, and territorial governments the flexibility they need to better use federal resources to care for and serve their residents. This flexibility will help strengthen our response to the continued fight against COVID,” said Padilla.

Louisiana’s state government received approximately $4.8 billion from the ARPA’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. The fund was established to replace lost revenue for state and local governments in the wake of the pandemic and its economic shutdowns and to support pandemic response efforts. Kennedy successfully worked to include a measure in the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act that would allow the state government to redirect remaining funds.

Up to 100 percent of the remaining $4.8 billion can go to traditional disaster relief efforts, or up to 30 percent of the $4.8 billion can be invested in infrastructure, assuming the funding has not already been used.

Specifically, Kennedy’s measure would allow the state to use ARPA funding “to provide emergency relief from natural disasters or the negative economic impacts of natural disasters, including temporary emergency housing, food assistance, financial assistance for lost wages or other immediate needs.”

With this flexibility, the decision of how to invest the remaining COVID relief money rests with the Louisiana state government.

Text of the bill is available here.

Watch the video of Kennedy’s comments here.

Background on Kennedy’s response to historic natural disasters:

  • On Sept. 30, Kennedy voted in support of a short-term funding bill to send disaster aid to Louisiana and to extend the National Flood Insurance Program without raising the debt limit.

  • On August 2, Kennedy offered an amendment to the Senate’s infrastructure bill providing $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. The Senate blocked the amendment.

  • On July 15, Kennedy introduced and asked the Senate to pass the Gulf Coast Hurricane Aid Act of 2021. The bill would provide $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from historic storms. The Senate blocked the bill’s passage.

  • On May 18, Kennedy again urged President Biden to provide supplemental disaster relief for southwest Louisiana.

  • On May 13, Kennedy helped introduce the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act, which would allow rural homeowners, renters and small businesses to access disaster relief more easily in the wake of a natural disaster.

  • In September 2020, Kennedy wrote to Senate leadership, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to request that the Senate consider emergency supplemental aid to help Louisiana residents recover from Hurricane Laura.