September 16, 2020

Cassidy to Senate: Don’t Forget About Hurricane Laura

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) yesyerday spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate to tell the story of Hurricane Laura and what is needed to fully recover.

“The sentiment by many at home is that the nation has already forgotten about Hurricane Laura. The fear is that the recovery efforts will be stall and we’ll be ignored while other news…takes over. I’m here to be the voice for the people of Louisiana and share our story with you so that you may know what we are facing,” Dr. Cassidy said in his speech.

Cassidy urged his colleagues to support a disaster supplemental package to provide more dollars and resources for recovery. He also called for a vote on a bill he introduced in May that would eliminate the FEMA disaster cost-share for local governments in 2020 due to the economic effects of COVID-19.

Cassidy also praised the work of volunteer organizations, like the Cajun Navy, churches and nonprofits who have responded to the disaster, as well as President Trump for committing to providing resources for recovery.

“Americans are out our best when we help those in need,” Dr. Cassidy said. “The time is now to extend that support once more.”

To download Cassidy’s speech, click here.

Cassidy’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are as follows:

Mr. President,

As I rise to speak today, Hurricane Sally is pummeling the Gulf Coast, including parts of my home state, Louisiana. My prayers are with those in the path of the storm. I want to assure my constituents that I will be there to help recovery efforts.

Today, I’m speaking about a different storm, Hurricane Laura, which made landfall on Aug. 27 in Cameron, Louisiana as a Category 4 major hurricane. Louisiana has seen more than our fair share of major storms in the last 15 years: Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and others. Yet, Laura was the most powerful storm to hit Louisiana in decades, maybe ever. 

A storm of such magnitude left death, destruction and pain in its wake, along the coast itself and into North Louisiana close to the Arkansas border, and everywhere in between. Hurricane Laura claimed at least 25 lives and upended many more. As of yesterday, 145,398 people have filed for assistance with FEMA. That number is expected to climb as we are averaging 2,885 registrations per day. 

The sentiment by many at home is that the nation has already forgotten about Hurricane Laura, which, again, was the most powerful storm to ever hit our state. The fear is that the recovery efforts will be stalled and they’ll be ignored while other news like the presidential race or COVID-19 takes over. Anecdotally, there is evidence that their concern is not misplaced. Last week I spoke with Gail McGovern, the President of the American Red Cross, who told me donations were lagging well below what’s needed for to properly respond.

So, I’m here to be the voice for the people of Louisiana and share our story with you, my senate colleagues, so that you may know what we are facing at home. I am appreciative of President Trump and his administration for swiftly approving a disaster declaration for Laura – and Sally – and committing to seeing us through the recovery. But Louisiana also needs your help and support as the expenses mount as recovery goes forward. Here’s a little about what we’re facing:

Here is a picture from Lake Arthur, Louisiana, of Ms. Bethel Boudreaux Breax, who is not only a great American patriot but she also has a terrific Louisiana name! But this photo says a lot about what we’re facing. Wind and water swept away many structures. Trees fell and destroyed buildings and power lines. Somewhere between 70-80,000 people are still without power.

It also perfectly shows the attitude of Louisiana – we’re resilient in the face of adversity.

And there’s more than enough adversity to go around. Mike Williams from Lake Charles gave our office a tour of his home. His metal roof was completely ripped off, causing water to seep in all over his house. The ceiling is falling in and every single room has suffered extensive water damage.

20-year-old Hannah Vinson shared with us that her childhood home was gone. Their roof collapsed, they flooded, a tree fell on her mother’s bedroom and all across their yard. She has to this semester off from school because of lack of access and expenses they can’t cover, even though she works.

She told us, “It’s overwhelming. People say why even go back when your school is destroyed? I started a new career, and that has come to an end because where I work is now gone.”

There are thousands more stories like theirs. 

Amid the devastation, there is hope. I am inspired by those who rushed to help however they could.

The Cajun Navy, an organization of volunteers who respond to disasters, deployed immediately and continue to help today, delivering thousands of meals, clearing debris, helping people meet energy needs and assisting wherever they can.

I recently went to central Louisiana to hand out supplies and meet with storm victims and volunteers. I met a woman named Mandy in Hineston. Mandy has been loading up trailers of donated groceries to take to rural parts of the state who can’t access critical supplies in central and western Louisiana. This is a critical service since people on backroads couldn’t get out and there is a gas shortage in some storm affected areas.

While I do believe Hurricane Laura recovery needs more attention nationally, I am thankful for the thousands of power workers from across the country who came to help us, as well as individuals, churches and nonprofits. I saw a video on Facebook today from YAIPaks, a nonprofit organization in Clarksville, TN, who come down to Lake Charles with portable showers and trailers of supplies. The lady in the video said they’ve handed out so many meals that they’ve lost count.

I cannot say thank you enough to our fellow Americans and those from Louisiana who saw a need and answered the call to serve. Now, I’m asking my colleagues to do the same.

Local governments’ resources have already been stretched to the limit because of COVID-19. Damage assessments are still underway, but we will likely need a disaster supplemental from Congress to continue recovery in the future. I ask that my fellow senators will consider the plight of Hurricane Laura’s victims and support such a bill, which should also include California due to the horrific wildfires. My prayers are with those folks as well. Local governments’ resources have already been stretched to the limit because of COVID-19.

I introduced legislation in June to do away with the FEMA cost share for local governments, given the strain on their budgets caused by COVID. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill.

Don’t forget about us in Louisiana. The largest storm in our state’s history made news for about two days, and there’s hardly a mention after that. Don’t forget about Hannah who lost her childhood home and her job. Don’t forget about Mike who lost his house to the rain and wind. Don’t forget about the nearly 150,000 people who have asked for help. 

Americans are at our best when we help those in need. The time is now to extend that support once more. Thank you, I yield back.