Louisiana Flood Victims Worry They Won't Have The Funds To Rebuild
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
After record flooding in Louisiana, people are starting to clean up. And they're confronting another challenge, how to pay for it. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a maximum of $33,000 per household. But as Jesse Hardman from member station WWNO reports, only around 13 percent of local families have flood insurance.
JESSE HARDMAN, BYLINE: As a former college quarterback at nearby Southern University and current high school football coach, 42-year-old Eric Randall is rarely missing a playbook. But with two cars and his home completely flooded out, he's had to call an audible.
ERIC RANDALL: I don't know what I'm doing. I'm asking questions. I'm figuring it out.
HARDMAN: Randall is tearing drywall out of his home and driving it in his truck to a nearby dumpster.
RANDALL: We did six last night, three this morning. And the idea is just to go out and get this out of the way.
HARDMAN: It's heavy labor. But in many ways, that's the easy part for a former athlete. The harder and longer-term struggle began Saturday when Randall checked on his insurance situation.
RANDALL: And I call my mortgage company to find out - you know, what was my flood - who's my flood insurance policy through? 'Cause that was my question. I didn't have no doubt.
HARDMAN: Randall says his mortgage was sold to another company. And the new lender didn't notify him that it had dropped the flood insurance component. That means Randall and his family of five, who thought they were covered, are now planning to rebuild their house themselves. And they have some tough financial decisions ahead.
JIM RICHARDSON: Every way you do it, there is a cost to you. There is a financial constraint. And there is obviously a - you give something else up.
HARDMAN: Jim Richardson is a professor of economics and public administration at Louisiana State University. Richardson says making tough post-disaster money decisions, like buying new furniture with credit cards, is not exclusive to people trying to get back into their homes. Small businesses - even public institutions - are entering into some tough fiscal territory.
RICHARDSON: You're looking at debt.
HARDMAN: Forty-five-year-old Baton Rouge resident Patrick Abadie is blowing big fans on algebra textbooks in an attempt to dry them. He pulls the protective mask down from his mouth to describe the smell of 10,000 books teeming with mold.
PATRICK ABADIE: Acrid, cloying, sticks with you, sticks on you, sticks to everything you have.
HARDMAN: Abadie is the librarian at Baker High School near Baton Rouge. And yesterday, he finally got into the building. Some students helped him pump a foot of water out of the library he's overseen for a decade. Then health inspectors gave their assessment.
ABADIE: Get out. So...
HARDMAN: The space was too toxic. Abadie not only lost the entire book collection. He lost 20 computers, valuable tools at a school where 90 percent of students qualify for reduced lunches. He's not sure how he'll find funds to get those resources back. For now, the school's 400 high school students will be moved to the local middle school. Doors are supposed to open on Monday. And that's a good thing, says Abadie.
ABADIE: A lot of the parents here are working. And they need a place for their kids to go.
HARDMAN: Work means money. And now that Louisiana is in a recovery situation, that's the next thing on everybody's mind. For NPR News, I'm Jesse Hardman in Baton Rouge.
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