Here’s a bit of a civics lesson on what you can do as a U.S. Senator to affect federal policy – a couple of Trump administration appointments are being put on hold by Louisiana Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, both Republicans who support the president, as a protest against bureaucratic heel-digging on the change in federal law that affects the duplication-of-benefits issue.
Louisiana’s two senators have resorted to a parliamentary tactic attempting to force the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to clarify rules that have slowed the recovery efforts of some homeowners impacted by the 2016 floods.
U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy announced early Wednesday morning that they have placed “holds” on two Trump administration nominees for positions within the department, hoping their statement will prompt the department to issue guidance needed for Louisiana homeowners to access long-delayed recovery grants.
The holds prevent the Senate from confirming the promotions of two officials: Seth Appleton, nominee for HUD assistant secretary of policy development and research, and Robert Hunter Kurtz, nominee for HUD assistant secretary.
“There is nothing wrong with these nominees, what is wrong is HUD’s delay,” Cassidy said in a statement. “HUD needs to realize we aren’t going to tolerate bureaucratic games. They need to get serious, because this is very serious to the flood victims in Louisiana still struggling to put their lives back together.”
If you’re not familiar with what’s going on here, following the massive flood in the Baton Rouge area in August 2016, victims of the deluge were encouraged to seek SBA loans in order to find funding for rebuilding their damaged property. But there was a federal law in place which prevents the duplication of benefits with respect to disaster recovery, functionally meaning that if you took any kind of federal aid when initially offered it made you ineligible to get anything else.
This also applied to people who signed on for Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Shelter-At-Home program, which hired a bunch of contractors to put in sinks and showers and toilets and other very temporary fixtures in homes that were gutted after the flood. A lot of that work was very poorly done and people who signed up for the program were irate about it – one reason being that the contractors in Shelter-At-Home would frequently bill the state the maximum $15,000 amount for labor and materials which added up to more like a fraction of that number – and yet it would go into the books that the homeowner would have gotten $15,000 in federal benefits. When you’re trying to access flood recovery dollars in the $75,000 to $100,000 range, that starts to become a major problem.
So for two years Louisiana’s congressional delegation fought this problem and finally in October was able to get a bill passed changing the way the federal government sees the duplication of benefits issue, at least where the SBA loans are concerned. And the bureaucrats at HUD still haven’t implemented the change.
That’s why Cassidy and Kennedy are gumming up the works with those HUD appointments. Here’s hoping their moves get results.