Louisiana’s flood costs mount as thousands remain in shelters

Last Updated Aug 18, 2016 6:00 PM EDT

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. -- Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ chief financial adviser says catastrophic flooding has made it more likely the state will need a short-term bank loan to keep paying for government operations.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne told a panel of state officials Thursday the need for the loan was “more probable than not.” 

The Edwards administration was worried about cash flow problems even before the storms, because his predecessor and lawmakers heavily drained state treasury reserves to patch together prior year budgets.

More than 40,000 homes were affected by the flooding and more than 30,000 people have been rescued, the governor said Thursday. At least 13 people have died.

With Louisiana’s flood response costs mounting - and the timeline for receiving federal disaster aid not certain - that heightens cash flow concerns. Dardenne said the state has documented about $13 million in disaster spending so far, and he expects that figure is low.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate visited Louisiana on Wednesday, followed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Thursday.

After touring flood-ravaged southern Louisiana, Sec. Johnson pledged that the federal government “will be here as long as it takes to help this community recover.” 

Despite calls for him to visit, President Obama is unlikely to break from a New England vacation to survey Louisiana flood damage. The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge on Wednesday called on Obama to visit “the most anguished state in the union.” The White House says Obama is being updated regularly and has approved a federal disaster declaration for the affected areas.

Thursday brought partial relief to south Louisiana, as the number of people staying in shelters after the massive flooding has continued to drop.

The state estimated about 4,000 people remained in shelters Thursday, as more people found temporary housing with family and friends or returned to stay in their homes as they repaired them.

At one point during the height of the flooding shelters across several parishes housed an estimated 11,000 displaced by the storms.

More than 2,000 animals remain evacuated Thursday to a special animal shelter housing livestock and pets in Ascension Parish.

As the water continues to drain in most flooded areas, more than 85,000 people have registered for federal disaster aid with FEMA. The maximum amount given by FEMA is $32,000.

Across Louisiana, 17,000 residents have submitted insurance claims. However, 80 percent of Louisiana residents do not have flood insurance.